Thursday, August 11, 2005

Climate News: Siberian thaw may represent climatic tipping point

A million square kilometers (or roughly 385,000 square miles) of Siberian peat bog that has been solid permafrost since the last ice age, 11,000 years ago, is thawing and may release tremendous quantities of methane. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas that over the next century "would effectively double atmospheric levels of [methane] gas, leading to a 10% to 25% increase in global warming [according to Dr. Stephen Sitch, a climate scientist at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter]. |Link|"

The increased albedo of a peat moss bog as opposed to snowy permafrost will also accelerate the greenhouse effect and some scientists fear this may be a tipping point beyond which climate change spins out of control.

It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.

Dr Kirpotin [of Tomsk University in Sibera stated that] the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.

Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.

"When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply," said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. |Link|
Who said science was boring?

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