A new study argues that the Arctic permafrost is melting at a speed which is so great that in a few years the number of greenhouse gases released by frozen organic matter will be doubled.
When the temperature of the ground rises beyond the freezing limit microorganisms will start to consume the organic matter which can be found in the soil. This process generates carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, which are well-known greenhouse gases.
Permafrost is composed of rock, soil, sediments, and ice. It is also rich in carbon that has accumulated over hundreds or thousands of years as dead plants, animals, and microbes decayed.
The Permafrost Melts at an Accelerated Rate due to Global Warming
The thawing process progresses at a worrisome pace. Upon verifying sites established a year ago in Arctic areas, some researchers were shocked when they discovered that the once forested areas are now filled by lakes and beautiful rivers were filled with sediments. In some cases, entire hillsides became liquid puddles.
In the past permafrost located in hillsides would have been safe for at least one century since it would have been covered in soil. However, the liquefaction process is uncovering these layers at an alarming rate. Select projections anticipate that a minimum amount of 200 billion tons of carbon in 300 years. The study notes that this is merely an estimation and the amount could be larger. As the permafrost located in lowland lakes and wetlands continues to fall apart an additional amount of 60 to 100 billion tons of carbon will be released by 2300.
While carbon is bad on its own, the phenomenon also leads to the release of a large amount of methane which is far better at trapping heat in the long run. In an attempt to learn more about these events, the scientists are trying to improve the technologies which are used for measurements across the arctic areas. Further research is already underway as the team wants to contribute to a strategy which could limit the speed at which permafrost thaws. The study was published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere