According to a new study, the melting of the permafrost is connected closely to the absence of Arctic sea ice. The study is significant because permafrost contains carbon in massive amounts; these will very likely release as the world heats up under the shifts of climate change. When this carbon finds its way into the atmosphere as methane gas and CO2, it will join the other factors contributing to the warming of the globe.
Scientists have found a link between the sea ice located in the Arctic and the absence or presence of permafrost that is historical. They predict that the expected loss of Arctic ice in the summer will hasten the loss of the ground that is permanently frozen. Permafrost covers roughly a quarter of the hemisphere in the north. It is any ground type that has experienced a frozen condition for two or more years.
In permafrost’s solid-state, the typical microbial decomposition halts materials of organic nature. The methane and carbon dioxide that is produced by this process thus remains in the ground. The significance of this is that regions of permanently frozen Canada, Siberia, Alaska, and Greenland store roughly twice the amount of carbon. As the planet warms, the microbes resume activity, causing the greenhouse gases to drift upwards once again.
Climate change could bring a real threat of what would be a vicious cycle, with scientists worrying that warming releases those gases from the ground that has been frozen solid, in turn worsening the heating by a problematic degree. More, the new study indicates that the rise in global temperatures is alone in threatening the permafrost.
Caves in Siberia found close to the current boundary of permafrost have been explored to locate ancient stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones formed by liquid water being present. These records only grew in the absence of permafrost. Arctic sea ice and permafrost seem related. At present, the scientists have not been able to precisely date the studied stalagmites to the extent necessary for accuracy in predicting the speed of the melt. With the collapse of permafrost anticipated to come this century, the Arctic is growing free of sea ice in summer within the decades to come.