For decades, scientists have been warning us about melting Arctic ice. But the debate on whether or not climate change is real took all the attention away from that. Now a new threat is slowly surfacing, a ticking time bomb called permafrost.
Permafrost is naturally stiff and solid. But for the first time in decades, the Arctic permafrost is beginning to warm up. Permafrost covers around a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere of the earth.
According to Dr. Thomas Douglas, a geochemist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Arctic permafrost is packed with prehistoric grass, woolly mammoths, and woolly rhinoceroses.
He explains that this life is made up of carbon. The permafrost carries twice the amount carbon that is found on earth.
Douglas also mentions that there is more carbon in the permafrost than all the carbon mankind has spewed into the earth’s atmosphere since the industrial revolution.
At this very moment, the permafrost carbon is trapped in the frozen soil. But Douglas and his team wondered what happens when the soil thaws? A few years back, Douglas and his team ran an experiment. They drilled into the tunnel and cut out chunks of ice compared to the size of a soda can.
They took the ice back to their lab and let it come to room temperature. A few days later, they noticed something growing. It started off slow but then began to rapidly take flight.
Douglas couldn’t believe what was happening. A material that’s been frozen for 25,000 years suddenly came back to life. Imagine all of this bacteria waking up across the Arctic?
Charles Miller, a chemist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that this is already happening. The evidence is showing that Alaska has gone from a carbon dioxide absorber to an exporter.
Scientists are still unsure of how fast or how much carbon will be released from the permafrost. Some could get washed in the ocean and some could get absorbed back into the ground.
But scientists know one thing is certain; once the carbon percolates through the soil, it could form into a feedback loop, which mankind cannot control. The gas from the ground will warm the Earth, causing more gas to be released which will result in warmer temperatures.