More permafrost fears

From the University of Georgia, where apparently they didn’t read this paper before publishing their own and this press release.

Warming climate may release vast amounts of carbon from long-frozen Arctic soils

A bank of permafrost thaws near the Kolyma River in Siberia. Credit Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

A bank of permafrost thaws near the Kolyma River in Siberia.
Credit: Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

Savannah, Ga. – While climatologists are carefully watching carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, another group of scientists is exploring a massive storehouse of carbon that has the potential to significantly affect the climate change picture.

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Aron Stubbins is part of a team investigating how ancient carbon, locked away in Arctic permafrost for thousands of years, is now being transformed into carbon dioxide and released into the atmosphere. The results of the study were published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The Arctic contains a massive amount of carbon in the form of frozen soil–the remnants of plants and animals that died more than 20,000 years ago. Because this organic material was permanently frozen year-round, it did not undergo decomposition by bacteria the way organic material does in a warmer climate. Just like food in a home freezer, it has been locked away from the bacteria that would otherwise cause it to decay and be converted to carbon dioxide.

“However, if you allow your food to defrost, eventually bacteria will eat away at it, causing it to decompose and release carbon dioxide,” Stubbins said. “The same thing happens to permafrost when it thaws.”

Scientists estimate there is more than 10 times the amount of carbon in the Arctic soil than has been put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution. To look at it another way, scientists estimate there is two and a half times more carbon locked away in the Arctic deep freezer than there is in the atmosphere today. Now, with a warming climate, that deep freezer is beginning to thaw and that long-frozen carbon is beginning to be released into the environment.

“The study we did was to look at what happens to that organic carbon when it is released,” Stubbins said. “Does it get converted to carbon dioxide or is it still going to be preserved in some other form?”

Stubbins and his colleagues conducted their fieldwork at Duvanni Yar in Siberia. There, the Kolyma River carves into a bank of permafrost, exposing the frozen organic material. This worked well for the scientists, as they were able to find streams that consisted of 100 percent thawed permafrost. The researchers measured the carbon concentration, how old the carbon was and what forms of carbon were present in the water. They bottled it with a sample of the local microbes. After two weeks, they measured the changes in the carbon concentration and composition and the amount of carbon dioxide that had been produced.

“We found that decomposition converted 60 percent of the carbon in the thawed permafrost to carbon dioxide in two weeks,” Stubbins said. “This shows the permafrost carbon is definitely in a form that can be used by the microbes.”

Lead author Robert Spencer of Florida State University added, “Interestingly, we also found that the unique composition of thawed permafrost carbon is what makes the material so attractive to microbes.”

The study also confirmed what the scientists had suspected: The carbon being used by the bacteria is at least 20,000 years old. This is significant because it means that carbon has not been a part of the global carbon cycle in the recent past.

“If you cut down a tree and burn it, you are simply returning the carbon in that tree to the atmosphere where the tree originally got it,” Stubbins said. “However, this is carbon that has been locked away in a deep-freeze storage for a long time.

“This is carbon that has been out of the active, natural system for tens of thousands of years. To reintroduce it into the contemporary system will have an effect.”

The carbon release has the potential to create what scientists call a positive feedback loop. This means as more carbon is released into the atmosphere, it would amplify climate warming. That, in turn, would cause more permafrost to thaw and release more carbon, causing the cycle to continue.

“Currently, this is not a process that shows up in future (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) climate projections; in fact, permafrost is not even accounted for,” Spencer said.

“Moving forward, we need to find out how consistent our findings are and to work with a broader range of scientists to better predict how fast this process will happen,” Stubbins said.

###

In addition to Stubbins and Spencer, the research team included Paul Mann from Northumbria University, United Kingdom; Thorsten Dittmar from the University of Oldenburg, Germany; Timothy Eglinton and Cameron McIntyre from the Geological Institute, Zurich, Switzerland; Max Holmes from Woods Hole Research Center; and Nikita Zimov from the Far-Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Science.

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168 thoughts on “More permafrost fears

    • so… where did all the carbon come from? how did so much get stored up, unless there was CO2 in the atmosphere at the time? it hardly seems possible given that we are told that CO2 has never been higher in the past umpteen trillion years.

      • and if the permafrost is only now starting to thaw out after 20 thousand years, that means the climate must have been much warmer 20 thousand and 1 years ago, for the plants to have grown, because plants don’t grow in permafrost.
        And what the heck flash froze the plants in the permafrost that they didn’t have even 2 weeks to decompose? Is it possible that as short as 20 thousand years ago, the poles were not where they are today? That the poles shifted and flash froze what had been the equator? that would have been climate change.
        so how come we are continually being told that climate is the warmest it has ever been, like forever. wherever those plants were growing was obviously much warmer than where the lie frozen today.

      • and 20,000 years BP was at the end of the last glacial maximum and sea levels were 450+ feet lower than they currently are.
        But more importantly, they are basing their claim on the scientific fact that the microbes can only decompose the dead plant biomass during the warm Arctic summers after the permafrost has long melted, ……….. whereas their CAGW friends are still claiming that microbial decomposition of dead plant biomass in the remaining portion of the Northern Hemisphere …… only occurs during the cold, freezing wintertime temperatures.
        Iffen they are both right …. then that is sure gonna mess up the “bi-yearly CO2 cycling” denoted on the Keeling Curve graph.

    • That reminds me of an old joke: two guys in a bar, watching a college football game on TV. The winning team is U of Georgia. The one guy remarks “only two kinds of people graduate from U of G, football players and whores.” The other fellow, incensed, cries “my wife went to U of G!” The first guy replies “oh, you don’t say! Did she play offense or defense”

      • “only two kinds of people graduate ”
        “my wife went to U of G!”
        He didn’t say she GRADUATED, so even if the postulates are true, it’s posssible that she’s neither a football player or a whore.

    • And wouldn’t this ‘thawing’ just increase with increased global warming? That…wow… that just means that eventually all permafrost would translate into CO2 reserves. And ofcourse permafrost is not the only ‘up and coming’ cause of Co2, we have plenty out there already.
      http://www.ayeshajamal.com

    • OK if you believe that violations of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, bekief in the GHE, then you are on the right road.

    • ummmm… UGA is ranked 20th among the nation’s top public universities in America in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2015 edition
      So…not sure what you are trying to say (?)

  1. So, this stuff wasn’t frozen before and we can prevent ot from thawing again but using different light bulbs. Got it.

    • On the contrary, I think we should fight the serious problem of global warming by eliminating ALL funding to travel by plane to Siberia, or the Arctic, or Antarctic to stud climate change. From now on, only pay for travel by sailing ship.

  2. So how does this work here. . . ??
    The climate was warm enough for plants to grow. . .but there was a sudden deep chill that happened so fast (like putting your food in your home freezer) that not only did the plants no longer grow, but it happened so fast there wasn’t even enough time (two weeks) for the bacteria to digest the dead plants. . .and its stayed that cold for the last 20,000 years. . .
    Got it!!!

    • Yup. Another one doing the rounds is that the biological carbon sinks are going to become net sources of CO2 if CO2 continues rising. Straight from the global-warming-causes-cooling textbook.

      • Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz imagined calculus so that the carbon cycle for climate seance could be instantaneous. If he only knew.

      • Isaac Newton invented calculus not Liebnitz. He was English so you Americans will have a problem with that naturally enough. But excerpts from Newton’s Principia were found in Liebnitz’ papers so it seems clear that Newton was the originator. (But as consolation, Leibnitz’ wig was more spectacular than Newton’s.)

    • Right on BenWilson
      …Stubbins said. “However, this is carbon that has been locked away in a deep-freeze storage for a long time…”
      This guy uses condoms, right?
      And what would happen, O Wise Stubbins, if it got so warm that plants could grow once again upon that warm, fertile, nutrient-filled soil? The Mennonite farmers around here pine for such natural richness.
      This surely cannot have escaped the notice of the illustrious team: that plants have been known to grow in the Arctic if it ever gets warm enough to do so. If the Arctic was warm enough (quite naturally) to store 2.5 times as much carbon in the soil as there is in the atmosphere, why do they suppose it would not do so again?
      Can you imagine how much carbon was sent into the atmosphere during the fires that levelled the old forest leaving only the carbon in the frozen ground? It surely exceeded the underground mass. Where is that CO2 now, then? Been stripped from the atmosphere by the oceans! If the permafrost melts, the trees that grow are going to strip the atmosphere of all its CO2. Oh Alarum!

      • Crispin in Waterloo
        April 27, 2015 at 4:23 pm
        Said:
        Right on BenWilson
        …Stubbins said. “However, this is carbon that has been locked away in a deep-freeze storage for a long time…”
        This guy uses condoms, right?
        ————
        Spermafrost eh?

    • I know it’s not robust scientific observation, but there’s this reality tv show I watch on Discovery called Gold Rush about some groups of dreamers trying to strike it big time in The Klondike and environs, but it seems every time they try to excavate down to 10 feet or so, the ground is frozen solid, even at the end of Summer.
      They call it permafrost, but is this the same stuff the authors of the article are talking about? (Forgive my ignorance, as permafrost is al alien concept to an Australian).

      • Yup, ….. same stuff.
        And the only possible way the Arctic could accumulate that massive amount of un-decomposed dead plant biomass is if that location in the Arctic was green growing biomass “swampland” for several thousand years. A per se ….. peat bog in the making … but never making it.

  3. As several Nobel laureates have stated in recent years, they likely would not receive tenure in the current system of volume-based merit system of academic output. Oh well, the either theory worked for some in its day too.

  4. But we have been warmer than this! Every previous interglacial was probably warmer than the one we are in now, the previous interglacial, the Eemian, certainly was according to the IPCC. So, if there is a tipping point, we would have tipped long ago.

    • No, no, you silly goose! It’s the special, man-made warming that will make unspecified, bad things happen multiple somewheres sometime in the future!

      • That is, unless we fight warming by limiting resources and starving those who are the ‘bottom’ of the human race. /drysarc 😉

      • limiting resources and starving those who are the ‘bottom’ of the human race
        =============
        if we could just figure out a way that those at the top starve first there would be a lot less people at the top making problems for the rest of us.

  5. These authors note: the Siberian permafrost is thawing and releasing prodigous amounts of CO2, presumably in the summer months which is the only time air temps and sunlight allow for thawing at those latitudes.
    So a simple question:
    If this is a non-trivial problem, then why is it that we see that it is the summer months, June-Sept, that we see a large 6 – 7 ppm of CO2 at the MaunaLoa pCO2 readings, and an even higher drop (10-11ppm) at the Alaska CO2 measurement sites?

    • Here is a gross-level overview of how pCO2 levels change in our atmosphere (last 10 years or so).
      http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/globalview/images/gvco2_lg_movie.gif
      Note: It is the NH summer that the large CO2 downswing occurs. The upswing in the NH is the winter. The SH uptick is ratchet-like upward during the SH winter.
      The implications of this moving graphic really needs to be understood by more scientists, before they publish papers like the one here in this thread.

      • So what are the implications in your opinion?
        It looks as if NH is driving the change, the growth season understandably taking some CO2 out of the athmosphere, and the rest of the year leaking CO2 into air more than the growth season captured. Yes?

      • Implications:
        – The relevant net sinks to bring down pCO2 within several decades exist in the NH,
        – relatively negligible biologic net sink activity in the SH, (dynamic seasonal equilibrium exists.)
        – The steady, step-wise, uptick in the SH winter pCO2 (when ocean SSTs are getting colder) is simply the equilibration of NH CO2 (following behavior), as the NH pCO2 is falling during that time (NH summer).
        – The downward biosphere CO2 inhale has faster kinetics (ppm/day net), than the NH winter exhale (upward sweep in the NH pCO2 tail).
        – The despite faster net kinetics, the NH summer ihale occurs only over 4 1/2 months, while the exhale (pcO2 increase) occurs over 6 months.
        Conclusion from these implications:
        It will only take a gradual lengthening of growing season (earlier leaf budding, later first frost and fall leaf turning), by just 4 weeks from current to completely offset the winter CO2 rise. Alternatively, but mutually compatible with the former, as the NH tree line moves northward with thawing warming ground and longer growing seasons, the inhale kinetics (downward sweep) will strengthen. The two factors working together in the coming century (if it continues to warm), the biosphere can completely absorb the additional net additions of anthropogenic CO2, creating a lagged dynamic negative feedback that will bring pCO2 down, even if temperatures continue to rise.

      • What a beautiful [from the aesthetic viewpoint] moving chart! The gentle waving motion, the tiny red things popping up high above–what a metaphor for the soaring aspirations of humankind! I like it.

      • The biome resuscitates after its near death experience, heaving regular sighs of relief.
        j’ob, don’t you think we’ll get a pretty good idea from OCO2 even with just one year of data?
        ===========

      • Yes Kim, it reminds me of the sick-bay monitors when Dr. McCoy brings Spock back to life. LOL

  6. Roncito Mendoza
    My first job as a geologist was in Alaska in 1967, trying to sample a gold prospect at Egnaty Creek, along the Kuskokwim River below Red Devil. The area had permafrost and it was tougher than we were. We poured gas on it and torched it, we drilled holes in it and put in sticks of dynamite (the local help started running and it turned out they were the smart ones) and blew it up, we attacked it with hydraulic monitors, assisted by John Miscovich the inventor of the IntelliGiant monitor. The permafrost is still there and we left, beaten and chagrinned. If Professor Mann can melt this stuff off we go to prospect for gold! Just saying. Sorry about the Global Warming but gold is for real. Roncito Mendoza

    • Which Mann? The usual Mann, or the researcher Mann who contributed to this paper? Mann, I hope these climate Manns aren’t increasing in number.

    • That’s the root of the problem, geologists in the private sector (correction: those with at least 10 years practical experience) have a real problem with their personal BSometers with this article as they have all gone completely off scale.
      There is so much BS in the original paper, it should have been awarded a paper mâché Nobel Peace Prize medal, but as a starter the question needs to be asked:” if this was true, why did it not manifest itself in the warmer periods of several thousand years of our current inter-glacial Holocene Era?”
      Clue: ‘Climate scientists’ (almost always government or quasi-government bureaucrats) hate private sector geologists for exposing their ‘science’ for what it really is.

      • Yep,. as a geologist who taught in academe and consulted in the private sector, I get a lot of flack, on the Connected Community website of the Geological Society of America where I post in both their open forum and the climate change community,, plus requests for money to support”research.” I have been accused of being funded by the Koch brothers, and doing ‘science by u-tube” (Svensmark video) and even being a “denier” although that poster publicly apologized when I called him on it. These people seem to hate the private sector but always want its benefits only for themselves..
        As a footnote, I found working as a private sector consultant that the people I dealt with held a higher ethical standard than many of my past colleagues in academe. Perhaps that’s why some of climate science is as idiosyncratic as it is.

  7. It appears Mr Watts should have read his own link. Here is a paragraph from the paper he cites:
    “The curve shows a clear partitioning. Up to the dawn of industrialisation around 1850, we can attribute the development to changes in the Earth’s position relative to the sun. In other words, the duration and intensity of the solar radiation increased from winter to winter, causing temperatures to rise. But with industrialisation and the strong increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, this was supplemented by the anthropogenic greenhouse effect. Starting at that point, our data curve shows a major increase that clearly differs from the gradual warming in the previous phase.”

    • Except it didn’t steepen any curve, the data used for these ‘studies’ is the temperature records that have been heavily tampered with and the past made colder.

        • warrenlb

          OK. So you say Mr Watts has his science wrong?

          Experience has shown the BEST product is not reliable nor useful. We live, we learn.
          The daily re-inventing of the NASA-GISS temperature record by back-calculating it with each change in the world’s light intensity measurement each month means past “data” keeps changing to allow Hansen to spread his interpolated and estimated “red plague” of animated hot spots across the land.

    • Yea, we know.
      The instant CO2 showed up, all the natural cycles ended and everything started to be caused by CO2 alone.

      • NO, the advent of man caused CZo2 rise didn’t stop natural cycles. It superimposed the man- caused rise on the natural cycle.

      • According to most ‘climate scientists’ all natural climate cycles ended in 1951 or thereabouts.
        I understand Michael Mann is a sceptic here, believing the correct date for this was February 14th, 1952.
        There is a tree somewhere which can confirm this, sadly the original data for this tree has never been released.

      • @PEter MIle.
        No Climate Scientst says that natural cycles ‘ended’ at anytime. That’s absurd.

      • Climate science cannot explain the natural cycles on time scales of tens to hundreds of years. Climate science cannot explain the Polar See-Saw. These cycles exist but they cannot be accounted for by the “forcing/feedback” model of climate.
        Thus climate science makes no allowance for these cycles in their projections. They simply assume they are not significant. Or at least they did, until the PAUSE bit them in the ass.

      • @Ferdperple.
        Sorry, that’s also wrong. The models include natural effects. In fact, thats the point of models– to include all the effects from Physics.

      • Warren: Do you work for Acorn?
        Read what the alarmists write and post. They really do alter observational data. They really do ignore history.
        They really do hide data ON WHICH THEY RELY. Their “studies” have little validity. Heck, their stuff is often illogical.
        Skeptics may not have enough answers but at least their questions ARE logical and address the issues.

      • @John H . Harmon.
        You ask: “Do you work for ACORN?” Truly the stupidest question yet seen on this forum. We’re discussing AGW and you’re off on some unrelated pseudo political rant. Get back on track and then discussion can resume.

      • @MarkW.
        No Climate Scientist excludes or ignores natural causes. Your post is an invention, or an invention of others with the same preposterous notion. If you think you saw an example in a scientist’s writings or statement, post it for all to see.

    • A “major increase”? How much acceleration does the CET (Central England Temperature) show after 1850 compared with before 1850? That would be a good cross-check.

  8. Typical doom and gloom stuff. Meh.
    At least they acknowledged the models don’t account for everything…Even if it was spun to reflect their religious doctrine.

  9. We’re doomed – doomed I tell you! If the death by CO2, or megastorms, or rising seas, or tsunamis, or asteroids, or heat, or starvation, or snows, or no snows or (enter name of your favorite planet destroyer here:) -, the next ice age will! Boo-hoo.

  10. Seems to me, even if the permafrost was really thawing that there would be a net zero gain in CO2. If the land is warmer, it will start growing things other than lichen, like maulybe trees which will will store all the CO2 in their wooden cores.
    You have to wonder how much of a problem rotting plant material can be, when it is obvious it must have been crested many years before when the climate was warmer, and the warmer climate didn’t kill the planet back then

    • These people think differently. The frozen moss is something unique and 20000 years old, while new moss or trees just can not replace this valuable frozen fossil carbon.
      Give us more funding so we can continue research.
      Actually it can be, that permafrost helps the fossil carbon to stay there, but the increasing overall production elsewhere (at treeline) should compensate this well.

  11. Don’t forget that nifty new CO2 satellite NASA launched, and that nobody talks about, because they didn’t like the initial results. It did not match their understanding or “believes” of how this planet works.

    • It will take at least 3 years of OCO-2 observations to a gain firm understanding of where the seasonal sinks and sources are (and not just what might be a sporadic single season source). And then another 3 years of data to confirm the earlier observations. This is because the kinetics of the mid- and high-latitude sources and sinks operate on seasonal bases. At least 3 winters and 3 summer for each hemisphere are needed to understand with any confidence where the biosphere and oceans are absorbing and releasing CO2.

      • What causes CO2 to be seasonal.
        I believe Willis said something about it always being noon under the sun.
        The sun and CO2 don’t know it’s winter…Do they?

      • The cycling of CO2 increases (winter) and decreases (summer) in the NH especially in the Arctic.
        At the M-L recording site, currently pCO2 increases about 8.8(±0.5) ppm from Oct-April, then decreases 6.6(±0.5) ppm from late May-mid-Sept, yielding the current overall annual average pCO2 rise of about 2.1 ppm/yr. The amplitude of the seasonal swings is even greater at around 40N-55N, where the vast NH boreal forests become huge CO2 sinks in the summertime.
        Thus, in the NH summer, the carbon sinks are the forests, the grasses, and crops drawing down the pCO2 by around 6.5 ppm storing away carbon from the Calvin-Benson into sugars and starches (leaves, more tree growth, food crops, grasses).
        If the outgassing of the permafrost-thawing-produced CO2 in the summers is significant, then it doesn’t reflect in the bulk pCO2 readings. The kinetics of the summer biologic sinks in the NH summer clearly trumps the permafrost source kinetics.

    • Can anyone tell me where to find the latest CO2 ‘world map’ from OCO2 ? I can’t find anything on the NASA site, but perhaps I’m not looking in the right place.

  12. Very interesting that they say at least 20,000 years. So we can put perhaps an upper bound of 100,000 years. As a guess, this seems reasonable, as any reliable dating technique would not overshoot the upper bound by 5X the lower bound. So given this dating constraint, they are claiming enough biological activity in Siberia to create this carbon rich layer 20,000 – 100,000 years ago. According to them, Siberia was warmer and more biologically active at the height of the last glaciation than it is today.
    Two expressions come to mind:
    DOA: Dead On Arrival
    and
    DRT: Dead Right There
    This one is absolutely DRT, do not waste your time, nothing can be done.
    Any theory which contradicts prior observation is dead before it gets started.

    • “So we can put perhaps an upper bound of 100,000 years”. No, we can’t.
      ‘5X the lower bound”, thre’s no lower bound. Dating is “more than 20kyrs” not “exactly 20kyrs”.

  13. Of the last four interglacials, two were as warm as today at least, & two were warmer by between at least 3-5ºC, so plants would have grown back then anyway I would have thought? I think DRT is most apt!

  14. Four days of a newly erupted volcano makes this discussion moot — by dwarfing all by itself both human and permafrost contributions. Again, we’re doomed!

  15. Yes, you better work with a broader range of scientists. I would walk next door to the Geology Department and start there. If you are simply multiplying the circumpolar area by the thickness of frozen soil in your Siberian study area, you are already multiplying the amount of carbon by a large factor. Average soil thickness in Arctic Canada is 3 to 4 m with vast areas of bare bedrock. Several things about this stuff: a), the active layer is 1-3m thick which means the carbon has already escaped from much of the soil; b) bedrock with no organics makes up over 90% of the frozen ground.c) the soil horizon is relatively thin overlying ground moraine, outwash sands and gravels and glacial till with little organics in it. d) Don’t select a peat bog to make your model. Even if it thaws out, it can remain “canned” for thousands of years. Peat bogs in Denmark, Ireland and England, which were frozen during the glacial maximum have been yielding human bodies a couple of thousand years old in the course of mining peat because the anaerobic conditions in these bogs preserves them. Look at the mummies – they look relatively recent in age:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tollund_Man
    “The preserved tender soft tissues of his body are the consequence of the acid in the peat, along with the lack of oxygen underneath the surface and the cold climate of the Nordic countries”
    This is the kind of science you get with the new multidisciplinary scientist who, unfortunately, doesn’t bother to consult other disciplines. He uses a priori reasoning which is the kind used by clever but inexperienced teenagers when they argue with their parents. This is what we can expect more and more of now that Democrat Core Standards are taking effect. Shame on a system that unabashedly produces such shallow worthless drivel.

    • And worse, the parts of Siberia being studied were never buried under a mile of grinding ice! Unlike Canada which suffered the worst from all of the Ice Ages.

  16. “This worked well for the scientists, as they were able to find streams that consisted of 100 percent thawed permafrost. The researchers measured the carbon concentration, how old the carbon was and what forms of carbon were present in the water. They bottled it with a sample of the local microbes. After two weeks, they measured the changes in the carbon concentration and composition and the amount of carbon dioxide that had been produced.”
    Oh, the pain. If the researchers found 100% thawed material, then why wasn’t the stuff changing to carbon now. The experiment!! If you put the peat surrounding the Tollund Man from the peat bog into a bottle and mixed it with microbes you would get decomposition but the peat bog isnt in a bottle with microbes. It is anaerobic if you leave it alone! High school science projects by the thousands. At least the high school students don’t charge anyone for it.

    • This conjures an image in my mind (I know, I know) –
      if we added some sweetener and, say, orange flavor to the bottle, could we make soda?

    • The peat is not just anaeorobic, it is acidic, which is what actually does the preserving through excluding even anaeorobic bacteria.

  17. I may be wrong (don’t start) but that photo seems to have certain characteristics of a Pingo.

  18. If I have this right, 20000 years ago glaciers extended as far South as NYC — latitude 40N. Then they melted. Reasonably, there must have been permafrost under the glaciers. The warming of the permafrost should presumably have been rapid because summer solstice sun elevation angles at 40N are around 73 degrees. So there should have been a whopping increase in atmospheric CO2 when the continental glaciers melted. The Vostok CO2 record http://cdiac.ornl.gov/images/vostok_co2_ch4_from_bubbles.jpg does indeed show a bump — from 200ppm to 240ppm over a period of 10000 years. A bit less dramatic than expected … eh?

    • “Reasonably, there must have been permafrost under the glaciers”
      Oddly enough, probably not. Glaciers are mostly “warm based”, i. e. the temperature at the bottom is warmer than the pressure melting temperature. Ice is a pretty good insulator. Permafrost is typically found in areas that were to dry to ever be glaciated, like most of Alaska and northeaster Siberia.

    • Things warmed up, releasing CO2 which the new plant life required. That is the way the system is designed. When things cool down, the plant life dies, and the CO2 is not needed so it is stored. Neat system.

      • Wondering if you know if there’s enough plant diversity at those latitudes to start getting grassland and forest? Seems like 1.5 million square miles of fir trees would knock down the CO2 levels pretty quickly

  19. Invalid conclusions by researchers.
    It has been much warmer than today in the past 20000 years, the Minoan, Roman and Mediaeval Warm Periods were hotter and the permafrost didn’t melt.
    This is also ignoring the fact that CO2 doesn’t drive climate. The Ordovician period had 11 times the CO2 of today and was in an ice age. The MWP and other warm periods had less CO2 than today.

    • “This is also ignoring the fact that CO2 doesn’t drive climate.”
      Amen brother, amen. Not only does CO2 not drive the climate, it is not even possible for it to do so. This James Hansen fallacy will die someday. (I fear I will go first however)

  20. From the article:
    “The carbon release has the potential to create what scientists call a positive feedback loop. This means as more carbon is released into the atmosphere, it would amplify climate warming. That, in turn, would cause more permafrost to thaw and release more carbon, causing the cycle to continue.”
    I guess this proves that the Medieval Warm Period didn’t exist, because if it did, the melting permafrost would keep adding CO2 and the little Ice Age would not have happened.
    Off topic:
    Am I the only one that is getting the annoying GoPro 10,000 foot freefall ad? Is there some way to delete it? It’s completely distracting, when trying to read an article.

  21. Let’s see…. This permafrost CO2 originally came from what CO2 was in the atmosphere and held in the oceans as carbonic acid 20,000 years ago.
    20,000 years ago at the end of the last glaciation period, CO2 levels fell to 170ppm, which is just 20ppm away from all life on Earth suffering a massive extinction event, which happens when CO2 falls below 150ppm and all photosynthesis shuts down…
    I don’t know about you, but I’m ecstatic that CO2 levels have RECOVERED a little bit to 400ppm and I hope that all life on Earth can One day enjoy 700ppm, but fossil fuels will soon likely be replaced by thorium or fusion reactors, so it may not be possible to even reach 700ppm…

  22. Even the paper that you referenced at the top of this article shows a jump in temperatures associated with anthropogenic global warming, as is seen in every single paleoclimate record, from speleotherm and coral deposits to seafloor and lake bed samples. Now add permafrost sample analysis to the hockey stick record. your rope is getting shorter and shorter by the day!
    Graphic from the linked paper: Long-term winter warming trend in the Siberian Arctic during the mid- to late Holocene
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v8/n2/images/ngeo2349-f3.jpg

    • Jai– if you look at global temp Ice core proxies going back 300,000 years, you’ll see that when glaciation periods ended and global temps started to rise, CO2 levels were still falling, and when the Earth ended interglacials and global temps started to fall, CO2 levels were still rising….
      There is about an 800 year lag between global temp shifts and CO2 level shifts…. Falling/rising CO2 levels are a RESULT of global cooling/warming, not the cause….

      • Samurai
        your information is outdated, there has been comparisons with the NEEM ice core data and the lag time is significantly reduced. This is because the ice core data that you are talking about is from the southern hemisphere but he land-carbon effects occur in the northern hemisphere, since the milankovitch cycles operate opposite in the two hemispheres the temp and CO2 responses occur somewhat independently of each other. check it out.

    • Splicing differently calculated reconstructions with calculated averages from sensors is a Mannian trick. One of the reasons why reconstructions are not carried all the way to the present is that not all “treemometers” rise like a hocky stick at the end. Some do and some don’t. Mann solved this wicked problem by simply ending the reconstructions at a point in time before his proxies diverged from the sensor record. Your graph contains such a splice. Proxies (trees, shells, ice, etc) average temperatures naturally in their response to temperature changes. Sensors do not. That is a calculated average. The two data sources should never be displayed together. It is comparing apples to oranges and demonstrates the ultimate error in using two entirely different methods of creating “average” data and calling it one whole thing.
      Bad graph. And if you think I am wrong, ask a mathematician if the two ways of developing a reconstruction (IE splicing trees, or ice, or clam shell rings, together with averaged daily temperature readings) is a valid and reliable method to demonstrate changes in temperature from ancient times to today.

    • EtuDiant– I can’t believe it’s been over 2 weeks since the last “daily” sea ice update..
      I actually sent an e-mail to UIUC.edu asking for the reason for the cessation, but, of course, no reply or explanation on their website…
      I personally think it’s because the data is so bad for the CAGW alarmists, they’re trying to develop a new algorithm to lower the size of sea ice, but that’s just speculation…

      • Samurai. Your suspicions are well founded. Several times in the past few years the national debt was flat for periods from weeks to months. The way Obama and his lapdog congress spend money how could the national debt stay constant (not increasing or decreasing, just constant) a clear sign that the government continues to fiddle with our data to suit their purposes.

    • The satellite is on strike. It wants $15 USD per hour. I also have been checking every day and there seems to be no change forever. I like watching ice melt, and paint dry…

  23. If it’s that bad, then the OCO-2 satellite should be seeing it. So I went to have a look and got this:

    The OCO-2 Project has found an inconsistency in the radiometric calibration of v6 and v6r data. A correction is being tested …

    Can’t be measuring enough anthropogenically generated CO2 so it has to be corrected.
    But no, it’s worse than I thought:

    The OCO-2 instrument is undergoing a routine decontamination.

    Oops. Maybe some of the sneaky CO2 generating bacteria went for a ride on the satellite and it’s seeing double …

  24. We’re living in an interglacial period – not that we have any experience living in such a period of time as this – so what’s its supposed to be like living in an interglacial period?

  25. “scientists estimate there is two and a half times more carbon locked away in the Arctic deep freezer than there is in the atmosphere today.”
    Be interesting to see this “estimation”. That would be a huge reservoir. The atmosphere is thought to hold about 700 Gt and the permafrost would be 1750 by their estimate. Unless it accumulated through successive interglacial cycles this number seems impossible because it is three times the 550 Gt thought to be currently stored in plant biomass over the entire planet today.

  26. Sorry to butt in here Anthony, but you should have a look at James Delingpole’ s place.
    http://www.brietbart.com/author/james-delingpole/
    He has a great link to an open letter to the Pope from the Cornwall Alliance which contains a “who’s who” of climate realists.
    Not that I expect this initiative to make a blind bit of difference to this blinkered Pontiff.

  27. It buggers the mind to think what silly things can get people all twisted up and worried.
    The headlines scream:
    Arctic Soil Has Two-And-A-Half Times More Carbon than In Atmosphere Today !!!
    http://newsmaine.net/23187-arctic-soil-has-two-and-half-times-more-carbon-atmosphere-today
    Well, forget looking at charts or discussing temps, just think about it and for the sake of argument, just accept that huge amounts of carbon are indeed trapped in permafrost which happens to be melting. Just give them that, don’t even argue over the prickly details like extent of melting, rates of release or bacterial action dynamics.

    It’s really simple:
    How did all that carbon get there in the first place? Would it not have to have been warmer at some point in the past in order for plants to grow and “trap” all that up in the first place?

    Why don’t the chicken little-types acknowledge that we are in a warming trend that has been more or less constant since the end of the last major glacial period?
    And lastly, why is the historical evidence that earth’s climate is generally more cool than hot conveniently overlooked? Warming periods tend to be more the exception than the rule.
    But, I’m not a “scientist” but this isn’t even difficult.

    • “But, I’m not a “scientist” but this isn’t even difficult.”
      The reason you think that this is not difficult is because as a non scientists you don’t have to grub for grant money. If you had millions riding on your belief in the magic of the CO2 molecule you would have trouble seeing reality yourself.

      • Indubitably.
        “Professional interest is best served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating laity to priesthood… It has political allies to guard its marches.” – I quit, I think | John Taylor Gatto

  28. It will be no surprise if mainstream climate ‘reporters’ report on this paper and exaggerate the conclusion if it’s not scary enough.
    An article in the April 23 WaPo by Sarah Kaplan titled Tantalizing evidence of a mass extinction begins with this paragraph:

    About 260 million years ago, a vast volcanic region in China began to erupt, leaking lava and spewing plumes of hot gas and ash into the air. The eruption pumped carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing the global climate to rapidly heat up, and poisoned the oceans, turning them acidic and leaching oxygen from the water.

    The implication that a rapid warming from increased CO2 is the culprit doesn’t come from the paper being reported on. In fact, the paper considers many possible causes, including intermittent cooling from volcanic aerosols.

  29. I was curious that bamboo regardless of location if from the same original plant seems to have a clock which determines that it is time to flower and die. Why would it do that ?
    Is it a biological clock ? or could it be some other sort of clock cycle ?
    what other things might have a non-biological clock ?

  30. some people are saying that people who are even quite elderly today might expect to live to one hundred and fifty years of age. I think that the internet is going to be really weird by then.

    • Methuselah lived 969 years, and I don’t think he had a pacemaker or any prostrate operations. Maybe he was an alien Annunaki type. You know, the aliens who built the pyramids, and other stuff that humans “couldn’t build” before 2000 BC.
      Never heard of the Annunakis until my PhD friend who teaches Physics, Computer Science. and Mathematics at the university level informed me about them. (I have no idea if he was serious, he is always “pulling my leg”).

      • He lived that long but didn’t accomplish anything the Bible thought worth mentioning.

      • Yeah, Mike! It’s like they pulled that story out of the Apocrypha or something. It mentions super-beings of immense size, referred to as the “sons of God”. supposedly they found human women irresistible and created progeny such as the Philistines and figures such as Goliath.

  31. In scientifically disconnected news:
    Ocean bacteria get ‘pumped up’: Team discovers new factors impacting fate of sinking carbon
    http://phys.org/news/2015-04-ocean-bacteria-team-factors-impacting.html
    The carbon cycle has been discovered! While too soon to tell, it’s almost like the earth has the capacity to regulate carbon by various and sundry means, one of which is the ocean, a fairly large puddle of water found in some portions of the the globe. Yay, bacteria!
    Now, if we can cut down on our anti-bacterial soap usage, we may yet save the planet!

  32. The Arctic contains a massive amount of carbon in the form of frozen soil–the remnants of plants and animals that died more than 20,000 years ago …
    =====================================
    In Siberia trees have not yet recolonised areas where they grew during the MWP.
    “Dendroecological studies indicate enhanced conifer recruitment during the twentieth century. However, conifers have not yet recolonized many areas where trees were present during the Medieval Warm period (ca AD 800–1300) or the Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM; ca 10 000–3000 years ago)”:
    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/363/1501/2283

  33. The carbon release has the potential to create what scientists call a positive feedback loop. This means as more carbon is released into the atmosphere, it would amplify climate warming. That, in turn, would cause more permafrost to thaw and release more carbon, causing the cycle to continue.
    “Moving forward, we need to find out how consistent our findings are and to work with a broader range of scientists to better predict how fast this process will happen,” Stubbins said.

    Since it is based on a complete fantasy, the answer is “never”. But I’m sure they can create marvelous models “showing” it happening in 50 years. Then the models will become “evidence”.

    • Their models always beg the question. They hard code warming caused by an increase in CO2 into their simulations so that is what their results show. Their results are not evidence but just a waste of time and money.

  34. Errm heres a question, they have dated the Carbon at 20,000 years old, but this was at the last Glacial maximum! So how exactly were the plants that trapped the carbon able to grow in an area which would have been 8C colder than current conditions in which it is still covered in permafrost?

  35. The only thing this does for me is help confirm the evidence that Carbon Dioxide levels follow temperature and not the other way round. The doomsday shrieking, I just ignore.

  36. The previous interglacial period was warmer than this one with more ice cap melting and higher sea levels so there must have been more permafrost melting as well. Yet a climate tipping point was never achieve and the next ice age started on schedule. There was no huge increase in CO2. Along with more CO2 in the atmosphere of the Arctic one would expect more H2O as well. If any greenhouse gas actually affected climate change then the lion’s share of the effect should be attributed to H2O. However; in terms of the radiant greenhouse effect, H2O provides ample negative feedbacks so as to mitigate the effects that the other greenhouse gases might have on climate. If CO2 did have a significant effect on climate then changes in CO2 should have a noticeable effect on the temperature lapse rate in the troposphere but it does not.

  37. I recall clearly a study from one of the big acronym groups (NASA?) a few years ago that looked at melting of permafrost in the Arctic. What they found is that when the permafrost melts, it creates wet, rich soil from which sprout with great enthusiasm, scrub bushes. Which in turn, shade the ground, preventing more melting. Obviously, a balance is reached, and as I recall, it was no more than a foot or two of permafrost that would melt. Seems to me that the all that bacteria making CO2 would locally enhance plant growth, further speeding the arrival of the negative feedback of plant growth. Nature’s own carbon capture and sequestration program.
    Maybe these “scientists” should have put some plants in their mason jar, or even done the experiment in a greenhouse covering a patch of realistic terrain.
    Last question: The melt water was “carbon enhanced.” Can plants use such water for their own growth process? If yes, then the growth of melt-preventing bushes would be even further speeded.

  38. “This is carbon that has been out of the active, natural system for tens of thousands of years. To reintroduce it into the contemporary system will have an effect.”
    The carbon release has the potential to create what scientists call a positive feedback loop.

    What utter nonsense. Did they even bother to look at the methane atmospheric graphs? Methane has been with us all along. It is a convex curve, continually increasing, but at a continually decreasing rate, as the circumference of effect continually lessens.
    Either they know and are being disingenuous, or they do not, which betrays a surprising ignorance of the bottom line.

  39. “Now, with a warming climate, that deep freezer is beginning to thaw and that long-frozen carbon is beginning to be released into the environment.”
    So, we should be seeing an increase in global temperatures?
    As we are not, and the global temperatures are staying the same, what are we supposed to think the climate sensitivity is?
    That it’s not high.
    The long period of temperatures staying the same, while CO2 increases, implicates a low climate sensitivity.
    Also, is the University of Georgia proposing CO2 rises after the temperature increases?
    Thanks, Anthony.

    • Andres,
      They (rent seeking wannbe scientists) have just acknowledged higher temps create more CO2 and when you consider the original co2 that kicked off the gravy train came from us then………………

  40. If the permafrost melts vegetation will take over, sucking more CO2 out of the atmosphere. Positive feedback? Probably not.

  41. So permafrost has stayed exactly the same for 20,000 years? this permafrost argument seems ridiculous.

  42. The amount of Carbon and CO2 in this ice is no different than the soil was and the atmosphere was when the water infiltrated and froze.
    That means it may have froze in 185 ppm CO2 content and, during the ice ages, basically nothing was growing where the permafrost formed. No C3 bushes or plants were growing here, not even tundra because CO2 was too low and precipitation especially was far too low in the region. Some cold-hardy C4 grasses were all that was growing here.
    When this permafrost water, sand and rock melts, it is more likely to absorb CO2 out of the atmosphere and to fix Carbon with the microbes that will grow in it since it formed in extremely low CO2 conditions.
    These people are NOT scientists. They are scaremongers.

  43. Under how much ice did this moss and other plant material grow 20,000 years ago? Magic Moss? We should bag it an sell it in Colorado.

  44. There was little in the way of ice sheets over NE Russia. Climate science suggests the reason for this was because it was to dry. l think it was more of a case that NE Russia was just too warm during the ice age for the ice sheets to form. lt seems it was warm enough for this moss and plant material to grow during the ice age. Because what looks to have happened during the ice age was that cold Arctic air got pushed down across North America. Which drove the Atlantic side of the NH into major climate cooling. But with all the Arctic air been pushed south it would have to been replaced by warmer air coming up from the south somewhere else. l believe it was in and around the northern Pacific area where this warm air was moving moving into he Arctic.

    • That is a superb observation. So, given that, of what use is a “global average”temperature? What does it tell us about regional climate? A lot I suspect. Like why were the last mammoths located on Wrangle Island.? Same/similar reason I expect.
      We really do get myopic at times, me included.
      I must go look for some proxies …

      • The last mammoths were found at Wrangel Island because it was the last place human hunters looked. Everywhere else, humans killed and consumed the “Gentle Giants”

      • Popular “urban” myth based on many recent papers I have read. I don’t think humans fast froze the remains for us to find thousands of years later. Humans most likely contributed but there were many compounding factors. I’ll post a link when I find my computer.

      • Yes the average global temperature is rather meaning less when it comes to climate change. The mistake been that the same thing must happen right across the globe. lt looks to me that the last ice age was to a large extent a regional climate change “at least within the NH” rather then across the whole NH. l got my first clue about this some years ago, by looking at the extent of the ice sheets during the ice age from the view point of been above the north pole. From this view point it looked like the Arctic had not been extended but had just moved somewhat over towards the Atlantic. This lead to thinking “what would of cause that”. l now believe l understand the reason why this happened.

  45. It is difficult for me to accept a world where the climate is in run-away heating and a new glacier is growing unfettered in the crater of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State. I think climate science is in need of a process check. Something they’re sure of is very wrong.

  46. There seems to be confusion in some of these comments about what permafrost is. There is no reason to suppose that organic matter in permafrost was originally ‘flash frozen’. At the present day, permafrost is usually covered with vegetation, ranging in nature from lichen to conifers. Below the vegetation is a layer of soil that is frozen in winter and thawed in summer. Below that is the permafrost. If the climate is gradually cooling, the coverage of permafrost will extend, and in some areas the vegetated surface will be succeeded by permanent ice and snow fields. Sequestration of organic matter occurs where the surface is not permanently frozen, provided the accumulation of plant matter during the growing season outstrips the processes of decay. A.cooling climate will in itself tend to slow down decay, so it is conceivable that substantial amounts may accumulate before all growth is stopped by permanent ice cover. There is an analogy with the more familiar case of peat bogs, which presumably nobody will deny can accumulate over many centuries.

  47. These “scientists” believe that the organic material in the soil will be rapidly consumed if it thaws. After all, just look at the organic soils in the New Orleans area… except they have survived mostly intact for thousands of years in near-tropical heat.
    But surely the organic material which washes downstream will be consumed, freeing all of its C02. This is why there are no fossil fuel deposits offshore of the warm silty Mississippi and Amazon deltas, and offshore of the “permafrost” surrounding the Arctic ocean. /sarc

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