Thawing Permafrost Could Double Earth's Atmospheric Carbon
By Erin Weaver
Thawing of Arctic permafrost could double Earth’s atmospheric carbon in the next century, according to a new field study in Geophysical Research Letters. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey studied permafrost soils vulnerable to thawing and subsequent decomposition in a warming climate; they estimate the soils could release up to 850 billion tons of carbon and 44 billion tons of nitrogen, along with some methane. In addition to disrupting aquatic ecosystems, this would contribute to further warming in what could become a runaway process. The scientists hope the new numbers will be taken into consideration by the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.