Nature: High risk of permafrost thaw

“Northern soils will release huge amounts of carbon in a warmer world,” claims the Permafrost Carbon Network.

From a new commentary in Nature:

Arctic temperatures are rising fast, and permafrost is thawing. Carbon released into the atmosphere from permafrost soils will accelerate climate change, but the magnitude of this effect remains highly uncertain. Our collective estimate is that carbon will be released more quickly than models suggest, and at levels that are cause for serious concern.

We calculate that permafrost thaw will release the same order of magnitude of carbon as deforestation if current rates of deforestation continue. But because these emissions include significant quantities of methane, the overall effect on climate could be 2.5 times larger.

But 2.5 times a small or imaginary number is hardly worth a meltdown.

Nature Comment_PermafrostClick for the Nature commentary.

5 thoughts on “Nature: High risk of permafrost thaw”

  1. Is this the same magazine that published M. Mann’s bogus hockey stick without subjecting it to adequate peer review? Why would any serious scientist ever read the rag again? Its editors have demonstrated that Nature is not a reliable source of scientific evidence. You know that if you read something in Nature that you will have to find information in a reliable source before you can believe it, so why waste the time?

  2. “Our collective estimate is that carbon will be release more quickly than models suggest.”

    Doesn’t even need anything else to be silly.

  3. Research is testing hypothesis and is based on some design that tests that hypothesis. A survey is a lazy mans way of getting a paper published. We should be concerned about releasing more carbon into the environment because it leads to a lot of graphite data.

  4. For me – skeptic – “convinced” about the natural (mostly) the origin of the current surplus CO2 in the atmosphere – it is good news (that is cited above).
    Why?
    Because the findings presented by Schuur and Abbott – at the future – and have is also “work” in the past …

    Abrupt Permafrost Thaw …:
    „… greenhouse gases will be released from thawing permafrost faster and at significantly higher levels than previous estimates.”
    “The larger estimate is due to the inclusion of processes missing from current models and new estimates of the amount of organic carbon stored deep in frozen soils,” Abbott said. “There’s more organic carbon in northern soils than there is in all living things combined; it’s kind of mind boggling.”
    “Northern soils hold around 1,700 billion gigatons of organic carbon, around four times more than all the carbon ever emitted by modern human activity and twice as much as is now in the atmosphere, according to the latest estimate. When permafrost thaws, organic material in the soil decomposes and releases gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.”
    “We know about a lot of processes that will affect the fate of arctic carbon, but we don’t yet know how to incorporate them into climate models,” Abbott said.

    OK. However, the conclusion is simple – the same “apply” must be the past!

    Erbrecht & Lucht (2006):
    “The response of soil respiration to changes in temperature and precipitation explains most of the modelled anomalous CO 2 flux.”
    “We therefore conclude that during the last 25 years the two largest disturbances of the global carbon cycle were strongly controlled by soil processes rather then the response of vegetation to these large-scale climatic events.”

    Other natural sources “quick response” – the ocean: degassing of C – mainly CO2 (ENSO) in the equatorial zone, upwelling, coastal ocean and emissions from tropical wetlands.
    However: “… were strongly controlled by soil processes.” Soil organic matter – humus and the “remainder” of NH.

    Zimov (2006):
    “Frozen yedoma deposits across Siberia and Alaska typically have average carbon contents from 2% to 5%—roughly 10 to 30 times the amount of carbon generally found in deep, nonpermafrost mineral soils.”
    “The 13C/12C isotope ratio of the permafrost reservoir is similar to that of soil, vegetation, and marine biota. Unlike these reservoirs, however, permafrost carbon is depleted in radiocarbon (14C).”

    In terms of isotopes – so it is the same as fossil fuels (present: the same – very depleted in 14C is here: Nowinski ( 2010): “Radiocarbon ages of heterotrophically respired C ranged from <50 to 235 years BP in July mineral soil samples and from 1,525 to 8,300 years BP [!] in August samples, suggesting that old soil C in permafrost soils may be metabolized upon thawing.”. ).

    Zimov (2006): “Permafrost is a globally significant carbon reservoir that responds to climate change in a unique and very simple way: With warming, its spatial extent declines, causing rapid carbon loss; with cooling, the permafrost reservoir refills slowly …” – frozen “remainder “(without the humification process) after the thawing shall be rapid (“Abrupt “) mineralization.
    “About 4 m of yedoma-like soils accumulated across 3 million km2 in the steppe-tundra ecosystems of Europe and south of West Siberia toward the end of the glacial age and thawed …” “… it would have released about 500 Gt of permafrost carbon at the beginning of the Holocene.“

    It is worth noting how much permafrost has thawing in the twentieth century before the year 1958 and beyond. Between c. 1910 and 195? – circa “3 million km2”, between c. 1960 and 200? – about the 2 million km2. Total c. 4.5 million km2. (in the 50s we had growth area of Permafrost). At the beginning of the Holocene the source (identical – C isotopes – of ours) has grown by melting the “3 million km2” about 500 Gt C (Pg C) … Our CO2 added is the atmosphere during the 150 years from the combustion of fossil fuel + cement – is circa 350 Pg C. With the change in land use 500 Pg C.

    In the 50s we had in many regions – high latitudes of NH – rapid cooling. Similarly, in areas of permafrost – after a deep temperature falls, from 195? years.
    Rising temperatures in the period: between c. the 1910 and 195? probably influenced the fact that: Khatiwala (2009): “… terrestrial biosphere was a source of CO2 until the 1940s, subsequently turning into a sink.”

    As we can see: two important (the largest source of natural and anthropogenic) analyzed – identical in isotopic composition – the source of Carbon increased. Without a natural source increase biosphere would certainly has removed the more (all?) of our C.

    What quantities of carbon were – and are currently – in the soil especially permafrost?
    Kuhry (2010):
    “ A new estimate of 1672 Pg C of belowground organic carbon in the northern circumpolar permafrost region more than doubles the previous value and highlights the potential role of permafrost carbon in the Earth System.”
    Zech (2011) :
    “Recent findings show that the amount of organic carbon stored in high-latitude permafrost regions has been greatly underestimated.”
    comment on the paper Koven (2011) : “At stake is an estimated 2,167 petagrams of carbon in all layers of high-latitude soil.”

    There is thus a possibility that this natural source of increase throughout the twentieth century (and today) is much larger than the simple use (by me) estimates Zimov team in 2006. It is possible that the increase was not similar to the volume of the source of our emissions (at the same time) but probably (several times?) larger.

    It should also be noted that in the years 1910 – 1950 melting permafrost areas closer to the Equator – with a shorter winter, adding C to the atmosphere from this source could be larger than the present and future.

    Permafrost (in the carbon cycle) behaves according to the “shape of a bell” curve: at low temperatures (glaciation, or for example LIA) is a large reservoir of carbon. In the period of warming – at the beginning is the source of C (the atmosphere), then (warming – the increase in NPP in the areas of the former permafrost – that these ” slowly” by Zimov (2006)) the largest sink for C from the atmosphere.

    It is perfectly described in the new report NIPCC. Eg page 34: “In addition, they state ―the enhancement of plant photosynthesis overcompensated the increased carbon loss via plant respiration under nocturnal warming and shifted the steppe ecosystem from a minor carbon source (1.87 g C/m2/year) to a carbon sink (21.72 g C/m2/year) across the three growing seasons.”

  5. Sorry, I’ll try again,
    For me – skeptic – “convinced” about the natural (mostly) the origin of the current surplus CO2 in the atmosphere – it is good news (that is cited above).
    Why?
    Because the findings presented by Schuur and Abbott – at the future – and have is also “work” in the past …

    Abrupt Permafrost Thaw …:
    „… greenhouse gases will be released from thawing permafrost faster and at significantly higher levels than previous estimates.”
    “The larger estimate is due to the inclusion of processes missing from current models and new estimates of the amount of organic carbon stored deep in frozen soils,” Abbott said. “There’s more organic carbon in northern soils than there is in all living things combined; it’s kind of mind boggling.”
    “Northern soils hold around 1,700 billion gigatons of organic carbon, around four times more than all the carbon ever emitted by modern human activity and twice as much as is now in the atmosphere, according to the latest estimate. When permafrost thaws, organic material in the soil decomposes and releases gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.”
    “We know about a lot of processes that will affect the fate of arctic carbon, but we don’t yet know how to incorporate them into climate models,” Abbott said.

    OK. However, the conclusion is simple – the same “apply” must be the past!

    Erbrecht & Lucht (2006):
    “The response of soil respiration to changes in temperature and precipitation explains most of the modelled anomalous CO 2 flux.”
    “We therefore conclude that during the last 25 years the two largest disturbances of the global carbon cycle were strongly controlled by soil processes rather then the response of vegetation to these large-scale climatic events.”

    Other natural sources “quick response” – the ocean: degassing of C – mainly CO2 (ENSO) in the equatorial zone, upwelling, coastal ocean and emissions from tropical wetlands.
    However: “… were strongly controlled by soil processes.” Soil organic matter – humus and the “remainder” of NH.

    Zimov (2006):
    “Frozen yedoma deposits across Siberia and Alaska typically have average carbon contents from 2% to 5%—roughly 10 to 30 times the amount of carbon generally found in deep, nonpermafrost mineral soils.”
    “The 13C/12C isotope ratio of the permafrost reservoir is similar to that of soil, vegetation, and marine biota. Unlike these reservoirs, however, permafrost carbon is depleted in radiocarbon (14C).”

    In terms of isotopes – so it is the same as fossil fuels (present: the same – very depleted in 14C is here: Nowinski ( 2010): “Radiocarbon ages of heterotrophically respired C ranged from <50 to 235 years BP in July mineral soil samples and from 1,525 to 8,300 years BP [!] in August samples, suggesting that old soil C in permafrost soils may be metabolized upon thawing.”. ).

    Zimov (2006): “Permafrost is a globally significant carbon reservoir that responds to climate change in a unique and very simple way: With warming, its spatial extent declines, causing rapid carbon loss; with cooling, the permafrost reservoir refills slowly …” – frozen “remainder “(without the humification process) after the thawing shall be rapid (“Abrupt “) mineralization.
    “About 4 m of yedoma-like soils accumulated across 3 million km2 in the steppe-tundra ecosystems of Europe and south of West Siberia toward the end of the glacial age and thawed …” “… it would have released about 500 Gt of permafrost carbon at the beginning of the Holocene.“

    It is worth noting how much permafrost has thawing in the twentieth century before the year 1958 and beyond. Between c. 1910 and 195? – circa “3 million km2”, between c. 1960 and 200? – about the 2 million km2. Total c. 4.5 million km2. (in the 50s we had growth area of Permafrost). At the beginning of the Holocene the source (identical – C isotopes – of ours) has grown by melting the “3 million km2” about 500 Gt C (Pg C) … Our CO2 added is the atmosphere during the 150 years from the combustion of fossil fuel + cement – is circa 350 Pg C. With the change in land use 500 Pg C.

    In the 50s we had in many regions – high latitudes of NH – rapid cooling. Similarly, in areas of permafrost – after a deep temperature falls, from 195? years.
    Rising temperatures in the period: between c. the 1910 and 195? probably influenced the fact that: Khatiwala (2009): “… terrestrial biosphere was a source of CO2 until the 1940s, subsequently turning into a sink.”

    As we can see: two important (the largest source of natural and anthropogenic) analyzed – identical in isotopic composition – the source of Carbon increased. Without a natural source increase biosphere would certainly has removed the more (all?) of our C.

    What quantities of carbon were – and are currently – in the soil especially permafrost?
    Kuhry (2010):
    “ A new estimate of 1672 Pg C of belowground organic carbon in the northern circumpolar permafrost region more than doubles the previous value and highlights the potential role of permafrost carbon in the Earth System.”
    Zech (2011) :
    “Recent findings show that the amount of organic carbon stored in high-latitude permafrost regions has been greatly underestimated.”
    comment on the paper Koven (2011) : “At stake is an estimated 2,167 petagrams of carbon in all layers of high-latitude soil.”

    There is thus a possibility that this natural source of increase throughout the twentieth century (and today) is much larger than the simple use (by me) estimates Zimov team in 2006. It is possible that the increase was not similar to the volume of the source of our emissions (at the same time) but probably (several times?) larger.

    It should also be noted that in the years 1910 – 1950 melting permafrost areas closer to the Equator – with a shorter winter, adding C to the atmosphere from this source could be larger than the present and future.

    Permafrost (in the carbon cycle) behaves according to the “shape of a bell” curve: at low temperatures (glaciation, or for example LIA) is a large reservoir of carbon. In the period of warming – at the beginning is the source of C (the atmosphere), then (warming – the increase in NPP in the areas of the former permafrost – that these ” slowly” by Zimov (2006)) the largest sink for C from the atmosphere.

    It is perfectly described in the new report NIPCC. Eg page 34: “In addition, they state ―the enhancement of plant photosynthesis overcompensated the increased carbon loss via plant respiration under nocturnal warming and shifted the steppe ecosystem from a minor carbon source (1.87 g C/m2/year) to a carbon sink (21.72 g C/m2/year) across the three growing seasons.”

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