Study: thawing permafrost adds further to global warming

Study: thawing permafrost adds further to global warming


According to a newly released study Arctic permafrost that is thawing due to global warming is releasing greenhouse gases, further compounding the problem of climate change.

As the permafrost thaws, changes in the way its soil microbes function and the soil carbon decomposes add to the emissions of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, according to the study by United States and Chinese scientists.

newtok_melting_permafrost_arcticCarbon dioxide and methane are the main greenhouse gases that trap heat and contribute to climate change.

Permafrost is the perennially frozen ground that covers a quarter of the land in the Northern Hemisphere, primarily in the Arctic, said the study published in the monthly Nature Climate Change journal.

Dr-Susan-Natali-scientist-Woods-Hole-Research-Centre-MassachusettsWorking in Alaska, researchers warmed plots of tundra to thaw the permafrost and after 18 months found numerous changes in the soil microbes, it said.

“This study highlights the critical role that microbes play in mediating carbon losses from Arctic soils,” said Dr Susan Natali, a scientist at Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts and co-author of the paper, in a statement.

UN-permafrost-soil“The rapid response of the microbial community to warming suggests that the large store of soil carbon currently contained in permafrost will be highly susceptible to decomposition once it is thawed.”

Previous studies have suggested that permafrost could decline by as much as 70 per cent by the end of the century, according to the statement.