Collapsed blocks of permafrost near Drew Point Alaska. The USGS reporst shoreline erosion along the Arctic coast ranging from 2 to 18 metres per year.

Collapsed blocks of permafrost near Drew Point Alaska. The USGS reporst shoreline erosion along the Arctic coast ranging from 2 to 18 metres per year.
Photo Credit: USGS Alaska Science Center - C Arp

Permafrost thawing faster than previously thought: study

Global warming will thaw about 20 per cent more permafrost than previously thought, according to a new international research study.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, suggests that as the planet warms toward two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels nearly 4 million square kilometres of frozen soil – an area larger than India – could be lost for every additional degree of global warming experienced.

“Previous estimates of global changes in permafrost were done using climate models,” Sarah E. Chadburn, a researcher at the University of Leeds in England and the lead author of the study, told the New York Times. “Our approach is more based on using historical observations and extrapolating that to the future. It’s a very simple approach.”

Permafrost is frozen soil that has been at a temperature of below 0 C for at least two years. Large quantities of carbon are stored in organic matter trapped in the icy permafrost that can be hundreds of meters thick. When permafrost thaws, the organic matter starts to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which in turn leads to increases in global temperatures.

Large thaw slump on the Peel Plateau, NWT, Canada. The slump is almost 1 km wide and has displaced over 7 million cubic metres of materials over the past two decades. (Steve Kokelj/NWT Geological Survey)

Stabilising the climate at 2C above pre-industrial levels would lead to thawing of more than 40 per cent of today’s permafrost areas, which cover a surface area of about 15 million square kilometres, the study warns.

“A lower stabilisation target of 1.5 C would save approximately two million square kilometres of permafrost,” Chadburn said. “Achieving the ambitious Paris Agreement climate targets could limit permafrost loss. For the first time we have calculated how much could be saved.”

Thawing permafrost has potentially damaging consequences, not just for greenhouse gas emissions, but also for the infrastructure located in high-latitude cities. It could also dramatically alter northern landscapes, according to a recent Canadian study.

Roughly 35 million people live in the permafrost zone. A widespread thaw could cause the ground to become unstable, putting buildings and critical infrastructure at risk of collapse.

Recent studies have shown that the Arctic is warming at around twice the rate of the rest of the world, with permafrost already starting to thaw across large areas.

Thaw slump on Peel Plateau. (Steve Kokelj/NWT Geological Survey)

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Environment, Science and Technology

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

*

One comment on “Permafrost thawing faster than previously thought: study
  1. R Scott says:

    Facebook link is dead.