Arctic report card - permafrost and carbon cycle

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Arctic report card - permafrost and carbon cycle

Postby TheVat on January 27th, 2020, 4:05 pm ... rbon-Cycle

(scroll down that page a bit to read the article)

Positive feedback cycles are, as always, tricky to predict. This looks to be potentially serious, given the amount of carbon stored there, and that methane is also involved.


Northern permafrost region soils contain 1,460-1,600 billion metric tons of organic carbon, about twice as much as currently contained in the atmosphere.

This pool of organic carbon is climate-sensitive. Warming conditions promote microbial conversion of permafrost carbon into the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane that are released to the atmosphere in an accelerating feedback to climate warming.

New regional and winter season measurements of ecosystem carbon dioxide flux independently indicate that permafrost region ecosystems are releasing net carbon (potentially 0.3 to 0.6 Pg C per year) to the atmosphere. These observations signify that the feedback to accelerating climate change may already be underway.
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Re: Arctic report card - permafrost and carbon cycle

Postby Serpent on January 27th, 2020, 4:53 pm 

And Canada is deep, imminent trouble.
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Re: Arctic report card - permafrost and carbon cycle

Postby Dave_C on January 28th, 2020, 10:17 pm 

There are both positive and negative feedbacks affecting climate change. The release of methane in the northern areas constitutes a positive feedback just as ice albedo does. Seems like many of the feedbacks are positive unfortunately.

The link here also discusses negative feedbacks such as the aerosols produced by burning coal, biomass, volcanic eruptions... Not that we want to burn lots of coal to reduce global warming because it obviously doesn't work quite like that. It's a very temporary affect.

Here's another problem... natural gas is mostly methane and is often considered a fuel that produces less carbon dioxide when burned and so is good for global warming when compared to oil and coal. Lots of claims out there talking about "clean" natural gas (when compared to oil & coal).

There are natural gas pipelines that run like spider webs all over the US, Europe, etc... I'm most familiar with the US pipelines but every country has them. The down side to all that natural gas (which reduces carbon dioxide) is the accidental release of natural gas which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Releases come from pipeline leaks, compressor and relay station leaks, etc...

I've heard the overall reduction of global warming gasses due to energy production converting from oil and coal to natural gas is mostly negated by this leakage of natural gas and its much stronger capacity to trap heat compared to CO2 (though perhaps not entirely). On the bright side, we can do a lot (especially through regulations) to limit leakage. We have no ability however, to limit the release of methane from those areas where global warming allows permafrost to melt.

One other trend that is coming up on the bright side, is the hydrogen economy which uses natural gas for the most part at this point in time to create H2. When we do that on a large scale at plants, those plants can potentially sequester carbon (pump underground) to minimize further the affect of greenhouse gasses. in the future, the production of hydrogen by electrolysis is hoped to eliminate carbon dioxide production but the systems have to be in place to use hydrogen as a fuel first.
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