Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Add Nitrous Oxide to the List of Permafrost Melt Concerns

Permafrost peatland in the Arctic. (Credit: Tarmo Virtanen) Click to Enlarge.
Melting permafrost is among the biggest climate change issues.  That’s because it contains billions of tons of carbon that, if it melts, will be released in the form of carbon dioxide and methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas.

Less studied is what happens to the 67 billion tons of nitrogen stored in the currently frozen soil.  New research shows that a permafrost meltdown could cause that nitrogen to be released as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that’s nearly 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. That would crank up the planetary heat even further, and with it, the risks posed by sea level rise, increasingly extreme weather, and other climate change impacts.

“Until recently, nitrous oxide emissions from Arctic soils were believed to be negligible,” Carolina Voigt, a PhD student looking at Arctic soil chemistry at University of Eastern Finland, said.

But new research that Voigt and her colleagues published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that understanding might be wrong.

Read more at Add Nitrous Oxide to the List of Permafrost Melt Concerns

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