Permafrost, the time bomb waiting to happen

Permafrost is a deadly climate change problem

Remember how your school teacher used to do those exploding methane experiments in the classroom?  Sadly, Methane is a greenhouse gas and because of human activity, we have dangerously increased the amount of methane into our atmosphere.  Hence the scientific concern that the earth’s permafrost is the time bomb waiting to happen, the global warming potential of methane is 34, that means that over a 100 year period.  Methane has the potential to trap 34 times more heat per mass unit than carbon dioxide.  Which is what makes it so lethal.

The World has known about global warming since the early 1970s and it had always been assumed that the permafrost was safe from warming up and releasing its harmful gases until the 22nd century – long after we have all shuffled off this mortal coil.  A recent study suggests the permafrost could thaw much sooner.

In fact, the permafrost in the Alaskan region could start thawing by 2070, according to scientists in Russia.  The permafrost ranges in depth from about three feet below the surface to about 5,000 feet below.  It is solid and frozen and hopefully, it will stay that way.  Once this layer melts, methane gases are then released into the atmosphere which could potentially accelerate global warming.

The big question is, “Have we reached the tipping point?” The point of no return, the stage where we cannot stop the inevitable.  For decades it has always been believed the permafrost will not thaw until at least the early part of the 22nd century, now it looks like it could be 2070 when the permafrost will have melted enough to create deadly methane gases and carbon dioxide gas releases into our atmosphere.

To exacerbate the nightmare scenario, there have been a number of forest fires in Alaska over the past few years – which really aren’t helping matters.  Russian scientists have spoken of a number of large sinkholes appearing on the Yamal Peninsula in the Siberian wastelands of northern Russia.

Atmospheric methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases in the Earths atmosphere

Already there are signs in Alaska that the permafrost is melting.  So-called “drunken forests” litter the state’s interior – these are forests where all the trees seem to be leaning at varying angles and some have actually fallen over completely (even though they are not actually dead).  What has occurred is that for hundreds of years the roots were held by the frozen deep soil and now this has melted the trees are not being held firmly in position.

This could be a sign of things to come…