Permafrost Melt — ‘Uncharted Territory in the Human Experience’

August 5, 2016

IceMeltSunshine this afternoon, tempered with cool ocean breezes.

Too much temperature — on Wednesday a crucial environment story, an anthrax outbreak in Siberia (via NPR): ‘Officials don’t know exactly how the outbreak started, but the current hypothesis is almost unbelievable: A heat wave has thawed the frozen soil there and with it, a reindeer carcass infected with anthrax decades ago.’

A heat ‘exacerbated’ by the earth heating. Previewing the future, last March a study revealed…an expert assessment of nearly 100 Arctic scientists found little reason to believe there will be any factor that offsets permafrost emissions enough to reduce the level of worry.’

Don’t sweat a zombie anthrax —  there’s 1,500 billion tons of carbon locked in  Arctic soils, nearly 10,000 billion tons of methane clathrates confined on the bottom of the Arctic sea, now be way-afraid…

In the big picture, it’s the methane down in the frozen-but-melting rapidly permafrost — methane a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more potent than CO2. And in the shortening-long game, thawing of the most carbon-rich type of permafrost found in Alaska and Siberia could increase methane packed into our atmosphere by as much as 2.6 billion metric tons by 2100.
If nothing happens, we’ll be toast well before then.
Walter Anthony, a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher, implies the already-here catastrophic situation: ‘“It’s like the food for microbes has been locked away in the freezer for 30,000 years, and now the freezer door is open…The methane causes climate warming, which causes more permafrost to thaw, which causes more gas to be produced, which causes more warming, so you get a positive feedback loop.”

And this should be no surprise — as climate change just didn’t start yesterday.
Via PacificStandard yesterday:

If you’re a climate scientist, what happens when your dire predictions start coming true?
The ongoing anthrax outbreak in Siberia is offering us a preview: What was once considered a future theoretical possibility — a re-animated deadly bacterium emerging from the permafrost — is now a reality.
Throughout July, temperatures in northern Siberia have soared as high as 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) during what’s typically the warmest part of the year.
It’s unknown exactly how the disease emerged — possibly via a thawed reindeer carcass or human remains at a crumbling, above-ground cemetery that’s typical of the region.
Russia has sent troops trained for biological warfare to help establish a quarantine in what’s become the first anthrax outbreak in the region since 1941.
As my colleague Francie Diep wrote on Tuesday, this is an “apocalyptic-sounding chain of events” and the initial news coverage surely capitalized on that tone.
But what’s happening in Siberia — while scary — will not, by itself, threaten the viability of human civilization.
In fact, it was expected.

“The record-warm Arctic so far this year, which is probably a preview of a two-degrees-warmer globe, will spawn all sorts of surprises that we cannot foresee,” according to Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University whose work focuses on the implications of rapidly diminishing Arctic sea ice.
“This is uncharted territory in the human experience, and especially the ecosystem is likely to respond in abrupt ways,” Francis writes in an email.

Add fuel to the fire — from the American Geophysical Union, also on Thursday:

Climate change could remobilize abandoned hazardous waste thought to be buried forever beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet, new research finds.
Camp Century, a U.S. military base built within the Greenland Ice Sheet in 1959, doubled as a top-secret site for testing the feasibility of deploying nuclear missiles from the Arctic during the Cold War.
When the camp was decommissioned in 1967, its infrastructure and waste were abandoned under the assumption they would be entombed forever by perpetual snowfall

The team found the waste at Camp Century covers 55 hectares (136 acres), roughly the size of 100 football fields.
They estimate the site contains 200,000 liters (53,000 gallons) of diesel fuel, enough for a car to circle the globe 80 times.
Based on building materials used in the Arctic at the time, the authors speculate the site contains polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pollutants toxic to human health.
They also estimate the site has 240,000 liters (63,000 gallons) of waste water, including sewage, along with an unknown volume of low-level radioactive coolant from the nuclear generator.

Meanwhile, back to the white-noise off a shitload of distractions…

(Illustration above found here).

 

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