Sunday, June 15, 2008

Melting Arctic Ice a Threat to Melt Permafrost

The vast stretches of permafrost in the northern hemisphere could start to melt at three times the anticipated rate because of increased warming due to the shrinking amount of ice in the Arctic which results in a reduction in reflected light from the sun and increased absorption of heat. This possibility was discovered from computer models run by scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. A member of the research team, David Lawrence, told The Independent that about 30% of all carbon stored in soils is stored in soils in the Arctic region. Melting of the permafrost could release huge amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from the soils which could have a drastic effect on climate.

Since many scientists believe that all of the Arctic ice will melt in the summer within the next few decades if not sooner no matter what actions are taken to stop global warming this looks like a situation where we just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best. However, it is not comforting that computer models seem to often underestimate the effects of warming rather than overestimate the effects. In fact, the speed at which the Arctic ice is melting had been a great surprise. As has been the speed that glaciers are melting. All in all this has so far been a bad century for global warming optimists and the worst might still be ahead.

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