Unseen, little known, ancient animals roamed the arctic tundra for years. Their left over waste and organic matter remains sealed inside the frozen permafrost. With the permafrost thawing, scientists believe that, once this organic matter becomes exposed to the air it will accelerate global warming at an unprecedented pace.
Not only CO2 but also deadly Methane
Zimov, a scientist who for almost 30 years has studied climate change in Russia’s Arctic, believes that with melting permafrost microbes that have been dormant for thousands of years spring back into action. As a by-product they emit carbon dioxide and methane gas.
The once empty tundra is now dotted with lakes, these ‘thermokarst’ lakes bubble with methane, over 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Scientist Sergei Zimov takes a sample of ground taken from a layer of melting permafrost on the Duvanny Yar cliff, some 120 km (75 miles) from the town of Chersky in northeast Siberia, August 28, 2007.
An extremely large organic matter reserve
The disturbing part is that the reserves for organic matter in these soils are so gigantic that they dwarf global oil reserves. In Yakutat, a region in the northeastern corner of Siberia, the belt of permafrost containing the mammoth-era soil covers an area roughly the size of France and Germany combined. Permafrost areas hold 500 billion tones of carbon, which can fast turn into greenhouse gases.
While many might want to decry the theory as alarmist, I feel there is a lot of substance to it. The fast changing landscape is a precursor to changes in the rest of the world. All of it pointing the blame towards global warming and our need to curb it to the best of our abilities.