Friday, 13 June 2008

Permafrost melt will effect us all

If Arctic sea ice starts melting fast, polar bears and ring seals wouldn't be the only creatures to feel it. A study released recently considered that it could increase warmer temperatures for hundreds of miles inland.

That means a possible thaw in the long-frozen soil known as permafrost. This in turn could have severe effects on world-wide ecosystems as human infrastructures like oil rigs and pipelines become effected and the release of more greenhouse gases from the melting Permafrost in Russia, Alaska and Canada will increase Climate Chaos (Global Warming)scientists said. The study is particularly pertinent because of last year's record melt of Arctic sea ice, when ice cover in the Arctic Sea shrank to 30 percent below average. Another record melt is forecast for this year but it is unknown whether this is the beginning of a trend.

"Our climate model suggests that rapid ice loss is not necessarily a surprise," said David Lawrence of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, an author of the study. "When you get certain conditions in the Arctic, thin ice, that is a lot of first-year ice as opposed to the older sturdier ice, you can get a situation where you get a rapid and steady loss over a period of five to 10 years."

In such a period of rapid ice loss, autumn temperatures along the Arctic coasts of Russia, Alaska and Canada could rise by as much as 9 degrees F (5 degrees C) the study's climate model found, Autumn is often the warmest season in this area.

Last year's temperatures from August to October over land in the western Arctic were also unusually warm, more than 4 degrees F (about 2 degrees C) above the average temperatures for 1978-2006, raising questions about the relationship between shrinking sea ice and warmer land temperatures. The scientists found that when sea ice melts rapidly Arctic land warms three and a half times faster than the rate predicted in 21st century climate models, yes, three and a half times faster! The warming is largest over the ocean but simulations indicate that it can extend as far as 900 miles inland. In places where permafrost is already at risk, such as central Alaska, a quick sea ice melt could lead to a quick permafrost thaw.

The effects of melting are already evident in parts of Alaska. Pockets of soil collapse as the ice contained within it melts, highways then buckle, houses are destabilized and trees tilt crazily in a phenomenon known as "drunken forests" when the earth beneath them gives way. The two pictures above show the result of Permafrost melt as the earth thaws.

"There's an interconnectedness about the Arctic," Lawrence said. "When sea ice retreats and retreats very rapidly it impacts other parts of the system, such as warming temperatures over land. Warming temperatures over land can also accelerate the degradation of permafrost, particularly permafrost that's warm right now."


Kati said...

Not only does it result in the loss of tundra, Peter, but permafrost melt also causes the release of frozen pockets of methane that exist inside permafrost pockets. When the permafrost melts, it releases the methane into the air, exacerbating the problem of Global Warming and causing even MORE ice-melt. It's a no-win situation, and it's already happening at astonishing rates, and as Methane is an even more dangerous green-house gas than is Carbon Dioxide, folks who are seeing the release of this methane from previously frozen pockets of ground and sea-ice, are pretty concerned that this may have already pushed us past the point of no-return for our climate.

*shrug* Educate, pray, and garden. I'm afraid that we may be at the point where we can do nothing more than these 3 actions.

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Thank you for that info Kati. I am afraid that the world has actually passed the tipping point and do, at times, despair for those that seem unwilling or unable to face the facts that are before their (unseening) eyes. The massive floods in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, have not even made the news in the UK.

I would so love to be wrong about peak oil and climate chaos

"Educate, pray and garden", I agree 100%...

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Fr. Peter Doodes said...

*Blush* thank you 'Anonymous'.