Publication in Nature, 29/08/2012

Site: Barcelona, Stockholm, Manchester, Zurich

According to Nature, thawing of the Arctic permafrost may cause massive emissions of greenhouse gases - Press Release

The Nature article with the title "Activation of old carbon by erosion of coastal and subsea permafrost in Arctic Siberia", which has been published online today, presents an estimation of emissions for Arctic carbon, which could reach a magnitude of up to 44 million tons per year - about ten times more than estimated before. According to the expert team comprised of members from the University of Stockholm, among them IC3's postdoctoral researcher Laura Sánchez-García currently working at LAO, the analysis of the organic carbon content in the semi-permanently frozen soil (permafrost) in the Arctic suggests that about 2/3 of this carbon will be released directly to the atmosphere, mainly in the form of CO2. 
The coastal region of the Arctic, where the half of the planet's terrestral carbon deposits are located, is suffering a warming two times greater than the global average. The rising mean temperatures in the Arctic lead to thawing of the permafrost during longer time periods and with greater profundity, activating carbon deposits that had been protected by the ice shield before. The scientists conclude that the thermal collapse of the permafrost could eventually lead to an acceleration of climate change in the Arctic. Although the current rhtythm of the carbon emissions at the northeastern Siberian coast do not yet affect the CO2 levels substantially at a global scale, this study demonstrates that the process towards it is well underway.