New Climate Warnings in Old Permafrost: ‘It’s a Little Scary Because it’s Happening Under Our Feet.’

New Climate Warnings in Old Permafrost: ‘It’s a Little Scary Because it’s Happening Under Our Feet.’

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: October 16, 2020 SNIP: A dive deep into 27,000 years worth of muck piled up on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean has spurred researchers to renew warnings about a potential surge of greenhouse gas emissions from thawing permafrost. By tracking chemical and organic fingerprints in long-buried layers of sediments remaining from previously frozen ground, the scientists showed that ancient phases of rapid warming in the Arctic, such as occurred near the end of the last ice age, released carbon on a massive scale. Vast frozen landscapes collapsed, turned to mud and flowed into the sea, releasing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere along the way. The study, published today in Science Advances, shows that only a few degrees of warming in the Arctic is enough “to abruptly activate large-scale permafrost thawing,” suggesting a “sensitive trigger” for greenhouse gas emissions from thawing permafrost. The results also support climate models that have shown “large injections of CO2 into the atmosphere” when glaciers, and the frozen lands beneath them, melted. “If we consider the magnitude and the speed of anthropogenic climate warming, by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) globally and 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) in the Arctic, during the past 150 years, and compare this with the first abrupt temperature increase of about 1 degree Celsius at the Bölling-Alleröd, it appears likely that large-scale permafrost thawing and carbon release is going to happen again,” he said. “Our study indeed suggests that abrupt permafrost thawing represents a tipping point in the climate system.” The new study “supports the idea that permafrost is an important and...
The Arctic is burning like never before — and that’s bad news for climate change

The Arctic is burning like never before — and that’s bad news for climate change

SOURCE: Nature DATE: September 10, 2020 SNIP: Wildfires blazed along the Arctic Circle this summer, incinerating tundra, blanketing Siberian cities in smoke and capping the second extraordinary fire season in a row. By the time the fire season waned at the end of last month, the blazes had emitted a record 244 megatonnes of carbon dioxide — that’s 35% more than last year, which also set records. One culprit, scientists say, could be peatlands that are burning as the top of the world melts. Peatlands are carbon-rich soils that accumulate as waterlogged plants slowly decay, sometimes over thousands of years. They are the most carbon-dense ecosystems on Earth; a typical northern peatland packs in roughly ten times as much carbon as a boreal forest. When peat burns, it releases its ancient carbon to the atmosphere, adding to the heat-trapping gases that cause climate change. Nearly half the world’s peatland-stored carbon lies between 60 and 70 degrees north, along the Arctic Circle. The problem with this is that historically frozen carbon-rich soils are expected to thaw as the planet warms, making them even more vulnerable to wildfires and more likely to release large amounts of carbon. It’s a feedback loop: as peatlands release more carbon, global warming increases, which thaws more peat and causes more wildfires. A study published last month1 shows that northern peatlands could eventually shift from being a net sink for carbon to a net source of carbon, further accelerating climate change. The unprecedented Arctic wildfires of 2019 and 2020 show that transformational shifts are already under way, says Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London...
Land in Russia’s Arctic Blows ‘Like a Bottle of Champagne’

Land in Russia’s Arctic Blows ‘Like a Bottle of Champagne’

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: September 5, 2020 SNIP: A natural phenomenon first observed by scientists just six years ago and now recurring with alarming frequency in Siberia is causing the ground to explode spontaneously and with tremendous force, leaving craters up to 100 feet deep. When Yevgeny Chuvilin, a Moscow-based geologist with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, arrived this summer at the rim of the latest blast site, called Crater 17, “it left quite an impression,” he said. The pit plunged into darkness, surrounded by the table-flat, featureless tundra. As Mr. Chuvilin stood looking in, he said, slabs of dirt and ice occasionally peeled off the permafrost of the crater wall and tumbled in. “It was making noises. It was like something alive,” Mr. Chuvilin said. While initially a mystery, scientists have established that the craters appearing in the far north of western Siberia are caused by subterranean gases, and the recent flurry of explosions is possibly related to global warming, Mr. Chuvilin said. Mr. Chuvilin said the conditions causing the explosions, which are still not fully understood, are probably specific to the geology of the area, as similar craters have not appeared elsewhere in Siberia or in permafrost zones in Canada and Alaska that are also affected by global warming. The explosions occur underneath small hills or hummocks on the tundra where gas from decaying organic matter is trapped underground. Contained beneath a layer of ice above and permafrost all around, the gas creates pressure that elevates the overlying soil. The explosions occur when the pressure rises or the ice layer thaws and breaks suddenly....
Giant new 50-metre deep ‘crater’ opens up in Arctic tundra

Giant new 50-metre deep ‘crater’ opens up in Arctic tundra

SOURCE: The Siberian Times DATE: August 29, 2020 SNIP: The recently-formed new hole or funnel is the latest to be seen in northern Siberia since the phenomenon was first registered in 2014. It was initially spotted by chance from the air by a Vesti Yamal TV crew en route from an unrelated assignment. A group of scientists then made an expedition to examine the large cylindrical crater which has a depth of up to 50 metres. Such funnels are believed to be caused by the build up of methane gas in pockets of thawing permafrost under the surface. Scientist Dr Evgeny Chuvilin, a leading researcher at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, said: ‘What we saw today is striking in its size and grandeur. ‘These are the colossal forces of nature that create such objects.’ The ‘crater’ – these holes are called hydrolaccoliths or bulgunnyakhs by scientists – is given the number 17, and is seen as the most impressive of the large holes to suddenly appear in recent years as the permafrost...
Climate change: Warming world will be ‘devastating’ for frozen peatlands

Climate change: Warming world will be ‘devastating’ for frozen peatlands

SOURCE: BBC News DATE: August 10, 2020 SNIP: The world’s peatlands will become a large source of greenhouse gases as temperatures rise this century, say scientists. Right now, huge amounts of carbon are stored in boggy, often frozen regions stretching across northern parts of the world. But much of the permanently frozen land will thaw this century, say experts. This will release warming gases at a rate that could be 30-50% greater than previous estimates. Stretching across vast regions of the northern half of the world, peatlands play an important role in the global climate system. Over thousands of years, they have accumulated large amounts of carbon and nitrogen, which has helped keep the Earth cool. Scientists, though, are keenly aware that peatlands – including the nearly half that are permanently frozen – are very vulnerable to rising temperatures. Using data compiled from more than 7,000 field observations, the authors of this new study were able to generate the most accurate maps to date of the peatlands, their depth and the amount of warming gases they contain. They show that the boggy terrain covers 3.7 million sq kilometres (1.42 million sq miles). The report authors say that their new estimate of the carbon emitted through thawing, and from losses of peat into rivers and streams, is 30-50% greater than in previous projections of carbon losses from permafrost thawing. If this new peatland estimate is included with all the estimates for permafrost melting, it is projected to equal the annual emissions of the EU and UK by...