500 Billion Tons of Prehistoric Organic Matter May Massively Accelerate ‘Global Warming’

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September 18, 2007

500 Billion Tons of Prehistoric Organic Matter May Massively Accelerate ‘Global Warming’

Prehistoric_cave_art For thousands of years animal waste, and other organic matter left behind on the Arctic tundra, have been sealed off from the environment by permafrost. Now climate change is melting the permafrost and freeing mass quantities of prehistoric “ooze” from its state of suspended animation.

Russian scientist, Sergei Zimov, has been studying climate change in Russia's Arctic for 30 years now. He is worried that as this organic matter becomes exposed to the air it will drastically accelerate global warming predictions even beyond some of the most pessimistic forecasts.

"This will lead to a type of global warming which will be impossible to stop," he said.

According to Zimov, when the organic matter left behind by mammoths and other wildlife is exposed to the air by the thawing permafrost, microbes that have been dormant for thousands of years will spring back into action. They’ll begin once again to emit carbon dioxide and methane gas as a by-product. Zimov says thought the microbes are tiny, they will start emitting these gases in enormous quantities simply because there will be a lot of them.

Yakutia is a region in the north-eastern corner of Siberia, where a belt of permafrost contains the mammoth-era soil. It covers an area roughly the size of France and Germany combined. There is even more of it elsewhere in Siberia.

"The deposits of organic matter in these soils are so gigantic that they dwarf global oil reserves," Zimov said. U.S. government statistics show mankind emits about 7 billion tons of carbon a year."Permafrost areas hold 500 billion tons of carbon, which can fast turn into greenhouse gases," Zimov added. "If you don't stop emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere ... the Kyoto Protocol (an international pact aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions) will seem like childish prattle."

While some dismiss the 52-year-old as an alarmist crank, his theory is steadily gaining credibility in the scientific community. "There's quite a bit of truth in it," Julian Murton, member of the International Permafrost Association, told Reuters. "The methane and carbon dioxide levels will increase as a result of permafrost degradation."

A United Nations report in June said there was at yet no sign of widespread melting of permafrost that could stoke global warming, but noted the potential threat. "Permafrost stores a lot of carbon, with upper permafrost layers estimated to contain more organic carbon than is currently contained in the atmosphere," the report said.

"Permafrost thawing results in the release of this carbon in the form of greenhouse gases which will have a positive feedback effect to global warming."

Posted by Rebecca Sato

Related posts:

The Day the Seas Died: What Can the Greatest of All Extinction Events Teach Us About Climate Change?
Arctic’s Legendary Northwest Passage is Ice-Free for the First Time in Recorded History
The Timeline For 21st Century “Climate Change Events
Coming of Age in the Holocene
"Snowball Earth" Challenged


Link:
http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSL1076886120070918

Comments

But I guess we will never know if we never try.

Um... so we can like, create enough rocket fuel to propel objects to other planets with this junk and burn it outside of our ecosystem?

Nice!

I love you nature ^_^

Wow that's like a time-bomb, sorta like nature left a little emergency device so that if man messes around with her, this little device gets activated and takes him out as well.

well this definitely shows that people should fear and respect mother nature instead of some god that they cant see. we came from the land and we'll end there as well. why is there such a need to detatch ourselves from nature? well i guess i better see the rest of the world before we destroy it.

And add to that the ocean is a carbon dioxide sink that is temperature effected as well. Warmer waters hold less carbon dioxide.

Could be too late, I don't know. I believe the Arctic way of life has already change and some of the animals a result will not survive such rapid climate change. But the Inuit people and other animals are already adapting and will have to adapt even more. Global warming in the future will disproportionately affect those who live in the Arctic, northern territories, etc.

They are already the canary in the mine and it isn't going so well. Towns built on permafrost which is now thawing are sliding off into the sea; roads partially built on ice or permafrost will have shorter and shorter times to be open.

But I have two children, so as their mother, I have to do whatever I can do to stop global warming. I used to feel panicky about it at first, but I just keep plodding along and doing what I can on my own and in connection with others - family, friends, co-workers, green NGOs such as Greenpeace or the David Suzuki Foundation.

NASA silently released corrected figures on the warmest year on record.
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.D.txt and the changes are truly
astounding. The warmest year on record is now 1934. 1998 (long trumpeted by the media as record-breaking) moves to second place. 1921 takes third. In fact, 5 of the 10 warmest years on record now all occur before World War II. Anthony Watts has put the new data in chart form, along with a more detailed summary of the events.
http://www.norcalblogs.com/watts/2007/08/1998_no_longer_the_hottest_yea.html
Warren Meyer at The Coyote Blog has much more, and notes.

NASA has produced an animated map that illustrates changes in global temperatures between meteorological years 1891 and 2006. This animated map is an .mp4 file that can be viewed using a QuickTime player. Each frame in the animation represents a one year increment of the ten year mean temperature anomaly. This animation begins with a historic ten year (1891-1900) mean meteorological year temperature anomaly map and ends with a recent (1997-2006) ten year mean meteorological year temperature anomaly map. The animation clearly illustrates a global warming trend over the time interval..

You can view the animation or read details at the blog. http://r10-net-seo-yarismasi-jeam.blogspot.com

Regarding the post from "theyoungermrsbauman" on NASA's temperature data, which shows 1921 and 1934 as two of three warmest years on record: that is for the United States only, and climate change is valid at the global level, and is pertinent when considered over long time frames, ie ten years, not one year. Apparently, some are still trying to mislead us, or lying with statistics. Bottom line: with permafrost methane release included in the models, temperatures increase by 14 degrees Fahrenheit, averaged around the globe: higher on land and at northern latitudes. Can't begin to grow enough to feed 7 billion people at these temps. Massive starvation, and war, are the likely outcomes.

Regarding the post from "theyoungermrsbauman" on NASA's temperature data, which shows 1921 and 1934 as two of three warmest years on record: that is for the United States only, and climate change is valid at the global level, and is pertinent when considered over long time frames, ie ten years, not one year. Apparently, some are still trying to mislead us, or lying with statistics. Bottom line: with permafrost methane release included in the models, temperatures increase by 14 degrees Fahrenheit, averaged around the globe: higher on land and at northern latitudes. Can't begin to grow enough to feed 7 billion people at these temps. Massive starvation, and war, are the likely outcomes.

@carl: I completely agree. Both world wars were fought in times of plenty, when seeds put to soil would bring returns in a few months. But when whole populations don't have enough to eat and drink, and tropical diseases spread into their area, they will back any leader who proposes a simple martial solution.

And its nasty to think what kind of wars this would spark. Sure, since the end of WW2 we've avoided using nukes in war, but in that time nukes have proliferated and increased in destructive power by several orders of magnitude. Also modern biological warfare is increasingly viable and therefore, likely.

Really,I think its all the bombs they let off in space.1962.

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