Feeds

Melting Siberia threat to climate

Lots of methane in them thar bogs

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
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?
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.