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Arctic permafrost may unleash carbon within decades: NASA

Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis, so increased plant growth means less carbon in the atmosphere

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NASA to release two missions focused on moon soon in 2022. Pixabay
NASA positive about next planet-hunting mission. Pixabay
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  • Permafrost in Northern Arctic can potentially become a permanent source of Carbon
  • It was previously thought to be safe from the effects of Global Warming
  • Rising temperature in the Arctic can cause severe carbon emissions

Permafrost in the coldest northern Arctic — formerly thought to be at least temporarily shielded from global warming by its extreme environment — could thaw enough to become a permanent source of carbon to the atmosphere in a few decades, warns a NASA-led study. This will happen in this century, with the peak transition occurring in 40 to 60 years, said the study.

Permafrost in Northern Arctic can become a permanent source of carbon in this century itself, according to NASA. Wikimedia Commons
Permafrost in Northern Arctic can become a permanent source of carbon in this century itself, according to NASA. Wikimedia Commons

Permafrost is soil that has remained frozen for years or centuries under topsoil. It contains carbon-rich organic material, such as leaves, that froze without decaying, NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.

As rising Arctic air temperatures cause permafrost to thaw, the organic material decomposes and releases its carbon to the atmosphere in the form of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

The researchers calculated that as thawing continues, by the year 2300, total carbon emissions from the coldest northern Arctic will be 10 times as much as all human-produced fossil fuel emissions in 2016.

Warmer, more southerly permafrost regions will not become a carbon source until the end of the 22nd century, even though they are thawing now, said the study led by scientist Nicholas Parazoo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

That is because other changing Arctic processes will counter the effect of thawing soil in these regions.

The finding that the colder region would transition sooner than the warmer one came as a surprise, according to Parazoo. The researchers used data on soil temperatures in Alaska and Siberia and a numerical model that calculates changes in carbon emissions as plants grow and permafrost thaws in response to climate change.

They assessed when the Arctic will transition to a carbon source instead of the carbon-neutral area it is today — with some processes removing about as much carbon from the atmosphere as other processes emit.

World is under threat due to Global Warming. Wikimedia Commons

They divided the Arctic into two regions of equal size, a colder northern region and a warmer, more southerly belt encircling the northern region. There is far more permafrost in the northern region than in the southern one.

Over the course of the model simulations, northern permafrost lost about five times more carbon per century than southern permafrost.

The southern region transitioned more slowly in the model simulations, Parazoo said, because plant growth increased much faster than expected in the south.

Also Read: Global warming portends ill for India’s flourishing Dairy sector: Experts

Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis, so increased plant growth means less carbon in the atmosphere.

According to the model, as the southern Arctic grows warmer, increased photosynthesis will balance increased permafrost emissions until the late 2100s. IANS

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New Boss of NASA Gets Hearty Congratulations

NASA's new boss is already getting cheers from space.

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Vice President Mike Pence, left, shakes hands with the new NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, right, on stage during a swearing-in ceremony, April 23, 2018, at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Vice President Mike Pence, left, shakes hands with the new Administration of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Jim Bridenstine, right, on stage during a swearing-in ceremony, Monday, April 23, 2018, at NASA Headquarter in Washington. VOA

NASA’s new boss is already getting cheers from space.

Immediately after being sworn into office Monday by Vice President Mike Pence, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine took a call from the three U.S. astronauts at the International Space Station who offered “hearty congratulations.” The Oklahoma congressman became the 13th administrator of NASA, filling a position that had been vacant for more than a year.

“America loves what you guys are doing,” Bridenstine, a former naval aviator, told the astronauts. He promised to do his best “as we reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.”

This is the 60th anniversary year for NASA .

NASA office.
NASA. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bridenstine is the first elected official to lead NASA, something that had bogged down his nomination last year by President Donald Trump. The Senate approved his nomination last week by a narrow vote of 50-49. Monday’s swearing-in ceremony took place at NASA headquarters in Washington.

Pence noted that the space agency, under Bridenstine’s direction, will work to get astronauts back to the moon and then, with help from commercial space and international partners, on to Mars.

Also Read: NASA’s Planet-Hunting Telescope Lifts Off In U.S.

“NASA will lead the way,” said Pence, who heads the newly resurrected National Space Council.

Charles Bolden Jr., a former space shuttle commander and major general in the Marines, was NASA’s last official administrator. The space agency was led by Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot in the interim. Lightfoot retires from NASA at the end of this month.  VOA