Gases escaping permafrost alarm scientists

WASHINGTON – Global warming gases trapped in the soil are bubbling out of thawing permafrost in amounts far higher than previously thought and may trigger what researchers warn is a climate time bomb.

Methane – a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide – is being released from permafrost at a rate five times faster than thought, according to a study being published today in the journal Nature. The findings are based on new, more accurate measuring techniques.

The effects can be huge,” said lead author Katey Walter of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. “It’s coming out a lot and there’s a lot more to come out.”

Scientists worry about a vicious global warming cycle that was not part of their already-gloomy climate forecast: Warming already under way thaws permafrost, soil that has been frozen for thousands of years. Thawed permafrost releases methane and carbon dioxide. Those gases reach the atmosphere and help trap heat on Earth. The trapped heat thaws more permafrost, and the cycle continues.

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research credit -> Candice

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