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Frozen methane bubbles in a thermokarst lake in Alaska. Miriam Jones / USGS

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.

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iStock / Getty Images

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.

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The Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve in Hillsboro, Oregon. born1945 / CC BY 2.0

By Robert McSweeney

Emissions of CO2 and methane from wetlands and thawing permafrost as the climate warms could cut the "carbon budget" for the Paris agreement temperature limits by around five years, a new study says.

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.

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The NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Barrow, AK, with the Arctic Ocean in the background. NOAA

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.

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Collapsed permafrost block of coastal tundra on Alaska's Arctic coast. U.S. Geological Survey / Wikimedia Commons

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.

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Thawing permafrost in Noatak National Preserve, Alaska. NPS Climate Change Response

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.

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