Via Grist (whose headline was somewhat more delicate)
:If we lost just 1 (One) percent of the carbon in permafrost today, we’d be close to a year’s contributions from industrial sources. I don’t think policymakers have woken up to this. It’s not in their risk assessments.”More:
—Permafrost expert Chris Burn of Carleton Universiy
Pure methane, gas bubbling up from underwater vents, escaping into northern skies, adds to the global-warming gases accumulating in the atmosphere. And pure methane escaping in the massive amounts known to be locked in the Arctic permafrost and seabed would spell a climate catastrophe.We are so fucked. There was a window, probably 30 years ago, when things might have turned around. But Raygun tore the solar panels off the White House, and argued the trees contributed to global warming, and everybody sort of danced away from the problem.
Is such an unlocking under way?
Researchers say air temperatures here in northwest Canada, in Siberia and elsewhere in the Arctic have risen more than 2.5 C (4.5 F) since 1970 — much faster than the global average. The summer thaw is reaching deeper into frozen soil, at a rate of 4 centimeters (1.5 inches) a year, and a further 7 C (13 F) temperature rise is possible this century, says the authoritative, U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In 2007, air monitors detected a rise in methane concentrations in the atmosphere, apparently from far northern sources. Russian researchers in Siberia expressed alarm, warning of a potential surge in the powerful greenhouse gas, additional warming of several degrees, and unpredictable consequences for Earth's climate.
But there's no doubt the north contains enough potential methane and carbon dioxide to cause abrupt climate change, Gustafsson said by telephone from Sweden.Don't light a match north of Skagway; you'll get blown right the fuck UP!
Canada's pre-eminent permafrost expert, Chris Burn, has trekked to lonely locations in these high latitudes for almost three decades, meticulously chronicling the changes in the tundra.
On a stopover at the Aurora Research Institute in the Mackenzie Delta town of Inuvik, the Carleton University scientist agreed "we need many, many more field observations." But his teams have found the frozen ground warming down to about 80 meters, and he believes the world is courting disaster in failing to curb warming by curbing greenhouse emissions.
"If we lost just 1 percent of the carbon in permafrost today, we'd be close to a year's contributions from industrial sources," he said. "I don't think policymakers have woken up to this. It's not in their risk assessments."
How likely is a major release?
"I don't think it's a case of likelihood," he said. "I think we are playing with fire."