Scientists revealed that the increasing temperatures in the permafrost in Alaska could contribute to the acceleration of global warming. If the phenomenon continued, the thawing of permafrost in the area could begin by 2070.
Melted permafrost will trigger the release of frozen methane, scientists say. It was first assumed that temperature levels of permafrost would remain stable, but in the past four years, the rise in temperatures has proven that the theory was flawed.
Professor Vladimir Romanovsky from the University of Alaska and his team from the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost had studied the measurements of temperatures in the permafrost in the state, and found that parts around Prudhoe Bay had been warming at a rate of 0.1 degree Celsius or 32.18 degree Fahrenheit since the start of the millennium.
"When we started measurements it was -8°C, but now it's coming to almost -2.5°C on the Arctic coast," said Romanovsky. "It is unbelievable — that's the temperature we should have here in central Alaska around Fairbanks, but not there."
Researchers say that global warming symptoms in Alaska include the sinking of trees, buckling roads, and the appearance of sinkholes.
Most engineers prevent the destruction of permafrost in Alaska by putting thermopiles underneath structures, but they are not enough to stop the possible melting and the gradual rise in the temperature levels of permafrost.
About 25 percent of the northern hemisphere or the Arctic contains permafrost. The Alpine and Antarctic regions also contain permafrost. It is technically soil that has been frozen for at least two years, and it could be as deep as one meter or 39 inches under the ground up to 1,500 meters or about 0.93 miles.
Meanwhile, Professor Ted Schuur from Northern Arizona University said that further melting would lead to the abundance of methane in the atmosphere.
Schuur explained that even if carbon and methane emissions are prevented, there is currently a momentum in the Arctic in which there will be more degradation of permafrost.
"We have started the ball rolling in some senses," he said.
Schuur added that the phenomenon will not add to runaway climate change but will contribute to the problem. He suggests that political discussions regarding global warming are essential to the preservation of permafrost.
Schuur hinted that a new global climate deal is on the works in Germany and will be finished in Paris in December.
Photo : U.S. Geological Survey | Flickr