Siberian thaw to speed up global warming

The release of trapped greenhouse gases is pushing the world past the point of no return on climate change

Robin McKie and Nick Christian
Sunday September 10, 2006
The Observer

The frozen bogs of Siberia are melting, and the thaw could have devastating consequences for the planet, scientists have discovered.

They have found that Arctic permafrost, which is starting to melt due to global warming, is releasing five times more methane gas than their calculations had predicted. That level of emission is alarming because methane itself is a greenhouse gas. Increased amounts will therefore accelerate warming, cause more melting of Siberian bogs and Arctic wasteland, and so release even more. ‘It’s a slow-motion time bomb,’ said climate expert Professor Ted Schuur, of the University of Florida.

The discovery of these levels of methane release, revealed in a report in Nature last week, suggests that the planet is rapidly approaching a critical tipping point at which global warming could trigger an irreversible acceleration in climate change. ‘The higher the temperature gets, the more permafrost we melt, the more tendency it has to become a more vicious cycle,’ said Chris Field, director of global ecology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. ‘That’s the thing that is scary about this.’

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