From San Diego State University and the “say anything to support the cause” department, comes this press release written by a fellow who obviously does not understand what it means when researchers say: “[methane and carbon dioxide release] is highest in the Arctic during the region’s cold season“. Maybe now those alarmists like Paul Beckwith and the always wrong on sea ice expert Peter Wadhams can call off their “Arctic Methane Emergency Group” who say the warming during summer is the biggest problem.
Yet here we are, actual measurements say that methane and CO2 release are contrary to what climate models predict about thawing permafrost releasing methane. Obviously some other mechanism is going on if permafrost is releasing equal or greater amounts of methane during winter as it does during summer..
Last year their press release said:
…found that far more methane is escaping from Arctic tundra during the cold months—when the soil surface is frozen (generally from September through May)—as well as from upland tundra, than prevailing assumptions and climate modelers previously believed. In fact, they found that at least half of the annual methane emissions occur in the cold months, and that drier, upland tundra can be a larger emitter of methane than wet tundra. The finding challenges critical assumptions in current global climate models.
With the new study from Kwon et al. cited in the press release below, Kwon finds the same thing for CO2 release – more in the cold season.
So if half or more of Methane and CO2 release is happening when the ground is frozen, that rather puts the damper on worries that summer warming is going to set off a runaway greenhouse effect, at least that’s how I read it. Yet here with are with that exact title from SDSU’s press release today. It seems to me that their thinking is backwards, as they seem worried that now there is more methane and carbon dioxide release in the winter than they previously knew about, that this just adds to the volume of the alarm, rather than pointing to something being wrong in model assumptions and assumptions about feedback mechanisms.
Runaway Global Warming
SDSU biologist Donatella Zona comments on a startling new finding in climate change research.
The steady march of global warming over the past century has led to the thawing of permafrost—a layer of subsurface soil in the Arctic that usually remains frozen year-round. While that’s troubling for local ecosystems, it could have disastrous global impacts as well. As this permafrost melts, it sets off a biochemical chain reaction in the soil that could dramatically increase the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating further climate change. San Diego State University biologist Donatella Zona wrote about this issue in a commentary article this week in the journal Nature.
In her commentary, she provides expert perspective on recent findings published in the journal Biogeosciences by Min Jung Kwon of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany. Kwon and her team report that the layer of permafrost typically acts as a barrier against moisture drainage in the soil. As this permafrost melts, the moisture drains out, leaving the top layers of the soil drier and warmer. This warming kick-starts a biochemical process within organic matter present in the soil that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are leading contributors to warming global temperatures.
“The authors report that the net effect of draining in their study is an increase in the amount of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere, which will ultimately magnify climate change,” Zona wrote in her commentary.
Zona published a study about the effects of drainage in permafrost earlier this year in the journal Nature Geoscience. Additionally, she and fellow SDSU ecologist Walt Oechel, along with colleagues at several other institutions, published another study last year showing that the emission of methane, another greenhouse gas, is highest in the Arctic during the region’s cold season. That was surprising, as most scientists thought little if any greenhouse gases escaped the frozen soil during the cold season.
Sure enough, Kwon’s recent study shows a similar trend for carbon dioxide.
“Importantly, Kwon and colleagues show the increase is highest during the cold season, a notoriously under-studied part of the year in tundra ecosystems,” Zona wrote.
More data is needed to better understand the long-term implications of these findings on larger climate change patterns, Zona said. But that’s difficult, as funding for such studies is scarce.
“Unfortunately, given the costs of doing research in this region, funding agencies tend to support projects of only 3–5 years—hardly long enough to provide even a first glimpse of the impact of climate change,” she wrote. “Long-term studies would be possible only through a collaboration of research groups, with several funding agencies sharing the financial burden.”