Population World Population: CO2 ppm World Carbon: 390 ppm

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Thawing Permafrost Could Release Vast Amounts of Carbon and Accelerate Climate Change beyond the Control of Mankind

Could immense quantities of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and methane (20 time more destructive) spell disaster for climate change and global warming  which could run out of control rendering any action taken by mankind to reduce greenhouse gas emission (GHG) pointless. In the words of Nobel Prize Physicist and US Secretary of State for Energy Stepehn Chu "we cannot go there".

Opinions differ, what is agreed though is that the Arctic permafrost contains immense amounts of carbon currently held in suspended animation; as temperatures rise the permafrost melts and micro-organisms drive decomposition resulting in release of  the GHG. As the GHG,s are released then temperatures rise further increasing the melt rate and acting as a catalyst for enhanced emissions in a negative feedback loop. At stake is an estimated 2,167 petagrams of carbon in all layers of high latitude soil which is more than two trillion US tons.

Research recently published by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that their model found that the increased in carbon uptake by biomass production associated with higher temperatures will be overshadowed by a much larger amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. 

As usual further research is recommended; however, while this is advisable the fact remains that temperatures are rising faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet, the permafrost is melting and vast quantities of carbon are already being released into the atmosphere and the rate is increasing.

Paul Thompson

1. Dan Krotz 510-486-4019  dakrotz@lbl.gov

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