Roughly one sixth of the land areas on our planet are considered to be permafrost regions, which means the soils there have remained permanently frozen for at least two consecutive years. In most of these regions, however, the cold penetrated the ground millennia ago; as a result, in the most extreme cases, the permafrost continues to a depth of 1.6 kilometres. Especially in the Arctic, people rely on the permafrost soil as a stable foundation for houses, roads, pipelines and airports. Yet in the wake of global warming, the integrity of these structures is increasingly jeopardised, creating enormous costs. In addition, permafrost soils contain massive quantities of preserved plant and animal matter. If this organic material thaws along with the permafrost, microorganisms will begin breaking it down -- a process that could produce enough carbon dioxide and methane emissions to potentially raise the global mean temperature by an additional 0.13 to 0.27 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.
A new comparative study released by the GTN-P (Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost) shows for the first time the extent to which permafrost soils around the world have already warmed. For the purposes of the study, the participating researchers monitored and analysed the soil temperature in boreholes in the Arctic, Antarctic and various high mountain ranges around the world for ten years. The data was gathered at depths greater than 10 metres, so as to rule out the influence of seasonal temperature variations.
Dataset - Boreholes - Conclusions - Decade - Remainder
The complete dataset encompasses 154 boreholes, 123 of which allow conclusions to be drawn for an entire decade, while the remainder can be used to refine calculations on annual deviation. The results show that, in the ten years from 2007 to 2016, the temperature of the permafrost soil rose at 71 of the 123 measuring sites; in five of the boreholes,...
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