In case you’re looking for further proof that climate change is making things warmer, National Geographic has published an exclusive story that indicates some parts of the Arctic are no longer freezing, even during the winter months. As you can imagine, this is setting off alarm bells with climatologists who say that this could impact our planet in ways that could accelerate the warming process around the world.
The data indicating that permafrost ground layers may not be freezing as they once did was collected at two different research stations ––one in Russia and the other in Alaska. There have been indications for decades that the permafrost is warming, but it took a turn for the serious this past spring when a Russian researcher, who has been studying his local climate for years, received soil samples from students that he felt couldn’t be right. He sent his own assistants out to take samples of their own, and when drilling down into the soil they discovered soft, wet mud. That was something that should not have been possible.
Essentially, permafrost exists a meter or so below the surface of some of the more northerly regions of the world. No matter what happens on the top level of the ground, this layer of soil generally remains frozen solid all year round. The temperatures are cold enough in these locations that for the most part, this hasn’t changed since researchers have been studying the phenomenon. But this year, in a remote region of Siberia, that hasn’t been the case. The permafrost has instead thawed and turned to mud, which is cause for concern for other reasons too.
As worrisome as the thawing of the permafrost is, it brings another consequence which could only accelerate the climate change process. So-called greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, are actually trapped in the permafrost and as the ground thaws, it releases those gases into the air. If that were to happen on a large scale, it could increase the speed of the warming process, which is already causing the Poles to warm and the Earth to have its warmest years on record.
Researchers are quick to point out that more data needs to be collected before too much can be made from the reports of thawing permafrost. So far, there has only been limited research, which makes it hard to tell if this is an unusual anomaly or a growing trend. Still, the data doesn’t look promising. In Alaska, scientists have seen the date of the annual freeze up of the ground shift from January into March, meaning it has been taking longer for the freeze to occur and the ground isn’t staying frozen for as long. But this year, the freeze didn’t occur at all, corroborating what was found in Siberia.
The entire article can be read here. It holds some fascinating ––and sobering–– information. For those of us who have been paying close attention to the way our planet’s climate seems to be evolving, this is yet another canary in the coal mine when it comes to global warming.
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