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Alaska's Thawing Soils Cause Huge Carbon Dioxide Emissions Into The Air

First Posted: May 12, 2017 05:40 AM EDT
FM15 Press Conference Alaska’s Thawing Permafrost Latest Results And Future Projections
Alaska is responding to climate change that thaws its soils and causes expulsion of carbon dioxide into the air.
(Photo : American Geophysical Union/YouTube screenshot)

A new study indicates that the thawing of Alaska's soils also known as permafrost release the high level of carbon dioxide into the air. The northern soils thaw in summer and fail to refreeze as they once did.

The findings of the study were printed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was led by Roisin Commane, a Harvard atmospheric scientist, and other colleagues.

Commane said that in a large region, they saw substantial increases in the amount of carbon dioxide that is coming out in the fall. She explained that the soils are warmer deeper, and as they freeze in the fall, the temperature has become zero before they hard freeze. She further explained that the temperature has to come to zero and equilibrate for the soils to freeze hard through. With this, there will be emissions due to microbes that are active, according to The Washington Post.

The carbon dioxide releases into the air as the northern soils thaw because Alaska has warmed up and the ground is not refreezing fast. In the study, the researchers discovered that from 2012 to 2014, the state released about 220 million tons of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere from biological sources. This is based on the aircraft measurements of carbon dioxide and methane and tower measurements from Barrow in Alaska, as pointed out by Science Alert.

Alaska's soils are thawing fast. Commane said that they did not anticipate that this happens quickly. They thought that the thawing could occur 50 to 100 years. This resulted in the expulsion of carbon dioxide, which is the Earth's planet gas.

The Guardian reports that the Arctic is warming at around twice the rate than the other regions in the world. Alaska had three record warm years in a row, and in 2016, its average temperature was 5.9°F, which was warmer than the long-term average. Donatella Zona of San Diego State University in California said that the whole Alaska region is responding to climate change. 

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