When permafrost thaws, roads become pitted and slopes slide. Scientists have now investigated how this causes large amounts of greenhouse gases to be released.
Bonn / Norilsk – Almost two thirds of the ground area in Russia is permanently frozen. This phenomenon is called permafrost. In this huge freezer are immense amounts of remains of plants and animals that have not yet been broken down by microbes. These only become active when the temperatures rise and the soil softens.
But then people sometimes feel the consequences drastically. Roads sag. Houses can collapse. In some regions of Russia it is now dangerous to live. This is where the people literally break
Ground under your feet. Usually they are known for severe frost.
What’s more, the extreme heat a year ago also released large amounts of the climate-damaging gas methane. This is the result of a new study by the Bonn scientist Nikolaus Froitzheim.
Climate change: Permafrost is thawing and Russians are breaking the ground
The researchers examined the concentration of methane in the air and looked at the nature of the soil on site. They found that two areas with limestone released a particularly large amount of gas. The investigation is in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) been published.
In the north of Siberia in the Taimyr fold belt and on the edge of the Siberian platform, a methane concentration increased by around five percent was found in the summer of 2020, which has persisted for months, it said. “The soil formations in the observed areas are very thin or completely absent, which makes the decomposition of organic matter in the soil as a source of methane unlikely,” said Froitzheim.
Study on thawing permafrost: “Could have dramatic effects”
He and his colleagues therefore fear that the crevice and cave systems in the limestone, which were previously filled with ice and gas hydrate, have become permeable as a result of the warming. “As a result, natural gas, which consists mainly of methane, from deposits in the permafrost and below the permafrost has found its way to the surface of the earth.”
The scientists now want to pursue this assumption with measurements on site and with model calculations. “The amounts of natural gas that are suspected to be underground in Northern Siberia are enormous,” explained Froitzheim. “If parts of it got into the atmosphere through the thawing permafrost, it could have a dramatic impact on the earth’s already overheated climate.” (dpa / frs)