December 28, 2011

Increased chance of runaway Arctic global warming due to permafrost melt

A report by the US-based New York Times describes the growing concern of scientists over the threat that the frozen layer of soil known as permafrost, which runs beneath the entire Arctic tundra region, is melting.

Although the ancient plant matter from which permafrost was formed has been frozen for the past tens of thousands of years, climate change is causing it to thaw and decompose.

If this process continues at its current rate, sufficient methane would be released at some point to set off irreversible global warming. In addition, some Arctic regions such as northern Alaska, USA are showing an increase in a phenomenon called thermokarsts, in which the melting permafrost layer has caused the ground
above it to collapse into hollows.

In the low-lying areas that are created, wetlands and lakes are forming, whose dark water surfaces absorb the sun’s heat and cause still further thawing of the permafrost in and around the lake, with often forceful methane plumes up being seen bubbling up through the waters.

Dr. Katey Walter Anthony and colleague Dr. Guido Gross from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, USA have been mapping the thermokarst lakes, saying that these could strongly accelerate the Arctic permafrost melt and methane production.

Yet another newer factor being studied as the region warms is a potential increase in tundra fires. Scientists warn that these combined factors could turn the Arctic from a vast carbon sink into a potentially lethal source of methane in less than a decade.

Dr. Walter Anthony, Dr. Gross, and all scientists involved, we appreciate your research and fieldwork that is helping us understand the growing threat of melting permafrost in the crucial Arctic region.

May we act promptly to avoid further catastrophic warming and stabilize the planet on which all lives depend. Supreme Master Ching Hai has often mentioned permafrost melt as a potential source of runaway global warming, as in this interview published in the September 2009 edition of The House Magazine.

Interview with Supreme Master Ching Hai Published in The House Magazine September 2009 edition

Supreme Master Ching Hai: According to Dr. Hansen, our planet is on a dangerous course to passing irreversible tipping points with disastrous consequences. These you know already, like the melting of permafrost which in turn releases toxic methane gas, resulting in more warming of the atmosphere.

The reason scientists are now turning their attention to methane is that research has shown this gas has a heating capacity 100 times greater than CO2 within the first 5 years.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization states that livestock is the single largest human-caused source of methane and accounts for 37% of total greenhouse gases. Thus, if meat eating were to be halted, methane production from livestock would be minimized, and then, consequently all the methane from the permafrost will also be stopped, then we will still have time to handle the CO2.

It’s very logical, scientifically speaking and otherwise. So, being veg means saving our planet.

Sources: NY Times, Smart Planet

No comments: