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The thawing tundra is collapsing and 'a sign of abrupt and accelerating climate change'.

2 min read


Another sign of abrupt climate change in the far north. The heatwaves in the Arctic are having terrible impacts on the Arctic eco-systems in recent years.

Heather Goldstone and Elsa Partan write in WCAI:

A team of scientists and students with Woods Hole Research Center’s Polaris Project are just back from a trip to the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta to study climate impacts. Lead scientist Sue Natali says she’s never seen anything like it in her years of Arctic research and warns it is a sign of abrupt and accelerating climate change.

As part of their research, Natali and her team installed temperature sensors down to a meter at what should have been permafrost. What they discovered was thawing, which in turn created ground collapse at a level she’d never seen before.

It begs the question, is this just one extreme year, or is this the result of climate change?

The embedded tweets are not part of the Woods Hole study.


“It’s definitely climate change,” Natali said. “It’s accelerating and the past couple years have been particularly bad. The past winters have been warm. There has been rain when there should be snow, the ground hasn’t been frozen in this area.” And, she added, “the ground surface didn’t freeze until mid-January this year.”

In addition to being unsafe, ground collapse also emits higher methane emissions.


“I would say we’re being quite conservative when we make our estimates about how much carbon will be released from thawing permafrost because of these sort-of surprising events.”

In terms of numbers, Natali estimates that about 150 billion tons of carbon will be released from thawing permafrost by the end of the century if we continue to re-emit fossil fuel emissions at our current rate. That’s on-par with the U.S. emission rate.



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