Arctic sea ice, warming, and soil carbon

October 19, 2011 – 4:15 pm

Andrew Sullivan linked a cool video of change in Arctic sea ice over time. Note the very low ice in 2007. It was about that low again this year.

He also linked an essay discussing some of the consequences of melting sea ice on the Greenland ice sheet, which could be pretty dramatic.

I wanted to add here that the melting sea ice and Arctic climate change are also having an effect on the terrestrial ecosystem. Right now, there is a huge unanswered question about the massive quantities of carbon stored in Arctic soils. If a substantial portion of this carbon burned off with warming, the increase in atmospheric CO2 could be on the same order of magnitude as existing increases from fossil fuels. That would be bad, hmkay. Right now we know that this is possible, but not a sure thing.

Many groups of scientists, including the group I am currently with, are trying to determine the likelihood of a positive feedback between warming and loss of carbon from Arctic soils. Our group just submitted a grant with some ideas on how to move forward with this question. This is a great opportunity to improve our basic knowledge of Arctic ecosystems, which is necessary to answer the question, but we definitely should all hope that our results do not indicate a strong feedback.

  1. One Response to “Arctic sea ice, warming, and soil carbon”

  2. damn, that would be bad, hmkay. Any early guesses on the likelihood?

    By Christopher on Nov 1, 2011

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