Melting Arctic Ice Increases Permafrost Thaw Farther Inland Than Previously Thought

Ship Amid Melting Arctic Ice

image: Andrew Davies via flickr

In one more example of the interwoven and far reaching consequences of climate change, a new study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research indicates that as Arctic sea ice starts melting more quickly, permafrost hundreds of miles inland could also see accelerated melting. This means climatic changes in Russia, Alaska and Canada could occur more quickly and dramatically than previously expected.Record Arctic Ice Melting
As Treehugger reported, and as many readers are probably aware, the extent of summer melt-off of Arctic ice set a record last year: 30% below average. And from August to September air temperatures over land were 4°F higher than the 1978-2006 average. These two dramatic events were the impetus behind this research, to be published Friday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Graphic of future Arctic temperature trends

graphic courtesy NCAR
Rapid Ice Loss Equals Rapid Land Warming
The climate models the group used suggest that during periods of rapid sea-ice loss the rate of land warming up to 900 miles inland is 350% greater than the average 21st century warming rates as predicted by other models. This means that areas along the Arctic coasts could see temperatures rise by as much as 9°F (5°C).

When this happens the summer melting of permafrost accelerates so quickly and so deeply that it has the potential to not entirely refreeze the following winter. This in turn can sandwich a layer of defrosted soil between two soil layers, which can hasten the long-term melting in the area. Which in turn will hasten the release of greenhouse gases trapped in the soil and further accelerate the entire process.

via :: Reuters and the :: National Center for Atmospheric Research
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