Ancient permafrost quickly transforms to carbon dioxide upon thaw

October 26, 2015
A general view of a 35-meter-high riverbank exposure of the ice-rich syngenetic permafrost (yedoma) containing large ice wedges along the Itkillik River in northern Alaska. Credit: Mikhail Kanevskiy; University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Northern Engineering

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and key academic partners including the University of Colorado Boulder have quantified how rapidly ancient permafrost decomposes upon thawing and how much carbon dioxide is produced in the process.

Huge stores of organic carbon in soils—frozen for hundreds to tens of thousands of years across high northern latitudes worldwide—are currently isolated from the modern day carbon cycle. However, if thawed by changing climate conditions, wildfire, or other disturbances, this massive carbon reservoir could decompose and be emitted as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, or be carried as dissolved organic carbon to streams and rivers.

"Many scientists worldwide are now investigating the complicated potential end results of thawing permafrost," said Rob Striegl, USGS scientist and study co-author. "There are critical questions to consider, such as: How much of the stored permafrost carbon might thaw in a future climate? Where will it go? And, what are the consequences for our climate and our aquatic ecosystems?"

At a newly excavated tunnel operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers near Fairbanks, Alaska, a research team from USGS, CU-Boulder and and Florida State University set out to determine how rapidly the dissolved organic carbon from ancient (about 35,000 years old) "yedoma" soils decomposes upon soil thaw and how much carbon dioxide is produced.

Yedoma is a distinct type of permafrost soil found across Alaska and Siberia that accounts for a significant portion of the permafrost soil carbon pool. These soils were deposited as wind-blown silts in the late Pleistocene age and froze soon after they were formed.

"It had previously been assumed that permafrost soil carbon this old was already degraded and not susceptible to rapid decomposition upon thaw," said Kim Wickland, the USGS scientist who led the team.

The researchers found that more than half of the dissolved organic carbon in yedoma permafrost was decomposed within one week after thawing. About 50 percent of that carbon was converted to carbon dioxide, while the rest likely became microbial biomass.

"What this study adds is that we show what makes permafrost so biodegradable," said Travis Drake, the lead author of the research. "Immediately upon thaw, microbes start using the carbon and then it is sent back into the atmosphere." Drake was both a USGS employee and a master's degree student at CU-Boulder during the investigation.

The researchers attribute this rapid decomposition to high concentrations of low molecular weight organic acids in the dissolved organic carbon, which are known to be easily degradable and are not usually present at high concentrations in other soils.

These rates are among the fastest permafrost decomposition rates that have been documented. It is the first study to link rapid microbial consumption of ancient permafrost soil-derived dissolved organic carbon to the production of dioxide.

An important implication of the study for aquatic ecosystems is that dissolved released by thawing yedoma permafrost will be quickly converted to and emitted to the atmosphere from soils or small streams before it can be transported to major rivers or coastal regions.

The research was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Explore further: Climate change threatens permafrost in soil

More information: Ancient low–molecular-weight organic acids in permafrost fuel rapid carbon dioxide production upon thaw, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1511705112

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24 comments

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Iochroma
4.6 / 5 (10) Oct 26, 2015
We are going to be CO-two screwed when this warming releases permafrost gasses. And don't forget the peat under SE Asian rainforests, an Northern bogs oxidizing fast, as well.
leetennant
4.6 / 5 (10) Oct 26, 2015
Yeah. We're screwed.
richard_f_cronin
1 / 5 (11) Oct 26, 2015
lochroma and leetennant - I intend to go out on the back porch and pass gas. CO2 and methane rich gas. Please be ready to gather it up.
leetennant
5 / 5 (8) Oct 27, 2015
Sure, and then I'll instruct you in the science of dosage. Unless you think the fact you can eat an apple core without getting sick means you can mainline formaldehyde.
Returners
1.7 / 5 (6) Oct 27, 2015
In the Bible it says that if you obey God you would be Blessed, and if you disobey then the LAND will vomit you out.

Perhaps the Earth is about to vomit out all of us sinners.

"Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Well, spiritually anyway. .

There's also a series of plagues in Revelation which may be relevant.

"burned up a third of the trees and all grass, and a burning mountain was cast into the sea and a third of the sea became blood and a third of the creatures and ships died/destroyed. A star "fell" from heaven and a third part of the rivers and fountains of water, and the name of the star is 'Wormwood' (curse/calamity), and a third part of the waters became bitter, and many men died because of the waters" Paraphrase Rev. 8:7-11.

Paraphrase removing mention of the angels for brevity.

the first plague looks like a Supernova or a meteor shower.

The second and Third look like major meteor impacts.

or...something else...
Captain Stumpy
3.9 / 5 (7) Oct 27, 2015
In the Bible it says
@wade
religious diatribe is NOT SCIENCE
until you can demonstrate and prove your deity using reputable empirical evidence that can be validated, it is nothing more than hearsay and conjecture

you need to get back on your meds or get back into a psyche ward
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2015
Imagine if a Supernova happened and de-orbited a few comets/meteors, and also destroyed about 1/3rd of the Ozone layer...within a few days, UV from the Sun starts to exterminate plants and microbial life over the region (1/3rd of the ocean and 1/3rd of the trees on land, and apparently all the grass)...

If you had a mass die-off of microbes, the chemistry of river water would change and it could become poisonous, and likewise the oceans.

Humans on ships might be killed in tidal waves or from noxious vapors coming from the "wormwood" (in this context a poison or "curse").

This is plausible.

It is a pretty good description of a "near life-wiping" meteor impact, which had not been eye-witnessed by anyone since at least 50,000 years earlier (barringer) and there weren't humans in N. America at the time of that impact.

So this author somehow knew global calamities could be caused by rocks, "Hail" (comets are made of ice), and fire falling from "heaven".
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2015
@wade
religious diatribe is NOT SCIENCE


I fear I have an advantage over you.

Your reasoning is severely flawed.

God as we understand him is the Logos. (John 1:1)

Science cannot exist without the Logos.

"Mega Cryo-Meteors" are a phenomenon where chunks of ice far too large to be lofted by the weather appear to fall out of the sky and in some cases hit people's cars and houses, etc.

These objects can be from tens to hundreds of pounds, reportedly up to the mass of an elephant in some cases.....made of pure water...There is no official atmospheric explanation known.

So the plague of the "Hail" from "heaven" (Ouranos) with the weight of a "Talent" (~75 pounds) is confirmed to be a real phenomenon.

My personal belief is that they come from cometary matter being objects far too big to be formed in Earth weather, but small enough to sneak in from space under radar.

Now imagine this world-wide, or at least hitting 1/3rd of the Earth many, many times
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2015
There is always a plan and a purpose, captain stumpy, though you may not accept it.

God moves the righteous "from Glory to Glory" but to the unbeliever it says "the wages of sin is death..." you only get the "gift of God of Eternal Life" by obeying and honoring God through Faith.

One cannot "earn" eternal life, nevertheless "Faith without works is dead," and "you believe in one God, you do well, the devils believe also and tremble."

"Without faith it is impossible to please God...God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him..."

Calamities are a dime a dozen.

"Do not fear man who is able to destroy the body, but fear God who is able to destroy the soul in hell."

Your carbon bomb problem may well be the plague of "Wormwood", or it may just be another thing in the long list of things that has happened to Earth life throughout history.

It does remind me of "Wormwood" but I tend to think it is an actual object from space which an angel throws into the Earth.
Uncle Ira
3.2 / 5 (9) Oct 27, 2015
There is always a plan and a purpose, captain stumpy, though you may not accept it.


Skippy what is the purpose of all the goofy writing you post up here?

It does remind me of "Wormwood" but I tend to think it is an actual object from space which an angel throws into the Earth.


Skippy, I think it might be time for another rest for you up in Mandeville.

Returners
2 / 5 (4) Oct 27, 2015
Matt: 5:44-46
"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.46"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?…


God is merciful and just.

Men on the other hand can be monsters.
Uncle Ira
3 / 5 (8) Oct 27, 2015
Men on the other hand can be monsters.


Yeah, I hear you Cher. They can also be bat-doo-doo-crazy too, can you hear me?
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2015
Skippy, I think it might be time for another rest for you up in Mandeville.


I have never been to Mandeville.

I see people i care about in my memory. Laughing, talking, dancing, playing a board game, whatever, and some of their names escape me. I try to remember more about them, and there is only a whisper of a visualization and emotion, and a few lucky times I can place their names. One, two, three or four people at a time, know them for a day or two or even a week; a whisper of a face and emotion and detailed memory of events shared together...but I can't remember their names, and I do not know why. I am ashamed of that.

You want the whole truth?

All right. I've been to Covington for about 2 weeks, and what I learned there is that the distressed people, the depressed, the manic, and even the slightly brain-damaged were more lovable and more loving than the "normal" people on the outside, and I told the doctors that too. "The one's out there are the crazy ones."
my2cts
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 27, 2015

All right. I've been to Covington for about 2 weeks, and what I learned there is that the distressed people, the depressed, the manic, and even the slightly brain-damaged were more lovable and more loving than the "normal" people on the outside, and I told the doctors that too. "The one's out there are the crazy ones."

Respect.
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2015
I try to be around people and be more sociable, but it is like some kind of barricade that prevents me most of the time, and I don't know why. Your stupid anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicines help a tiny bit, but they don't give me any power, or will, or experience, or knowledge that is useful or beneficial or interesting to anyone else in conversation or daily activity.

I hate being like that, and there is no earthly cure for it, you ass.

You will find that a lot o fmy ideas that I have posted on here and other sites over the years are going to be found to be correct, or close enough as makes no difference, and you people hate me, and I can't change that anyway. People have always hated me no matter what I tried anyway, so to hell with them.

The "freaks" and the "crazy" and "depressed" people are more loving than the supposedly healthy.

Crazy? I live in a civilization that gives guns and alcohol to everyone, then cleans up the mess afterwards. That's crazy.
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2015
You want to know how I ended up in the Hospital, Ira?

That was in February, I think, of this year. I had previously never been in such a condition.

YOU are the one who drove me over the edge that day, between you and some people on another site, with your asinine taunts and skorn, which you had been spewing at me for days.

I am not going to let you ruin my day again.
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2015
Science is not about quoting a bunch of accepted theories and facts.

Science is seeing beyond the other person's horizon.
Uncle Ira
3 / 5 (8) Oct 27, 2015
YOU are the one who drove me over the edge that day


Skippy, you were over the edge before you came around here or before I ever came around here too. Maybe this is not the place for you, eh? I would not go to the place where all I get is peoples making me the misere, unless of course I was bat-doo-doo-crazy I mean.

You can not blame me for what you are, or what your day is like. You can just ignore me or not, it's up to you, not me.
Returners
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2015
Oh, Ira, poor, poor guy.

Your scientists cannot cure disease either.

The first night and a day and a half or two later they forbade me my normal medicines, so the neuropathy pain came back, but fortunately I actually wasn't having a 'bad' episode of it at the time.

The psychiatrist put me on another anxiety medicine, and after 2 doses I started having hallucinations and out-of-body experiences, and I told the doctor to take me off that. He tried another one and the same thing happened with it, and they ended up just increasing hte dose of wellbutrin and klonapin, because the other meds gave weird side effects and scared the hell out of me.

The best medicine they have causes more problems than I already have, and they prescribe this stuff to everyone. Think they're helping people and it makes it worse.
Uncle Ira
3.5 / 5 (8) Oct 27, 2015
Oh, Ira, poor, poor guy.


Why you call me poor guy, eh? I do alright, I am not rich but I got most of what I want.

Your scientists cannot cure disease either.


Uh, okayeei. ???

The first night and a day and a half or two later they forbade me my normal medicines, so the neuropathy pain came back, but fortunately I actually wasn't having a 'bad' episode of it at the time.

The psychiatrist put me on another anxiety medicine, and after 2 doses I started having hallucinations and out-of-body experiences, and I told the doctor to take me off that. He tried another one and the same thing happened with it, and they ended up just increasing hte dose of wellbutrin and klonapin, because the other meds gave weird side effects and scared the hell out of me.

The best medicine they have causes more problems than I already have, and they prescribe this stuff to everyone. Think they're helping people and it makes it worse.


What I can do about that Cher?
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (2) Oct 28, 2015
advantage over you
@wade
insanity is a defense in criminal proceedings, not in science or anywhere else

this is a science site. if you want to talk religion, go find a religion forum or make one of your own
I've been to Covington for about 2 weeks
remind me to contact LA and file a complaint for allowing the inmates to roam free and harass the public
Science is not about quoting blah blah blah
Science is seeing beyond blah blah
1- science research IS about quoting facts, and research is the backbone of science because all future science is built on the shoulders of past experiments and validated science; fundamental science

2- science is about evidence and (in laymans terms) proving things with said evidence

not about delusional rantings or dream-spewing
the reason you are in such a bad way is because you cannot recognize reality and stay with it

go back and stay committed, for yours and everyone's safety
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (2) Oct 28, 2015
Your scientists cannot cure disease either
@wade
WTF?
i guess you've never been to a hospital? (the other places in hospitals that are NOT mental wards actually cure diseases on a regular basis)
but since you won't accept what is in front of your eyes at a real hospital (not a mental one) then perhaps you could start reading here: http://health.how...tury.htm

NIH has a far more comprehensive database and listings of disease that can be CURED once caught... you do know that at one time we couldn't cure tetanus right?
https://www.ncbi....0082.pdf

...they forbade me my normal medicines, so the neuropathy pain came back
you can have psychotic episodes with long term medication and addictions

you need more help than just a 2 week stint and outpatient care, as obviously demonstrated by your posts
Bongstar420
1 / 5 (3) Oct 31, 2015
What we really need is something that produces significant warming and is not sequestered out of the atmosphere in a century or two.

Its too cold now. I can't imagine how much crappier the "normal" climate is for the last 100,000 years. I don't like ice or temps below 60.
leetennant
5 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2015
Thanks Bongstar. Of course, you could just move. But why make the effort when you can kill 1 billion brown people AND get warmer weather where you are? Just hope you're not in an area that's drought-prone, flood-prone, storm-prone, earthquake-prone or that you require things like, you know, food. Then you'll be in trouble.

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