Carbon in the News
People hear about carbon in the news all the time. Mostly about emissions, and laws, and climate change. I wanted to know if there was anything specific about the tundra environment in a popular news source, since I am writing my research proposal on permafrost soils for Topics in Life Science. I’ve been reading a lot of research, but I wanted to know if there was any way for someone to hear about the changes in the tundra if they were not researching it. I found an article from the NY Daily News, “Alaska Permafrost Melt Creates Climate-Change Challenges — and ‘Thawing’ Disagreements.” Alaska has experienced permafrost melting, and homeowners are seeing their houses sink, roads are cracked, and erosion. This article was a good overview, and stated that permafrost melt was caused by rising temperatures, but they didn’t link this change to carbon emissions. USA Today’s “Alaska Sinks as Climate Change Thaws Permafrost” did a much better job of relating the thaw to greenhouse gasses. Their story highlights include “This thawing emits vast amounts of heat-trapping carbon and methane.” The article also points out that scientists don’t really know how much carbon is stored in the permafrost soils. In my research for Life Science, lots of people are doing research to see how soil temperature and moisture affect the amount of carbon stored in permafrost soils and rates of respiration and decomposition. It’s important to remember that permafrost soils are very moist, but that moisture is just frozen. By melting it, you’re kind of changing the frozen soil into a vertisol, and it will shrink and swell. I found that Subin et. al has done experiments using Community Land Model 4 (CLM4) and Community Climate System Model 4 (CCSM4) to create model experiments. Subin et. al found that there are implications for soil carbon feedbacks, and that more CO2 can increase soil carbon mineralization, or create more anoxic conditions, and lead to more emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O from permafrost soils. There results are general though, because they are from a program and not from sampling and testing. Before looking up this problem in the news, I didn’t know Alaska was dealing with permafrost melt, as much of what I found on SciVerse/Science Direct and Academic Search Complete was about the Tibetan Plateau and the permafrost soils there. So now I want to look into what’s happening in Alaska! I think the risk of permafrost melt is greater in Alaska than in the Tibetan Plateau due to the amount of people that live there and all the oil pipelines that will be sensitive to ground changes (in elevation). What do you guys think?
Erosion due to permafrost melt, from NY Daily News.
Subin, Zachary M.; Koven, Charles D.; Riley, William J.; Torn, Margaret S.; Lawrence, David M.; Swenson, Sean C. (2013). Effects of Soil Moisture on the Responses of Soil Temperatures to Climate Change in Cold Regions. Journal of Climate, Vol. 26, pg. (3139-3158).