January 28, 2022

Beyond Going Long

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The melting of permafrost in the Arctic threatens the entire world

The thawing of perpetually frozen land in the Arctic, which could release massive amounts of greenhouse gases, threatens not only local infrastructure, but the entire planet.

According to AFP, this follows a new study published this week by the professional journal Nature. Permafrost, which usually does not thaw even in summer, covers thirty million square kilometers of the planet, about half of which is in the Arctic.

The temperature rises faster

It contains twice the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and three times the amount that has been released into the air since 1850 due to human activity.

The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world due to climate change, by two to three degrees Celsius compared to the temperature before the industrial revolution.

Experts in the region have also noted a number of meteorological anomalies. Permanently frozen soil, which has been at zero degrees Celsius and lower for at least two years, recorded an average temperature increase of 0.4 degrees Celsius between 2007 and 2016.

Permafrost temperatures riseRaises concerns about rapid melting and possible release of carbon dioxidesaid study author Kimberly Miner, who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Latest study

According to the study, nearly four million square kilometers of permanently frozen land will be lost by 2100, even if global warming is halted.

Research shows that fires will also play a role. The number of these uncontrollable elements could increase by 130 to 350 percent by mid-century, releasing more and more carbon dioxide from the perpetually frozen soil.

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According to another study led by Jan Hjort, a researcher at the University of Finland in Oula, nearly 70 percent of roads, pipelines, places and factories built on perpetually frozen land are at immediate risk. Russia is especially at risk. Almost half of the oil and gas fields in the Russian Arctic are located in permafrost regions.

In 2020, more than 21 thousand tons of diesel and lubricants escaped from the reservoir of the thermal power plant near the Russian city of Norilsk due to the thawing of permafrost that got into several rivers and lakes.

Knowledge of permafrost

Roads and oil pipelines are also threatened by heating the perpetually frozen lands of North America. Although scientific knowledge about permafrost is getting deeper, some questions remain unanswered, including how much carbon dioxide can be released.

According to Minerova and colleagues, thawing of permafrost is not sufficiently taken into account in models of global warming. It is also unclear whether the thawing will lead to afforestation of the Arctic, where plants will be able to absorb the carbon dioxide released, or drying out of an area that experiences frequent fires.