The "abrupt thaw" of permafrost under Arctic lakes could accelerate the climate change and alter the models the scientists use to predict its development, says a new study carried out by the researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Permafrost is already thawing in some parts such as lakes beneath the Arctic.
Current models attribute just 20 percent of the permafrost thawing in this century to methane.
Also germane to the discussion is the fact that this region under the Arctic landscape contains a huge reserve of organic carbon that has, until recently, been safely contained by the frozen soil of the permafrost.
But when it slowly melts, the soil microbes eat the carbon and produce carbon dioxide and methane, which enters the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
Additionally, Walter Antony and a group of US and German researchers used field measurements and computer models to determine "that abrupt thawing more than doubles previous estimates of permafrost-derived greenhouse warming".
"We have done field work and remote sensing work and modeling work to show that if we account for this really rapid deep thaw of permafrost beneath lakes, that it leads to the release of large quantities of permafrost carbon", Walter Anthony said. Within my lifetime, my children's lifetime, it should be ramping up ...More news: NZ Minister for Women cycles to hospital to give birth
We won't have to wait two to three hundred years to witness these large emissions either, claims the primary author of the study, Katey Walter Anthony.
They found that the abrupt thaw process increases the release of ancient carbon stored in the soil 125 to 190 percent compared to gradual thawing alone.
The gradual thaw process was thought to have minimal effect as thawed ground would stimulate the growth of plants, which counterbalance the carbon released into the atmosphere by consuming it during photosynthesis.
According to experts, the most serious threat to the climate - not greenhouse gases produced by humanity, and the thawing of ancient ice under thermokarst lakes.
Because the same amount of ice takes up more volume than water, the land surface slumps and subsides, creating a small depression that then fills with water from rain, snow melt and ground ice melt. "For decades, can be formed very deep thermal holes to a depth of from several to tens of meters", - says Walter Anthony.
They then compared the emissions to five locations where gradual thawing occurs instead. "Ancient greenhouse gases go out".More news: EU`s relief fund for Lombok earthquakes reaches U.S. $1.4 million
Adding computer modelling and satellite imagery from 1999 to 2014, they were able to estimate the amount of permafrost converted to thawed soil - and it's bad news there, too.
When this happens under thermokarst lakes, formed an even more grim picture, as the water on the surface accelerates melting on the bottom.
As the Arctic warms, some of its lakes are bubbling.
"You can't stop the release of carbon from these lakes once they form".
Walter Anthony said she's been measuring methane releases since 2001, but most of the calculations incorporated into the study have been within the past 2 1/2 years.More news: C$ gains as accelerating inflation raises rate hike prospects