For Every 1ºC Of Warming, A Part Of The Permafrost The Size Of India Will Melt

Thawing permafrost peat plateaus. Sebastian Westermann

We already know that the permafrost is thawing due to global warming. However, climate scientists studying the melting permafrost in Siberia and Canada have warned that we have dramatically underestimated the speed and efficiency with which it is affecting climate change.

They have revealed that 20 percent more of the permafrost will thaw than previously thought, and when it does, the decomposing flora and fauna revealed could release a huge amount of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The international team of researchers from the UK, Sweden, and Norway, along with the Met Office, have conducted what they say is the most comprehensive study of the effects of global warming on the permafrost by using actual observations on the ground. They also used climate models to calculate the amount of permafrost that would be lost under proposed climate stabilization targets. 

Their findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, show that an estimated 40 percent of today’s permafrost areas could be lost to thawing if we stabilize the climate at 2ºC (3.6°F) above pre-Industrial levels, but that crisis could be averted by more ambitious climate targets.

The way we are currently going, they predict that nearly 4 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles) of permafrost, a piece of land larger than the size of India, could be lost for every degree of global warming.

“A lower stabilization target of 1.5ºC (2.7°F) would save approximately 2 million square kilometers of permafrost,” team lead Dr Sarah Chadburn, from the University of Leeds, said in a statement. "Achieving the ambitious Paris Agreement climate targets could limit permafrost loss. For the first time, we have calculated how much could be saved.”

content-1491908115-doorway.jpgSiberia's "Doorway to the Underworld" is a thermokarst, a crack that is growing at a rate of 10-30 meters (33-98 feet) per year as the permafrost thaws. Google Earth

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