Carbon-rich permafrost at risk of thawing

By on March 4, 2013
High Arctic permafrost (Credit: Brocken Inaglory, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists say that a climate only slightly warmer than today’s is capable of thawing large portions of permafrost, according to a study published in Science. Permafrost exists in nearly a quarter of all exposed land in the Northern Hemisphere.

Preserving permafrost is an important component of carbon control because the frozen ground stores twice as much carbon as there is in Earth’s atmosphere, most recently measured at 390 parts per million.

The researchers used mineral deposits in Siberian caves to date the history of permafrost in past climate states. Their findings showed the deposits didn’t show growth in periods that were only slightly warmer than present.

Contributing to the study were scientists from England, Mongolia, Russia and Switzerland.

Image: High Arctic permafrost (Credit: Brocken Inaglory, via Wikimedia Commons)

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