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Major Climate Change In Siberia

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A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today.


Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.


The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.


It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.


The discovery was made by Sergei Kirpotin at Tomsk State University in western Siberia and Judith Marquand at Oxford University and is reported in New Scientist today.


The researchers found that what was until recently a barren expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometre across.


Dr Kirpotin told the magazine the situation was an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He added that the thaw had probably begun in the past three or four years.


Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.


"When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply," said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.


"This is a big deal because you can't put the permafrost back once it's gone. The causal effect is human activity and it will ramp up temperatures even more than our emissions are doing."


In its last major report in 2001, the intergovernmental panel on climate change predicted a rise in global temperatures of 1.4C-5.8C between 1990 and 2100, but the estimate only takes account of global warming driven by known greenhouse gas emissions.


"These positive feedbacks with landmasses weren't known about then. They had no idea how much they would add to global warming," said Dr Viner.


Western Siberia is heating up faster than anywhere else in the world, having experienced a rise of some 3C in the past 40 years. Scientists are particularly concerned about the permafrost, because as it thaws, it reveals bare ground which warms up more quickly than ice and snow, and so accelerates the rate at which the permafrost thaws.


Siberia's peat bogs have been producing methane since they formed at the end of the last ice age, but most of the gas had been trapped in the permafrost. According to Larry Smith, a hydrologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, the west Siberian peat bog could hold some 70bn tonnes of methane, a quarter of all of the methane stored in the ground around the world.


The permafrost is likely to take many decades at least to thaw, so the methane locked within it will not be released into the atmosphere in one burst, said Stephen Sitch, a climate scientist at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter.


But calculations by Dr Sitch and his colleagues show that even if methane seeped from the permafrost over the next 100 years, it would add around 700m tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere each year, roughly the same amount that is released annually from the world's wetlands and agriculture.


It would effectively double atmospheric levels of the gas, leading to a 10% to 25% increase in global warming, he said.


Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said the finding was a stark message to politicians to take concerted action on climate change. "We knew at some point we'd get these feedbacks happening that exacerbate global warming, but this could lead to a massive injection of greenhouse gases.


"If we don't take action very soon, we could unleash runaway global warming that will be beyond our control and it will lead to social, economic and environmental devastation worldwide," he said. "There's still time to take action, but not much.


"The assumption has been that we wouldn't see these kinds of changes until the world is a little warmer, but this suggests we're running out of time."


In May this year, another group of researchers reported signs that global warming was damaging the permafrost. Katey Walter of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, told a meeting of the Arctic Research Consortium of the US that her team had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia. At the hotspots, methane was bubbling to the surface of the permafrost so quickly that it was preventing the surface from freezing over.


Last month, some of the world's worst air polluters, including the US and Australia, announced a partnership to cut greenhouse gas emissions through the use of new technologies.


The deal came after Tony Blair struggled at the G8 summit to get the US president, George Bush, to commit to any concerted action on climate change and has been heavily criticised for setting no targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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Or almost every other oil producing/refining nation. Its, although unrealistic to destroy all gas engines, however i wish we could do just that! You all know whats going to happen now, some "scientist" will be bought by some oil company to say that global warming is a myth and we should all just conserve less and definatly use more gas engines. Because who couln't use a tropical Canada right ;)? Unfortunatly its not like anyone is actually going to stop and until its too late (possibly already) care or do anything about. And then everyones ganna bitch about how they werent warned when we were and well you know the rest of the story.

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I came across this story a few days ago; it looks pretty interesting, especially in the context of global warming.




The fuel that comes out of the Fischer-Tropsch method (also used by South Africa during their embargo years) burns cleaner than current fuels, stripping out sulfur, arsenic, and other nasty byproducts.



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I still stick by the theory that these are just weather patterns.

I second this.


Several prominent scientists also agree with this.


Look around Friends of Science





Myth 1: Global temperatures are rising at a rapid, unprecedented rate.

Fact: Accurate satellite, balloon and mountain top observations made over the last three decades have not shown any significant change in the long term rate of increase in global temperatures.


Average ground station readings do show a mild warming over the last 100 years, but well within the natural variations recorded in the last millenium. The ground station network suffers from an uneven distribution across the globe; the stations are preferentially located in growing urban and industrial areas ("heat islands") which show substantially higher readings than adjacent rural areas ("land use effects").




Myth 2: The

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Absolutely not. I agree completely that we need to put way more effort into protecting the environment, but i believe that human activity does not cause global warming to the extent that some believe it does. Of course, global warming is by far not the only problem caused (or not caused, possibly) by pollution.

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I'm a big environmentalist but I've also figured out a flaw in the sea level rising. Aren't the oceans like one big glass of water with ice in it. Wouldn't the volume of the oceans be the same no matter if the ice is frozen or not? Wouldn't it increase with heightened precipitation instead?

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Indeed, ice takes up much more space than water does. If the ice that is underwater were to melt, the ocean levels would drop dramatically. And since most of an iceberg is underwater, there's not really any threat whatsoever of the oceans rising from ice melting.


Of course, the ice that is on land and not already submerged does not take up any space in the oceans currently, so if it were to melt, the oceans would rise. But i'm pretty sure theres way more ice floating than on land.


Try it! Ice takes up much more space than water does.

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