Arctic lakes speed up permafrost thawing

Arctic lakes speed up permafrost thawing

Its impact on the climate is an influx of permafrost-derived methane into the atmosphere in the mid-21st century, which is not now accounted for in climate projections.

For many years, scientists have feared that rising global temperatures will trigger the release of carbon stored in frozen soil of the Arctic. As Earth's climate continues to warm, that carbon has begun to leach into the atmosphere, the result of microbes waking up and digesting once-frozen organic materials.

"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". The study, which was published recently in the journal Nature Communications, talks about the carbon that is released by the thawing permafrost which exists beneath thermokarst lakes. Within my lifetime, my children's lifetime, it should be ramping up ... "It's already happening but it's not happening at a really fast rate right now, but within a few decades, it should peak", Walter Anthony added.

Scientists stressed their concerns in a paper published on August 15 in the journal Nature Communications.

American and German researchers found that abrupt thawing more than doubles previous estimates of permafrost-derived greenhouse warming.

Additionally, researchers say that even in a future where humans reduce their global carbon emissions drastically, it might not make a difference and large methane releases from abrupt thawing of permafrost are still likely to occur.

The team found that the release of greenhouse gases beneath these thermokarst lakes is quite rapid than what scientists have observed in the past.

This process wakes up microbes in the soil that decompose soil organic matter and as a result release carbon dioxide and methane back into the atmosphere.

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Thermokarst lakes form when warming soil melts ground ice, causing the surface to collapse and form pools of water.

Unlike shallow, gradual thawing of terrestrial permafrost, the abrupt thaw beneath thermokarst lakes is irreversible this century. "And we have very easily measured ancient greenhouse gases coming out". Emitted gases consisting of carbon atoms the age of from two thousand to 43 thousand years, quickly rise to the surface and reach the atmosphere.

The team used measurements and models of how climate change and melting permafrost work together, according to the paper.

What specifically worries scientists is that once frozen soil melts, the bacteria that lived in it and hibernated inside of it melts as well, and exits their hibernation.

"Thermokarst lakes provide a completely different scenario".

Walter Anthony said she's been measuring methane releases since 2001, but most of the calculations incorporated into the study have been within the past 2 1/2 years.

"This is a situation where we could see significant changes within decades, rather than centuries", Walter Anthony said.

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