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Old 13-08-2005, 16:55   #1
simon simon is offline
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Climate change

Alarming news from this week's New Scientist about melting of permafrost in Siberia due to warming. 70 billion tonnes of methane could be released, equivalent in greenhouse warming effect to 1.4 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide, more than 200 times the world's annual carbon dioxide emissions.

http://www.newscientist.com/article....mg18725124.500

Climate warning as Siberia melts

11 August 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Fred Pearce

THE world's largest frozen peat bog is melting. An area stretching for a million square kilometres across the permafrost of western Siberia is turning into a mass of shallow lakes as the ground melts, according to Russian researchers just back from the region.

The sudden melting of a bog the size of France and Germany combined could unleash billions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

The news of the dramatic transformation of one of the world's least visited landscapes comes from Sergei Kirpotin, a botanist at Tomsk State University, Russia, and Judith Marquand at the University of Oxford.

Kirpotin describes an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He says that the entire western Siberian sub-Arctic region has begun to melt, and this "has all happened in the last three or four years".

What was until recently a featureless expanse of frozen peat is turning into a watery landscape of lakes, some more than a kilometre across. Kirpotin suspects that some unknown critical threshold has been crossed, triggering the melting.

Western Siberia has warmed faster than almost anywhere else on the planet, with an increase in average temperatures of some 3 °C in the last 40 years. The warming is believed to be a combination of man-made climate change, a cyclical change in atmospheric circulation known as the Arctic oscillation, plus feedbacks caused by melting ice, which exposes bare ground and ocean. These absorb more solar heat than white ice and snow.

Similar warming has also been taking place in Alaska: earlier this summer Jon Pelletier of the University of Arizona in Tucson reported a major expansion of lakes on the North Slope fringing the Arctic Ocean.

The findings from western Siberia follow a report two months ago that thousands of lakes in eastern Siberia have disappeared in the last 30 years, also because of climate change (New Scientist, 11 June, p 16). This apparent contradiction arises because the two events represent opposite end of the same process, known as thermokarsk.

In this process, rising air temperatures first create "frost-heave", which turns the flat permafrost into a series of hollows and hummocks known as salsas. Then as the permafrost begins to melt, water collects on the surface, forming ponds that are prevented from draining away by the frozen bog beneath. The ponds coalesce into ever larger lakes until, finally, the last permafrost melts and the lakes drain away underground.
“This is an ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming”

Siberia's peat bogs formed around 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. Since then they have been generating methane, most of which has been trapped within the permafrost, and sometimes deeper in ice-like structures known as clathrates. Larry Smith of the University of California, Los Angeles, estimates that the west Siberian bog alone contains some 70 billion tonnes of methane, a quarter of all the methane stored on the land surface worldwide.

His colleague Karen Frey says if the bogs dry out as they warm, the methane will oxidise and escape into the air as carbon dioxide. But if the bogs remain wet, as is the case in western Siberia today, then the methane will be released straight into the atmosphere. Methane is 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

In May this year, Katey Walter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks told a meeting in Washington of the Arctic Research Consortium of the US that she had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia, where the gas was bubbling from thawing permafrost so fast it was preventing the surface from freezing, even in the midst of winter.

An international research partnership known as the Global Carbon Project earlier this year identified melting permafrost as a major source of feedbacks that could accelerate climate change by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. "Several hundred billion tonnes of carbon could be released," said the project's chief scientist, Pep Canadell of the CSIRO Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research in Canberra, Australia.
From issue 2512 of New Scientist magazine, 11 August 2005, page 12

Last edited by simon; 13-08-2005 at 17:11.
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Old 13-08-2005, 19:36   #2
haku haku is offline
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Thanks for the informative article, we're living interesting times, it seems that Siberia will become an immense fertile region in a few decades, as fertile as the American mid west has been until now. That plus the fact that the withdrawal of the north pole ice ring will allow the opening of a new commercial route for boats between Europe and South-East Asia instead of going through the dangerous Gulf region, no wonder that Russia is considering the global warming as not really a bad thing for them.
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Old 13-08-2005, 21:26   #3
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But the effects for most of the world will be devastating!

The most pessimistic predictions were that the permafrost might be melting away like this by the middle of the century. If it's happening now, it suggests that the carbon sinks are much more sensitive to warming than was thought and global warming will be much worse. Forget about the IPCC's 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C warming this century - think 6 to 12 degrees. Those kind of rises would turn most of the world to desert and make most life on Earth extinct.
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Old 14-08-2005, 06:41   #4
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It is a sad news when the animals are going to be extinct. I don't think there is a pessimistic prediction. It's the most true. Sad news, indeed. Is there a way to help?
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Old 14-08-2005, 09:05   #5
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ways to help? i think it's kinda too late for that. there are some hard headed people who dont give a flying frog on the warmings or the meltings; and to help we have to start convincing them to work with the environmentalists, scientists, and people who are willing to help. and even then if we do convince all of them... i think it's gonna be too late.
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Old 14-08-2005, 14:20   #6
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Old 14-08-2005, 14:52   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shakrin
i think it's kinda too late
Yeah, i also think so, it's too late to do anything, the various threshholds have most probably been crossed many decades ago. The permafrost in Siberia, Canada and Alaska has been melting for several years now, the ice coat in Greenland and Antarctica is melting as well, and the ice of the North Pole is getting thinner and thinner, nothing can stop or even slow down such a massive phenomenon.

The planet is about to live a change of era, like what happened 65 million years ago when the planet went from the Mesozoic era to the Cenozoic era, and of course there is going to be a massive extinction like what happened at the end of the Mesozoic era with the Cretaceous extinction.
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Old 14-08-2005, 17:31   #8
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I still think there is a way to prevent it from total destruction, or maybe just slow it down. The governments need to work together to make it work. But the big people just don't give a damn, and the smaller people are just hopeless. Cheers.
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Old 14-08-2005, 17:33   #9
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If the peat bog dries out before the methane is released, it will be broken down to carbon dioxide, which is 20 times less warming than methane. It will add to global warming, but if the world realises just how dangerous the situation is and decided to phase out using fossil fuels over the next few decades and switch to renewables and nuclear (I know, but this is an emergency) for electricity and hydrogen for fuel (this week it was announced that somebody has finally found an efficient way to generate hydrogen from solar energy) then it might be possible to avert the worst. But I don't think even Europe, let alone America and China, is prepared to take such radical action. It would interfere with the economy, and that's more important to most voters and governments than the fate of the world decades from now.

If the peat bog releases 70 billion tonnes of methane, we're f*cked whatever we do.
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Old 14-08-2005, 17:58   #10
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Thanks for the info, Simon. We all know it is not entirely hopeless yet, but if it goes to the worst, I think human species should be the one to be extinct.
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Old 15-08-2005, 07:21   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uhaku
but if it goes to the worst, I think human species should be the one to be extinct.
hear hear!!
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Old 25-02-2006, 21:49   #12
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Alaska is also melting, Polar Bears might become extinct

Amber: Please do not post entirely in bold letters, thanks.
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Old 05-11-2006, 23:15   #13
haku haku is offline
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The WMO has just released a report showing that carbon dioxide levels continue to rise steadily with no signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future.

Another recent Nasa study shows that Greenland is currently losing about 100 billion tonnes of ice every year.
The Greenland ice sheet was still stable in the 1990s, so obviously a threshhold has been crossed in the last 10 years and now ice is melting fast everywhere on the planet.

I've recently seen a documentary on Greenland and the climate warming is obvious over there, the southern part of the island is currently being colonized by plants and animals never seen on the island before, and people are now able to grow patatoes for example, it used to be impossible as the frozen soil would kill them.
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Old 05-11-2006, 23:48   #14
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We'll kill each other because of the political friction in the world sooner than any climate catastrophe occurs. If statistics existed 600 years ago I'd love to see how it all changed. Climate scientists don't even know themselves how ice melting will affect global environmental changes. Dinosaurs disappeared long time ago and I guess not because of some carbon dioxide levels. LOL. Before getting into a big panic, I think we should collect more knowledge.
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Old 06-11-2006, 00:43   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by forre
If statistics existed 600 years ago I'd love to see how it all changed.
Well, we do know how it was 600 years ago, we have data going back 650,000 years actually, from the analysis of air trapped in the Antartic ice sheet.

Here's a graph showing carbon dioxide levels for the past 400,000 years.
Quote:
This figure shows the variations in concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere during the last 400 thousand years. Throughout most of the record, the largest changes can be related to glacial/interglacial cycles within the current ice age. Although the glacial cycles are most directly caused by changes in the Earth's orbit (i.e. Milankovitch cycles), these changes also influence the carbon cycle, which in turn feeds back into the glacial system.

Since the Industrial Revolution, circa 1800, the burning of fossil fuels has caused a dramatic increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, reaching levels unprecedented in the last 400 thousand years. This increase has been implicated as a primary cause of global warming.
This graph shows that there used to be a carbon cycle in sync with the glacial/interglacial cycles, carbon was high during warm periods, carbon was low during glacial periods, it was like clockwork.
We can see that the highest levels were regularly around 280ppm and the lowest levels around 180ppm. Before the industrial revolution, carbon levels were normally high for a warm period just following a glacial one (which ended 10,000 years ago), around 280ppm, but for the last 200 years, carbon levels have skyrocketed to 380ppm and continue to rise by 20ppm every 10 years.
We'll be close to 500ppm in 2050, almost twice higher than what used to be the highest levels for the last 650,000 years, which means our atmosphere will be as far from a normal warm period as a normal warm period was from a glacial age, that's a massive difference.
Such a steep unprecedented increase can only lead to a major climate change.
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Old 06-11-2006, 01:54   #16
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If any of you guys and girls have seen "An Inconvenient Truth", which if not i suggest you do, it shows how Greenland is melting and in fact has a huge torrent running through it virtually down to the crust! If this occurs it will mean an increase in cold freshwater. An increase in cold freshwater means that the cold water does not sink to the floor bed (because the salt is heavier and usually brings it down) and thus halting the great ocean conveyer belt, which literally controls our climate. It will mean the evaporation of freezing cold water from the top of the sea (which was Greenlands ice) and an increase in this very cold precipitation. Basically Europe will be in an ice age. In reply to forre, it is not the need for a "big panic" but rather "big action." We need an immediate change of circumstances. We are the people, we have rights and just like the russian revolution proved the wealthy complacent and selfish do not win in the end. Al Gore needs to be voted in, hybridised or electric/oxygen fuel must be used and we must take responsibility for our environment...personally..
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Old 06-11-2006, 18:03   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
We'll be close to 500ppm in 2050, almost twice higher than what used to be the highest levels for the last 650,000 years, which means our atmosphere will be as far from a normal warm period as a normal warm period was from a glacial age, that's a massive difference.
Such a steep unprecedented increase can only lead to a major climate change.
With another words, we should have been facing Ice Age 10 years ago. Where are we now? How would you stop environmental changes? Scientists are split as a matter of fact. There's a group that think that the greenhouse effect protects the planet from solar activities and another group thinks that it destroys the balance on the planet. What am I trying to say is that studies don't seem to be complete to me, thus I personally can't do anything. Then, no one lives for ever.
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Old 06-11-2006, 18:53   #18
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Greenhouse effect does protect the Earth from Sun's radiation, but only when the effect is moderate. It's starting to appear as though human emissions are contributing in graudual over-development in what is otherwise a normal atmospheric phenomenon. I think there's still time though.
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Old 06-11-2006, 22:33   #19
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Help, we die from overheating in a poisonous CO2-atmosphere!

Well, scientists can play with numbers and simply tell us anything. But if we look at those numbers which they don't show us so much, we get a quite different picture. The CO2-contents of the atmosphere was NEVER so low in earth history than in the last few million years (read beginning of glacial cycles), the surface temperature of the earth was most of the time considerably above the values of today. For a low resolution graph of temperature and CO2 for the last 550 mio years look here - sorry text in german, but I think, you can figure it out, anyway. I want to compare the hystery with a man who has almost been drowned, now the water goes up to the throat, and he has fear that he may die of thirst.

Another interesting graph, rarely shown is this, again in german - the correlation between the length of the solar (sunspot) cycle and the global temperature. I always knew that some magicians can influence the irradiation of the sun!

What else should we know, before "we die because of our own fault to destroy our environment"? Volcanic activity produces about 34 +/- 22 Megatons CO2 through active surface eruptions and about 31 +/- 22 Megatons of passive outgassing per year, both very strongly fluctuating, whereas mankind produces about 7 Megatons, of which 4 Megatons are buried by algae and plants. Despite those facts the rise of CO2 goes on in a very constant way of 1.5 ppm per year.
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Old 06-11-2006, 22:49   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by forre
How would you stop environmental changes? Scientists are split as a matter of fact. There's a group that think that the greenhouse effect protects the planet from solar activities and another group thinks that it destroys the balance on the planet. What am I trying to say is that studies don't seem to be complete to me, thus I personally can't do anything. Then, no one lives for ever.
Don't get me wrong, i'm not saying this is the end of the world and we're all going to die, i'm not a doomsday preacher.

The planet has known very warm periods in the past, not during human times but millions of years ago when reptiles dominated the planet, so life as a whole will go on. As for humans, we managed to survive during the last glacial age, when it was so cold that there were glaciers in southern France and oceans were so low that it was possible to cross the Channel on foot, so i'm guessing we can survive to an oppositely extreme climate.

I definitely not think that we need to panic, mainly because there's nothing we can do. Personally i think it's too late to do anything, the climate change is already engaged, threshholds have been crossed… Greenland, Arctic, Antartic, Siberia, Canada, the ice and permafrost are melting fast everywhere, and it's not by reducing our emissions by 10% or whatever that we're going to stop such a massive phenomenon.
Plus the biggest polluters on the planet (US, China, India) refuse to do anything about it, so what's being done by a few other countries is meaningless.

That being said, i think it's important to prepare for the change instead of just wait for it (or even try to stop it which seems impossible).
Oceans are going to rise, 5 to 10m probably, maybe more, we can prepare for that, we can progressively move populations out of low areas.
A good part of Africa is going to become uninhabitable, again we need to move populations.
Many vegetal and animal species will die out, including species that we use for food, we need to adapt and select species that will resist to a much warmer climate.
And while Africa will die for the most part, Canada and Siberia will become much warmer and inhabitable, very large and almost empty lands where hundreds of millions of people will be able to live.
The key is to prepare instead of just wait for it to happen.
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