Permafrost line recedes 130 km in 50 years

February 17, 2010
Pictured are lichen and shrub-covered palsas surrounded by a pond resulting from melting permafrost in a bog near the village of Radisson, Canada. Credit: Serge Payette

The southern limit of permanently frozen ground, or permafrost, is now 130 kilometers further north than it was 50 years ago in the James Bay region, according to two researchers from the Department of Biology at Université Laval. In a recent issue of the scientific journal Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, Serge Payette and Simon Thibault suggest that, if the trend continues, permafrost in the region will completely disappear in the near future.

The researchers measured the retreat of the permafrost border by observing hummocks known as "palsas," which form naturally over ice contained in the soil of northern peat bogs. Conditions in these mounds are conducive to the development of distinct vegetation -- lichen, shrubs, and black spruce -- that make them easy to spot in the field.

In an initial survey in 2004, the researchers examined seven bogs located between the 51st and 53rd parallels. They noted at that time that only two of the bogs contained palsas, whereas aerial photos taken in 1957 showed palsas present in all of the bogs. A second assessment in 2005 revealed that the number of palsas present in these two bogs had decreased over the course of one year by 86% and 90% respectively.

Helicopter flyovers between the 51st and 55th parallels also revealed that the palsas are in an advanced state of deterioration over the entire James Bay area.

While climate change is the most probable explanation for this phenomenon, the lack of long term climatic data for the area makes it impossible for the researchers to officially confirm this. Professor Payette notes, however, that the average annual temperature of the northern sites he has studied for over 20 years has increased by 2 degrees Celsius. "If this trend keeps up, what is left of the palsas in the James Bay bogs will disappear altogether in the near future, and it is likely that the will suffer the same fate," concludes the researcher affiliated to the Centre d'études nordiques.

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18 comments

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Parsec
2.7 / 5 (15) Feb 17, 2010
I wonder what the AGW deniers will come up with to refute this. Based on previous blogs, my guess would be one or more of: slandering the researcher, guilt by association, or simply ignoring it and hope that no one notices.
Fazer
Feb 17, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
JayK
3 / 5 (7) Feb 17, 2010
@Fazer:

This:
While climate change is the most probable explanation for this phenomenon, the lack of long term climatic data for the area makes it impossible for the researchers to officially confirm this. Professor Payette notes, however, that the average annual temperature of the northern sites he has studied for over 20 years has increased by 2 degrees Celsius. "If this trend keeps up, what is left of the palsas in the James Bay bogs will disappear altogether in the near future, and it is likely that the permafrost will suffer the same fate," concludes the researcher affiliated to the Centre d'├ętudes nordiques.


Must be from a different article you read and commented on, right?
Fazer
Feb 17, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
jonnyboy
2.8 / 5 (9) Feb 18, 2010
Most of us so-called "deniers" don't think that the climate isn't changing, we just disagree with the totally unproven notion that it is caused by man, which is what AGW means (for those of you morons like the two above).
Birger
3.3 / 5 (7) Feb 18, 2010
There is no record of any similar warming taking place in any of the preceding interglacials. The Eem interglacial had a lot of climate variability, but not on this scale.
The ice-core record goes back half a million years and covers several glacial-interglacial cycles. The only factor that has changed radically is the emergence of Homo Sapiens. Now that the permafrost is melting at a suspicioulsy rapid rate, there also happens to be more greenhouse gases about, courtesy of our smokestacks...
Having an open mind to alternative explanations is a virtue, but at some point even inconvenient, or downright repulsive explanations have to be accepted because they fit the facts.
Being reluctant to accept someting unpleasant is not the same thing as being a "moron" -Einstein could not accept some of the implications of quantum physics- but in the long term, facing the hard truth needs to be done.
A recent analogy is the HIV denialism by African politicians. It has cost immense loss of life
Sancho
3.2 / 5 (10) Feb 18, 2010
Use of the word "denier" illustrates the religious hysteria of AGW proponents. Scientists without an agenda use the word "skeptic." A little humility is in order, considering our state of ignorance regarding the mechanisms of climate change.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.7 / 5 (7) Feb 18, 2010
A recent analogy is the HIV denialism by African politicians. It has cost immense loss of life

There's a lot of religion involved in this particular issue. It's interesting that some have compared the pro or anti sides of the AGW discussion to religions. Warring without facts appears to be the hallmark of faith.
mary_hinge
3 / 5 (6) Feb 18, 2010
Most of us so-called "deniers" don't think that the climate isn't changing, we just disagree with the totally unproven notion that it is caused by man, which is what AGW means (for those of you morons like the two above).

You seem very keen on double negatives here, so what you are saying is:
You think the climate is changing; and
You agree with the proven notion it is caused by man.
Glad we cleared that up.

stealthc
2.3 / 5 (9) Feb 18, 2010
AGW is a scam, it is designed to force us to accept lower wages, more starvation, etc.

The UN and rothschilds would like nothing more than to make us all servile and subjects of their bidding.
Adriab
3.5 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2010

You seem very keen on double negatives here, so what you are saying is:
You think the climate is changing; and
You agree with the proven notion it is caused by man.
Glad we cleared that up.


Actually, Mary, your interpretation is wrong about the "unproven notion" part.

jonnyboy is saying that he disagrees with the notion, and there is no proof supporting that notion.

This whole global warming debate just sounds like arguing for the sake of being argumentative. Shouldn't we instead be putting our effort toward real progress? Does it really matter if global warming was caused by humans? It will certainly impact us whether the global temperature goes up or down.

A big uncertainty remains though: will it be helpful to us, or will it be harmful?

Adriab
4 / 5 (6) Feb 18, 2010
I don't understand the bickering that happens between proponents of global warming, and those against. It seems like a pointless debate. Follow the data, something is changing.

We may not ever know with certainty whether we are the cause or not, but we should certainly look to lessen our impact on the environment.

Focus less on the arguing, less on the politics, and less on the scandal. Work towards the common goals of understanding the issue and finding a solution.
frenchie
Feb 18, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
aufever
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 19, 2010
Can you attribute this to man caused. I was watching a Discovery Channel Presentation on this and this lady Scientist held up a section of thawed permafrost that had old roots in it, obviously it had been warmer for somthing to grow in what was permafrost. Eric the Red Founded a colony on Greenland around 1050 ad and they were growing grasses and raising cattle and that lasted till around 1300 ad. I flew over the area in 1965 and you couldn't grow grass and raise cattle. This to me proves that Earth or at least the Northern Hemisphere was warmer then and Earth's Climate is not as susceptable to the effects of man as the Lemmings that Worship Man Made Global Warming Believe. In the San Joaquin Valley there is a redwood forest buried under 125 feet of sediment, which means that the Climate was much colder then. Can any of you Lemmings tell me what is Earth' Normal Climate?
fixer
1 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2010
How to spoil an argument, provide a photograph as proof.
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, especially when it's your pet theory.
ThomasS
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 21, 2010
Most of us so-called "deniers" don't think that the climate isn't changing, we just disagree with the totally unproven notion that it is caused by man, which is what AGW means (for those of you morons like the two above).

C02 levels going from 280 to 380 ppm since the industrial revolution after being stable for 10 million years? C02 being a greenhouse gas?
ThomasS
3 / 5 (4) Feb 21, 2010
Can any of you Lemmings tell me what is Earth' Normal Climate?

It at least involves atmospheric C02 levels to be somewhere around 270 ppm, at least during the last 10 million years
fixer
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 21, 2010
You need to focus on the issue and stop looking for someone to blame.
When you get over this "something for nothing" and "it isn't my fault" rubbish you might see that we are all to blame and do your bit to help.
This is a genuine news article and it deserves respect, not finger pointing.

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