Arctic Permafrost May Unleash Carbon Within Decades

Posted: Mar 6 2018, 11:19am CST | by , Updated: Mar 7 2018, 3:33am CST, in News | Latest Science News

Arctic Permafrost may Unleash Carbon within Decades
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Charles Miller › Larger view

NASA study says that Arctic permafrost will add a massive amount of carbon into the atmosphere as it melts.

Northern Arctic permafrost is melting so rapidly that it will begin to release carbon buried inside it within decades. By the year 2300, the carbon emitted from the region will become ten times as much as all the man-made fossil fuel emissions in 2016.

Permafrost is a soil that remains frozen for centuries. This frozen layer stores a massive amount of carbon in the form of organic matter and gases. With temperatures rising, permafrost thawing has exacerbated, increasing the risk that this carbon will be released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases.

“Permafrost in southern Alaska and southern Serbia is already thawing, so it’s obviously more vulnerable,” said lead study researcher Nicholas Parazoo from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Some of the very cold, stable permafrost in the highest latitudes in Alaska and Serbia appeared to be sheltered from extreme climate change, and we didn’t expect much impact over the next couple hundred years.”

Based on soil temperatures in Alaska and Serbia, researchers developed a numerical model and determined the extent to which carbon will release in response to climate change. To better understand the process, researchers divided the Arctic into two regions of equal size, a colder northern region, and a warmer southern region.

Researchers found that both regions will respond differently to climate change. The colder region will transform into a carbon source sooner than the warmer region. And despite the fact that carbon is thawing now, southerly or warmer region will not become a carbon source until the end of the 22nd century. This worries researchers because northern region contains far more permafrost than the southern one and simulations also suggest that northern permafrost lost about five times more carbon per century than southern permafrost.

The Arctic is a carbon-neutral area today, but ongoing permafrost thawing due to rising temperatures will amplify global warming by adding more carbon to the atmosphere. Researchers suggest that the Arctic will become a permanent source of carbon to the atmosphere in this century, but it will be at its peak in 40 to 60 years.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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