August 10, 2005

Siberian Permafrost Melting

This Guardian article explains what's happening in Siberia right now:

A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today.
Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. ...

While the 'jury' was out, the permafrost has been melting. The permanent frost. An ice pack that's been sitting there longer than all of recorded human history.

As the article goes on to explain, this area of the world is heating up faster than any other point on the planet. Melting of this type in the no-longer permafrost near the North Pole will have far more severe effects for the rest of the world because of the radical difference in heat absorption between ice pack and bare earth. Heat that would have been reflected into space will be absorbed into the thawing ground.

As this ice melts, it takes with it the ancient records of our climate history stored in its deeper layers. As it releases the methane stored underneath it and soaks in the sun's rays for the first time in thousands of years, it takes with it another piece of our future.

Posted by natasha at August 10, 2005 10:38 PM | Environment | Technorati links |

But the right has said there is no such thing as global warming.

Posted by: Scott at August 11, 2005 04:39 AM

Is there a viable use for methane gas? Can it somehow be contained and used for energy??

Posted by: Cappy at August 12, 2005 09:15 PM

Yes, methane can be used for energy. When it's burned, which produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct, which is another greenhouse gas.

The only way out of this is to reduce our use of hydrocarbons for energy, with the goal of putting an end to it altogether.

Posted by: natasha at August 14, 2005 12:19 AM