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Thawing Permafrost Emissions

Posted on: April 22, 2019

 

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  1. CITATION: Wilkerson, J., Dobosy, R., Sayres, D. S., Healy, C., Dumas, E., Baker, B., and Anderson, J. G.: Permafrost nitrous oxide emissions observed on a landscape scale using the airborne eddy-covariance method, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 19, 4257-4268, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-19-4257-2019, 2019. ABSTRACT: The microbial by-product nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas and ozone depleting substance, has conventionally been assumed to have minimal emissions in permafrost regions. This assumption has been questioned by recent in situ studies which have demonstrated that some geologic features in permafrost may, in fact, have elevated emissions comparable to those of tropical soils. However, these recent studies, along with every known in situ study focused on permafrost N2O fluxes, have used chambers to examine small areas (less than 50 square meters). In late August 2013, we used the airborne eddy-covariance technique to make in situ N2O flux measurements over the North Slope of Alaska from a low-flying aircraft spanning a much larger area: around 310 square km. We observed large variability of N2O fluxes with many areas exhibiting negligible emissions. Still, the daily mean averaged over our flight campaign was 3.8 (2.2–4.7) mg N2O m−2 d−1 with the 90 % confidence interval shown in parentheses. If these measurements are representative of the whole month, then the permafrost areas we observed emitted a total of around 0.04–0.09 g m−2 for August, which is comparable to what is typically assumed to be the upper limit of yearly emissions for these regions. FULL TEXT: [LINK] .
  2. INTERPRETATION OF THESE FINDINGS IN TERMS OF CLIMATE CHANGE APOCALYPSE:  “Emissions from thawing Arctic permafrost may be 12 times higher than thought, scientists say. ‘This needs to be taken more seriously than it is right now,’ says author of new study. [LINK]  .  “Emissions from thawing Arctic permafrost may be 12 times higher than previously thought, scientists have discovered.  #ClimateBreakdown #EcologicalEmergency” [LINK] . 
  3. TESTABLE IMPLICATION: The extreme heat trapping effect of N2O in conjunction with the large outflow of emissions from thawing Arctic permafrost in the North Slope of Alaska on August 2, 2013 is interpreted in the sources cited above as a dangerous positive feedback of greenhouse effect global warming. The testable implication is that this extreme event should have left a mark in the temperature record that should show a warming event. 
  4. A TEST FOR A TEMPERATURE EFFECT: Shown below are UAH satellite (deseasonalized) temperature anomalies for land in the North Polar region for each of the twelve calendar months in the sample period 2008-2018. The year 2013 falls in the middle of the study period 2008-2018.
  5. Figure 1 shows full span trends for each of the 12 calendar months. These trends are depicted graphically in the GIF image of Figure 3 which cycles through the twelve calendar months. The month of August, when the N2O emission was detected, does not appear to be different from the other months in either Figure 1 or Figure 3.
  6. Figure 2 is a GIF image that displays the trend across the twelve calendar months for each year in the study period 2008-2018. Nothing unusual is found in the year 2013 when the N2O emission was detected.
  7. The testable implication of the N2O event of August of 2013 is that if the GHG effect of the released N2O had an effect on temperature there ought to be something unusual about the month of August in Figure 3 or something unusual about the year 2013 in Figure 2. No such evidence is found in the data.
  8. Figure 1: Full span trends for each calendar month  fullspanTrends
  9. Figure 2: Temperature trends across calendar months January-December for each year in the sample period. The vertical red line marks the year 2013.    years-gif
  10. Figure 3: Temperature trends across the sample period 2008-2018 for each calendar month. The vertical red line marks the month of August.      months-gif
  11. CONCLUSION: It is noteworthy that the authors were able to detect a large release of N2O from thawing permafrost in the North Slope of Alaska but their further interpretation of the data in terms catastrophic runaway positive feedback warming due to the extreme GHG effect of N2O is not evident in the data.

 

 

PAST PERMAFROST MELT ALARMS

  1. 1997, THE BBC MAKES THE CASE FOR THE KYOTO PROTOCOL
    Twenty years of hard data from meteorological stations and nature show a clear warming trend. Growth rings in Mongolian and Canadian trees are getting wider. Butterflies in California are moving to higher ground once too cold for butterflies. Stalactites in Britain are growing faster. The growing season for crops in Australia is getting longer. Permafrost in Siberia and Canada is melting. The evidence is there anywhere you look. A warming rate is one 1C per century is enough to wreak havoc. The cause is the greenhouse effect of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels as well as CFCs and HCFCs that trap heat. The effect is being compounded as deforestation simultaneously removes trees that absorb CO2. Some scientists are skeptical but the majority view is that the greenhouse effect is real and it requires urgent action. This conclusion rests on the results from sophisticated computer simulation models that give the best possible information on this topic even though they are not perfect. These models are giving us scary accounts of the future and we should be paying attention. The IPCC tell us that melting ice and thermal expansion of oceans will cause the sea level to rise one meter by 2037 and inundate low lying areas and island nations. Extreme weather events will become common. El Nino and La Nina cycles will become more extreme. There will be millions of climate refugees driven from their home by global warming. Some regions of the world will become hotter, others colder, some wetter, others drier. Entire weather systems will be dramatically altered. The Gulf Stream will switch off making Europe colder. Tropical diseases such as malaria will ravage the world as vectors migrate to higher latitudes and altitudes. Some wheat farmers may be able to grow more wheat but the net effect of global warming is overwhelmingly negative.
  2. 2004, RAPID ARCTIC WARMING BRINGS SEA LEVEL RISE
    The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) report says: increasing greenhouse gases from human activities is causing the Arctic to warm twice as fast as the rest of the planet; in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia winter temperatures have risen by 2C to 4C in the last 50 years; the Arctic will warm by 4C to 7C by 2100. A portion of Greenland’s ice sheet will melt; global sea levels will rise; global warming will intensify. Greenland contains enough melting ice to raise sea levels by 7 meters; Bangkok, Manila, Dhaka, Florida, Louisiana, and New Jersey are at risk of inundation; thawing permafrost and rising seas threaten Arctic coastal regions; climate change will accelerate and bring about profound ecological and social changes; the Arctic is experiencing the most rapid and severe climate change on earth and it’s going to get a lot worse; Arctic summer sea ice will decline by 50% to 100%polar bears will be driven towards extinction; this report is an urgent SOS for the Arctic; forest fires and insect infestations will increase in frequency and intensity; changing vegetation and rising sea levels will shrink the tundra to its lowest level in 21000 years; vanishing breeding areas for birds and grazing areas for animals will cause extinctions of many species; “if we limit emission of heat trapping carbon dioxide we can still help protect the Arctic and slow global warming”.
  3. 2009: CATASTROPHIC ICE MELT NEEDS TREATY AT COPENHAGEN
    Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have caused the following alarming changes to our planet: (1) ice covering the Arctic Ocean shrank in 2007 to its smallest since satellite records began, (2) In Antarctica, a section of the Wilkins Ice Shelf has broken up in recent days, (3) glaciers in the Himalayan mountains are shrinking and threatening to disrupt water supplies to hundreds of millions of people, (4) melting permafrost in Siberia will release large quantities of methane into the atmosphere and hasten global warming, and (5) if all of the land based ice in Antarctica melted it would raise the sea level by 80 meters. More info: http://chaamjamal.blogspot.com/2009/04/reference-melting-ice-to-spur-new.html

 

 

THAWING PERMAFROST FEEDBACK BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Koven, Charles D., et al. “Permafrost carbon-climate feedbacks accelerate global warming.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108.36 (2011): 14769-14774.  Permafrost soils contain enormous amounts of organic carbon, which could act as a positive feedback to global climate change due to enhanced respiration rates with warming. We used a terrestrial ecosystem model that includes permafrost carbon dynamics, inhibition of respiration in frozen soil layers, vertical mixing of soil carbon from surface to permafrost layers, and CH4 emissions from flooded areas, and which better matches new circumpolar inventories of soil carbon stocks, to explore the potential for carbon-climate feedbacks at high latitudes. Contrary to model results for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4), when permafrost processes are included, terrestrial ecosystems north of 60°N could shift from being a sink to a source of CO2 by the end of the 21st century when forced by a Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A2 climate change scenario. Between 1860 and 2100, the model response to combined CO2 fertilization and climate change changes from a sink of 68 Pg to a 27 + -7 Pg sink to 4 + -18 Pg source, depending on the processes and parameter values used. The integrated change in carbon due to climate change shifts from near zero, which is within the range of previous model estimates, to a climate-induced loss of carbon by ecosystems in the range of 25 + -3 to 85 + -16 Pg C, depending on processes included in the model, with a best estimate of a 62 + -7 Pg C loss. Methane emissions from high-latitude regions are calculated to increase from 34 Tg CH4/y to 41–70 Tg CH4/y, with increases due to CO2 fertilization, permafrost thaw, and warming-induced increased CH4flux densities partially offset by a reduction in wetland extent.
  2. MacDougall, Andrew H., Christopher A. Avis, and Andrew J. Weaver. “Significant contribution to climate warming from the permafrost carbon feedback.” Nature Geoscience 5.10 (2012): 719.  Permafrost soils contain an estimated 1,700 Pg of carbon, almost twice the present atmospheric carbon pool1. As permafrost soils thaw owing to climate warming, respiration of organic matter within these soils will transfer carbon to the atmosphere, potentially leading to a positive feedback2. Models in which the carbon cycle is uncoupled from the atmosphere, together with one-dimensional models, suggest that permafrost soils could release 7–138 Pg carbon by 2100 (refs 34). Here, we use a coupled global climate model to quantify the magnitude of the warming generated by the feedback between permafrost carbon release and climate. According to our simulations, permafrost soils will release between 68 and 508 Pg carbon by 2100. We show that the additional surface warming generated by the feedback between permafrost carbon and climate is independent of the pathway of anthropogenic emissions followed in the twenty-first century. We estimate that this feedback could result in an additional warming of 0.13–1.69 °C by 2300. We further show that the upper bound for the strength of the feedback is reached under the less intensive emissions pathways. We suggest that permafrost carbon release could lead to significant warming, even under less intensive emissions trajectories.
  3. Schaefer, Kevin, et al. “The impact of the permafrost carbon feedback on global climate.” Environmental Research Letters9.8 (2014): 085003.  Degrading permafrost can alter ecosystems, damage infrastructure, and release enough carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) to influence global climate. The permafrost carbon feedback (PCF) is the amplification of surface warming due to CO2 and CH4 emissions from thawing permafrost. An analysis of available estimates PCF strength and timing indicate 120 ± 85 Gt of carbon emissions from thawing permafrost by 2100. This is equivalent to 5.7 ± 4.0% of total anthropogenic emissions for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 scenario and would increase global temperatures by 0.29 ± 0.21 °C or 7.8 ± 5.7%. For RCP4.5, the scenario closest to the 2 °C warming target for the climate change treaty, the range of cumulative emissions in 2100 from thawing permafrost decreases to between 27 and 100 Gt C with temperature increases between 0.05 and 0.15 °C, but the relative fraction of permafrost to total emissions increases to between 3% and 11%. Any substantial warming results in a committed, long-term carbon release from thawing permafrost with 60% of emissions occurring after 2100, indicating that not accounting for permafrost emissions risks overshooting the 2 °C warming target. Climate projections in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), and any emissions targets based on those projections, do not adequately account for emissions from thawing permafrost and the effects of the PCF on global climate. We recommend the IPCC commission a special assessment focusing on the PCF and its impact on global climate to supplement the AR5 in support of treaty negotiation.
  4. Schuur, Edward AG, et al. “Climate change and the permafrost carbon feedback.” Nature 520.7546 (2015): 171.  Large quantities of organic carbon are stored in frozen soils (permafrost) within Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. A warming climate can induce environmental changes that accelerate the microbial breakdown of organic carbon and the release of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. This feedback can accelerate climate change, but the magnitude and timing of greenhouse gas emission from these regions and their impact on climate change remain uncertain (TRANSLATION: uncertain = un-quantified”). Here we find that current evidence suggests a gradual and prolonged release of greenhouse gas emissions in a warming climate and present a research strategy with which to target poorly understood aspects of permafrost carbon dynamics. (how to say politey “we don’t really know”).
  5. Koven, Charles D., David M. Lawrence, and William J. Riley. “Permafrost carbon− climate feedback is sensitive to deep soil carbon decomposability but not deep soil nitrogen dynamics.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.12 (2015): 3752-3757.  Permafrost soils contain enormous amounts of organic carbon whose stability is contingent on remaining frozen. With future warming, these soils may release carbon to the atmosphere and act as a positive feedback to climate change. Significant uncertainty remains on the post-thaw carbon dynamics of permafrost-affected ecosystems, in particular since most of the carbon resides at depth where decomposition dynamics may differ from surface soils, and since nitrogen mineralized by decomposition may enhance plant growth. Here we show, using a carbon−nitrogen model that includes permafrost processes forced in an unmitigated warming scenario, that the future carbon balance of the permafrost region is highly sensitive to the decomposability of deeper carbon, with the net balance ranging from 21 Pg C to 164 Pg C losses by 2300. Increased soil nitrogen mineralization reduces nutrient limitations, but the impact of deep nitrogen on the carbon budget is small due to enhanced nitrogen availability from warming surface soils and seasonal asynchrony between deeper nitrogen availability and plant nitrogen demands. Although nitrogen dynamics are highly uncertain, the future carbon balance of this region is projected to hinge more on the rate and extent of permafrost thaw and soil decomposition than on enhanced nitrogen availability for vegetation growth resulting from permafrost thaw.

 

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