Bubbles of methane mark of a lake, where the permafrost is melting, below, and quickly releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
(Katy Walter Anthony/ University of Alaska Fairbanks)
Scientists are worried that the rising temperatures, the free carbon trapped in the frozen ground in the Arctic, accelerating the pace of climate change, but now they believe abrupt thaw below lakes is even more dangerous.
That is the finding of a new paper published as part of a 10-year-old NASA co-operation to examine how climate change will play in the icy cold Arctic .
“We don’t have to wait 200 or 300 years to these large releases of permafrost carbon,” lead study author Katey Walter Anthony, an ecologist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, said in a statement from NASA on the research . “In my life, my children, life should be ramping up. It’s already happening, but it does not happen at a really quickly now, but within a few decades, peak.” [ Climate change Strengthens the Earth’s ‘Heartbeat’ — and That is Bad News
The new study is based on measurements and models of how climate change and the melting of the permafrost communicate. Specifically, the team of scientists looked to the permafrost melting under the bodies of water are known as thermokarst lakes.
The team behind the new research measured carbon release at 72 different locations on the 11th of thermokarst lakes in Siberia and Alaska, plus five locations without lakes, to calculate how much greenhouse gas is produced and the age of the carbon that was inside the truck. They used this data to ensure that the models they were building were on the right track.
Here is the problem: When permanently frozen debris melt, the bacteria are trapped in the active again, munch through all the organic material and produce carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are powerful greenhouse gases
But when that happens under thermokarst lakes, the process is even grimmer because the water at the surface accelerates the melting below. The released gases are built with carbon atoms between 2,000 and 43,000 years old, quickly rising through the lake and into the atmosphere.
“Within a few decades, you can get very deep thaw-holes, meters to tens of meters of vertical thaw,” Walter Anthony said in the statement. “So you flash thaw of the permafrost beneath these lakes. And we have the very easily measured in the old greenhouse.”
In addition, the team also discovered that this abrupt the thaw was still a concern even in a scenario in which the man tried to rein in their greenhouse gas production and slow climate change. And, of course, the more the permafrost melts, the faster the melt remains — the make of all this grim news indeed.
The research is described in a paper published Wednesday (Aug. 15) in the journal Nature Communications.
E-mail Meghan Bartels on firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on @meghanbartels . Follow us @Spacedotcom , Facebook or Google+ . Original article on Space.com .