Feeds

Melting Siberia threat to climate

Lots of methane in them thar bogs

The next step in data security

The largest frozen peat bog in the world, lying in western Siberia, is melting, according to Russian scientists. The million square kilometre area*, previously permafrost, is becoming a series of increasingly soggy shallow lakes, some already more than a kilometre across.

The melting raises the spectre of vast quantities of methane suddenly being released into the atmosphere. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases, with a warming effect 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.

The bogs are thought to contain some 70 billion tonnes of methane, a quarter of all the land-stored methane on the planet.

The researchers, Sergei Kirpotin, a botanist at Tomsk State University, Russia, and Judith Marquand at the University of Oxford, told New Scientist that the whole western Siberian sub-arctic region has begun to melt, and that this has only happened in the last four years. Kirpotin said he had witnessed an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming".

The frozen peat bogs formed at the end of the last ice age, around 11,000 years ago. One thing peat bogs do is produce methane, a byproduct of rotting organic material. However, since Siberia has been frozen, most of the methane generated over the last 11,000 years has been trapped in the permafrost.

Now that it is melting, and provided the region stays wet, all that methane will be released into the atmosphere. If the bogs dry out, the methane will have a chance to oxidise to form carbon dioxide before it escapes the bogs, which would lessen the impact.

Siberia is particularly vulnerable to climate change, it seem, and the region has warmed faster than anywhere else on the planet. A positive feedback cycle is created when ice melts, exposing more ground which absorbs more solar energy than ice or snow. This, in combination with regional weather shifts, such as the Arctic oscillation, is thought to be behind the region's three degree increase in average temperatures over the last 40 years. ®

Bootnote

*Almost 50 times the size of Wales, for those who like to keep track of these things

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.