The Coming Meltdown

Posted on Tuesday, January 10 at 14:55 by Ed Deak
-In the tundra of Siberia, other researchers report that permafrost has begun to melt rapidly, and, as it does, formerly frozen methane-which, like the more prevalent carbon dioxide, acts as a heat-trapping "greenhouse gas"-is escaping into the atmosphere. In some places last winter, the methane bubbled up so steadily that puddles of standing water couldn't freeze even in the depths of the Russian winter. -British researchers, examining almost six thousand soil borings across the UK, found another feedback effect. Warmer temperatures (growing seasons now last eleven days longer at that latitude) meant that microbial activity had increased dramatically in the soil. This, in turn, meant that much of the carbon long stored in the soil was now being released into the atmosphere. The quantities were large enough to negate all the work that Britain had done to switch away from coal to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. "All the consequences of global warming will occur more rapidly," said Guy Kirk, chief scientist on the study. "That's the scary thing. The amount of time we have got to do something about it is smaller than we thought." Such findings-and there are more like them in virtually ever issue of Science and Nature-came against the backdrop of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the now record-breaking Atlantic storm season that has brought us back around the alphabet and as far as Hurricane Epsilon. Because hurricanes draw their power from the warm water in the upper layers of the sea's surface, this bout of storminess served as a kind of exclamation point to a mid-August paper by the MIT researcher Kerry Emmanuel demonstrating that such storms have become more powerful and long-lasting, and would likely continue to increase in destructiveness in the future. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18616

Note: http://www.nybooks.com/...

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