By: Ben Feld
Summary. Climate change is having a serious impact on all different places around the World, Oceans, Temperate lands, but none have been as effected as harshly as the north pole and Arctic circle. The Arctic circle was once considered a carbon sink, now due to snow ice and permafrost melting, it now releases more carbon than it absorbs from the atmosphere. The Arctic is warming at two times the rate of the rest of the world and this is not good. According to the Artic institute, permafrost covers almost a quarter of all land in the northern hemisphere. Permafrost refers to parts of the world where it is so cold the ground is always frozen, this happens in parts of Russia, Svalbard, Greenland, Northern Canada, and Alaska. Recently with the global increase of temperatures these lands have started to warm up and have lost their permafrost status. There are four million people living in permafrost areas whose homes and infrastructure will be effected by the melting. This permafrost holds 1,700 tons of organic material in it meaning once it is melted it will all decompose and end up in the atmosphere. Because of the mass amounts of organic material when permafrost melting starts happening more rapidly it will only continue to get worse as a negative feedback loop is created. Permafrost is also melting around coastlines which in addition to the lack of new ocean ice forming has led to receding shorelines, this has already effected small islands and coastal homes in Russia and Alaska. Of course, we cannot forget the frozen bacteria and viruses the world hasn’t seen in over one hundred years that are now being released by the melting permafrost. In addition Native peoples are also having their natural homes destroyed by the melting of permafrost.
Why we should care? The amount of carbon trapped in the permafrost is equivalent to about four times the amount humans have already released in 200 years.
This article was very interesting because it shows almost all the effects of melting permafrost I mentioned on the environment. As we can see a massive crater has opened up because of the melting of permafrost. Inside the crater was methane, a greenhouse gas with incredible reflecting power, four times that of carbon dioxide. The crater was 30 meters deep, or about 90 feet, that is a lot of methane that could have been released by it. This also shows how these craters can open up seemingly randomly and destroy whatever is on top of them, houses, train tracks, roads. I would hope this giant sinkhole helped people realize permafrost melting is a serious issue.
Science in Action.
Dr. Vladimir E. Romanovsky is a Professor of Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Dr. Romanovsky studies all things relating to the arctic, from human activities to groundwater and different soil influences. He has even researched how to find methane deposits on Mars and has done studies with satellites. He does mainly specialize in things relating to the artic and has written over 50 papers relating to the arctic. He is also a member of many scientific organizations researching climate change especially the effects on the arctic. He is a chair member on a member of the US Polar Research Board, the Vice President of the International Permafrost Association, and is also a member of the American Geophysical Union. Dr. Romanovsky has been committed to studying permafrost and has been doing it for 20 years and is considered an expert on the subject, he is relevant to permafrost and will seemingly be studying it until it runs out.