Areas in the Arctic are currently collapsing on themselves because the permafrost melts faster than ever registered in history. The fast-melting permafrost creates holes in the whole region, and although these terrains of frozen soil usually thaw at a slow pace, new observations warn of the alarming rate they are actually melting at.
Another issue is that when the permafrost melts, microbes eating organic matter produce CO2 and methane, which gets to the atmosphere. This creates ore warming, more melting, and more carbon. It is a rather vicious party that, after it starts, is believed to create chaos on our climate and living settings on planet Earth.
Carbon Will be a Huge Issue
The paper discussing these issues also emphasized the thermokarst, which UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is allegedly not considering. Thermokarst applies to the land damaged by the rapid melting of permafrost. The ice is the adhesive that keeps it from collapsing, and when it drastically disappears, hillsides clash and gigantic sinkholes are created.
This occurs on the scale of meters per months or years and places the surrounding environments into a state of shock that generates even more carbon than it would have if melted at a slower pace.
Merritt Turetsky, of the Universities of Guelph and Colorado-Boulder, said: “The amount of carbon coming off that very narrow amount of abrupt thaw in the landscape, that small area, is still large enough to double the climate consequences and the permafrost carbon feedback.”
Simply put, this is even worse than what experts have been concerned about. Another issue is that when the permafrost thaws rapidly, it does more than just generating the carbon and retiring. The ecosystem can recover and start trying to gain back some of that CO2 again.
If the land has melted and has become inundated by water, new trees cannot grow, so it rather forms a region that is much like that of a wetland. It could even create peat because of the waterlogged plant material.
If that takes place, the ecosystem could ultimately recover some of the carbon that was wasted. However, the carbon that at the moment in the permafrost has gathered there over millions of years.
Action Must be Taken Immediately
Besides the carbon-related issue, the fact that the Arctic is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the planet is generating more possibilities for dramatic permafrost melting. The article talking about this in the journal Wired shared the thoughts of Turetsky and a few other experts who also state that this is something that requires more analysis.
However, the fact that the ecosystem in the Arctic is changing faster than expected is worrying. “And the faster we cut emissions, the less they will suffer,” the article reads.
Many people, though, believe that we are beyond that level. With the oceans turning acidic and ice thawing in Antarctica, we should not only cut emissions as soon as possible, but we need to actually get ready for a catastrophic climate change if we keep doing nothing to stop it.