Warming Temperatures Turns Permafrost Regions Into Carbon Sinks

A sophisticated analysis of data from satellites and field sensors has found no sign – at least, not yet – of a dramatic rise in carbon output in the Arctic. Instead, scientists say the vast permafrost areas that span the northern polar regions, including the Arctic rim of Canada, have to date actually absorbed more carbon than they have released.

What’s more, the Earth’s permafrost may never produce a runaway outpouring of greenhouse gases, writes The Globe and Mail.

The research suggests a complicated future for the far north, where warming temperatures are remaking the landscape, rewiring its hydrology and, critically, hastening the advent of spring. For carbon emissions, that matters a great deal.

Spring in the high latitudes is a moment of spectacular change, with snow giving way to a verdant flourish. It happens nearly overnight, as plants hurry back to life to make the most of the short growing season.

A warming Arctic has hastened the beginning of that annual reawakening, and brought what University of Montana climate and remote sensing scholar John Kimball calls “an earlier green wave” that, in tundra areas, is producing more woody vegetation cover than before. And those plants, as they surge to life, are storing enough carbon to alter the high-latitude balance.

ALSO READ: Scientists Find High Levels of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Svalbard Ice Cap