Abrupt shifts in Arctic climate projected

Abrupt shifts in Arctic climate projected

SOURCE: McGill University and Nature Climate Change DATE: October 30, 2019 SNIP: Researchers from McGill University project that as the permafrost continues to degrade, the climate in various regions of the Arctic could potentially change abruptly, in the relatively near future. Their research, which was published today in Nature Climate Change, also suggests that as the permafrost degrades, the severity of wildfires will double from one year to the next and remain at the new and higher rate for regions in the Northwestern Territories and the Yukon. Prior research in the field has tended to project a gradual degradation of the permafrost, with few direct effects on climate. Typically, researchers will model climate changes by looking backwards and forwards in 20-30 year blocks, making it easier to miss the abrupt changes that are taking place. The McGill researchers analyzed the effects of changes in the permafrost on a completely different level. “There’s not much high-resolution climate modelling done of the Arctic. Our initial climate model experiments at 50km resolution allowed us to extract critical information on climate shifts” says Bernardo Teufel, the first author on the paper, who is currently working on his PhD research at McGill. “We used climate model data spanning the 1970-2100 period to understand probable changes in the Arctic climate and permafrost. What we came away with, was a picture of alarming changes to climate driven by permafrost...
Subsea permafrost thaws faster than previously thought, Russian scientists say

Subsea permafrost thaws faster than previously thought, Russian scientists say

SOURCE: The Siberian Times DATE: October 28, 2019 SNIP: Unexpectedly high level of subsea permafrost degradation was recorded by a Russian-led scientific expedition that spent more than a month in the seas of the eastern Arctic. A record high methane gas emission in a shape of an underwater ‘fountain’ was registered at the beginning of October east of Bennett island in the East Siberian Sea. ‘It was a needle in a haystack chase, to find an exact place of a methane seep in dark sea waters, but we found it! ‘Just right off the Academician Keldysh scientists noticed a spot of emerald-coloured water, with gas rushing to surface in thousands of bubble threads’, said expedition member Sergey Nikiforov, a communications experts of the Tomsk Politechnical University. The area of the fountain covered about five metres, with water ‘so violently boiling with methane bubbles’ that scientists skipped using plastic cones for sampling and instead collected the gas in buckets. Unexpectedly high speed of degradation of subsea permafrost has been recorded. ‘In some areas the roof of subsea permafrost thawed to the stability horizons of gas hydrates. Moreover, it has been proved that over the past 30 years speed of vertical degradation of subsea permafrost doubled compared to previous centuries and reached 18 centimetres per year which is significantly higher than in earlier estimates‘, said professor Semiletov. ‘This result makes us reconsider the belief that subsea permafrost is stable and can only thaw by a few metres by the end of 21st century’, he stressed. Elena Kudryashova, rector of Northern Federal University, Arkhangelsk: ‘Another important subject of our research was study...
Arctic Permafrost Melting 70 Years Sooner Than Expected

Arctic Permafrost Melting 70 Years Sooner Than Expected

SOURCE: Weather.com DATE: June 14, 2019 SNIP: Scientists studying climate change expected layers of permafrost in the Canadian Arctic to melt by the year 2090. Instead, it’s happening now. A new study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters revealed that unusually warm summers in the Canadian High Arctic between 2003 and 2016 resulted in permafrost melt up to 240% higher than previous years. Louise Farquharson, a researcher at the Permafrost Laboratory at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the study’s lead author, told weather.com the three areas of melting permafrost studied in remote northern Canada are believed to have been frozen for thousands of years. “This change is unprecedented on this kind of time scale,” Farquharson said. She noted that while scientists had predicted the permafrost wouldn’t melt for another 70 years, those forecasts didn’t take into account the unusually warm summers that have happened in recent years. While researchers believe all indicators point to warmer temperatures continuing, there’s no way to know for sure just how quickly the permafrost will continue to...
Climate crisis: Alaska is melting and it’s likely to accelerate global heating

Climate crisis: Alaska is melting and it’s likely to accelerate global heating

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 14, 2019 SNIP: A city in western Alaska has lost a huge stretch of riverbank to erosion that may turn it into an island, amid renewed warnings from scientists over the havoc triggered by the accelerating melting of the state’s ice and permafrost. Residents of the small city of Akiak were alarmed to find the Kuskokwim River suddenly much closer to housing after about 75-100ft of riverbank disappeared over the course of just a few hours. The erosion, which occurred late last month, stripped away the riverbank for the entire length of Akiak, which has a population of around 340. “The changes are really accelerating in Alaska,” said Susan Natali, a scientist and Arctic expert at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. “It’s pretty likely this riverbank in Akiak was lost because of thawing permafrost, given where it’s situated and the warm winter and spring they’ve had. It’s not a problem that’s going to go away.” Alaska has just experienced its warmest spring on record, breaking a record only set in 2016. Since the 1970s, springtime in the state has heated up by around 2.2C (4F), double the global temperature rise of the past century. Scientists recently found [thawing permafrost] could trigger a dangerous acceleration of global heating that would cause tens of trillions of dollars in climate-related damage. A separate study found that parts of the Canadian Arctic are experiencing a rate of permafrost thaw six times the long-term...
No laughing matter

No laughing matter

SOURCE: Harvard Gazette DATE: June 6, 2019 SNIP: About a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is covered in permafrost. Now, it turns out these permanently frozen beds of soil, rock, and sediment are actually not so permanent: They’re thawing at an increasing rate. Human-induced climate change is warming these lands, melting the ice and loosening the soil, and that can cause severe damage. Forests are falling; roads are collapsing; and, in an ironic twist, the warmer soil is releasing even more greenhouse gases, which could further exacerbate the effects of climate change. Shortly after scientists first noticed signs of thaw in the early 1970s, they rushed to monitor emissions of the two most influential greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide and methane. But until recently, the threat of the third-most-prevalent gas, nitrous oxide (N2O) — known in dentistry as laughing gas — has largely been ignored. In a 2010 paper, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated permafrost nitrous oxide emissions as “negligible,” and few studies counter this claim. But a paper published this month in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics shows that nitrous oxide emissions from thawing Alaskan permafrost are about 12 times higher than previously assumed. Since N2O traps heat nearly 300 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide does, this revelation could mean that the Arctic — and the global climate — are in more danger than we thought. “Much smaller increases in nitrous oxide would entail the same kind of climate change that a large plume of CO2would cause,” said Wilkerson, the paper’s first author and a Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences...