The Arctic is currently going through an intense, rapid, and utter transformation into a new climate status. The new state is allegedly greener, has a lot less ice, and is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions due to the melting permafrost.
Different Studies Agree
According to a significant federal study of the region published on Tuesday, the effects of these climate changes will be felt outside the Arctic as modified water patterns, enhanced greenhouse emissions, and rising sea levels from the thawing Greenland ice layers and mountain glaciers.
The discoveries were noted in the 2019 Arctic Report Card, an important federal assessment of climate change patterns and effects throughout the area. The research describes a menacing picture of a place wobbling to a completely new and unusual climate state.
An element worth mentioning is the report’s conclusion that the Arctic may have already transformed into a net emitter of carbon emissions that warm the planet, mainly due to melting permafrost, which would only speed up the climate warning process.
Permafrost is the carbon-abundant frozen soil that covers about 24 percent of the Northern Hemisphere land region, surrounding massive spans of areas across Alaska, Canada, Siberia, and Greenland.
Warming temperatures enable microbes thriving within the soil to transform permafrost carbon into the greenhouse gases, which are methane and dioxide. These gases can be released into the atmosphere and speed up the warming process.
Ted Schuur, a researcher at Northern Arizona University and author of the permafrost section of the paper, said that the study depicts a new view on the issue, as it was based on other published research.
Huge Amounts of Greenhouse Gases
Two separate studies, one on regional carbon emissions from permafrost in Alaska during the warm period and another on winter season pollution in the Arctic, were taken into consideration when writing the report. The report then concluded that permafrost ecosystems could be emitting as much as 1.1 to 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
“Each of the studies has some parts of the story. Together they really paint the picture of — we’ve turned this corner for Arctic carbon,” said Schuur. “Together, they complement each other nicely and really in my mind are a smoking gun for this change already taking place.”
The report claims that there is still a lot of uncertainty about carbon emissions measurements, considering the relatively restricted observational calculations. However, it also warns that the Arctic area, which is warming at over twice the pace of the rest of the world, may have already became a global accelerator researchers long dreaded.
The discoveries were published as U.N. climate negotiators discussed in Madrid to tackle the need for heavily reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Schuur said that the carbon released by the Arctic was estimated to less than ten percent of fossil fuel emissions registered every year. Even so, that number is probably going to grow in time, as the Arctic keeps warming up.
“We don’t think the Arctic is going to admit so much more emissions than it will make fossil fuel emissions irrelevant,” Schuur said.
However, any additional emissions make the already challenging task of cutting them net-zero more by mid-century difficult.