Inspenet, August 26, 2023.
Some areas of the Arctic are experiencing higher-than-usual snow levels, which is accelerating the thawing process in carbon stores held in long-frozen permafrost.
This process is resulting in an increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases , such as carbon dioxide and methane, as a recent study led by Earth system scientists at the University of California at Irvine warns.
“This is the first long-term experiment where we directly measure the mobilization of ancient carbon throughout the year to show that deeper snow has the potential to mobilize carbon quite rapidly deep in the ground,” Claudia explained in a statement. Czimczik, a professor of Earth system sciences and lead author of the study, which appears in AGU Advances.
It also supports the idea that carbon emissions from permafrost will contribute to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which are already rising.
study in the arctic
Data collection for the study was conducted at the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX), located at Toolik Lake in Alaska. This experiment, which began in 1994 under the direction of study co-author Jeff Welker of the local university, originally aimed to understand how deeper snow cover would affect Arctic tundra ecosystems.
In recent years, the team conducted research at the ITEX site and found that a common arctic ecosystem, known as scrub tundra, had begun to release stored carbon dioxide year-round. This was due to thawing of the permafrost under the snow cover, which had been three to four times deeper than the average time since 1994.
When the research began, both Welker’s team and climate scientists did not anticipate that experimental manipulation to increase snow depth would result in such an accelerated melting of permafrost.
“These findings suggest that permafrost stability in Arctic Alaska, and possibly globally, may respond quite rapidly to changes in Arctic winter snow conditions, where that time of year can last up to eight months.” he added. “Winter weather feedbacks like this are a previously unrecognized and unrecognized feature of the tundra.”
According to Czimczik, the team’s results indicate that even if the emission of global warming gases such as CO 2 were to cease immediately, emissions from Arctic sources would persist.
To date, the climate change models used by organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to predict different scenarios of this phenomenon do not consider emissions from permafrost, partly due to their difficult quantification. However, Czimczik and his team developed sensors at the University of California at Irvine and were able to measure these emissions directly at their research site in the Arctic.
In 2019, the sensors were installed by student Shawn Pedron and University of Alaska postdoctoral researcher Gus Jespersen.