Why in News?
- As per a study published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science”, the warming Arctic tundra will make it harder for the world to curb climate change, as thawing permafrost and wildfires release greenhouse gases that are not fully accounted for in global emissions agreements.
What is happening in the Arctic?
- As temperatures rise and permafrost thaws, carbon dioxide and methane trapped within the long-frozen soil are released. The deeper the thaw, the more gas is released.
- Permafrost is a permanently frozen layer on or under Earth’s surface. It consists of soil, gravel, and sand, usually bound together by ice. Permafrost usually remains at or below 0°C (32ºF) for at least two years. Permafrost can be found on land and below the ocean floor.
- That threatens to create a feedback loop that contributes to even more warming of the atmosphere.
- The Arctic is in the process of disintegrating and the permafrost is one major component with some pretty grave implications
Significance of this study
- While more research is needed to measure the emissions coming from permafrost, the researchers estimate that fires along with abrupt thawing events could increase carbon emissions up to 40% by the end of the century unless fossil fuel emissions are drastically reduced.
- That would blow the global “emissions budget,” a scientific estimation of how much more the world can emit before average global temperatures rise more than 1.5 Celsius beyond pre-industrial levels, a limit outlined by the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate. In total, scientists say permafrost holds twice as much carbon as what is already in the atmosphere.
- The fire regimes in the Arctic are changing rapidly, with ‘zombie fires’ becoming more frequent in addition to fires occurring in the once-frozen tundra, according to a new study.
- A ‘zombie fire’ is a fire from a previous growing season that can smoulder under the ground which is made up of carbon-rich peat.