Melting Permafrost Releasing More Methane Than Formerly Thought

2014-04-18-permafrostblockofcoastaltundracollapsedonAlaskasArcticCoastCourtesyUSGSAlaskaScienceCenter.jpg

Permafrost block of coastal tundra collapsed on Alaska’s Arctic Coast. Courtesy USGS Alaska Science Center.

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Melting Permafrost Will Release More Methane Than Formerly Thoughtsays a new study, reports Gerard Wynn at Responding to Climate Change. Thawing northern peatlands are already a net source of methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas, and equivalent to 6-12% of annual fossil fuel emissions of CO2, estimated the new study.

2014-04-18-methanebubblesAbrahamlakecreditChipPhillipsatflickr.jpg

Frozen Arctic methane bubbles await the spring thaw to be released into the atmosphere. Credit Chip Philllips at flickr.

Researchers thawed some frozen Arctic peatland, known as permafrost, then measured the resulting emissions. Methane, also known as natural gas, has a shorter atmospheric life than CO2, but is about 20x more potent at absorbing heat, which means an increase in methane could speed up and intensify climate change feedbacks, such as further warming.

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About melharte

Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte is a biologist (PhD) and climate change educator. She co-authored the free online book, COOL THE EARTH, SAVE THE ECONOMY, available at www.CoolTheEarth.US, and writes the CLIMATE CHANGE THIS WEEK column at the HuffingtonPost. Living summers in the alpine Rockies, she is on the frontlines of watching what climate change can do. Her diagnostic digital photographs of wildflowers have appeared in numerous publications.
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