Science News

Fusion of the Siberian permafrost will accelerate global warming

There is another environmental effect in progress will accelerate the greenhouse effect caused by humans: the release of organic matter from the Siberian permafrost.

This is the result of a team of Russian and US scientists who analyzed the composition of different layers of permafrost in eastern Siberia and published the results in a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Permafrost is a soil covered with a layer of ice that can be of varying thickness but never seen. More and more research in recent years is linking this specific type of land to ongoing global warming, as well as the melting of Arctic ice.

Unlike the ice in the Arctic, however, the consequences of the melting of permafrost, in particular the Siberian one which represents the largest example, are not yet completely clear. This research seeks to fill this void by realizing what can be considered the first ever study on organic matter that is contained in the deeper layers of permafrost. They analyzed the terrain of the Kolyma river basin, eastern Siberia, to understand what happened in the distant past during the thawing periods to then relate this information to today’s events. Analyzing soil samples at various depths and belonging to different geological ages, they examined various deposits, from the Pleistocene to the Holocene, relatively well-preserved samples.

The results are explained by Alexander Zherebker, a scientist at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (SKOLTECH) and one of the authors of the study together with other colleagues from Lomonosov State University in Moscow: “We have identified the components that have undergone the greatest change and those that are the most sensitive to the action of microorganisms. It emerged that the biodegradable components are present both at great depth and very close to the permafrost surface. According to our projections, the Arctic region will have a strong impact on global warming very soon.”