08 April 2015

We are Completely F%$#ed

Anthropogenic climate change is a problem, and the progress of this problem has been exceeding predictions for years.

Now, we are running into secondary effects that are making this a lot worse.

In this case, it appears that increasing temperatures in the tundra are driving bacterial activity which is in turn increasing temperatures in the tundra:
Scientists might have to change their projected timelines for when Greenland’s permafrost will completely melt due to man-made climate change, now that new research from Denmark has shown it could be thawing faster than expected.

Published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, the research shows that tiny microbes trapped in Greenland’s permafrost are becoming active as the climate warms and the permafrost begins to thaw. As those microbes become active, they are feeding on previously-frozen organic matter, producing heat, and threatening to thaw the permafrost even further.

In other words, according to the research, permafrost thaw could be accelerating permafrost thaw to a “potentially critical” level.

“The accompanying heat production from microbial metabolism of organic material has been recognized as a potential positive-feedback mechanism that would enhance permafrost thawing and the release of carbon,” the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Permafrost, said. “This internal heat production is poorly understood, however, and the strength of this effect remains unclear.”

The big worry climate scientists have about thawing permafrost is that the frozen soil is chock-full of carbon. That carbon is supposed to be strongly trapped inside the soil, precisely because it’s supposed to be permanently frozen — hence, “permafrost.”

However, as temperatures in the Arctic have risen due to human-caused climate change, permafrost is thawing, and therefore releasing some of that trapped carbon into the atmosphere. It’s yet another feedback loop manifesting itself in Arctic permafrost regions — as climate change causes it to thaw, the thawing causes more climate change, which causes more thawing, et cetera, et cetera.
Rinse, lather, repeat, die.


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