The Arctic Permafrost Thaw Is A Greater Danger Than Previously Thought

With or without the Paris Agreement, the Arctic permafrost will thaw. 45% of it will be gone, and billions of metric tons of carbon and methane will pollute the atmosphere. This shouldn’t be a reason to stop carrying, thinking that disaster will occur no matter what we do. It should be a reason to reinforce our efforts to contain the pollution we are responsible for.

A new study released by NASA raises unprecedented concerns: two million hotspots were radared on the Arctic permafrost. A hotspot is an area where methane emissions are higher than 3,000 parts per million. The Arctic ice is melting away faster than it was believed before. Tice as soon as anywhere else on Earth. And the damage it could do to global warming is more than alarming.

AVIRIS-NG is a unique infrared spectrometer. The technology belongs to NASA. Until now, it was used to measure the emissions of methane in the populated areas of the planet.

The Arctic Permafrost Thaw Is A Greater Danger Than Previously Thought

The new study reveals the areas with permafrost-related emissions are the lakes, ponds, streams, and all sorts of wetlands. With thermokarsts being some of the most dangerous when it comes to methane emissions.

Thermokarsts are land surfaces characterized by very irregular surfaces formed as ice-rich permafrost thaws. It occurs in Arctic areas. The formation of permafrost thaw lakes due to warming climate is a loop: as methane and carbon dioxide are released as permafrost thaws, it contributes to further climate warming.

Why does the extra melting happen? Scientists can only assume that plant methane diffusion can be the reason. If the carbon from the permafrost is released, that enables microbes to turn it into methane. Methane is thirty times more powerful when it comes to global warming potential. So, the guess of scientists can be an exact reason for the acceleration of the melting process.

Melanie J. Gullett
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