Rainfall is melting the northern permafrost Science

The increase in rainfall could be devastating for the Siberian permafrost, predict researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the Russian Academy of Sciences predict. A single wet summer will accelerate the melting of frozen ground for years to come.

The conclusion was prompted by a study conducted with sprinklers in Yakutia, Northeast Siberia. In the spring of 2018, researchers installed pumps in the test areas that splashed a hundred millimeters of water onto the tundra over the summer.

The number was planned to correspond to a particularly rainy year in 2011.

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Scientists modeled heavy rains by spraying water. Photo: Rúna Magnússon

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During the summer, the permafrost of irrigated tundra patches melted about a third deeper than that of the control patches left alone.

To the surprise of the researchers, the impact did not last one summer. Although the sprinklers were only in use one summer, the frost on the irrigated soil melted deeper than normal for the next two years as well.

The effect of rain on the melting of permafrost was thus greater and lasted longer than expected. As rainfall in the Arctic increases, permafrost is likely to melt faster than temperature alone would suggest.

The study was recently published Nature Communications magazine.

Monitoring the melting of permafrost is not a side issue, but essential to keeping the climate crisis under control.

An enormous amount of carbon is stored in the frozen land of the Arctic. When ice melts, some of the carbon escapes as greenhouse gases into the air, as does the powerful greenhouse gas methane.

Melting is, of course, affected by temperatures that rise in the Arctic more than twice as fast as the global average.

As the climate warms, extreme weather becomes more common. In addition to heavy rainfall, wildfires and landslides, for example, can release significant amounts of greenhouse gases in a short period of time.

At worst, warming permafrost can lead to a vicious circle. Melting releases greenhouse gases from the soil that raise the temperature and precipitation, which again increases melting and so on.

Source: Tiede by www.tiede.fi.

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