Monday, January 18, 2010

Siberia's Tundra Is Melting

Katey Walter [?] taking measurements in Siberia (photo by Dmitri Draluk)

[Watch "Arctic Lake Methane Ignited" and other videos by Katey Walter Anthony]

Note: The names in this article seem to be confused. I know that there is a climate scientist named Katey Walter Anthony. I think this is the person described in this article.

"Katie Walter [?] is part of a joint U.S.-Russian team of scientists studying the lakes and has spent months at a time for the last four years in a small village north of Yakutsk, studying thawing lakes."---RFE/RL (10-12-06)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (10-12-06) reports:

The landscape of Siberia is transforming. New lakes are forming in the north, while existing lakes are getting larger. Some buildings and houses built upon the permafrost are sinking and starting to crack.

What's more, scientists expect this process to speed up, because as the lakes thaw, they release carbon and methane into the air, which in turn contributes to global warming.

Permafrost exists all over the world, but Russia has the largest patches of it. Scientists estimate that permafrost covers more than 10 million square kilometers of Russia. A Russian scientist, Mikhail Sumgin first coined the term permafrost, or "vechnaya merzlota" (eternal frost), in the late 1920s.

But, now, less than a century later, scientists are worried about how permanent the permafrost really is.

...And, Siberia's problems affect not only Siberians. Walters found that melting permafrost in Siberia is releasing five times the amount of methane than was previously thought. And methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas -- it is considered 20 times more damaging as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

This means that Siberia is not just suffering from the consequences of global warming but is also actively contributing to it.

Walters [?] has compared the melting of the Siberian permafrost to a time bomb waiting to go off. Until her team published a paper in the science magazine "Nature" last month, few scientists had an accurate picture of how much methane was being released. [Read the full text.]

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