Permafrost Melt, 500-Billion Tons of Prehistoric 'Ooze' May Rapidly Accelerate Global Warming
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July 06, 2009

Permafrost Melt, 500-Billion Tons of Prehistoric 'Ooze' May Rapidly Accelerate Global Warming

Glacier

New research shows that the amount of carbon stored in frozen soils at high latitudes is double previous estimates and could, if emitted as carbon dioxide and methane, lead to a significant increase in global temperatures by the end of this century. The increased temperatures and permafrost melt could trigger the release of thousands of years of animal waste and other organic matter left behind on the Arctic tundra that have been sealed off from the environment by permafrost. Global warming is melting the permafrost and freeing mass quantities of prehistoric “ooze” from its state of suspended animation.

“Massive amounts of carbon stored in frozen soils at high latitudes are increasingly vulnerable to exposure to the atmosphere,” says the Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project at CSIRO (Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), Dr Pep Canadell.

“The research shows that the amount of carbon stored in soils surrounding the North Pole has been hugely underestimated. “Using the new carbon pool estimates from this research, permafrost degradation could account for the entire upper range of carbon-climate feedbacks currently estimated by climate models,” Dr Canadell says.

“Warmer temperatures at high latitudes are already resulting in unprecedented permafrost degradation,” he says. “Projections show that almost all near-surface permafrost will disappear by the end of this century exposing large carbon stores to decomposition and release of greenhouse gases.”

“A number of feedbacks increase the vulnerability of these soils. For example, heat generated from increased microbial activity could lead to sustained and long-term chronic emissions of carbon dioxide and methane.” In addition, ‘thermokast lakes’ formed as permafrost thaws, would draw heat to deeper layers and bring methane to the surface.

“The potential for significant feedbacks from permafrost carbon could be realized with only a small fraction of currently frozen carbon released to the atmosphere. For example if only 10 per cent of the permafrost melts, the resultant feedback could result in an additional 80 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent released into the atmosphere, equating to about 0.7°C of global warming.”

Russian scientist, Sergei Zimov, who has been studying climate change in Russia's Arctic for 30 years, is worried that as 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."

Permafrost stores a lot of carbon, with upper permafrost layers estimated to contain more organic carbon than is currently contained in the atmosphere. 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 Casey Kazan with Rebecca Sato.

Related Galaxy posts:

Is Global Warming Part of Earth's Natural Cycle: MIT Team Says "Yes"
Global-Warming Tipping Point: 9 Degrees Temperature Increase Would Devastate Earth's Population
Little Ice Age: "Coming Soon" -Says Contrarian Expert

Sources:

The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR)  [external link]

The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research is a partnership between CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.

http://www.csiro.au/news/Permafrost-climate-change-threat.html

Comments

And what is this compared to the billions of tons WE DELIBERATELY send in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuel? Nothing!

Another clever guy that know he can make fame and money by spreading fear of eco-disaster

There is seventy times as much carbon available to rapid release by positive feedback as we put out deliberately every year. Something!

For instance, from all of the cars I passed today with a driver and three empty seats, there was extra CO2 from waste. The question is not what that marginal waste of CO2 will do, but will standard operating procedures of waste across humanity push us into a really punishing climate state.

Our contribution to climate change versus run-away positive feeback loop, is the difference between finger pushing on head with 14# force, or finger pushing on trigger with 14# force and the amplification of that force by chemical reaction. The permafrost melt is a chemical reaction, and chemical reactions can be unexpectedly violent when they get going. Thermal runaway.

I'm not worried about what will happen short term, but I have seen thermal runaway. The argument that it's okay now so it will be okay over time is specious.

If you want to know why life itself should be motivated, look up hot dry greenhouse effect. Water is such a better greenhouse gas than CO2, that if high altitude water vapor transport gets in the feedback loop, we lose the oceans over a few million years. Solar UV breaks the water molecule up and the hydrogen escapes. None of this inconvenient melting or flooding really matters in the long term. What, me worry?

- The Neptune’s moon, Triton is warming (BBC Science & Technology News, July 25, 1999)- Pluto experiences an extraordinary heating (Massachusetts Institute of Technology News, October 9, 2002)- Volcanic eruption on Jupiter’s satellite Io (Icarus Astronomy , November 2002)- The warming of Mars (ABC News, December 7, 2002)- The warming of Saturn (January 28, 2007, http://www.interstars.net): scientist of the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) – physics and astronomy department and those at the University of Boston have noticed that the temperature of the superior atmosphere of Saturn is
higher that estimated. Thus, professor Allan Aylward at UCLA
considers necessary the reexamination of the main hypotheses regarding the planetary atmosphere and establishing the cause of the respective heating. He also noticed a similar process on Mars, concluding: “Studying the aspects within other planetary atmospheres will help us to find out clues of the Terra’s future“….
- THE LOGICAL EXPLANATION of the warming process on Earth and on the other planets in our solar system proves to be the one provided by I. Velikovsky, in his book - Worlds in Collision - from 1950: “Two celestial bodies have been attracted one to each other. The inner masses of the Earth were pushed to the periphery. The Earth, with its rotation movement disturbed, started to warm“…
- NASA’s LATEST DISCOVERY: SUN HEATS (What Sun?) THE EARTH… NASA AND PLANET X:
http://cristiannegureanu.blogspot.com/2009/06/nasas-latest-discovery-sun-heats-earth.html

This is disturbing ... it seems increasingly clear that if we break 450 ppm that feedback loops will bring us far too close to 1000 ppm for comfort. And 1000 ppm is an entirely different world than the one we're used to.

If the permafrost does melt and release greenhouse gases, resulting in the acceleration of global warming, it will also allow an increase of floral growth in the polar regions. The carbon would be sequestered in living organisms as opposed to dead. This may neutralize some of the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The tree line is bound to move north in the arctic. In the southern hemisphere the coastal regions of the antarctic become hospitable to increased plant growth.

This is of course a long term outlook. In the short term, coastal areas will flood. Species will find their habitats altered resulting in mass extinction. Have we crossed the tipping point already? That is yet to be determined.

"Permafrost melt" has been happening for over 20,000 years...ever since the glaciers started melting...and sea levels have been rising along with it. All of which is a snapshot in time.

Google "Ice Ages", do 10 minutes of fact-finding and get a sense of perspective for geologic time frames, please.

If you decide to really look at scientific facts...also research how there is 30 times more water vapor than CO2 in the atmosphere, and it has essentially the same (greenhouse gas) absorption spectra...but we can't tax water vapor, now can we...

thank you


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It is a great significant increase that discovered a lot of history.

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Great post! God's creation so beautiful!

titles bye oermafrost melt Good


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