Thawing Permafrost Releasing Another Overlooked Greenhouse Gas


Sites in Canada, Norway, and Greenland (here) were examined. Photo: Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, Trondheim via flickr.

Most of the time when the words 'thawing permafrost' and 'greenhouse gas' appear in a headline together it naturally leads to talking about methane, but not this time. Reuters reports that new research shows how another greenhouse gas is getting released as the Arctic warms: Nitrous oxide. The good news (if you can call much of anything related to our changing climate good news) is that according the research, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the additional release of the gas will only have a small additional impact compared to all the other gases being released (CO2 and methane).

Scientists from Copenhagen University looked at sites in Canada, Norway and Zackenberg in eastern Greenland, finding that in the latter case releases of nitrous oxide were 20 times those found in tropical forests--one of the main natural sources of the gas. Additionally, the levels observed in Greenland "may be in the low range."

Interestingly it wasn't just thawing that released the gas from the soil, provided that the soils drained. However, when the soils became resaturated with meltwater nitrous oxide released soared.

Read the original: High nitrous oxide production from thawing permafrost [subscription or pay-per-read required]

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More on Global Warming Science:
Only 10% of Permafrost Melting Could Tip Planet Towards Catastrophic Warming
Even More Methane Found Leaking From Arctic Seafloor
CO2 Emissions Rose 2% in 2008, Despite Recession - We're on Target for 6°C Temperature Rise

Tags: Arctic | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Science