Permafrost carbon content double the old estimates

Sep 12, 2008
Frozen sediments (permafrost) in Eastern Siberia. Photo by: Sergei Zimov

New research indicates that the amount of frozen organic carbon locked away in the world’s permafrost regions – a major potential source of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) – is double what has been previously estimated.

In a paper published in the latest edition of Bioscience, an international team of scientists says whereas some of the CO2 produced as a result of decomposition of previously frozen vegetation would be absorbed by increased, global warming-induced plant growth, it is likely the net effect would be a significant net increase in atmospheric CO2.

Involving collaboration between scientists from Australia, Russia, the US, the UK, Canada and Europe the three-year study concluded that accounting for carbon stored deep in the permafrost more than doubles – to more than 1500 billion tonnes – previous estimates of the world’s high-latitude carbon inventory.

”This is equivalent to twice the current amount of CO2 in the world’s atmosphere,” says co-author, CSIRO’s Dr Pep Canadell, from The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research – a partnership between CSIRO the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

“With temperatures in the higher latitudes estimated to rise by as much as eight degrees by the end of this century, the world could experience a major melt of large tracts of permafrost in Canada, Russia, Alaska, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Greenland,” he says.

“However, accurately predicting the magnitude and effect of thawing permafrost on the world’s climate is difficult for several reasons.

“While global carbon models may include simple permafrost dynamics they do not adequately represent the broader consequences, such as the decomposition of organic matter in thawing permafrost and the transformation of landscapes.”

Dr Canadell says that despite such limitations, scientists now know that even the release of a small fraction of this vast frozen reservoir of carbon would significantly accelerate climate change.

“At current rates of warming in the higher latitudes, the evidence indicates that this is likely to happen,” he says.

To read and/or download the paper: Vulnerability of Permafrost Carbon to Climate Change: Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle, go to: www.bioone.org/perlserv/?reque… &issn=0006-3568&ct=1

Provided by CSIRO

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jscroft
2.5 / 5 (8) Sep 12, 2008
So, once again, we have clear evidence that changes in global temperature can drive changes in CO2 levels. NOT the reverse. Because correlation is NOT causation, no matter how badly agenda-driven minds wish it were so.
Bazz
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 12, 2008
You seem to suggest CO2 rise is caused by rising temperatures,correct me if i am wrong.

If so you are ignoring the fact that we pump oil and dig coal wich contain carbon and will increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

You seem to suggest too that the science behind it is agenda driven, wich i find not very convincing as there`s a lot of credible and independant research being done.Also AAAS and NAS have released statements warning about the dangers of global warming.

Correlation is not causation, exactly right and cherry picking doesnt make a convincing truth either. There is no research that can be done to conclusively say if global warming is a threat or not, if you feel like learning more about the subject there is a series of videos that i found to have a good way of looking at this.

Search for wonderingmind42 and there is about 7 hours to watch,but beware its an easy to understand philosophy about whats going on and what can be done about it.Imo the most rational thing i have heard concerning global warming.
deepsand
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2008
So, once again, we have clear evidence that changes in global temperature can drive changes in CO2 levels. NOT the reverse. Because correlation is NOT causation, no matter how badly agenda-driven minds wish it were so.
Either you're not familiar with positive feedback loops, or you winnow the facts, carefully selecting only those which support your foregone conclusion.
Slioch
3 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2008
re. #jscroft

The mechanisms whereby a warming Earth releases CO2 to the atmosphere are distinct from that whereby increased CO2 causes warming. Thus, the fact that the one occurs provides no information about the probability of the other.

A warming Earth results in more CO2 in the atmosphere because of such factors as melting permafrost, (as discussed above), as well as warming oceans being less able to store CO2, increased frequency of forest fires and many other similar effects. That an increased amount of CO2 in the atmosphere causes increased warming is due to its absorption of outgoing infra-red radiation that would otherwise escape to space. The physics of this process is well understood.

Your statement "we have clear evidence that changes in global temperature can drive changes in CO2 levels. NOT the reverse." indicates a very poor grasp of the subject of global warming. Once again, the two processes are separate: evidence of the one provides no information concerning the existence of the other.
jscroft
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2008
"Your statement 'we have clear evidence that changes in global temperature can drive changes in CO2 levels. NOT the reverse.' indicates a very poor grasp of the subject of global warming."

... or perhaps a misunderstanding of my point. I didn't mean to suggest that the above study contains data falsifying the hypothesis that CO2 levels drive global temperature. I meant to suggest that it doesn't address the question at all... and that folks driven more by a political agenda than by an interest in ground truth will be motivated to read it as if it does.

Present company excepted, of course. :)

Deepsand: I'm quite familiar with positive feedback loops (PFLs), thanks. In fact, my familiarity is deep enough that I make a distinction between PFLs that occur in linear systems (which are an inevitable precursor of instability) and those that occur in nonlinear systems (which can go either way). Needless to say, the global climate system is highly nonlinear.

It is also highly ROBUST, a term you are doubtless also familiar with. In systems terms--appropriate, since you mentioned PFLs--robustness refers to a system's capacity to regain a point of equilibrium following perturbation. Since we can observe that Earth's climate has recovered from major perturbations in the past--Gulf-of-Mexico-creating meteor strikes, non-anthropogenic CO2 spikes, and the like--we can come to the conclusion that our climate is in fact quite robust. This is a good thing.

The question really is not whether humans contribute to CO2 levels. We know they do. The question is whether humans contribute significantly enough to create perturbations beyond the inherent capacity of Earth's climate to absorb. Since the non-anthropogenic sources of CO2 vastly overwhelm human contributions, and since the sum of the two has been both significantly higher AND significantly lower in the past, it's pretty easy to conclude that we're probably operating well within the envelope.

Is there a chance that we are not... that we are engaged in behavior that will ultimately overwhelm the robustness of Earth's climate systems? Sure there is. But the actual rate of global temperature/CO2 change is VERY low, so no matter how you cut it we have LOTS of time to act. There's no crisis, and certainly no reason to take actions that will have HUGELY negative impacts on the global economy.

Why not wait until the signal (if there is one) rises clearly above the noise level before we cut ourselves off at the knees?
jscroft
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2008
One more thing. Bazz:

You seem to suggest CO2 rise is caused by rising temperatures,correct me if i am wrong.

If so you are ignoring the fact that we pump oil and dig coal which contain carbon and will increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere.


Temperature changes do in fact cause changes in CO2 levels. Not "correlate with." CAUSE. The primary factor here is the solubility of CO2 in seawater, which is very temperature dependent (put a cold soda in your microwave and you'll see what I mean).

That isn't the only source, of course... other sources are mentioned above, and include your observation regarding human activity. But what we're dealing with is a question of magnitude. I don't have the numbers at my fingertips, but the combined CO2 carrying capacity of the world's oceans is several orders of magnitude larger than humanity's combined annual CO2 output. In real terms, humanity's contribution is so small compared to the temperature-driven CO2 "respiration" of Earth's oceans that it just pales into insignificance.

Does it constitute "cherry-picking" to focus on the most significant sources of CO2? I suppose... but that's precisely how science works: we build a model of some aspect of the world by throwing out the least significant bits and focusing on the parts that appear to matter. Then we test the model by comparing its output to that of the original (you know, the Universe), and tweak it until it fits.

That's how the "anthropogenic global warming" model morphed into the "anthropogenic climate change" model... the former couldn't account for the fact that global temperatures appear to have peaked around 1998. If the new version can't account for prehistoric CO2 and temperature variations--not to mention recent global warming on Mars--it's probably in for another revision.

I know it's popular to observe that "every little bit counts." Trouble is, all those little bits ONLY count if their sum is distinguishable from the background noise... and so far hundreds of man-years of effort, billions of dollars spent, and tens or hundreds of billions in negative economic impact have yet to establish the truth of the central proposition underlying Al Gore's movement: that climate change is significantly driven by human activity.
Slioch
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2008
re. #jscroft

You appear to be unaware of some basic facts concerning a) the human contribution to atmospheric CO2 and b) the significance of the 1998 global temperature spike.

Concerning a). Ice core evidence from Antarctica and Greenland reaching back to over 800,000 years shows that during that time atmospheric CO2 never exceeded 300ppmv. Prior to the industrial revolution, c.1750, it stood at c.280ppmv. It is now at 387ppmv. That is an increase of some 38%, for which anthropogenic causes, both from burning fossil fuels and from land use changes (primarily forest destruction), are more than adequate to supply. The fact that the annual anthropogenic emissions of CO2 are small in comparison to non-anthropogenic emissions is irrelevant since under natural conditions those non-anthropogenic emissions would usually be absorbed again, thus maintaining a stable CO2 level.

b) Since c.1975 the increase in average global temperature, measured by NASA GISS and HADCRU (and now confirmed by the two satellite series) has equalled c. 0.19 deg C per decade.
In addition to this, natural variation such as El Nino and La Nina episodes cause ANNUAL changes of plus or minus the same amount (c.0.2C). In other words, the natural variation, both positive and negative, is about ten times the annual increment recognised as global warming. Those two variations are well able to explain the peak in global temperatures in 1998, (and the current cooler La Nina episode). 1998 presents not the slightest problem for the theory of anthropogenic global warming, notwithstanding idiotic comments by career denialists like Bob Carter of Australia, and a few others.
Velanarris
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 19, 2008
re. #jscroft

You appear to be unaware of some basic facts concerning a) the human contribution to atmospheric CO2 and b) the significance of the 1998 global temperature spike.

Concerning a). Ice core evidence from Antarctica and Greenland reaching back to over 800,000 years shows that during that time atmospheric CO2 never exceeded 300ppmv. Prior to the industrial revolution, c.1750, it stood at c.280ppmv. It is now at 387ppmv. That is an increase of some 38%, for which anthropogenic causes, both from burning fossil fuels and from land use changes (primarily forest destruction), are more than adequate to supply. The fact that the annual anthropogenic emissions of CO2 are small in comparison to non-anthropogenic emissions is irrelevant since under natural conditions those non-anthropogenic emissions would usually be absorbed again, thus maintaining a stable CO2 level.
Now the problem here is you're not reaching far enough back in history. There are measured times where the CO2 level has been far higher that can't be measured by ice core samples due to the fact that antarctica was closer to the equator at that point in time and ice was not present on the future landmass.

Secondly, the accuracy of ice core, geological, and the infamous tree ring sampling has been called into question recently.

b) Since c.1975 the increase in average global temperature, measured by NASA GISS and HADCRU (and now confirmed by the two satellite series) has equalled c. 0.19 deg C per decade.
In addition to this, natural variation such as El Nino and La Nina episodes cause ANNUAL changes of plus or minus the same amount (c.0.2C). In other words, the natural variation, both positive and negative, is about ten times the annual increment recognised as global warming. Those two variations are well able to explain the peak in global temperatures in 1998, (and the current cooler La Nina episode). 1998 presents not the slightest problem for the theory of anthropogenic global warming, notwithstanding idiotic comments by career denialists like Bob Carter of Australia, and a few others.
Now you state that the variations brought on by natural weather patterns are more than capable of being the causation of the "peak" in global warming measured in 1998.

Is it possible that natural weather patterns are completely responsible for the warming trends lain out by AGW?

Us "career denialists" believe so. And to affix a negatively connotated term to our system of requiring data and evidence is rather untoward of you.
Bazz
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 19, 2008
You were cherry picking before you chose to explain yourself.

You seem to suggest in your last post again that there is an external source of heating for wich there is no proof.None that is convincing enough to counter balance the general concensus, if i am correct long year variation are 0.1%.

The oceans you mention actually absorb more carbon than they respirate, it is an equilibrium between atmospheric concentrations and concentrations in the ocean.Put more in the air and part of it will get in the water.Heard about the acidification eating away coral reefs?

The "leveling" of the warming cannot explain why we havent cooled down after 2000 when there was a solar maximum to now when we are in a solar minimum.Perhaps the lower radiation masks the higer greenhouse effect.


Lots of arguments you bring up are of the generic types comparable to political "talking points" wich are recycled over and over again and dont discredit the underlying science at all.

I am not saying that there is no bullshit that agrees with global climate change(it is a more correct term than global warming) but the bullshit is on both sides.I chose to believe the most credible source, science.

They will make misstakes but science is the best bet if it comes to fixing those misstakes.

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree on a lot of things.

You may confuse politics with science, if in politics something is undesirable it can be spun or denied. This is not the was science works, it doesnt deny any truth, but i could see how people get confused, these days politics and science get mixed up more and more.

Bazz
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 19, 2008
Vellaris, you in turn seem to go back so far that there was a completely uncomparable ecosystem with totally different mechanics.
Also the model from wich this is derived is less accurate as the ice core or tree ring model, different methods put the co2 concentrations at 5-25 times 500 million years ago and 2-8 times 100 million years ago.

You cant call one model inaccurate and use another inaccuracy to "prove" your point.Its at least intellectually dishonest.
Velanarris
1 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2008
Vellaris, you in turn seem to go back so far that there was a completely uncomparable ecosystem with totally different mechanics.
Also the model from wich this is derived is less accurate as the ice core or tree ring model, different methods put the co2 concentrations at 5-25 times 500 million years ago and 2-8 times 100 million years ago.

You cant call one model inaccurate and use another inaccuracy to "prove" your point.Its at least intellectually dishonest.
You mean like AGW?
Bazz
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 25, 2008
Intellectually the mechanism of global climate changeis not too difficult to understand, if you want to reason against it it is necessary to stretch the truth like you try to.

The intellectually dishonest point i tried to make is that you base your conclusions on stuff you deny yourself, i even explain in detail why and how.The alternative explanation would be that you dont understand what i am talking about.

If thats true just tell me and i try to explain myself in easier to understand terms.
jscroft
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 25, 2008
Ugh.

Bazz, at this point, I find you guilty of trolling.

There are LOTS of mechanisms of global climate change. SOME of them are well-understood. MOST of them are not. MANY of them are entirely hypothetical, and you aren't helping yourself or anybody else by failing to make the distinction.

I know how this goes. You feel like, if you can just employ enough sophistry for long enough, your opponents on these pages will go find something better to do with their time, and you can congratulate yourself for having "won" the argument.

The trouble here is that Velanaris, I, and others are interested in debating this issue on the basis of FACT. You, on the other hand, want to pit one group of academic authorities against another and claim victory for the side with the longest string of degrees and international accolades. I'm sure that's a lot of fun for you...

But it isn't science, and it's annoying as hell to the rest of us, because it discourages participation from those who may actually have something new to offer.

Seriously, Bazz. We are all giving you the benefit of the doubt here and assuming that you are qualified to discuss the factual and observational merits of the various hypotheses surrounding the issue of global climate change, particularly with respect to the anthropocentric question.

Why not give that a try? It's bound to be more interesting than the current game of "my Nobel laureate is smarter than yours," and if you actually have some clarity to offer, you might experience the very commendable pleasure of having taught something useful to your peers!
Bazz
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 25, 2008
Arguments i counter with arguments, irrational suggestions with disdain.

There is a lot of uncertainty in lots of suggested effects, i agree with you on that one and I certainly believe there is no such thing as a perpect theory, we dont live in a world of certainties but in a word of probabilities.

Yes i am convinced of what i believe in and i will do so until someone has convincing evidence that suggests otherwise.My mind is not static i weigh every argument and try to get more information on the source to be able to make the right judgement.If people cant stand the arguments why dont they come with better ones that makes me have to rethink about my viewpoint.

I love facts and i have great pride in my judgement of facts it makes me very confident.It hard to decide what facts have what relevancy and its not possible for any single human to have perfect knowlege, thats why i prefer a decent discussion without any name calling, spinning, generalisations about nationality, and other irrational behaviour.

I started reading physorg 3 months ago and after some time i noticed something funny, everytime there was an article there were people who didnt comment on the article but making rhetorical remarks wich were factual incorrect imo.

Starting out with an opinion that global warming is all a load of crock and that they are all liberal ,and not to be trusted.
Its imo a pretty extreme viewpoint wich is not very prevalent in well educated people.

It started to annoy me and i decided to take you on, with the same intensity and using all trusted information i have accumulated.

If you dont like my arguments i am sorry but i believe in a civilised debate the one with the best arguments is supposed to win the debate, not the one with the best rhetoric.

I would love to have such debate, but thats impossible in an enviroment where its polarised by personal attacks.Or coming up with pseudo science thats politically biased, then claiming that general science is wrong because they have a liberal bias and get subsidised.

Coming up with something from the heartland institute doesnt really help either, I will discuss whats wrong with that if you like.

If you want the question answered if global climate change is caused by humans, there is a strong case for it and little against it, if we both agree to leave shady organisations out of the discussion.

I would like to have a decent discussion with The only one who hasnt attacked me after destroying the arguments he brought up.

I would like to not do it via pm it you dont mind, public forums are not the best place to do so, too many trolls.

I didnt know that was the game maybe from your viewpoint but i thought is was a contest who has the best balance between facts and throwing them wildly around.:D

I think i cleared it up quite well this time, for more rational discussion PM me.



jscroft
2 / 5 (4) Sep 26, 2008
Starting out with an opinion that global warming is all a load of crock and that they are all liberal ,and not to be trusted.
Its imo a pretty extreme viewpoint wich is not very prevalent in well educated people.


See, Bazz, this is why it's so hard to talk to you. Your premises are all screwed up.

I never said global warming is a crock. NEVER. The Earth warms and cools all the time. I take issue with the notion that such changes are significantly ANTHROPOGENIC.

Whether a scientific point of view is "prevalent among educated people" is ENTIRELY irrelevant. The ONLY criteria that applies to an assertion within the context of science is IS IT CONSISTENT WITH PHYSICAL OBSERVATIONS OR NOT? If you want to argue about what "educated people" believe, feel free to have that argument with somebody else.

My observations of media bias are just that: OBSERVATIONS. You may disagree with my CONCLUSIONS, but it's a little silly to take issue with my observations when you can open a newspaper or turn on the TV and repeat them for yourself.

So. I'll be happy to have a discussion with you, but I will thank you to address assertions I ACTUALLY make, instead of those you WISH I had made. Otherwise, I think we both have better things to do with out time. I know I do.
Bazz
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2008
I wasnt talking about you, more about other peoples behaviour,in reaction to your previous post, you are the only one who doesnt seen to do that if any.

I explained why i am not always nice to everyone.

I do take you serious so far.

Yes we are all screwed up, this is the last insult from you i tolerate until i stop differentiating between you and the others.

I hope you dont take any word i say in the most negative way, i am trying to keep this a rational discussion between you and me, where we can point out the flaws in our reasoning without getting to personal.

If you think i insult you or anything dont start insulting back but make sure what i meant first.

thank you.

jscroft
2 / 5 (4) Sep 26, 2008
You're doing it again... addressing things I didn't say instead of things I did. If you're going to have both sides of your own conversation, I'm not sure what you need ME for.
Bazz
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2008
You did say my premises are all screwed up.Is that not an insult?

Please explain what you mean by having two sides of my own conversation?

And sorry if you feel i am not honest, just misled or unknowing, you seem to suggest that sometimes.I can do that too as i have shown.





jscroft
5 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2008
You did say my premises are all screwed up.Is that not an insult?


No, it isn't. It's a colorful observation regarding the quality of your premises.

Please explain what you mean by having two sides of my own conversation?


This is a technique commonly employed by politicians. It goes like this:

A: You said the sky is red, but it's actually blue.

B: Actually, the sun is UP! You can tell because the sky isn't black.

A: Yes, but you said it was RED, and it isn't.

B: I rest my case.

And sorry if you feel i am not honest, just misled or unknowing, you seem to suggest that sometimes.I can do that too as i have shown.


I don't think you mean to be dishonest, Bazz. I do think you're more interested in having a prolonged discussion than you are in arriving anyplace useful. That would explain why you employ tactics of argumentation that MIGHT have a place in a political forum, but do NOT have a place in a scientific one.

Some of those tactics are dishonest, in that they employ misdirection and obfuscation to "win" points that argument on the basis of fact can NOT win.

That's not a game that interests me, though. Maybe Velanarris will play it with you.
Bazz
1 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2008
Ok then YOUR premises are all screwed up, regardless of mine.

Tell me whats screwed up about mine and ill tell you whats screwed up about yours.

I dont think you mean to be hypocritical but you dont seem to interested to have an honest discussion, you see i can be very suggestive too, its one of your political tricks.

You sound very naive in thinking there is any science done here, this is merely a message board where at best you may expect a political discussion.

You seem to make a lot of suggestions without adressing anything, if that is your game, and you think you can call it honest, you are pretentious and lack any sense of fairness.

So tell me what i am doing wrong, but make sure you apply the same scrutiny to yourself, if you are unable to do so i wont take the time to be nice to you, ill just ridicule you.
jscroft
5 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2008
Ridicule away, Bazz. I'm sure we will all enjoy the spectacle.