Researchers clarify impact of permafrost thaw

Researchers clarify impact of permafrost thaw
Degrading permafrost with frozen permafrost carbon and ice wedges near Noatak, Alaska. Credit: Ted Schuur

As the Earth's climate continues to warm, researchers are working to understand how human-driven emissions of carbon dioxide will affect the release of naturally occurring greenhouse gases from arctic permafrost. As the perennially frozen soil continues to thaw, the increase of greenhouse gas emissions could significantly accelerate warming conditions changes on Earth.

An estimated 1,330 billion to 1,580 billion tons of organic carbon are stored in permafrost soils of Arctic and subarctic regions with the potential for even higher quantities stored deep in the frozen soil. The carbon is made up of plant and animal remnants stored in soil for thousands of years. Thawing and decomposition by microbes cause the release of and methane into the atmosphere.

"Our big question is how much, how fast and in what form will this carbon come out," said Ted Schuur, NAU biology professor and lead author on a paper published in Nature.

The rate of carbon release can directly affect how fast climate change happens.

Schuur and fellow researchers coalesced new studies to conclude that thawing permafrost in the Artic and sub-Arctic regions will likely produce a gradual and prolonged release of substantial quantities of greenhouse gases spanning decades as opposed to an abrupt release in a decade or less.

Modern climate change is often attributed to human activities as a result of fossil fuel burning and deforestation, but natural ecosystems also play a role in the global carbon cycle. "Human activities might start something in motion by releasing carbon gases but natural systems, even in remote places like the Arctic, may add to this problem of climate change," Schuur said. During the past 30 years, temperatures in the Arctic have increased twice as fast as other parts of the planet.

Schuur and his team of researchers from around the world also present next steps for improving knowledge of permafrost carbon and how the dynamics will affect the . Approaches include improving models by integrating newly created databases, changing models to differentiate between carbon and methane emissions and improved observations of carbon release from the landscape as the Arctic continues to warm.


Explore further

Researchers predict gradual, prolonged release of greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost

More information: "Climate change and the permafrost carbon feedback" Nature 520, 171–179 (09 April 2015) DOI: 10.1038/nature14338
Journal information: Nature

Citation: Researchers clarify impact of permafrost thaw (2015, May 12) retrieved 20 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-05-impact-permafrost.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
81 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

May 12, 2015
Do we still have Deniers?

May 12, 2015
"Human activities might start something in motion by releasing carbon gases but natural systems, even in remote places like the Arctic, may add to this problem of climate change,"

Who decided this was a problem? This is where modern science continues to go astray. Report facts, leave your interpretations of good or bad out of it.

May 12, 2015
Scientists who study and understand climate dynamics know, . . . maybe better than you.

May 12, 2015
Give us your money, or the earth gets it.

Give a monkey a brain, and he'll think he's the center of the universe.

Climates change. nature is far to big and powerful for humans to control. Guess what that means? The people taking your money offering your momma earth's salvation are scamming you. Big Time.

May 12, 2015
Why do conservatives assume we all have their character?

May 12, 2015
Give us your money, or the earth gets it.



Yes, this statement gets more profound the more you use it. This article is about the impact a thawing permafrost will have as a positive feedback mechanism for climate change - possibly a catastrophic one if not the feared "time bomb". I fail to see what money has to do with any of that, especially as a shift to renewables will cost you less overall.

May 13, 2015
Why do conservatives assume we all have their character?


"Give a monkey a brain, and he'll think he's the center of the universe."

May 23, 2015
denglish claims with typical propaganda mutterings
Give us your money, or the earth gets it.
Give a monkey a brain, and he'll think he's the center of the universe.
Climates change. nature is far to big and powerful for humans to control. Guess what that means? The people taking your money offering your momma earth's salvation are scamming you. Big Time.
Where is the Science denglish ?

The Physics denglish ?

The Proof that CO2 is NOT warming ?

denglish, why are you here, it you offer NOTHING but barbs to obfuscate, why is that ?

This is a Science site, offer some useful links for mature dialectic, why can't you ? eg Start here:-
http://en.wikiped..._forcing

and learn some basic physics re radiative heat transfer
https://en.wikipe...transfer

Is there anything denglish to compare with CO2's radiative forcing, anything anywhere can u find it ?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more