An Icy Reprieve for Our Climate Woes? Not Quite
Image from Northern Xander
Finally some "upbeat" news on climate change: According to a new study published in the latest issue of Science, permafrost may be more resistant to warmer temperatures than previously thought -- which means we may not yet need to sound the alarm about an imminent carbon "bomb". Evidence for this finding, made by the University of Alberta's Duane Froese, was supplied by a 700,000-year old ice wedge discovered in subarctic Canada, near Dawson City, Yukon.
The fact that the piece of ice hadn't melted during previous warm periods seemed to suggest that permafrost is a great deal more "stubborn" in the face of rapidly increasing temperatures, as Froese told the AFP.
Image from Science
A "carbon bomb" averted?
It wasn't too long ago that both Matthew and I wrote about new calculations suggesting the amount of greenhouse gases locked up in the permafrost may be twice as high as previously estimated.
"Deep" permafrost less vulnerable to climate change than previously thought
In his study, Froese recommends that current models predicting the extensive thawing of permafrost in response to climate change, potentially resulting in a large release of greenhouse gases (with devastating repercussions for our global climate), should be re-examined. Indeed, had some of these models proven accurate, the permafrost in the interior of Alaska and Yukon should have melted a long time ago, he points out.
Permafrost may have "some inherent properties" that help keep it cool, he says. Lest you think all these "permafrost thawing" stories we've been writing about are bunk, it's important to remember that the ice chunk he retrieved was found in the continuous, or "deep," layer of permafrost -- not a shallow layer (which Froese says we should still be worried about).
Finding doesn't necessarily show climate change will proceed at slower pace
Whether his study also suggests that climate change will proceed at a much slower pace than is widely predicted remains to be seen, however (most scientists seem to have a pretty shoddy track record when it comes to accurately predicting its intensity and speed).