The International Meteorological Organization recently released a report detailing the effects of global warming as of 2011 weather. 2011 is currently tied for the 10th warmest year on record in the first ten months, with significant warming in northern regions such as the Arctic and Russia. This warming will likely trigger significant permafrost thawing, which will in turn amplify warming.
According to a new study published in the journal Nature, increased warming in regions of the Arctic, such as Siberia, is causing increased thawing of permafrost in these areas. The scientists making up the Permafrost Carbon Research Network noted their concerns that this thawing will increase the methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thereby increasing global warming.
Permafrost is essentially frozen soil which contains many layers of decayed carbon materials, such as plants. Permafrost can be very thick and contains carbon dating back many thousands of years. The thawing from increased temperatures causes the release of both carbon dioxide and methane. Methane is a strong greenhouse gas, which is between 20 and 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. The release of methane, along with the carbon dioxide, due to global warming will simply compound the issue of climate change.
The recently published study found that the current summer melting of a few surface inches of permafrost will potentially jump to around ten feet in depth. In addition, permafrost contribution to carbon emissions will likely be around 45 billion metric tons in the next thirty years. This is equivalent to five years of fossil fuel use emissions worldwide.
Overall the scientists indicated that by the year 2100, permafrost may contribute 300 or more billion metric tons of carbon emissions. Permafrost emissions could increase global warming by a factor of twenty to thirty percent compared to current fossil fuel emissions impact alone.