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Abrupt Climate Change: Permafrost
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buildingpermafrost.jpg

See discussion of abrupt climate change.

Potential response of an Arctic watershed during a period of global warming
L HINZMAN, D KANE - Journal of Geophysical Research, 1992 - agu.org
... response of an Arctic watershed during a period of global warming. Larry D. Hinzman.
Water Research Center, Institute of Northern Engineering, University of ...
Cited by 24 - Cached - Web Search - adsabs.harvard.edu - csa.com

 

Climate stabilisation and “dangerous” climate change: A review of the relevant issues
N Brooks, J Gash, M Hulme, C Huntingford, B … - cru.uea.ac.uk
... and the melting of permafrost, may accelerate ... Different aspects of abrupt climate
change such as those that ... depends upon the degree of overall global warming. ...
View as HTML - Web Search

OVER VIEW: Global Climate Change : Syllabus 2005 Miami University, Global Climate Change, Spring 2005, Student Research Database

An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, 10-2003 Schwartz and Randall (View as HTML)

Or view above Abrupt Climate Change Scenario as a pdf download

Here are three articles on permafrost and sudden global climate change: THE CLIMATE OF MAN --- I , by ELIZABETH KOLBERT, The New Yorker

THE CLIMATE OF MAN --- II, by ELIZABETH KOLBERT, The curse of Akkad

THE CLIMATE OF MAN --- III, by ELIZABETH KOLBERT, What can be done?

International News

Warming hits 'tipping point'


Climate change alarm as Siberian permafrost melts for first time since ice age

Ian Sample
Guardian Weekly


A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warned last week.

Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.

The discovery, made by Sergei Kirpotin at Tomsk State University in western Siberia and Judith Marquand at Oxford University, was reported in New Scientist last week.

The researchers found that what was until recently a barren expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometre across.

Dr Kirpotin told the magazine the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.

Climate scientists reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.

"When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply," said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"This is a big deal because you can't put the permafrost back once it's gone. The causal effect is human activity and it will ramp up temperatures even more than our emissions are doing."

In its last major report in 2001, the intergovernmental panel on climate change predicted a rise in global temperatures of 1.4C-5.8C between 1990 and 2100, but the estimate only takes account of global warming driven by known greenhouse gas emissions.

"These positive feedbacks with landmasses weren't known about then. They had no idea how much they would add to global warming," said Dr Viner.

Western Siberia is heating up faster than anywhere else in the world, having experienced a rise of some 3C in the past 40 years. Scientists are particularly concerned about the permafrost, because as it thaws, it reveals bare ground that warms up more quickly than ice and snow, and so accelerates the rate at which the permafrost thaws.

Siberia's peat bogs have been producing methane since they formed at the end of the last ice age, but most of the gas had been trapped in the permafrost. According to Larry Smith, a hydrologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, the west Siberian peat bog could hold some 70bn tonnes of methane, a quarter of all of the methane stored in the ground around the world.

The permafrost is likely to take many decades to thaw, so the methane locked within it will not be released into the atmosphere in one burst, said Stephen Sitch, a climate scientist at the British Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter.

But calculations by Dr Sitch and his colleagues show that even if methane seeped from the permafrost over the next 100 years, it would add around 700m tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere each year, roughly the same amount that is released annually from the world's wetlands and agriculture.

It would effectively double atmospheric levels of the gas, leading to a 10% to 25% increase in global warming, he said.

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said the finding was a stark message to politicians to take concerted action on climate change. "We knew at some point we'd get these feedbacks happening that exacerbate global warming, but this could lead to a massive injection of greenhouse gases.

"If we don't take action very soon, we could unleash runaway global warming that will be beyond our control and it will lead to social, economic and environmental devastation worldwide," he said. "There's still time to take action, but not much."

Last May another group of researchers reported signs that global warming was damaging the permafrost. Katey Walter of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, told a meeting of the Arctic Research Consortium of the US that her team had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia.

Last month some of the world's worst air polluters, including the US and Australia, announced a partnership to cut greenhouse gas emissions through the use of new technologies.

guardian.co.uk/climatechange


Climate warning as Siberia melts

  • 11 August 2005
  • NewScientist.com news service
  • Fred Pearce

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/earth/climate-change/mg18725124.500

THE world's largest frozen peat bog is melting. An area stretching for a million square kilometres across the permafrost of western Siberia is turning into a mass of shallow lakes as the ground melts, according to Russian researchers just back from the region.

The sudden melting of a bog the size of France and Germany combined could unleash billions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

The news of the dramatic transformation of one of the world's least visited landscapes comes from Sergei Kirpotin, a botanist at Tomsk State University, Russia, and Judith Marquand at the University of Oxford.

Kirpotin describes an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He says that the entire western Siberian sub-Arctic region has begun to melt, and this "has all happened in the last three or four years".

What was until recently a featureless expanse of frozen peat is turning into a watery landscape of lakes, some more than a kilometre across. Kirpotin suspects that some unknown critical threshold has been crossed, triggering the melting.

Western Siberia has warmed faster than almost anywhere else on the planet, with an increase in average temperatures of some 3 °C in the last 40 years. The warming is believed to be a combination of man-made climate change, a cyclical change in atmospheric circulation known as the Arctic oscillation, plus feedbacks caused by melting ice, which exposes bare ground and ocean. These absorb more solar heat than white ice and snow.

Similar warming has also been taking place in Alaska: earlier this summer Jon Pelletier of the University of Arizona in Tucson reported a major expansion of lakes on the North Slope fringing the Arctic Ocean.

The findings from western Siberia follow a report two months ago that thousands of lakes in eastern Siberia have disappeared in the last 30 years, also because of climate change (New Scientist, 11 June, p 16). This apparent contradiction arises because the two events represent opposite end of the same process, known as thermokarsk.

In this process, rising air temperatures first create "frost-heave", which turns the flat permafrost into a series of hollows and hummocks known as salsas. Then as the permafrost begins to melt, water collects on the surface, forming ponds that are prevented from draining away by the frozen bog beneath. The ponds coalesce into ever larger lakes until, finally, the last permafrost melts and the lakes drain away underground.

This is an ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming

Siberia's peat bogs formed around 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. Since then they have been generating methane, most of which has been trapped within the permafrost, and sometimes deeper in ice-like structures known as clathrates. Larry Smith of the University of California, Los Angeles, estimates that the west Siberian bog alone contains some 70 billion tonnes of methane, a quarter of all the methane stored on the land surface worldwide.

His colleague Karen Frey says if the bogs dry out as they warm, the methane will oxidise and escape into the air as carbon dioxide. But if the bogs remain wet, as is the case in western Siberia today, then the methane will be released straight into the atmosphere. Methane is 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

In May this year, Katey Walter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks told a meeting in Washington of the Arctic Research Consortium of the US that she had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia, where the gas was bubbling from thawing permafrost so fast it was preventing the surface from freezing, even in the midst of winter.

An international research partnership known as the Global Carbon Project earlier this year identified melting permafrost as a major source of feedbacks that could accelerate climate change by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. "Several hundred billion tonnes of carbon could be released," said the project's chief scientist, Pep Canadell of the CSIRO Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research in Canberra, Australia.

From issue 2512 of New Scientist magazine, 11 August 2005, page 12

 

 

From:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050604/ap_on_sc/arctic_lakes&printer=1

 

 

Permafrost May Be Shrinking Arctic Lakes

By DAN JOLING, Associated Press

 

WriterSat Jun 4,10:02 AM ET

 

 

Arctic lakes are shrinking, and melting permafrost brought on by higher temperatures may be the reason, according to a research paper.

 

California, Alaska and New York researchers compared satellite images spanning 30 years of more than 10,000 large lakes over 200,000 square miles in Siberia. They concluded that lakes where permafrost remains frozen are growing.

 

But where permafrost has thinned or completely melted, lakes are shrinking or disappearing, a change that could affect habitat for migratory birds.

The research is outlined in a paper, "Disappearing Arctic Lakes," published in the journal "Science" on Friday.

 

Permafrost is ground that remains below freezing temperature all year. It may contain ice, but with or without it, the ground remains impermeable.

As temperatures rise, ice and snow melt and put more water into Arctic lakes. Larry Smith, an associate geography professor at UCLA, said researchers expected to measure more, larger lakes, not fewer.

"We were expecting to see more of the same," he said.

They now believe additional lake surface brought on by melting is just the first part of the process. In the southern parts of the Siberia study area, the permafrost itself is believed to be melting.

 

Researchers mapped four zones of varying amounts of permafrost. As they looked south, where permafrost thinned or disappeared, lakes were shrinking. That indicates melt water is seeping into soil as permafrost decreases, Smith said.

 

Larry Hinzman, a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher, found a similar phenomenon at tundra ponds on Seward Peninsula near Council in western Alaska. Surface pond area there decreased over the last 50 years.

 

"This is the first paper that demonstrates that the changes we are seeing in Alaskan lakes in response to a warming climate is also occurring in Siberia," Hinzman said.

 

The latest study was aimed at quantifying the Alaska observations on a larger basis, Smith said.

Small, shallow tundra lakes that rest on permafrost are "ephemeral," coming and going with variations in weather, Smith said. Researchers instead studied lakes of 40 hectares or about 100 acres, Smith said.

The study compared satellite digital images from 1973 to images from 1997-98. Researchers entered images into computers and "co-registered" them with modern data by manually picking control features — structures that can be confidently identified in both photos, Smith said.

 

The number of 100-acre lakes fell from 10,882 to 9,712, a decline of 1,170 or 11 percent. The scientists said 125 disappeared, replaced by vegetation.

 

Other lakes shrank. The overall loss of lake surface area was approximately 6 percent, researchers said.

Lakes grew in northern areas of the study, where permafrost remained intact.

 

Varying effects on lakes is not a conflict but different phases of the process, Smith said.

"We're proposing that it's all part of a continuum," Smith said.

 

In regions where permafrost has thinned or disappeared, surface soils also become drier as permafrost degrades, Hinzman said.

 

"The changing lakes are a consistent, measurable indication of the overall changes to hydrology in the Arctic," Hinzman said. "The loss of surface water will inevitably impact local ecosystems, which will have a cascading effect.

 

Changes could include loss of migratory bird habitat. Huge numbers of migratory waterfowl fly north for breeding.

 

Changes could affect subsistence hunting activities and local and regional atmospheric conditions, causing more localized wind and more frequent and more severe wildfires, Hinzman said.

 

Researchers would like to expand their study and will seek funding for lake work in Alaska, Canada and eastern Russia, Smith said.

 

The other co-authors of the study were Yongwei Sheng, an assistant professor of environmental science and forestry at State University of New York, and Glen MacDonald, chairman of UCLA's geography department.

 

The study was paid for by the National Science Foundation.

 

Arctic warming has been documented in both Alaska and Siberia. John Walsh, president's professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center, said spring temperatures at Nome near Hinzman's research at Council have risen 4.3 degrees since 1950. At locations in Interior Alaska and northern Siberia, the spring warming has been closer to 6 degrees, he said.

 

 

July 18, 2005

NASA News:

METHANE’S IMPACTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE MAY BE TWICE PREVIOUS ESTIMATES

Scientists face difficult challenges in predicting and understanding how much our climate is changing. When it comes to gases that trap heat in our atmosphere, called greenhouse gases (GHGs), scientists typically look at how much of the gases exist in the atmosphere.

This image shows Chinese farmers transplanting rice in paddy fields in Yunnan Province, China, July 1999. Image to right — Rice Paddies in China: This image shows Chinese farmers transplanting rice in paddy fields in Yunnan Province, China, July 1999. Fossil fuels, cattle, landfills and rice paddies are the main human-related sources. Previous studies have shown that new rice harvesting techniques can significantly reduce methane emissions and increase yields. Click on image to enlarge Credit: Changsheng Li

However, Drew Shindell, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, believes we need to look at the GHGs when they are emitted at Earth’s surface, instead of looking at the GHGs themselves after they have been mixed into the atmosphere. “The gas molecules undergo chemical changes and once they do, looking at them after they’ve mixed and changed in the atmosphere doesn’t give an accurate picture of their effect,” Shindell said. “For example, the amount of methane in the atmosphere is affected by pollutants that change methane’s chemistry, and it doesn’t reflect the effects of methane on other greenhouse gases,” said Shindell, “so it’s not directly related to emissions, which are what we set policies for.”

Chemically reactive GHGs include methane and ozone (carbon dioxide, the most important GHG, is largely unreactive). Once methane and the molecules that create ozone are released into the air by both natural and human-induced sources, these gases mix and react together, which transforms their compositions. When gases are altered, their contribution to the greenhouse warming effect also shifts. So, the true effect of a single GHG emission on climate becomes very hard to single out.

Some of the major investigations into the state of our warming planet come from a series of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment. These reports involved the work of hundreds of climate experts. The reports rely on measurements of greenhouse gases as they exist in the atmosphere, after they may have mixed with other gases. In other words, the findings in the report do not reflect the quantities that were actually emitted.

Shindell finds there are advantages to measuring emissions of greenhouse gases and isolating their impacts, as opposed to analyzing them after they have mixed in the atmosphere. His study on the subject was recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. In the study, when the individual effects of each gas on global warming were added together, the total was within 10 percent of the impacts of all the gases mixed together. The small difference in the two amounts was a sign to Shindell that little error was introduced by separating the emissions from one another.

After isolating each greenhouse gas and calculating the impact of each emission on our climate with a computer model, Shindell and his colleagues found some striking differences in how much these gases contribute overall to climate change.

The leading greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and halocarbons. These gases are called ‘well mixed’ greenhouse gases because of their long lifetimes of a decade or more, which allows them to disperse evenly around the atmosphere. They are emitted from both man-made and natural sources. Ozone in the lower atmosphere, called tropospheric ozone, a major component of polluted air or smog that is damaging to human and ecosystem health, also has greenhouse warming effects. In the upper atmosphere, ozone protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

According to new calculations, the impacts of methane on climate warming may be double the standard amount attributed to the gas. The new interpretations reveal methane emissions may account for a third of the climate warming from well-mixed greenhouse gases between the 1750s and today. The IPCC report, which calculates methane’s affects once it exists in the atmosphere, states that methane increases in our atmosphere account for only about one sixth of the total effect of well-mixed greenhouse gases on warming.

These maps show the distribution of methane at the surface on top and in the stratosphere on bottom, calculated by a NASA computer model.

Part of the reason the new calculations give a larger effect is that they include the sizeable impact of methane emissions on tropospheric ozone since the industrial revolution. Tropospheric ozone is not directly emitted, but is instead formed chemically from methane, other hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. The IPCC report includes the effects of tropospheric ozone increases on climate, but it is not attributed to particular sources. By categorizing the climate effects according to emissions, Shindell and colleagues found the total effects of methane emissions are substantially larger. In other words, the true source of some of the warming that is normally attributed to tropospheric ozone is really due to methane that leads to increased abundance of tropospheric ozone. According to the study, the effects of other pollutants were relatively minor. Nitrogen oxide emissions can even lead to cooling by fostering chemical reactions that destroy methane. This is partly why estimates based on the amount of methane in the atmosphere give the gas a smaller contribution to climate change.

Molecule for molecule, Methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, but CO2 is much more abundant than methane and the predicted growth rate is far greater. Since 1750, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, though the rate of increase has slowed during the 1980-90s, and researchers don’t understand why. Controlling methane could reap a big bang for the buck. Another bonus of this perspective is that in order to manage greenhouse gases, policy decisions must focus on cutting emissions, because that’s where humans have some control.

“If we control methane, which the U.S. is already starting to do, then we are likely to mitigate global warming more than one would have thought, so that’s a very positive outcome,” Shindell said. “Control of methane emissions turns out to be a more powerful lever to control global warming than would be anticipated.”

Sources of methane include natural sources like wetlands, gas hydrates in the ocean floor, permafrost, termites, oceans, freshwater bodies, and non-wetland soils. Fossil fuels, cattle, landfills and rice paddies are the main human-related sources. Previous studies have shown that new rice harvesting techniques can significantly reduce methane emissions and increase yields.


###
Contact:

Krishna Ramanujan
Goddard Space Flight Center

 



Rice Paddies in China

Rice Paddies in China
This image shows Chinese farmers transplanting rice in paddy fields in Yunnan Province, China, July 1999. Fossil fuels, cattle, landfills and rice paddies are the main human-related sources. Previous studies have shown that new rice harvesting techniques can significantly reduce methane emissions and increase yields. Credit: Changsheng Li

Inland Wetlands

Inland Wetlands
Sources of methane include natural sources like wetlands, gas hydrates in the ocean floor, permafrost, termites, oceans, freshwater bodies, and non-wetland soils. Credit: U.S. EPA, Leo Kenney, Region 1

Methane in the
                              World’s Atmosphere

Methane in the World’s Atmosphere
These maps show the distribution of methane at the surface (top) and in the stratosphere (lower), calculated by a NASA computer model. Concentrations are shown in parts per million by volume. Methane is created near the surface, and it is carried into the stratosphere by rising air in the tropics. Credit: GMAO Chemical Forecasts and GEOS–CHEM NRT Simulations for ICARTT (top) and NASA GSFC Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch (lower)

This text derived from http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2005/methane.html

Earth's permafrost starts to squelch
By Molly Bentley
in San Francisco

In parts of Fairbanks, Alaska, houses and buildings lean at odd angles.

Some slump as if sliding downhill. Windows and doors inch closer and closer to the ground.

It is an architectural landscape that is becoming more familiar as the world's ice-rich permafrost gives way to thaw.

Water replaces ice and the ground subsides, taking the structures on top along with it.

Alaska is not the only region in a slump. The permafrost melt is accelerating throughout the world's cold regions, scientists reported at the recent Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.

In addition to northern Alaska, the permafrost zone includes most other Arctic land, such as northern Canada and much of Siberia, as well as the higher reaches of mountainous regions such as the Alps and Tibet. All report permafrost thaw.

Will the Arctic be a carbon sink, or convert to a carbon source? It's a big unknown
Frederick Nelson, University of Delaware
"It's a very, very widespread problem," said Frederick Nelson, a geographer at the University of Delaware, US.

Scientists attribute the thaw to climate warming. As the air temperature warms, so does the frozen ground beneath it.

Data quest

The observations reiterate the recent findings of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report, which attributed the northern polar region's summer sea-ice loss and permafrost thaw to dramatic warming over the past half-century.

Thawing permafrost can cause buildings and roads to droop, and pipelines to crack.

Natural features are also affected. Scientists reported an increased frequency in landslides in the soil-based permafrost of Canada, and an increased instability and slope failures in mountainous regions, such as the Alps, where ice is locked in bedrock.

With the exception of Russia and its long history of permafrost monitoring, global records are insufficient - often too brief or scattered - to determine the precise extent of ice loss, said Dr Nelson.

However, monitoring programmes that are now much larger in scope, such as the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTNP), indicate a warming trend throughout the permafrost zone.

Boreholes in Svalbard, Norway, for example, indicate that ground temperatures rose 0.4C over the past decade, four times faster than they did in the previous century, according to Charles Harris, a geologist at the University of Cardiff, UK, and a coordinator of Permafrost and Climate in Europe (Pace), which is contributing data to the GTNP.

"What took a century to be achieved in the 20th Century will be achieved in 25 years in the 21st Century, if this trend continues," he said.

Slip and slide

In Ellesmere Island, Canada, a combination of warmer temperatures and sunny days has triggered an increasing frequency of detachment events, or landslides, over the past 25 years, compared with the previous 75, according to Antoni Lewkowicz, professor of geography at the University of Ottawa.

EARTH'S FROZEN GROUND
Permafrost is permanent year-round frozen ground
Soils many cm below surface never rise above 0C
Only top few cm thaw in summer - "active layer"
Many regions have been like this for 1,000s of years
Major thaw changes water distribution in ecosystem
Sequestered carbon released; buildings destabilised
 
A detachment event occurs on a slope when the bottom of the active layer - the layer of thawing and freezing ground above permafrost - becomes slick with melted ice, causing it to slide off from the permafrost below.

But in this case, the amount of temperature increase is not so important as the rate of increase, Dr Lewkowicz found.

Meltwater from ice that warms slowly drains away. When ice warms quickly, water pools, creating a frictionless surface between the active layer and the permafrost. Like a stroll across a sloping icy pavement, a fall is almost certain.

"We have records from this particular site for about 10 or 12 years," said Dr Lewkowicz. "The years when active layer detachments have taken place have been times when we've had this rapid thaw down at the bottom of the active layer."

The slides may cut a wide swath hundreds of metres across, but extend only 50 or 60cm deep.

"They're almost skin-like landslides, moving across the permafrost," said Dr Harris.

The exposed permafrost, warmed by the air, now produces a new active layer.

Sink to source

In steep mountainous regions, permafrost thaw can lead to slope failure and rock falls.

In these areas, the permafrost ice is in hard rock. Where rocks are jointed, the ice serves as a kind of cement holding them together.

When it melts, the rock loses its strength and falls. A dramatic example of this occurred during the European heatwave of 2003 when a huge block of the Matterhorn broke off suddenly, leaving Alpine climbers stranded.

"It's not just the general warming trend we need to worry about," said Dr Harris, "but these extreme seasonal events as well."

Dr Nelson says that with human-built structures, proper engineering and land use can mitigate permafrost loss.

Tingjun Zhang, a researcher at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, reported at the AGU on the particular challenge slumping ground presents to the construction of the Qinghai-Xizang railway across Tibet, perhaps the most ambitious permafrost-zone project since the Trans-Alaskan pipeline.

Nearly half the railway will lie across permafrost, and temperatures in the region are expected to rise during this century.

Engineers are using a simple - and long established - trick of cooling the permafrost with crushed rock. Rocks minimise heat intake in summer and promote heat loss in winter.

It is the first time a large-scale project is using the crushed-rock method as its primary solution, according to Dr Zhang.

But not all outcomes of permafrost thaw have precedent, or an immediate solution. One considerable variable is the possible release into the air of organic carbon stored in the permafrost.

In the drier areas, most of the emissions would be in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). But in the wetter areas, it would be methane, a more effective greenhouse gas.

Scientists do not know exactly how much carbon is sequestered in the permafrost regions, but estimates show it could be up to a quarter of the sequestered carbon on Earth, 14% of it in the Arctic, alone.

"Will the Arctic be a carbon sink, or convert to a carbon source?" posed Dr Nelson. "It's a big unknown."

 

In connection with this paper plese consult Interior Alaska and Siberia Permafrost Thawing Together. Alaska Science Forum January 3, 2001 Article #1523 by Ned Rozell

Catastrophic Climate Change {df}

Francis K. Krause

What is permafrost?

The active surface layer of permafrost is a thin top slice of tundra vegetation that thaws every summer and freezes arctic hard in winter. Each year it locks into the permafrost another layer of vegetable material and methane gas from the rotting vegetable material and reacts with water to form methane hydrate. You get a frozen lattice like substance called methane hydrate, huge amounts of which underlies our oceans and Polar Regions.

Permafrost has acted as a carbon sink, locking away carbon and other greenhouse gases for 10's thousands of years.

Permafrost underlies an estimated 20%-25% of the world's land surface; it occurs in more than 50% of Russia and Canada, 80% of Alaska, 20% of China, and probably all of Antarctica. Permafrost in northern Siberia is 1,600 meters, (5,250 feet) thick and it is 650 meters (2,100 feet) thick in northern Alaska. Permafrost lies beneath about 80 percent of Alaska, and a higher percentage of Siberia.

Current changes in world ambient temperatures, provided an understanding of the complex interactions of human-induced global warming, ice melting, and potential sea level changes are become increasingly evident and computer models become more accurate as to predictive ability to future trends.

The permanently frozen ground, which covers most of Alaska, is thawing for the first time for 125,000 years. Much of Alaska's frosty earth is now only one or two degrees below freezing. Scientists are surprised to find permafrost at -2 degrees C. in areas of Alaska, which have historically featured much colder permafrost. The temperature there should be about minus 5".

In many areas of both interior Alaska and Siberia, permafrost has warmed to within one degree Celsius of thawing. Scientists have unveiled a permafrost record of Siberia along a 1,200-mile transect and compared it to a network in Alaska. Permafrost warming in the two areas was quite similar.

Looking at computer models that predict at least a +2.5-degree C increases in average air temperature during the next 50 years.

Using a computer model to see how permafrost might react based on past and present changes, Scientists predicted that permafrost in the Interior of Alaska will probably begin to thaw over vast areas as early as 2015. Major thawing will most likely occur by 2040
The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in methane hydrates are conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth. The energy locked up in methane hydrate deposits is more than twice the global reserves of all conventional gas, oil, and coal deposits combined.

"The amount of methane contained in the world's gas hydrate (i.e. methane hydrate) accumulations is enormous, but estimates of the amounts are speculative and range over three orders-of-magnitude from about 100,000 to 270,000,000 trillion cubic feet of gas."1

Hydrates store immense amounts of methane, with major implications for global climate in which changes over a ten-year period could release vast amount of it, making human life untenable. However the natural controls on hydrates and their impacts on the environment are very poorly understood. But a key factor is temperature and if large amounts are just below only one or two degrees below freezing its only a question of time before methane gas is released into the atmosphere in one trillion cubic amounts. Here again computers can calculate the amount of methane needed to make us die out.

At some point in time a trigger temperature will release growing amounts of methane gas 1 litre of solid methane hydrate releases 160 litres of methane gas.2 Methane, a "greenhouse" gas, is 10 times more effective than carbon dioxide in causing climate warming. Because methane is also a greenhouse gas, release of even a small percentage of total deposits could have human terminal problems effect on us. It takes about 10 years for the methane to break down and leave behind carbon dioxide, both will interact with racing temperatures catastrophically for our children.

"Gas hydrates associated with permafrost have been documented on the North Slope of Alaska and Canada and in northern Russia. Direct evidence for gas hydrates on the North Slope of Alaska comes from cores and petroleum industry well logs which suggest the presence of numerous gas hydrate layers in the area of the Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk River oil fields. Combined information from Arctic gas-hydrate studies shows that, in permafrost regions, gas hydrates may exist at subsurface depths ranging from about 130 to 2,000 meters."3

The recession of glaciers, the disappearance of sea ice, the thawing of the permafrost, they all indicate major impacts.

A U.N. scientist reports that rising Arctic temperatures are melting the solid structure of frozen soil known as permafrost and releasing heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.4 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had added new urgency. The IPCC's scientists now estimate that temperatures this century may rise by up to 5.8 degrees C.

GRID Arendal in Norway have produced interactive maps, illustrating the current extent of permafrost in blue, which will act as a baseline from which scientists and policy makers can track the melting and shrinking of the Arctic's frozen soils. "I do not think it is radical to say that the map will become progressively less blue in the coming years," said Dr Tveitdal.

Some of the things that most concern me are lag times of greenhouse gases already emitted, and the potential for runaway positive feedback effects from things like the release of methane from continuously thawing permafrost.

Combined with what we are learning about the speed with which climate change appears to be occurring. Now a very solid case for extreme concern and a much more concerted call from the scientific community to take political actions against Dodo dinosaur politicians like Bush I & II. Bush one was an Ostrich; Bush II is out to prove that the emergence of Homo Scientificus does not take place. A determined scientific Dien Bien Phu has to take place against him to remove him from office.

By building space factories to provide first the energy by the Sun to produce goods in space, energy consumption will be reduced on earth. This construction means a vast area of solar panels are unfolded in space and by orientation to Earth means they act as Venetian blinds stopping most of the incoming solar energy reaching the polar regions. Which is of the utmost concern to scientists and through this process freeze this vast area again to a safe level.

Solar furnaces in space and/or on the Moon will provide the building materials needed to fabricate the structures needed to save our home Earth. Bush II does not need to be saved from his loss of office, but our children need to be saved from his actions now that they will make us extinct unless he is stopped.

 

Endnotes

1. Statement of William P. Dillon, Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Before the, U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Hearing on S. 1418, the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 1998
2. see http://www.brookes.ac.uk/schools/geology/8307/enres4/tsld005.htm.
3. Statement of William P. Dillon, Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Before the, U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Hearing on S. 1418, the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act of 1998.
4. Svein Tveitdal, managing director of GRID Arendal in Norway, a UNEP environmental information centre monitoring the melting of the permafrost.

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