Unexpected Future Boost of Methane Possible from Arctic Permafrost

Ученые рассказали о главной угрозе для климата на планете

Ученые рассказали о главной угрозе для климата на планете

Methane bubbles up from the thawed permafrost at the bottom of the thermokarst lake through the ice at its surface.

Researchers studied methane released by thawing permafrost under thermokarst lakes in the Arctic.

They found that thermokarst lakes formed when substantial amounts of ice in the deep soil melts to liquid water. These pools of water can lead to further permafrost thaw beneath the expanding lakes and contribute to climate warming.

"We have no 200 or 300 years waiting for vast carbon emissions from the eternal ice, says the study's lead author Katey Walter Anthony, an ecologist from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, in his report to NASA". The lake activity could potentially double the release from terrestrial landscapes by the 2050s. Walter Anthony and her colleagues captured methane bubbling out of 72 locations in 11 thermokarst lakes in Alaska and Siberia to measure the amount of gas released from the permafrost below the lakes, as well as used radiocarbon dating on captured samples to determine their age. However, a process begins in the event that the permafrost thaws out - soil microbes located in the permafrost convert the carbon into carbon dioxide and methane. The release of that surface permafrost soil carbon is often offset by an increased growth in vegetation.

Walter Anthony has spent over a decade studying permafrost and melting processes in Alaska, but this recent discovery could greatly change the way climate change is perceived, she said. "Instead of centimeters of thaw, which is common for terrestrial environments, we've seen 15 meters of thaw beneath newly formed lakes in Goldstream Valley within the past 60 years".

Because the thermokarst lakes are relatively small and scattered throughout the Arctic landscapes, computer models of their behavior are not now incorporated into global climate models.

A new NASA-funded study focuses on a mechanism that could accelerate the release of this atmospheric carbon, the result of thermokarst lakes. "And we have very easily measured ancient greenhouse gases coming out".

For many years, scientists have feared that rising temperatures will trigger the release of carbon stored in frozen soil of the Arctic, which in turn, will accelerate climate change. By including thermokarst lakes, methane becomes the dominant driver, responsible for 70 to 80 percent of permafrost carbon-caused warming this century.

This abrupt thawing of the permafrost beneath the lakes is especially unsafe because unlike shallow and gradual thawing of terrestrial permafrost, it is impossible to reverse it this century.

What's more, they found that in future warming scenarios defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, abrupt thawing was as important under the moderate reduction of emissions scenario as it was under the extreme business-as-usual scenario. "You can't stop the release of carbon from these lakes once they form", Walter Anthony added. "We can not get around this source of warming".

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