Melting Siberian permafrost and climate change
Carbon and methane stored in Siberia’s permafrost are being released as Russia’s Arctic experiences warmer temperatures, which cause the permafrost to recede.
So far there is insufficient data to gauge just what percentage of methane in the atmosphere is a result of particular natural sources such as swamps and melting permafrost. Manmade sources of methane include power generation, rice farming, livestock agriculture and landfills.
From a report by Russia’s BCM News:
The fact is that the permafrost covers millions of kilometers of swamps. While melting, swamps send to the atmosphere tons of methane, which, in turn, leads to more significant changes in the climate. In the pseudoscientific press, this process has already received the name “methane bomb” and “methane flywheel”.
A German/French climate mission plans to launch a methane-detecting satellite into space by 2014. The satellite, named Merlin (Methane Remote Sensing Lidar Mission) will measure methane sources as it orbits the Earth by using light radar (LIDAR).
From a Space Daily article:
The data that the German/French climate satellite will gather from orbit will enable scientists in both countries to draw conclusions about the various different sources of methane emissions. What is the impact of rising levels of energy production? What are the implications when tracts of permafrost release methane as they start to thaw? Above all, what are the implications for our climate?
Researchers from the University of Nevada are also studying how receding permafrost in Russia’s Arctic will affect carbon emissions.
From an article in the University of Nevada News:
We see the permafrost receding hundreds of yards each year, and the ancient carbon from Pleistocene era plants and animals being unleashed into the air, soil and water. Where the carbon goes and how it will affect climate are part of what the team is investigating.
–Sudeep Chandra, University of Nevada faculty member and researcher
According to Chandra, area of the Arctic that they are studying has more stored carbon stored than all the vegetation in the Amazon basin. As Siberia’s permafrost melts, this carbon travels with water into the Arctic Ocean, perhaps contributing to further climate change.
Melting permafrost also has the obvious symptom of causing trees and houses to lean as they lose their frozen foundations.