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The rapid melting of permafrost unrecognized threat landscape, global warming, researchers warn


The rapid melting of permafrost unrecognized threat landscape, global warming, researchers warn

A landslide caused by the rapid melting of permafrost Authors: Carolyn Gibson, University of Guelph PhD student

A "sleeping giant" is hidden in the permafrost in Canada and other northern regions of the world will have important implications for global warming, according to a new report led by the University of Guelph scientist Merritt Turkish.

Scientists have long studied how gradual melting of permafrost occurs for decades in centimeters of the soil surface will affect the release of carbon into the atmosphere. But Turkish and international team of researchers looking at something very different: a quick collapse of the permafrost that could transform the landscape in a few months later, subsidence, flooding and landslides.

"We see this sleeping giant wake up right before our eyes," said the Turkish, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Integrative Ecology.

The team discusses the importance of a sharp warming to estimate carbon release, northern ways of life and climate policy in the comments on the issue of May 2 natureResearchers collected results of studies sharp thawing of the media across the range of permafrost to evaluate the overall effect.

Permafrost affects about one quarter of the land in the Northern Hemisphere & # 39; and. These frozen soil to lock carbon in biomass from dead plants, animals and micro-organisms for millennia, by preventing its breakdown, and keep it out of the atmosphere. As a result, the permafrost soil region now occupy twice as many carbon-t-1600000000000 around and in the atmosphere.

"We are working in areas where permafrost contains a lot of ice, and our wild areas are destroyed by a sharp collapse of the ice, rather than gradually, over many decades, but very quickly within a few months to several years," said Turkish.

Co-author Miriam Jones, a research geologist United States Geological Survey, said: "This is a dramatic warming alters forest ecosystems thaw lakes and swamps, as a result of the wholesale transformation of the landscape, which not only affects the carbon feedback to climate, but also changes in wildlife habitat and damage infrastructure ".

The rapid melting of permafrost unrecognized threat landscape, global warming, researchers warn

Methane bubbles rise from the lake. Credit: Keith Walter, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Describing the formation of thaw lakes and landslides trigger a mass movement of soil and sediment in rivers and streams, the Turkish adds: "It's more going on than anyone predicted, we have shown that a sharp melting permafrost affects less than 20 percent of the permafrost region, but carbon. emissions from this relatively small region has the potential to double the result of climate impacts associated with the melting of the permafrost. "

Unlike the gradual thaw, which affects mainly the surface and penetrates slowly into the ground, a sharp melting permafrost destroys deep carbon reserves at a faster pace. Moreover, sharp thaw produces more methane-strong greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide than does gradual thawing.

In its work, the team requires a measurement and monitoring of the Arctic permafrost, and improved modeling and reporting the effects on the climate of the thaw.

University of Alaska Fairbanks professor emeritus Dave McGuire said: "There is an urgent need to make substantial progress on the representation of the effects of the sharp warming on the carbon cycle in the Earth system models. This will inform politicians on how the release of carbon cool thaw may affect the implementation of carbon management strategy to control the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere ".

The researchers say that the rapid collapse of the permafrost will have a local, national and international implications of changes in the traditional travel patterns and hunt in the North, causing expensive damage to the infrastructure of roads and railway lines, to make it even more difficult to carry out emission targets, designed to limit global warming.

Despite the threat of the northern permafrost and climate, the Turkish remains optimistic.

"If we can limit human emissions, we can still curb the most dangerous effects of climate warming. Our window for action becomes narrow, but we still have, and can make changes to save Arctic as we know it, and the Earth's climate with him. "

Ted Schuur, professor at the University of Northern Arizona, said, "The synthesis of science is designed to bring people and ideas together to create new knowledge is critical to understanding the dramatic effects of thawing permafrost in the region on a scale where it affects the climate."

New research in the Arctic: the melting of permafrost peatlands can add the burden of CO2 into the atmosphere

Additional Information:
Merritt Turkish R. et al. Permafrost collapse accelerated release of carbon, nature (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / d41586-019-01313-4

University of Guelph

The rapid melting of permafrost unrecognized threat landscape, global warming researcher warns (2019, April 30)
received April 30, 2019

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