Remember when peat bogs were going to release deadly carbon? Never mind.

Readers may recall the NYT sounds of alarm over peat bogs releasing all manners of hellish CO2 into the atmosphere due to warming. Well, they’re all wet. From FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY.

Study: Warming global temperatures may not affect carbon stored deep in northern peatlands

An expanse of wet Sphagnum bog in Frontenac National Park, Quebec, Canada. Spruce trees can be seen on a forested ridge in the background.
An expanse of wet Sphagnum bog in Frontenac National Park, Quebec, Canada. Spruce trees can be seen on a forested ridge in the background.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Deep stores of carbon in northern peatlands may be safe from rising temperatures, according to a team of researchers from several U.S.-based institutions.

And that is good news for now, the researchers said.

Florida State University research scientist Rachel Wilson and University of Oregon graduate student Anya Hopple are the first authors on a new study published today in Nature Communications. The study details experiments suggesting that carbon stored in peat — a highly organic material found in marsh or damp regions — may not succumb to the Earth’s warming as easily as scientists thought.

That means if these northern peatlands — found in the upper half of the northern hemisphere — remain flooded, a substantial amount of carbon will not be released into the atmosphere.

“We do see some breakdown of peat on the surface, but not below 2 feet deep, where the bulk of the carbon is stored,” Wilson said.

The study is part of a long-term look at how carbon stored in peat will respond to climate and environmental change. The team of researchers, led by Paul Hanson of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, includes scientists from FSU, University of Oregon, Georgia Institute of Technology, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service, Chapman University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Researchers ran four different temperature simulations — increasing the temperature of the peat by 2.25 degrees Celsius, 4.5 degrees Celsius, 6.25 degrees Celsius and 9 degrees Celsius — to see how it would respond to increased heat.

They found that the surface peat did emit more methane gas when warmed, but the deep peat did not break down and did not start emitting additional methane or carbon dioxide.

“If the release of greenhouse gases is not enhanced by temperature of the deep peat, that’s great news because that means that if all other things remain as they are, the deep peat carbon remains in the soil,” said Joel Kostka, professor of microbiology at Georgia Institute of Technology.

The Earth’s soils contain 1,550 billion tons of organic carbon, and 500 billion tons of this carbon is stored in northern peatlands around the world. This quantity is roughly the same amount as carbon in the atmosphere.

Scientists have been anxious to learn how these northern peatlands will respond to warming because a tremendous amount of carbon could be released into the atmosphere.

Researchers worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s experimental site known as SPRUCE in northern Minnesota to examine both surface peat and peat up to 6 feet deep. The majority of the carbon is stored deeper in the ground.

FSU Professor of Chemical Oceanography Jeff Chanton worked at a site operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory to study the effects of global climate change. CREDIT Courtesy of Jeff Chanton
FSU Professor of Chemical Oceanography Jeff Chanton worked at a site operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory to study the effects of global climate change. CREDIT Courtesy of Jeff Chanton

Large environmental chambers were constructed by the Oak Ridge team to enclose portions of the peatlands. Within these chambers, scientists simulated climate change effects such as higher temperatures and elevated carbon dioxide levels. They also took some of the deep peat back to their labs to heat in additional studies.

While scientists said they were surprised by the results, they also cautioned that this came only after one year of warming.

“There are the necessary caveats that this was only for one year, and the experiment is planned to run for a decade, and other ecosystem feedbacks may become important in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Scott Bridgham, director of the Institute of Ecology and Evolution at University of Oregon and Hopple’s adviser.

In the future, scientists also plan to look at how these peatlands respond to heightened carbon dioxide levels combined with the temperature increases.

“In the future, we’ll be warmer, but we’ll also have more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so we need to understand how these deep stores of peat, which have all this carbon, respond to these conditions,” said Jeff Chanton, professor of oceanography at Florida State University.

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This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Paul Westhaver
December 13, 2016 4:58 am

So organic material in peat bogs is stable now?
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/07/04/article-2168677-13ECAC4B000005DC-945_634x433.jpg
Thanks to Oden that somebody finally studied that.

Greg Woods
December 13, 2016 5:03 am

Without confirmation of models this is hard to believe…

rbabcock
December 13, 2016 5:04 am

Researchers ran four different temperature simulations — increasing the temperature of the peat by 2.25 degrees Celsius, 4.5 degrees Celsius, 6.25 degrees Celsius and 9 degrees Celsius

They should also should have tried decreasing the temperature as well. We really need to know so if the Earth cools and CO2 is not expelled as fast, coupled with the oceans absorbing more CO2 as they also cool, we may all starve due to substantially decreased CO2 levels.

December 13, 2016 5:04 am

So the previous reports were based on models, not real testing? So what’s different between this about peat bogs and much of the rest of “climate science”?

Charles Higley
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 13, 2016 6:48 am

They also predicted that melting tundra would start spewing out methane. Actual biologists actually went to actual melting tundra and discovered that, when tundra melted, the life in it woke up and became an active carbon sink. Golly gee, the tundra failed to perform as predicted. Now we have to figure out why the tundra acted wrongly. We KNOW the models are right, right?

tony mcleod
Reply to  Charles Higley
December 13, 2016 8:25 pm

Actual biologists actually went to actual melting tundra and discovered that, when tundra melted, the life in it woke up and became an active carbon sink.
Got a link?

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
December 13, 2016 5:10 am

Paul Westhaver’s picture of one of what I take to be the researchers who produced the report is worrying – clearly he got to close to his work.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
December 13, 2016 5:11 am

That should be a “too”, eek!

ozspeaksup
December 13, 2016 5:14 am

hmm?
so thats a full year,
but a model or a short term scan prior was plenty to raise merry hell over?
seems to be all too familiar
caveat it might??? be worse more fund etc

Quinn the Eskimo
December 13, 2016 5:16 am

I’m just a simple caveman, but won’t the peat grow faster with higher CO2 and warmer temps, and thus sequester more CO2, like every other photosynthetic organism on the planet does in those conditions?

rocketscientist
Reply to  Quinn the Eskimo
December 13, 2016 7:48 am

Peat is the decaying matter generated by growing peat moss. The moss ON TOP will grow faster with more sunlight, and continue to lay down subsequent new growth, but the dead stuff underneath will decompose. BTW it is the bacteria that create methane as they consume the dead peat moss. Due to the higher concentrations of phenolic compounds the moss is somewhat resistant to decay, but it will decay eventually. Now pile the blanket of decaying matter deep enough and you exclude much of the oxygen and force the decay to go anaerobic and slow it down further. Rising temperatures won’t penetrate very far into this insulating blanket, and until it gets churned up and aerated it not going to change much.
Oxygen is the enemy of carbon not heat.

Reply to  rocketscientist
December 13, 2016 9:09 am

All correct, but strongly enhanced by the fact that sphagnum peat is naturally very acidic as a combination of three biological factors including cation exchange by growing peat. Surface is below pH 5 and typical at depth is pH 3.5.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  rocketscientist
December 13, 2016 9:15 am

As bacteria produce methane,other bacteria consume it. A warming Arctic may be a methane sink.
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/pu-owe081715.php

Bloke down the pub
Reply to  rocketscientist
December 13, 2016 10:21 am

The only ‘risk’ to the deep carbon arises if the temperature becomes warm enough to support agriculture at which point someone may take the opportunity to drain the swamp in order to grow crops. Once drained, the decomposition of vegetable matter could resume, releasing methane and carbon dioxide. This has happened many times all over the world.

December 13, 2016 5:16 am

I wonder how much of future temperature rises projected by climate models was based on release of CO2 from peat blogs? If any, will these projections now be adjusted?

Jim Sweet
Reply to  Paul Stevens
December 13, 2016 8:19 am

This probably negates most of the higher delta T scenarios. They require the most enhanced temp feedback.

Griff
December 13, 2016 5:22 am

Great so long as those northern regions don’t have exceptionally warm summers and droughts – and the peat bogs don’t catch fire.
Like has been happening in recent years in Russia
https://robertscribbler.com/2015/09/03/smoke-from-peat-bog-fires-blankets-ukraine-and-western-russia-amidst-record-kiev-heat/

lee
Reply to  Griff
December 13, 2016 5:41 am

Have peat fires never happened naturally before?

paqyfelyc
Reply to  lee
December 13, 2016 6:23 am

they did, but, still, it will be all man’s fault if they do it again in the future.

Hugs
Reply to  lee
December 13, 2016 7:16 am

No, it’s cagw. /sarc
The peat I see has grown during the last ten millennia. After glaciation. There was no peat under the mile thick glacial ice.
Warming is good for peat. Rain is good. GW brings rain and above zero winter temps at high latitudes.

Archer
Reply to  Griff
December 13, 2016 5:43 am

That peat drying was caused by long-term drainage projects, not the weather. You’re trying to pin peat fires on climate change when the primary cause of peat fires is local human activity (drainage, clearance, land management and setting things on fire), and when peat fires have been occurring throughout history.

Bill Treuren
Reply to  Griff
December 13, 2016 9:05 am

I suppose unprecedented ha.
I think the words recent times is correct, but all times is what has actually happened.
Think about it for a moment, ice age, sea level falls, rains decrease, peat drys out due to low humidity winds, it will burn just fine and much deeper than now. Relax Griff

TA
Reply to  Bill Treuren
December 13, 2016 9:42 am

Everything old, is new again.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Griff
December 13, 2016 9:16 am

I think our friend Griffy suffers from Debbie Downer’s Syndrome.

catweazle666
Reply to  Griff
December 13, 2016 11:36 am

What about the millions of tons of peat excavated in Scotland to build the wind turbine bases and the access roads Grifter?
I suppose that as it was all done so your paymasters can make huge profits via subsidies, that doesn’t bother you.

MarkW
Reply to  catweazle666
December 13, 2016 12:14 pm

Since it was done in service to a good cause, it never happened.

Darrell Demick
Reply to  Griff
December 13, 2016 12:20 pm

Griff should change his moniker to “Skankhunt42”. At least that way other trolls might consider following him, but now that you raised the whole dihydrogen monoxide issue, they may simply stay away.

dp
Reply to  Griff
December 17, 2016 10:23 am

Monkeys will fly out of your paradigm before all these “unless” events happen.

Gary Pearse
December 13, 2016 5:36 am

I think I detect the Trump effect over the past few weeks, on one hand more shrill, near-to-breakdown dementia articles and blogsmog, and on the other, gee-things – are-better-than-we-thought stuff. Cool. Interesting. Our broken, corrupted social scientists, particularly what used to be psychology, are missing a “Uuuuge” research opportunity.

commieBob
Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 13, 2016 7:04 am

Even James Hansen is dialling it back.

“The ponderous response of the climate system also means that we don’t need to instantaneously reduce GHG amounts.”
– James Hansen, “We Hold Truths to be Self-Evident“ December 2, 2016. link

In addition to psychologists, there are social scientists who study scientists. Unfortunately, they are a bunch of postmodernists who are likely to miss the point. 🙁 They are happy to find evidence of deniers and ignore all evidence that the alarmists’ supposed science is bogus.

Fancy that? An artificially maintained scientific controversy … Bruno Latour

They will squander the opportunity.

Ray in SC
Reply to  commieBob
December 13, 2016 12:46 pm

If one of these social science types were to study climate psychology then he could say “I’m a dude, that’s studying a dude, who is studying another dude, who is thinking about something else.”
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8nh6aXeO_E0

tadchem
December 13, 2016 5:48 am

At temperatures below about 55° F (12.7° C) water + methane makes ‘methane hydrate’ – a solid. This is partly responsible for the utility of peat as a fuel. The vegetable fibers serve to insulate by preventing convection and reducing conduction, which restricts diurnal warming to a superficial effect.

Keith J
Reply to  tadchem
December 13, 2016 7:36 am

Clathrates are more sensitive to pressure reduction than temperature increase. Falling sea levels would tend to release methane, a negative feedback.
This is why Clathrates are not considered in CAGW acolyte circles.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  tadchem
December 13, 2016 9:41 am

Are you sure? Looking around the web, it seems that you need pretty high pressure to make methane hydrates at 55°F; much higher than atmospheric.

December 13, 2016 6:08 am

If only the top two feet of peat breaks down, what happens if it breaks down and then is gone and the next two feet become the top two feet?

rocketscientist
Reply to  Donald L. Klipstein
December 13, 2016 7:54 am

What is taking it away? It doesn’t evaporate. If you mean by the shovelful then, yes, the newly exposed peat will begin to oxidize. It would require some sort of mechanical effort to remove the tangled mass of peat. Compressed peat can be cut into large blocks and transported.

Reply to  rocketscientist
December 13, 2016 8:04 am

The top two feet of peat composts. It gets oxidized to water and CO2 and fertilizing nitrogen compounds, or gets partially oxidized and/or anaerobically metabolized by microbes so that methane is produced in lieu of some or all of the CO2 and water.

Resourceguy
December 13, 2016 6:23 am

The study breakthrough came when they bothered to look and even went below the surface.

MarkW
December 13, 2016 6:48 am

The minimum increase was 2.25C. In other words about 5 times what we are likely to see.

skorrent1
Reply to  MarkW
December 13, 2016 7:36 am

Exactly!

Jeremy Poynton
December 13, 2016 6:58 am

“This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.”
AKA the taxpayer…

Reply to  Jeremy Poynton
December 13, 2016 6:21 pm

So sad that all this money is wasted on useless and unnecessary research. How many water wells could you drill in Africa for the same cash? How many lives could they save by doing something useful for a change?

Curious George
December 13, 2016 7:10 am

May the researchers use fewer weasel words (could, may, may not, might).

Hugs
Reply to  Curious George
December 13, 2016 7:35 am

In a warming world, they could, but they might also increase them. It settled, you know.

Coeur de Lion
December 13, 2016 7:31 am

I’m told we are releasing gigatonnes of ‘carbon to the atmosphere. I’m waiting for this rain of bits of unpleasant black stuff. Or have I got it wrong?

Keith J
Reply to  Coeur de Lion
December 13, 2016 7:39 am

Like all pseudo scientists, shorthand jargon is used where it can be of psychological advantage. We all emit carbon dioxide.

Paul
Reply to  Keith J
December 13, 2016 10:06 am

“We all emit carbon dioxide.”
And methane.

MarkW
Reply to  Keith J
December 13, 2016 12:14 pm

Excuse me.

December 13, 2016 8:21 am

The biggest threat to peat bogs is people digging it up and burning it because its cheaper than the fossil fuels that are outrageously expensive because of carbon taxes.
And … its “renewable”.
“Peat as a local “biomass” fuel meets most of the demands the Commission has set for the energy policy of the European Community. Peat is produced mostly in remote areas where there is a chronic lack of industrial jobs. Powerful tractors typical in peat harvesting can be used outside the production season in agriculture, road maintenance and in wood transportation. New methods have been developed to establish “biomass terminals” on peat production sites, where wood is collected from the surrounding forests, crushed into chips, mixed with peat and transported to CHP plants. There have been experiments in drying wood chips with the aid of solar energy during the summer on the surface of the peat bog and collecting the air-dried wood chips from the peat fields with the same machines as for peat.
Especially in Finland, attention has been paid to co-combustion of peat and wood. It has been found that the chemical properties of wood fuel alone may cause certain problems in boilers. Burning peat together with wood helps to control the combustion process and reduce corrosion in the superheater tubes. This is mainly due to the mineral components of peat, which are proportionally higher than those of wood. Some advantage is gained with respect to SO2 emissions when peat is used simultaneously with wood. Many boilers which have been originally dimensioned for combustion of peat cannot meet full capacity with wood only. Thus, a successful increase in the use of wood as fuel in CHP plants depends on the use of peat as well. There are also good reasons to have alternative fuels available on commercial grounds and for security of supplies.”
Give the EU a few more years and DRAX will be burning peat.

Reply to  sunshinehours1
December 13, 2016 8:48 am

Interesting.

rocketscientist
Reply to  sunshinehours1
December 13, 2016 8:48 am

I guess that all this is doing is not waiting for natural processes to transform the peat into coal. No big difference unless you realize that you need to burn far more peat to produce the same amount of energy as coal, but it must be remembered by burning peat you will produce far more CO2 to get the equivalent energy.
This is the same old scam as “biodiesel” which has 90% the energy density as petroleum diesel, which forces you to burn more to get the same…..but it’s GREEN CO2 when biodiesel produces it.
[facepalm]

TA
Reply to  sunshinehours1
December 13, 2016 9:53 am

It’s unbelievable the hoops Greens jump through in order to avoid using conventional electrical generation facilities. What a waste of time, effort and money! Avoid all that insanity and go nuclear.

Ray in SC
December 13, 2016 8:54 am

I question whether the peat below 2 feet actually warmed up? I think the premise of the experiment may be flawed.
Also, I will add that the open top enclosure is an intersting choice for heating things up; did they overlook convection?

December 13, 2016 9:07 am

Peat is a very efficient carbon sink, the growing biomass absorbs CO2 at a greater rate than decay can release it..

rocketscientist
Reply to  Michael Burns
December 13, 2016 2:07 pm

And, thank goodness for the peat bogs of the late carboniferous period! Without them we would not be where we are. Damn good thing the Dinosaurs couldn’t harness combustion!

Reply to  rocketscientist
December 13, 2016 3:37 pm

@rocketscientist
I wonder if that’s that green and good CO2 that everybody keeps mentioning, as oppose to the bad CO2. Lol

chadb
December 13, 2016 9:13 am

Leave it to academic researchers to figure out the most complicated way to accomplish something. My suggestion would have been to stick a CO2 and Methane monitor in Minnesota, one in Scotland, one in Canada, and one in Siberia.

December 13, 2016 9:18 am

And I wonder in a few years if there will be different research saying something completely different. Again.
Mark
minimalistlifestyle.wordpress.com

rocketscientist
Reply to  Mark Lowe
December 13, 2016 9:40 am

“For every view there is an opposite and equal review.”
[Apologies to Sir Newton]

Reply to  rocketscientist
December 13, 2016 9:42 am

That certainly seems to be the case with most everything these days.

James at 48
December 13, 2016 10:03 am

Buuu … buuuu …. buuu … buuuuu …. CH4! We’re dooooooooooooooomed! DOOOOOOOOmed!
Whaooooooooooooo …. William!

Proud Skeptic
December 13, 2016 10:16 am

God! These people are SO lazy! Would it kill them to use the entire term “carbon dioxide”?

Neo
December 13, 2016 11:47 am

Why even experiment when “the science is settled” ?

William Grubel
December 13, 2016 12:15 pm

No peat Sherlock! We’re all in deep peat now.

CRS, DrPH
December 13, 2016 1:36 pm

This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Nope, this work was funded by US taxpayers. The DOE just took a big chunk of tax revenues, consumed most of it for their own bloated salaries & extravagant travel junkets, and tossed some of it towards this study, which cites the obvious to those of us who study environmental biology.
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/its-time-to-consider-killing-the-department-of-energy/article/2609080

Reply to  CRS, DrPH
December 13, 2016 4:25 pm

It will be interesting to see what changes Rick Perry will make as the new head for that department.

RoHa
December 13, 2016 5:24 pm

Peat bogs produce Irishmen. That’s bad enough.

TRM
Reply to  RoHa
December 13, 2016 6:39 pm

Dirty, dirty, dirty.

RoHa
December 13, 2016 5:24 pm

And am I going to get some stick for that!

TRM
December 13, 2016 6:38 pm

First concrete and now peat? What next? Can the warmunists handle the truth?

NorwegianSceptic
December 14, 2016 1:04 am

Be nice to peat – we need it for Whisky (Oh that fabulous West Coast smoky Scotch!)

James
December 15, 2016 8:13 pm

I predict that peat bogs will absorb the Co2. Never mind me… Moving along.

Johann Wundersamer
December 16, 2016 4:34 am

“In the future, we’ll be warmer, but we’ll also have more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so we need to understand how these deep stores of peat, which have all this carbon, respond to these conditions,” said Jeff Chanton, professor of oceanography at Florida State University.
_____________________________________
laughable.

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