Massive Permafrost Thaw Documented in Canada, Portends Huge Carbon Release | InsideClimate News

GR:  Permafrost melt is accelerating as climatologists have predicted. However, there is yet no sign of a truly catastrophic release of methane.

“Study shows 52,000 square miles in rapid decline, with sediment and carbon threatening the surrounding environment and potentially accelerating global warming.

“Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers. A new study that analyzed nearly a half-million square miles in northwest Canada found that this permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles of that vast stretch of earth—an expanse the size of Alabama.

“According to researchers with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, the permafrost collapse is intensifying and causing landslides into rivers and lakes that can choke off life downstream, all the way to where the rivers discharge into the Pacific Ocean.

“Similar large-scale landscape changes are evident across the Arctic including in Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia, the researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal Geology in early February. The study didn’t address the issue of greenhouse gas releases from thawing permafrost. But its findings will help quantify the immense global scale of the thawing, which will contribute to more accurate estimates of carbon emissions.

“Permafrost is land that has been frozen stretching back to the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. As the Arctic warms at twice the global rate, the long-frozen soils thaw and decompose, releasing the trapped greenhouse gases into the air. Scientists estimate that the world’s permafrost holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere.

“The new study was aimed at measuring the geographical scope of thawing permafrost in northwest Canada. Using satellite images and other data, the team studied the edge of the former Laurentide Ice Sheet, a vast expanse of ice that covered two-thirds of North America during the last ice age. The disintegration of the permafrost was visible in 40- to 60-mile wide swaths of terrain, showing that, “extensive landscapes remain poised for major climate-driven change.” –Bob Berwyn (Continue Reading:  Massive Permafrost Thaw Documented in Canada, Portends Huge Carbon Release | InsideClimate News.)

Faster than Expected – Nature Bats Last

GR: Here are the arguments for near-term-extinction of humanity and most complex life on Earth. Personally, I can’t believe that we will all be dead in 10 years. I think it’s a mental block of some kind. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to read the arguments. Things are going to get bad, but I know that without a catastrophic methane release, it may be centuries, before the last shreds of our civilization disappear. It’s probably too late to prevent our extinction, but understanding the arguments lets us see how grave our predicament and it might help us support the right attempts to dampen the rate of climate change.

Almost lifeless Earth.

Almost lifeless Earth.

“As I’ve pointed out previously, I doubt there will be a human on Earth by mid-2026. Indeed, I doubt there will be complex life on this planet by then. It’ll be a small world, as was the case in the wake of each of the five prior Mass Extinction events on Earth. Bacteria, fungi, and microbes will dominate.

“As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, humans will lose habitat on Earth before the last human dies. The final human probably will die after running out of canned food in a bunker. And he or she will not know human extinction has occurred.

“According to the Pentagon’s JASON Group, the situation for life on Earth will be far worse than I have ever described. A well-informed insider there wrote on 19 December 2016: “THE JASON GROUP at the Pentagon is getting new data (upon my constant requests) that the effect of over 450 reactors melting down will most likely destroy the Ozone layers. Rather than going Venus Earth will end up more like Mars. Very dead with almost no chance to regenerate an atmosphere. Report to be published in 2017.”

“The ice-free Arctic predicted by the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 2016, + 3 years, seems likely in 2017. Arctic ice is very fragile. Regardless when it arrives, the near-term ice-free Arctic will be experienced by humans for the first time. Ever. This event might trigger the 50-Gt burst of methane forecast by Shakhova and colleagues at the European Geophysical Union annual meeting in 2008 (“we consider release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time”). I reasonably use the ice-free Arctic as a proxy for this first burst of atmospheric methane. After all, it’s been “highly possible for abrupt release at any time” for nearly a decade. In May 2015, Shakhova lied about the research group’s earlier statement about an abrupt release of methane — when she could have easily retracted the statement — saying, “We never stated that 50 gigatonnes is likely to be released in near or distant future.”

“The first 50-gigatonne burst of methane described by Shakhova et al. translates to a global temperature rise of 1.3 C, which causes civilization to collapse because grains cannot be grown at scale. Industrial civilization, as with its predecessors, requires grain production and storage. This abrupt rise in temperature would be felt within a few weeks in the Northern Hemisphere — where nearly all civilization-supporting grains are grown — and within a year throughout the world. It would take Earth’s global-average temperature well beyond the point that has supported humans in the past. Ever.Lack of global dimming adds another ~3 C. Earth is then ~6 C above the 1750 baseline by the following spring (2018?). About 2/3 of the temperature rise comes within a few months. I doubt there’s habitat for humans or many other animals at that point. After all, the slow rise in global-average temperature documented so far outstrips the ability of vertebrates to adapt by more than 10,000 times.” –Guy McPherson (More:  Faster than Expected – Nature Bats Last).

Scientists have long feared this ‘feedback’ to the climate system. Now they say it’s happening – Washington Post

GR:  The potential for runaway global warming is growing. This is an important article that we shouldn’t ignored. Of course, one might argue that when you are chained across the railroad tracks, you might as well ignore the approaching train. If that’s where we are, perhaps its time for the Champaign.

“At a time when a huge pulse of uncertainty has been injected into the global project to stop the planet’s warming, scientists have just raised the stakes even further.

“In a massive new study published Wednesday in the influential journal Nature, no less than 50 authors from around the world document a so-called climate system “feedback” that, they say, could make global warming considerably worse over the coming decades.

“That feedback involves the planet’s soils, which are a massive repository of carbon due to the plants and roots that have grown and died in them, in many cases over vast time periods (plants pull in carbon from the air through photosynthesis and use it to fuel their growth). It has long been feared that as warming increases, the microorganisms living in these soils would respond by very naturally upping their rate of respiration, a process that in turn releases carbon dioxide or methane, leading greenhouse gases.

“It’s this concern that the new study validates. “Our analysis provides empirical support for the long-held concern that rising temperatures stimulate the loss of soil C to the atmosphere, driving a positive land C–climate feedback that could accelerate planetary warming over the twenty-first century,” the paper reports.

“This, in turn, may mean that even humans’ best efforts to cut their emissions could fall short, simply because there’s another source of emissions all around us. The very Earth itself.” –Chris Mooney (please continue reading:  Scientists have long feared this ‘feedback’ to the climate system. Now they say it’s happening – The Washington Post)

CO2’s Vertigo-Inducing Rate of Rise — In First 5 Months of 2016 Hothouse Gas Concentration Rocketed 3.7 Parts Per Million Above 2015

GR.– A recurring warning from climatologists is the possibility that melting permafrost will generate a positive feedback loop in global warming.  Such an event would move the “Climate Emergency” into an extreme phase from which we could not recover without massive damage to Earth’s ecosystems and the current human civilizations.  Prudence demands that we never dismiss such fears.  We must try to prevent the event, plan contingency responses, and hope it never happens.

“Perhaps the most worrisome threat is that because the Arctic is warming so much faster than the globe as a whole, the permafrost — soil that remains frozen year-round — is thawing. As it does, organic matter which is trapped within can decay, and when it does it releases CO2 into the atmosphere, except those places where instead of releasing CO2 it releases CH4.” — Tamino.

RobertScribbler.– “With the Northern Hemisphere Pole warming at a rate 2-3 times faster than the rest of the globe, there’s a risk that we start to set off a kind of runaway warming feedback. We may be near that threshold now… God help us if we’ve crossed it… ” Continue reading:  CO2’s Vertigo-Inducing Rate of Rise — In First 5 Months of 2016 Hothouse Gas Concentration Rocketed 3.7 Parts Per Million Above 2015 | robertscribbler

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