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The Arctic is Warming and its Carbon Cycle is Speeding Up

The Arctic is Warming and its Carbon Cycle is Speeding Up

Article By: Jennifer Boyer; Photo By Hannes Grobe

The Arctic Carbon Cycle and climate change are intimately linked via a positive feedback loop, and now we can see those interactions playing out.

When Arctic soils and permafrost are warmed, they release carbon stored in both the active layer (which freezes/thaws annually) and in the permafrost layers beneath, containing frozen organic matter from two to thousands of years ago. Warming leads to aerobic and anaerobic decomposition by microbial communities, which then releases CO2 or CH4 to the atmosphere.

This process is referred to as a positive feedback loop due to the additive effect thawing has on climate change, and climate change has on thawing. And it is estimated that there is twice as much carbon stored in permafrost than there currently is in the atmosphere.

The Arctic is Warming and its Carbon Cycle is Speeding Up

In Alaska, where most of the state is covered in permafrost, much of the soil is close to surpassing freezing and sparking the positive feedback of the Arctic Carbon Cycle. The landscape in Alaska has already begun shifting, literally. The foundations of homes, roads, and airport landing strips are requiring additional reinforcements to address and prevent the cracking from the permafrosts freeze/thaw action. And by 2050, much of the permafrost in Alaska is predicted to disappear entirely, fundamentally changing the landscape in a geologically short period of time.

 

This post is an overview of NYT "Alaska Permafrost Is Thawing"

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