Global warming is leaving more and more apparent scars in the world’s permafrost regions.
Roughly one sixth of the land areas on our planet are considered to be permafrost regions, which means the soils there have remained permanently frozen for at least two consecutive years. In most of these regions, however, the cold penetrated the ground millennia ago; as a result, in the most extreme cases, the permafrost continues to a depth of 1.6 kilometers. Especially in the Arctic, people rely on the permafrost soil as a stable foundation for houses, roads, pipelines and airports. Yet in the wake of global warming, the integrity of these structures is increasingly jeopardized, creating enormous costs. In addition, permafrost soils contain massive quantities of preserved plant and animal matter. If this organic material thaws along with the permafrost, microorganisms will begin breaking it down — a process that could produce enough carbon dioxide and methane emissions to potentially raise the global mean temperature by an additional 0.13 to 0.27 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.
A new comparative study released by the GTN-P (Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost) shows for the first time the extent to which permafrost soils around the world have already warmed. Read more . . .