Permafrost thaw exacerbates climate change

Mar 21, 2014
This is a photo from the summer warming experiment. Credit: WHRC

The climate is warming in the arctic at twice the rate of the rest of the globe creating a longer growing season and increased plant growth, which captures atmospheric carbon, and thawing permafrost, which releases carbon into the atmosphere. Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) Assistant Scientist Sue Natali and colleagues engineered first-of-a-kind warming experiments in the field to determine net gains or losses in carbon emissions. The study entitled "Permafrost degradation stimulates carbon loss from experimentally warmed tundra," published in the journal Ecology found that growing season gains do not offset carbon emissions from permafrost thaw.

According to Dr. Natali, "Our results show that while degradation increased uptake during the growing season, in line with decadal trends of 'greening' tundra, warming and permafrost thaw also enhanced winter respiration, which doubled annual carbon losses."

Permafrost contains three to seven times the amount of carbon sequestered in tropical forests. The warming climate threatens to thaw permafrost, which will result in the release of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere creating feedbacks to – more warming and greater permafrost thaw. Prior to this study, "the understanding of permafrost feedbacks to climate change had been limited by a lack of data examining warming effects on both vegetation and permafrost carbon simultaneously," said Dr. Natali.

This study measured CO2 emissions from permafrost thaw and its impact on the carbon balance on an ecosystem level. According to Dr. Natali, "There is 100 times more carbon stored belowground than aboveground in the arctic, so observed changes in plant productivity are only a very small component of the story. Given the amount of carbon stored belowground in the arctic, it is very unlikely that plant growth can ever fully offset C losses from permafrost thaw."

This is a photo from the winter warming experiment. Credit: WHRC

The three year long Carbon in Permafrost Experimental Heating Research (CiPEHR) project warmed air and soil and thawed permafrost using two warming experiments. The "winter warming" treatment consisted of snow packs, which functioned like down comforters insulating the ground during the winter until the snow was removed at the start of the . The "summer warming" treatment consisted of open-topped greenhouses that warmed the air during the summer. The team measured warming effects on CO2 uptake by plants and release by plants and microbes.

Scientists estimate that within the next century permafrost will have declined 30% to 70% and there is limited accounting of how much carbon is stored in these frozen soils or the rate at which it will be released. For Dr. Natali:

"The only way we can accurately project future climate is to understand the responses of both plants and microbes to a warming climate. This study was the first to simulate whole ecosystem warming in the arctic, including permafrost degradation, similar to what is projected to happen as a result of climate change. There is a strong potential for significant global if rates calculated here become typical for permafrost ecosystems in a warmer world."

Explore further: Experiment is first to simulate warming of Arctic permafrost

More information: www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/13-0602.1

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User comments : 21

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TegiriNenashi
1.8 / 5 (21) Mar 21, 2014
The story about "methane bomb" in the Arctic is at least 10 years old. It is instructive to compare alarmists assertions with actual atmospheric methane levels
http://en.wikiped...hane.jpg
Does this article imply that general public has to fund every grant seeker who predicts disaster 100 years from now?
Grallen
4.4 / 5 (13) Mar 21, 2014
@TegiriNenashi:
"...actual atmospheric methane levels" !?!?!!
What is wrong with you? That has nothing to do with anything.
THE PERMAFROST HASN'T MELTED --YET--.
And you obviously DID NOT read the article because it almost entirely talks about carbon cycle for the area.
Caliban
4.1 / 5 (14) Mar 21, 2014
The story about "methane bomb" in the Arctic is at least 10 years old. It is instructive to compare alarmists assertions with actual atmospheric methane levels
http://en.wikiped...hane.jpg
Does this article imply that general public has to fund every grant seeker who predicts disaster 100 years from now?


This article implies that greater understanding makes it possible to create more robust models with greater predictive accuracy. Where there are gaps in understanding, it is neccesary to uncover the data that will fill the gap, and thereby increase overall understanding.

Your beef is very obviously in no way related to the proper functioning of scientific endeavor, which begs the question to which we already know the answer.

Your Big Carbon sympathy is already well-documented, and so therefore almost everything you post regarding climate change can be dismissed as mere Big Carbon trollery.
Benni
1.5 / 5 (15) Mar 21, 2014
This article implies that greater understanding makes it possible to create more robust models with greater predictive accuracy. Where there are gaps in understanding, it is neccesary to uncover the data that will fill the gap, and thereby increase overall understanding.


Maybe your'e referring to the inverse gap between increased ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere and cooling temperatures for the past 16 years and the moving average of temperature for the past several decades flatlining?

Your beef is very obviously in no way related to the proper functioning of scientific endeavor, which begs the question to which we already know the answer.


And your claim to fame in scientific endeavor is what?

Maybe you would like to read about mine, again?
Vietvet
4.1 / 5 (14) Mar 21, 2014
@Benni
There hasn't been any cooling temperatures in the last 16 years!!!!!!!!!!
Vietvet
4.1 / 5 (13) Mar 21, 2014
@Grallen
There are two layers of permafrost, with the active(top) layer subject to seasonal melting. The problem is the length of time of melting has been increasing with the warming of the Arctic.
aksdad
2.2 / 5 (13) Mar 21, 2014
There hasn't been any cooling temperatures in the last 16 years!!!!!!!!!!

It depends on which temperature data set you look at.

The UK Met Office HadCRUT4 does indeed show slight cooling since about 2002:
http://www.cru.ue...RUT4.png

UAH from satellite data shows slight cooling. Peak temperatures occurred in 1998, the major El Niño year:
http://nsstc.uah....2014.jpg

Only NASA GISS shows no cooling. It also shows no warming since about 2002:
http://data.giss....g.A2.gif

Quantifying carbon uptake and release in permafrost is laudable to settle uncertainties, however it has yet to be demonstrated that a.) CO2 is a significant contributor to global warming, b.) the warming we have experienced and may yet experience is a bad thing. More importantly, no one knows why the earth warmed and cooled in the past so it's impossible to make assumptions about the future.
TegiriNenashi
2 / 5 (12) Mar 21, 2014
Your Big Carbon sympathy is already well-documented...


This is too simplistic, don't you think? A proper labeling for somebody who defends CO2 as indispensable plant food is "Tree Sympathizer".
enviro414
1.3 / 5 (13) Mar 22, 2014
Discover the cause of the warming, the end of it, why temperatures are headed down and what to expect.

There are only two primary drivers of average global temperature change. They very accurately explain the reported up and down measurements since before 1900 with R2>0.9 (correlation coefficient = 0.95) and provide credible estimates back to the low temperatures of the Little Ice Age (1610).

CO2 change is NOT one of the drivers.

The drivers are given at

http://agwunveile...pot.com/
Vietvet
4 / 5 (12) Mar 22, 2014
@enviro414
Your link is to a blog that uses other blogs as references. Fail.
Grallen
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 22, 2014
@vietvet:
Sorry. Permafrost is by definition the ground freeze that persists through seasonal change. The "active layer" is not part of the permafrost. But I see how grammar in a description could easily have led anyone to think that both layers are part of the permafrost (but are not).

I also did realize I should be more specific about the topic that TegiriNenashi refers to, since he was not. It is an event where there is a rapid recession of the northern continuous permafrost line. Many professionals believe that this event will be fast and release massive amounts of gasses that the natural cycles of the planet would not be able to handle. I am not an expert on that.

This article however is not part of that topic. I was chiding TegiriNenashi for referencing current atmospheric gas levels when talking about an event that has not happened. And also chiding his for not reading the article because he was complaining about an event that is not related to the content.
Grallen
5 / 5 (4) Mar 22, 2014
Delete this. Accidental double post.
enviro414
1 / 5 (10) Mar 22, 2014
Vietvet - Your lack of science skill makes you gullible to mob-think.

The leaders of this mob have stated that it is a "travesty" that average global temperatures measure 0.3 K lower than they predicted. They don't mention thermalization although that is how IR warms the air. Some of the other mistakes that 'Climate Scientists' have made are described at http://consensusm...pot.com/

APS has begun to question the AGW mantra
http://news.inves...ange.htm

The method used at http://agwunveile...pot.com/ allows prediction of temperatures using data up to any date. The predicted temperature anomaly trend in 2013 calculated using data to 1990 and actual sunspot numbers through 2013 was within 0.012 K of the trend calculated using data through 2013.

I look forward to your comments as the average global temperature trend continues its decline.
runrig
4.6 / 5 (9) Mar 22, 2014
Maybe your'e referring to the inverse gap between increased ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere and cooling temperatures for the past 16 years and the moving average of temperature for the past several decades flatlining?


FYI The Earth's climate system comprises >90% the Oceans by heat capacity.
Try thinking scientifically rather than blurting the ignorant..... again.... and .....again.
You might start with understanding the ENSO/PDO cycle and it's recent history.
runrig
4.5 / 5 (8) Mar 22, 2014
Discover the cause of the warming, the end of it, why temperatures are headed down and what to expect.

There are only two primary drivers of average global temperature change. They very accurately explain the reported up and down measurements since before 1900 with R2>0.9 (correlation coefficient = 0.95) and provide credible estimates back to the low temperatures of the Little Ice Age (1610).

CO2 change is NOT one of the drivers.

The drivers are given at

http://agwunveile...pot.com/


You're still pedaling this bollocks I see.
Can't be arsed to deny it again in detail.
You might show me the mathematics and error bounds though for a start.
Now, please the theory away with you and tell the fairies.
I'm sure they'll be fascinated..
enviro414
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 23, 2014
runrig - Apparently you lack the science skill to follow the analysis. It answers your questions.

You can still look at the graphs.

Any predictions on whether 2014 will be colder than 2013?
SamB
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2014
The farmers will appreciate the longer growing season. Might be wise to buy up some of the tundra now while it's cheap!
kivahut
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2014
I hate permafrost. When was the last time anyone here sat on it and had lunch? Gross.
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 23, 2014
FYI The Earth's climate system comprises >90% the Oceans by heat capacity
@runrig
benni is that guy that started trolling about chandler wobbles, and confused precession with chandler wobbles and the Galactic/cosmic year and saying that no one heard of them here until he posted it, remember?
he said
the wobble cycle of Earth's rotational axis seems to correlate closely with the time required for our solar system to complete a full orbital passage around the galactic core of the Milky Way

http://phys.org/n...als.html

and now he is appealing to his supposed authority with
And your claim to fame in scientific endeavor is what?
Maybe you would like to read about mine, again?
and in another thread he told us all about his six years of education and being an engineer

@benni
runrig is in the field
appeals to authority suggest trolling
make a claim and post supporting links,otherwise it is conjecture without evidence
thanks
Mike_Massen
4 / 5 (4) Apr 06, 2014
TegiriNenashi shows ignorance with this jibe
The story about "methane bomb" in the Arctic is at least 10 years old. It is instructive to compare alarmists assertions with actual atmospheric methane levels
Does this article imply that general public has to fund every grant seeker who predicts disaster 100 years from now?
Are you intentionally TRYING to appear Stupid ?

TegiriNenashi the amount of so called grants are very small in comparison with profits from oil companies that have a vested interest in maintaining the burning of some 230,000 Litres of Petrol per SECOND - each & every second driving up CO2 levels - dont YOU get it ?????

http://www.woodfo...o2/every

We have effects NOW, island peoples on or near equator NOW suffering rising sea levels !

Understand a basic Uni level education TegiriNenashi, please educate yourself first before thinking and then commenting on a Science site - ok ?

Methane fairly quickly converts to CO2 in the atmosphere (doh) !
Mike_Massen
4 / 5 (4) Apr 06, 2014
Why enviro414 are you offering this
CO2 change is NOT one of the drivers.
Why enviro414 are you IGNORING the KNOWN thermal properties of CO2 Eg Re-radiation ?

Why are you ignoring the Known thermal properties of Water eg "Latent Heat of Fusion"

Isnt it obvious to most that whilst ice has been increasing in temperature at 2J/g/Deg C that it approaches Fusion at 331 J/g/deg C which absorbs MASSIVE amount of heat !

Why isnt that seen as significant by so many, what is their problem - is it basic cognition, is it education, is it political bias, is it some mental problem, please report WHY the properties of water in relation to Climate Change are being ignored so completely !?

Is it Obvious to remind/report that most of the Oceans are still below the temperatures of the tropics where the thermal differential is the highest, therefore from basic Physics we KNOW the outcome ?

http://en.wikiped...of_water

Wake up people, enviro414 what is your precise position ?