The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Scientists may need to more than double their assessment of how much carbon dioxide and methane thawing Arctic permafrost will release into the atmosphere this century, according to a study published this month.
The paper, published in Nature Communications Aug. 15, said that previous estimates for how greenhouse gasses released by thawing permafrost would contribute to global climate change focused on the slow thawing of permafrost near the surface.
In two recent studies, scientists have looked into the future and into the past to see what might happen to the global climate if we fail to curb greenhouse gas emissions in time. The results are frightening.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Robert McSweeney
These natural processes are "positive feedbacks"—so called because they release more greenhouse gases as global temperatures rise, thus reinforcing the warming. They have previously not been represented in carbon budget estimates as they are not included in most climate models, the researchers say.
A new industry is taking off in Alaska, as innovators help oil companies compensate for the irony that climate change is making oil exploration harder on the increasingly less frozen permafrost, NPR reported Monday.
Ed Yarmak, for example, heads a company called Arctic Foundations that makes metal tubes filled with a refrigerant called thermosyphons. These are then partly buried in permafrost, where they pull heat from the ground.
By Alex Kirby
Methane emissions are the source of the greenhouse gas which, after carbon dioxide, probably causes climatologists more sleepless nights than any of the other gases. And now it appears they have quite a lot more to bother them than they had realized.
Methane is reckoned to be at least 30 times more powerful than CO2 at warming the earth, with some estimates putting its potency much higher still. The good news, research has suggested, is that there is far less methane than CO2 in the atmosphere to worry about.
A study published in Nature Climate Change Monday shows that thawing permafrost in the Arctic might produce more methane than previously thought. Methane has 28 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide, so the findings indicate scientists might have to reassess how thawing permafrost will contribute to climate change.
Thawing tundra may be allowing long-buried pockets of methane to be released into the atmosphere, new research suggests. A study surveying the Mackenzie Delta in Canada, published Wednesday in the journal Scientific Reports, suggested that these methane "seeps" on the tundra may be more problematic than previously thought.
Nitrous oxide, the main ingredient in laughing gas, does more than just act as a nerve agent; it is a powerful greenhouse gas. It is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide and scientists believe could be leaking from ancient reservoirs beneath Arctic permafrost.
Deep in the soils of permafrost lurks unknown and archaic bacteria that could potentially spawn viruses and disease that the human race has never been exposed to, at least, not in the recent history of penicillin. But with climate change rapidly heating up the poles, the permafrost is melting away, and we may have to face whatever is beneath the ice.
Fifteen mysterious bubbles have been discovered in Siberia. The mysterious bubbles produce a natural waterbed-like reaction when stepped on.
Photo credit: Giphy
Researchers Alexander Sokolov and Dorothee Ehrich, working on the island of Belyy, first spotted a mysterious bubble last year. While the exact reason for these spots hasn't been determined, environmental researchers think they could be linked to the release of methane by melting permafrost under the surface.
When Sokolov and Ehrich punctured one of the spots, air escaped from it. The air contained 200 times more methane and 20 times more carbon dioxide than there is in the air we breathe. Preliminary guesses link the spots with a recent heat wave in Europe.
"It is likely that that 10 days of extraordinary heat could have started some mechanisms, [and the] higher level of permafrost could have thawed and released a huge amount of gases," Sokolov told the Siberian Times.
"It is evident even to amateurs that this is a very serious alarm," he added. "As for the future, we are interested in further study of the bubbles."
Leaking methane from melting permafrost has been linked to sinkholes and craters across Siberia, so Sokolov's current hypothesis could be true. The team will continue to study the strange spots and geologist will monitor the region as well, Science Alert reported.
The waterbed-like response can be seen in this video created by the Siberian Times: