Winter effect of Arctic emissions may have been understated, fear scientists

Winter effect of Arctic emissions may have been understated, fear scientists

A new study has brought forth a startling finding that Arctic permafrost and methane, the gases released below the surface of the ice, have been released at a much higher rate in recent years than thought earlier, a factor that has contributed immensely to climate change and global warming.

The issue, as such, has become a hot topic for discussion among scientists, activists and policymakers debating climate change. Scientists fear that permafrost may assume alarming proportions in the future, thus contributing immensely to global warming.

While studies so far have only assessed the summer effect of permafrost, a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims the winter effect of the emissions, particularly of methane gas, may have been overlooked till now. Summer is a period when Arctic temperatures are at their highest.

“The cold period in general is the time of the year that is warming the fastest in these Arctic ecosystems”, said the new study's lead author, Donatella Zona , an assistant professor at San Diego State University and research fellow at the University of Sheffield. “Really, if we're thinking about the future of climate change, we need to understand if this time of the year (winter months) is important”, Donatella noted.

According to a report from the Gizmag, the observations focused on the amount of methane – a greenhouse gas that has a big impact of atmospheric warming – escaping from the Arctic tundra, caused largely by the decomposition of embedded organic matter. It's important to monitor these emissions, as it's thought that climate change may significantly increase the amount of gas escaping, especially that currently caught in a stable layer of frozen soil called permafrost.
In a statement provided to BABW News, permafrost in the Arctic is soil that has never been in a state other than frozen solid; it contains large quantities of organic material that have more or less been preserved since the soil first formed thousands of years ago. As permafrost thaws, so does this ancient organic material. As it decomposes, it emits unfathomable quantities of methane.

Scientists are just starting to wrap their heads around how much methane is actually being released as the Arctic permafrost thaws. The majority of recent permafrost research has focused on how it behaves during the warmer summer months in the Arctic, but the recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science examined how much methane is being released into the atmosphere during the cold season. Spoiler alert: it’s more than anyone previously suspected.

Rising temperatures in the Arctic are concerning for scientists, who are worried that thawing permafrost will become a major contributor to global emissions of greenhouse gases, writes The Washington Post.

"The cold period in general is the time of the year that is warming the fastest in these Arctic ecosystems," the new study's lead author Donatella Zona, an assistant professor at San Diego State University and research fellow at the University of Sheffield, told The Washington Post.

Emissions are important in both estimating current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and making predictions for the future. So far, most studies have focused on the way permafrost behaves in the summer, when Arctic temperatures are at their highest. Most studies have focused on how permafrost acts in summer, but a new study suggests that cold-season emissions of methane gas have been overlooked, told the Design Trend.

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