What is Hiding Within Permafrost?

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Permafrost, defined as ground soil that has been at a freezing point of 0 degrees Celsius or below for at least two years in a row, has been covering at least 24% (per cent) of the whole Arctic region for thousands, or even tens of thousands, of years. According to e.g. the University of Copenhagen – Center for Permafrost, permafrost can go as deep as 700 meters where at its thickest, for example in parts of Russia and in Greenland. The Center for Permafrost at the University of Copenhagen reports that one of the risks of thawing permafrost is soil collapse as frozen ice melts into water.

Other risks of thawing permafrost, which is now taking place all over the Arctic, include the release of bacteria and toxic greenhouse gases; especially methane. Bacteria possibly  spreading diseases could be released by decayed animals and plants that have, for thousands of years, been kept frozen under the thick layers of permafrost.

According to NSIDC scientist Kevin Schaefer, studying permafrost carbon is important to understand how thawing permafrost and the frozen organic matter within the permafrost react to the atmosphere if and when coming into contact with it. This because the frozen organic matter, if and when thawing, releases carbon dioxide and methane into Earth´s atmosphere. Until now, as reported in Geophysical Research Letters Vol. 43, 28 June 2016, there has been no significant increase in long-term methane emissions in Alaska despite of warming air temperatures.

Learn more about thawing permafrost in Alaska through American Geophysical Union AGU´s “FM15 Press Conference Alaska´s thawing permafrost Latest results and future projections”:

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts.

 

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What Are Thawing Permafrost Risks?

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If you read my previous post, Thawing Permafrost A Huge Risk, you are already at least one step closer to understanding what the risks of thawing permafrost in the Arctic region are. In short, thawing permafrost gives even the most knowledgeable climate scientists and environmental experts a reason to scratch their heads.

Who knows for sure what the consequences of thawing permafrost will be? It is not the first time in the history of mankind that we are faced with completely new problems, requiring for us to find completely new solutions to solve these. Natural warming of Earth´s climate is one thing, but what we have accomplished as human beings within only one century is something that we can only blame ourselves for. It is a proven fact that since the Industrial Revolution, climate change and the warming of our planet has been man-made. Thus, in order to stop this development of anthropogenic climate change, us human beings are responsible for taking necessary actions to stop emitting toxic pollutants, including greenhouse gases which are largely responsible for the climatic changes our Earth is today experiencing.

Do we have to wait until permafrost thaws further, and possibly experience its devastating consequences before we learn? Do we need more catastrophic climate change events and natural disasters before taking action? Do we want our atmosphere and the air we breathe, our lands, our oceans and other water sources to be further polluted with toxins, and the release of methane and other harmful greenhouse gases that destroy our planet?

If we want Earth to be habitable for future generations, the response must quite simply be NO to all of these questions.

We do not need climate catastrophes, environmental disasters, toxins, pollutants killing millions of people, animals and plants each year. We do not need to wait until it is too late to take action(s) to prevent the destruction of our home planet. We do not have to let all of this happen.

Learn more about the risks from permafrost thawing by watching YaleClimateConnections´s video “Permafrost: The Tipping Time Bomb”:

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts.

 

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Thawing Permafrost A Huge Risk

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What is thawing permafrost? It may be difficult to understand for those who have lived their lives in completely different climates and environments than the climate and environment in the Arctic region.

Permafrost is unique to the Arctic region and Antartica, the first being the geographical region surrounding the North Pole, and the latter being the geographical region surrounding the South Pole. Now we are discussing the thawing permafrost in the Arctic region, which poses several risks for our whole planet, not only for the Arctic region.

Permafrost, as defined e.g. by the International Permafrost Association, is ground soil that remains at 0 degrees Celsius or below for at least two years in a row. Permafrost can be as thick as four (4) meters.

Now that much of the permafrost in the Arctic region is thawing, i.e. melting, due to climate change and warming, this poses several environmental and health risks both in the Arctic and elsewhere on our planet. Why?

When permafrost thaws, decayed plants and animals below the permafrost become exposed, beginning to release bacteria and huge amounts of greenhouse gases, especially methane, which is many times stronger a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Why is this such a risk for our environment and overall climate on Earth?

Some of the possible consequences of thawing permafrost are yet unknown. However, if and when bacteria and greenhouse gases (methane) from decayed organisms, previously held in captivity within permafrost, get exposure to our atmosphere, the probability of bacteria spreading diseases grows. In addition, powerful greenhouse gases will be released into our atmosphere, warming our climate faster and faster. Methane is at least 22 times as powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This is why methane is often referred to by climate scientists as a possible climate amplifier and an environmental wildcard: its consequences are yet unknown, and it could lead to sudden changes in Earth´s overall climate if and when getting into contact with Earth´s atmosphere.

Learn more about thawing permafrost and its risks by watching National Science Foundation´s video “Thawing Permafrost – Changing Planet”:

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts.

 

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What Does Thawing Permafrost Signify?

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Anthropogenic climate change in the Arctic region includes thawing permafrost. What does that mean? Permafrost is ground with a temperature below the pressure melting point for a minimum of two years in a row. (The Norwegian Polar Institute – The Arctic System). A significant amount of journal articles about permafrost can be found e.g. at NSIDC – National Snow & Ice Data Center. Again, according to for example The Arctic System, the thickness of permafrost varies from 100 up to 500 meters in depth. During summer months in the Arctic region, the permafrost naturally thaws up to one meter, providing a basis for flora and fauna to live in.

As reported by Phys.org – Defrosting the world´s freezer – thawing permafrost, the extent of how permafrost is now thawing with the fast warming of the Arctic region, is much larger than ever before. It is estimated that the Arctic could lose up to 70 % of its permafrost within the next 100 years, moving the southern boundary for permafrost hundreds of kilometers further south, releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide into our atmosphere – the consequences of which are yet unknown.

To learn more about thawing permafrost, watch Climate State´s video Climate Change in the Arctic and Model Projections (2017):

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts.

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