Large quantities of carbon dioxide are released by thawing permafrost, this type of soil covers 24 percent of the land in the northern hemisphere. Permafrost is usually completely frozen, this stops Co2 from being released into the atmosphere, but now a new research shows that a warming climate means that permafrost is thawing so quickly that the region has become a source of Co2. In summer, vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide, but this is dwarfed by an estimated 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon that is released during winter. This is a far bigger amount compared to the 1 billion tonnes of carbon sucked up during the growing season.
Dr Jennifer Watts, from the Woods Hole Research Centre (WHRC), said: “This study is an important step forward in understanding how carbon dioxide loss from soils is outweighing uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by vegetation.” She added:“We’ve known for a while that thawed soils release carbon dioxide during the summer, but we really didn’t realize how much carbon dioxide is being emitted during the snow-covered winter months.”
In 2100, carbon dioxide emissions from the Arctic could increase by 41 per cent ,under a worst-case scenario, according to the paper, published in Nature Climate Change. Currently this carbon-rich soil (permafrost) covers 24 per cent of land in the northern hemisphere and holds more carbon than has ever been released by our society. More than 75 scientists working in 12 different countries found that if countries could stick to the Paris climate agreement and limit warming to 2C, the increase in carbon dioxide emissions would be 17 per cent.
This study didn’t look at the amount of methane released from melting permafrost, which is also expected to rapidly increase as temperatures warm, It has monitored only Co2 emissions. For this reason, scientists warned that there is an urgent need to expand monitoring networks, due to the rapid pace of warming in the Arctic. He also added that it is crucial to link the observations to models, because this could help guide the decision-making process.
Humanity must reduce it’s carbon footprint in order to avoid the release of greenhouse gasses from the thawing permafrost. This has to be done fast because, this year, researchers found out that permafrost had begun thawing in the Canadian Arctic more than 70 years early because of climate change. The study found that thawing levels were 150 to 240 per cent above historic levels, according to researchers led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.