A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences points to the thawing of Alaskan permafrost–the frozen northern soil–as the chief culprit in the release of a large amount of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere, which could speed up the dangerous effects of climate change.
Basing the study on data collected from aircraft measurements of carbon dioxide and methane and tower measurements from Barrow, Alaska collected from 2012 through 2014, the report concludes that 220 million tons of carbon dioxide gas were emitted into the atmosphere during that period.
It should be noted that the figure does not include emissions related fossil fuel burning or wildfires.
To put this in perspective, 220 million tons of carbon dioxide is equivalent to the entire carbon dioxide emissions of the U.S. commercial sector in a single year.
The report suggests that the main reason for the increased output of carbon emissions into the atmosphere in Alaska is presumably due to the ground not freezing as quickly.
Published by 19 authors from a variety of institutions, the report states that “the soils are warmer deeper, and as they freeze in the fall, the temperature of every soil depth has to come to zero before they hard freeze.” They soils are simply not coming to a hard freeze quick enough and this is resulting in an a release of carbon.
The research has found that since 1975, there has been an almost 74% increase in the amount of carbon emitted from the Alaskan tundra’s inability to thaw as it once did.
While some scientists had hoped that the thawing tundra would result in the arctic landscape becoming more green, which could have potentially helped offset any emitted carbon, this news is particularly upsetting.
source: National Post