Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Warming could free far more carbon from high Arctic soil than earlier thought

08.12.2005


Scientists studying the effects of carbon on climate warming are very likely underestimating, by a vast amount, how much soil carbon is available in the high Arctic to be released into the atmosphere, new University of Washington research shows.



A three-year study of soils in northwest Greenland found that a key previous study greatly underestimated the organic carbon stored in the soil. That’s because the earlier work generally looked only at the top 10 inches of soil, said Jennifer Horwath, a UW doctoral student in Earth and space sciences.

The earlier work, reported in 1992, estimated nearly 1 billion metric tons of organic carbon was contained in the soil of the polar semidesert, a 623,000-square-mile treeless Arctic region that is 20 percent to 80 percent covered by grasses, shrubs and other small plants. That research also estimated about 17 million metric tons of carbon was sequestered in the soil of the adjacent polar desert, a 525,000-square-mile area where only 10 percent or less of the landscape is plant covered.


Horwath dug substantially deeper, in some instances more than 3 feet down, and found significantly more carbon. She concluded that the polar semidesert contains more than 8.7 billion metric tons of carbon, and the polar desert contains more than 2.1 billion metric tons.

"In the polar semidesert, I found nearly nine times more carbon than was previously reported," she said. "In the polar desert, I’m finding 125 times more carbon."

Horwath will present her findings Tuesday in a poster exhibited during the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting. The work is part of a broader study of carbon content of the water, plants and soil of the high Arctic region led by Jeffrey Welker, a biology professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The UW contingent is led by Ronald Sletten, a research associate professor of Earth and space sciences and coauthor of the poster.

Over three years, during thawing from late June to early August, Horwath excavated more than 75 pits on a peninsula near Thule Air Base in Greenland. The peninsula lies between the Greenland Ice Sheet and Baffin Bay. The pits, about three feet square, ranged in depth from 10 inches to nearly 39 inches, with their depth typically limited by bedrock, water table or permafrost. They contained a variety of soil types and features.

The findings are significant because the Arctic is showing greater effects from global climate change than anywhere else on Earth.

"We already know the Arctic climate is warming, and as it warms the depth of the permafrost is lowered. As that happens, more carbon becomes active and can be converted to carbon dioxide, one of the most abundant greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," Horwath said.

She noted that there is disagreement among scientists on just what the added warmth might mean for the high Arctic. Some say warmer climate will produce greater plant activity to absorb more carbon. Others say the overall carbon absorption is decreasing as the permafrost retreats.

No matter which group is right, she said, it is clearly important for those who run computer models that look at the processes and effects of climate change to have the most accurate numbers possible for the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere.

"The effects of climate change are really hard to predict, and it’s that much harder if you don’t have an accurate picture of what is actually happening now," Horwath said.

Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Treating arthritis with algae

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Witnessing turbulent motion in the atmosphere of a distant star

23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>