Permafrost Melting: Implications

A quintessential example of potential positive feedback mechanisms that threaten to substantially accelerate warming trends during this decade and beyond is melting of permafrost in the far northern hemisphere. A new study, summarized in Reuters, and published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycle, concluded that the amount of carbon locked away in frozen soils in the far Northern Hemisphere is double previous estimates. The lead author, Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project at Australia’s state-funded Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, concluded that if just 10% of this ice melted, it could raise atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide by 80ppm, translating into an additional 0.7C temperature increase. Of course, increased temperatures will result in more melting of permafrost, and more releases of carbon dioxide, bumping up temperatures, and so one.

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