Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Thaw and Thor

If you didn't catch this story last week in the Guardian, you might have missed it, especially since it didn't run any place else in this country that I know of. I googled it and didn't find a single domestic story.

I have read reports from many other sources that the frozen permafrost has moved north by as much as 50 miles. This means that all of that frozen biomass will either turn into carbon dioxide if it sees air, or if it rots under the ground, it will turn into methane , which is a much more powerful green house gas.

This report talks of a whole region thawing.

Here is the full story

Warming hits 'tipping point'
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Thursday August 11, 2005
The Guardian

A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today.

Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.

The discovery was made by Sergei Kirpotin at Tomsk State University in western Siberia and Judith Marquand at Oxford University and is reported in New Scientist today.

The researchers found that what was until recently a barren expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometre across.

Dr Kirpotin told the magazine the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.

Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.

"When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply," said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"This is a big deal because you can't put the permafrost back once it's gone. The causal effect is human activity and it will ramp up temperatures even more than our emissions are doing."

Western Siberia is heating up faster than anywhere else in the world, having experienced a rise of some 3C in the past 40 years. Scientists are particularly concerned about the permafrost, because as it thaws, it reveals bare ground which warms up more quickly than ice and snow, and so accelerates the rate at which the permafrost thaws.

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said the finding was a stark message to politicians to take concerted action on climate change. "We knew at some point we'd get these feedbacks happening that exacerbate global warming, but this could lead to a massive injection of greenhouse gases.

"If we don't take action very soon, we could unleash runaway global warming that will be beyond our control and it will lead to social, economic and environmental devastation worldwide," he said. "There's still time to take action, but not much."

Upon receiving news of this report,

the POTUS made a few edits.

This would be funny

if it weren't so pitiful.

And in a world not to far away,

this kind of cavalier regard

for the well being of your


over the well being of your citizens,

will be a criminal event.

Perhaps even worse than not having sex.

Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other breaks into pieces.

Henry David Thoreau

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Blogger Step Back said...

Keep a watch on Climate Ark web site. The thawing permafrost problem is not new news there.


2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more reason why our generation doesn't longingly wish that we could live it all over again.

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good Oz, as usual the optimistic part is so teeny that it doesn't exsist.

Our generation had it good and now we will watch and be able to say," SEE I TOLD YOU SO!"

Anyway any nation whose national symbol eats it's own young deserves what it gets.

Can we adapt to breathing methane? We adpted to meth?

7:28 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

Yes, climate ark is a great site. I have them in the links sections.
Real climate is another pretty good site for keeping up. both are linked under global.

thanks lem for your comments.

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Oz, for keeping us alert on this subject. Maybe when Cindy Sheehan has the war stopped, she can be gotten interested in sustainable living. Of course living in tents in bar ditches would get one's attention about simple living.

10:06 AM  

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