The Arctic Permafrost, a layer of ice in the Northern Tundra that has been permanently frozen since the last ice age, has started to slowly melt due to climate change and global warming. This thawing could free large amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas.
Results of a new research paper, funded by NASA has found that the expected gradual thawing of Northern ice and the release of greenhouse gases could actually be fast-tracked by incidents of “abrupt thawing”, a relatively unknown process, said NASA.
Abrupt thawing, says the space agency, happens below the surface of a specific type of Arctic lake called a thermokarst lake. These lakes form as permafrost continues to thaw.
The Northern Tundra stores possibly the largest natural reservoir of organic carbon on Earth, trapped in the frozen soil. If this soil starts to defrost, microbes that live in the soil will start to work on the carbon and convert it into carbon dioxide and methane. These gases have a major part to play in the current climate scenario. While carbon dioxide is seen as the biggest culprit among greenhouse gases, methane is about 30 times more potent at trapping heat, notes an SD report.