New knowledge about permafrost improving climate models

New research findings from the Centre for Permafrost (CENPERM) at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, document that permafrost during thawing may result in a substantial release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that the future water content in the soil is crucial to predict the effect of permafrost thawing. The findings may lead to more accurate climate models in the future.

The permafrost is thawing and thus contributes to the release of carbon dioxide and other into the atmosphere. But the rate at which carbon dioxide is released from permafrost is poorly documented and is one of the most important uncertainties of the current models.

The knowledge available so far has primarily been based on measurements of the release of carbon dioxide in short-term studies of up to 3-4 months. The new findings are based on measurements carried out over a 12-year period. Studies with different water content have also been conducted. Professor Bo Elberling, Director of CENPERM (Centre for Permafrost) at the University of Copenhagen, is the person behind the novel research findings which are now being published in the internationally renowned scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

"From a perspective, it makes a huge difference whether it takes 10 or 100 years to release, e.g., half the permafrost carbon pool. We have demonstrated that the supply of oxygen in connection with drainage or drying is essential for a rapid release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," says Bo Elberling.

Water content in the soil crucial to predict effect of permafrost thawing

The new findings also show that the future water content in the soil is a decisive factor for being able to correctly predict the effect of permafrost thawing. If the permafrost remains water-saturated after thawing, the carbon decomposition rate will be very low, and the release of carbon dioxide will take place over several hundred years, in addition to methane that is produced in waterlogged conditions. The findings can be used directly to improve existing .

The new studies are mainly conducted at the Zackenberg research station in North-East Greenland, but permafrost samples from four other locations in Svalbard and in Canada have also been included and they show a surprising similarity in the loss of carbon over time.

"It is thought-provoking that microorganisms are behind the entire problem – microorganisms which break down the carbon pool and which are apparently already present in the permafrost. One of the critical decisive factors – the – is in the same way linked to the original high content of ice in most permafrost samples. Yes, the temperature is increasing, and the permafrost is thawing, but it is, still, the characteristics of the which determine the long-term release of ," Bo Elberling concludes.

Explore further

Climate change threatens permafrost in soil

More information: Nature Climate Change DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1955
Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Citation: New knowledge about permafrost improving climate models (2013, July 28) retrieved 23 August 2019 from
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Jul 28, 2013
It is good that that climate scientists have identified, and are working on, a list of "the most important uncertainties of the current climate models".

It is good that the models are continually being improved.

A couple quotes seem relevant--

Josh Billings: "It ain't what you know that gets you in trouble. It's what you think you know that just ain't so."

Donald Rumsfeld: "...But there are also unknown unknowns-- there are things we do not know we don't know."

Jul 28, 2013
Ah yes, Naomi Oreskes. She has given some excellent and thought-provoking talks on the subject of climate denial. Definitely worth listening to if you have the time. Here's one of them.


Jul 29, 2013
Reality check on "Conspiracy Queen" Oreskes:


Posting researched content costs me personal time and money, especially since if I could get good science news without daily doses of the Teflon "science" of alarmist climatology, I would get more done since I wouldn't be so pissed off about the loss of value of science in our culture. I'm embarrassed to even tell people I'm a chemist by training since the Upper West Side women I live around as well as the witty hipsters I run into downtown are all still throwing their sex into support for alarm. It was cool to be skeptical after Climategate revealed simple corruption of peer review in climatology, but it's again a social handicap now that puritanical Republicans are on board.

Jul 29, 2013
All these claims about the release of evil plant food into the sky conceal the blunt and non-controversial fact that CO2 is only evil based upon computer models that include massive (3X) amplification of the standard greenhouse effect. Yet propagandists who here call for the execution of skeptics would have you see us as straw men who "deny" the classic theory of greenhouse gas warming akin to how Gore's tobacco industry denied the deadly effects of a smoking habit.

The old motto of IBM need be applied to understand corruption: THINK.

Jul 29, 2013
Neinsense woefully lamented about his ratings war:

"The usual suspects will be along shortly to spread doubt and down-vote the comments of those they or their employers don't like."

Oh, I up-vote for fun, so your free plugs, re-quotes of my posts, and especially your side's cultish illogic, regular hate speech and slander will help casual users know there is muckracking content behind their ratings filter. For the record I am self-employed which allows me to speak out where academic scientists so far cannot.

The Harvard trained geologist who walked on the Moon, now senator Harrison Schmitt, points out: "They've seen too many of their colleagues lose grant funding when they haven't gone along with the so-called political consensus that we're in a human-caused global warming."

Jul 29, 2013

I'm getting the irony here.

If you find yourself wasting time here, well, only you can do something about it. I'll help you along though.

You aren't going to change anyone's mind in this forum, so don't bother trying. Climatology is outside your knowledge domain. I don't particularly care that you, a non-climatologist, disagree with all the bona fide climatologists. And you might give a thought to what it sounds like when you group all who disagree with you in their area of expertise as members of some conspiracy.

Jul 29, 2013
Alfie Null wrote: "You aren't going to change anyone's mind in this forum, so don't bother trying."

You can't deprogram cult members, no, but you can expose them as being proudly a part of one, and that's not a waste of time at all.

Your comment is one of the best of the week in that regard, demonstrating that you will only listen to authority, a profoundly anti-scientific sentiment.

NASA's Gavin Schmidt, your mentor, has a Ph.D. not in carbon chemistry like I do from Columbia University but one in applied mathematics from University College London. He has never run a real experiment in his life. James Hansen has a degree in astronomy from the University of Iowa. Al Gore, who you adore, has a degree in divinity studies.

I invoke no conspiracy theory beyond the boring old corruption of science by activist government funding but now the junk science Food Pyramid has been replaced by the junk science Carbon Footprint Counter.

If I sound so bad, you should be happy, not so sad.

Jul 29, 2013
When the entire AGW Alarmist scripture is based on the CO2 lie, this "research" is just more millions wasted that could have been used to save lives.

Jul 30, 2013
Repeating an earlier post by Nik where he sarcastically stated:
"Consensus: There is an ether that pervades space. Continents don't move (despite an obvious jigsaw puzzle match between them)! Dirty hands don't kill surgical patients! Children are a blank slate, personality wise with no genetic influence! The best therapy is to treat human beings as if we were shocking pigeons and ringing bells for dogs. Non-coding DNA is"junk". Viruses have nothing to do with ulcers or certain cancers. Bacterial spontaneously generate."

To which I add the one you forgot: "humans can't cause climate change, only natural cycles can".

It's amazing that you can't see how you are on the wrong side of this, denying the science based on out of context cherry picked data. You mind is made up so you only see that which supports your pre-conception, regardless of source. If the things you are saying were real there would be crowds of people publishing the data to support it. I started as a denier ....

Jul 30, 2013
When the entire AGW Alarmist scripture is based on the CO2 lie, this "research" is just more millions wasted that could have been used to save lives.

Any monies spent on your education were most definitely wasted.

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