Scientists debate permafrost’s bad effects on Arctic, global warming

Following its ability to emit carbon dioxide and methane in large quantity, Arctic permafrost has been at the centre of focus among scientists, activists and policymakers and all others debating climate change. The attention over methane is particularly because it is potent though relatively short-lived greenhouse gas. Permafrost’s harmful effects, it is said, could have been underestimated.

Permafrost, claim scientists through new studies, should be a cause for concern as it would be a major contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions, a driving factor behind global warming. These studies, they say, are vital in assessing the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and estimating it effect in the future.

A new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, meanwhile, debunks the belief among scientists that permafrost is most active only in summer when Arctic temperatures are at their highest. The paper claims that permafrost’s cold-season emissions, particularly that of methane gas, should also be given due attention.

The new study’s lead author Donatella Zona, an assistant professor at San Diego State University and research fellow at the University of Sheffield, said, “The cold period in general is the time of the year that is warming the fastest in these Arctic ecosystems”.

Zona also said that if we were really thinking about the future of climate change, we need to understand if this time of the year is important.

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