60% More Greenhouse Gases Trapped in Permafrost Than Previously Thought

rainbow in arctic tundra photo

photo: ADM via flickr

In the spirit of an ongoing series of new discoveries which could be titled "whoops, things are a lot worse than we thought" Yahoo News/AFP is reporting that according to new research coming out to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and published in Nature Geoscience, the stock of organic carbon stored in Arctic permafrost is 60% higher than previous estimates.

One-Sixth of Carbon Currently in Atmosphere Stored in N. American Permafrost
The amount of greenhouse gasses stored in the area which the researchers examined, 117 sites across North America, is "roughly equivalent to one sixth of the entire carbon content in the atmosphere." Again, that is just for North America: European and Asian Arctic regions probably hold a similar amount of stored carbon.
Climate Change Models Will Need Revision
So what that means is basically that a lot more climate change causing gases will be released into the atmosphere as the arctic warms and the permafrost melts than we've accounted for before.

All I can say is 'yikes!' Well, actually some more pithy phrases not suitable for a public audience came to mind too, but yikes sums it up well enough.

Christina Beer of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, who wrote commentary for the original journal article, stated the situation more soberly than I:

Releasing even a portion of this carbon into the atmosphere, in the form of methane or carbon dioxide, would have a significant impact on Earth's climate.

via :: Yahoo News/AFP
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