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Rapid Thawing Of The Arctic Subsea Permafrost Could Heighten Global Warming

First Posted: Jun 28, 2017 05:39 AM EDT

A new study reveals that the East Siberian Arctic Sea is thawing rapidly than previously thought. It thaws at a rate of 14 cm each year, which is much faster for permafrost on land.

The study was printed in the journal Nature Communications. It was led by researchers from Stockholm University. The study suggests that the thawing of permafrost in the Arctic subsea could lead to the increased global warming as there will be an increase of discharge of methane.

Orjan Gustafsson, the Professor of Biogeochemistry at the Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry (ACES) and the Bolin Center for Climate Research and co-author of the study, said that the area that is thawing is about four Baltic Seas. He described it as enormous.

In the study, the scientists have examined the observations taken from 2011 to 2015 in coastal ocean off Northeast Siberia. There was a sea-ice based camp that was formed each year by specialty vehicles and heavy drilling equipment, which was utilized to dig into the permafrost in the seafloor. Meanwhile, the scientists compared the sediment core samples with the calculations taken from the same area 30 years earlier.

The results showed that the ocean floor has rapidly warming. The researchers stated that at the end of the Ice Age, there was about -18 degrees Celsius temperature of the seafloor. They further stated that the permafrost is now thawing at a rate of 14 cm per year for a total of 10 meters in the last 30 years.

They also examined the boundary between frozen and thawed permafrost. They discovered that it was 10 to 30 meters deep and now sinking rapidly.

The thawing of permafrost could generate channels for methane that might contribute to the warming of the planet. Permafrost is a frozen ground composed of decomposing organic material and creates methane by this process. Once the permafrost layer starts to weaken, the methane is discharged, according to Stockholm University. 

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