Russian permafrost could shrink by 30 percent

Here is another reason to act quickly and massively on climate : as we have seen previously, permafrost in Russia and other countries from these latitudes are trapping vast quantities of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas.

But as temperatures rise and rise and as the climate gets weirder and weirder, vast quantities of permafrost could melt by mid-century, thus releasing huge amounts of methane.

As the AFP noted last week :Russia’s vast permafrost areas may shrink by a third by the middle of the century due to global warming “

Climate Progress brings us some data :

The permafrost permamelt contains a staggering “1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere, much of which would be released as methane.

Methane is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 (to 100) times as potent over 20 years!

The carbon is locked in a freezer in the part of the planet warming up the fastest (see “Tundra 4: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss“).  Countless studies make clear that global warming will release vast quantities of GHGs into the atmosphere this decade. 

Yet, no climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra.

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