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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Global Warming Feedback Loops

This story is a bit of a rehash on a story I first saw on the BBC almost a year ago.

The thing that often gets lost in all the global warming discussion is just how complicated the system really is, and how, because of that, small things can have a great effect. As example, take a look at the CO2 feedback loop we're nearing. It could be the lighter fluid on the fire.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ancient roots and bones locked in long-frozen soil in Siberia are starting to thaw, and have the potential to unleash billions of tones of carbon and accelerate global warming, scientists said on Thursday.

This vast carbon reservoir, contained in permafrost soil in northeastern Siberia, contains about 75 times more carbon than the amount released into the atmosphere each year by the burning of fossil fuels, the researchers said in a statement.

Siberia isn't the only place on Earth with massive lodes of permafrost -- parts of Alaska, Canada and northern Europe have them too. The Siberian area is possibly the world's largest, covering nearly 400,000 square miles, with an average depth of 82 feet, and probably holds about 500 billion metric tons of carbon.


These feedback mechanisms have the potential to massively amplify any man made effects we are creating. By raising temperature a couple of degrees, a self-sustaining process is put in motion which could easily double that. Another potential feedback loop is in the relationship of melting Artic sea ice and open water which absorbs more sunlight, melting more ice.

The scary thing to me is that all previous mainstream climate modelling, including their impact assessments, hasn't taken these mechanisms into account.

We're at the tipping point, and we don't really know what's on the other side.

5 Comments:

  • We're at the tipping point, and we don't really know what's on the other side.

    Actually I think that there's ample evidence to suggest that we've passed it. Now it's all about mitigation--working to keep the level of C02 under 500 PPM and therein avoiding runaway climate change.

    By Blogger Kvatch, at 7:01 PM  

  • Who was the leading biologist that said just before the end of the last millenium that the average life expectancy for a species was 100,000 years, and that human beings had been around just about 100,000 years? I think we've really screwed ourselves this time.

    I pray that there's a world for us to leave our children and grandchildren.

    By Blogger misneach, at 7:50 PM  

  • Kvatch, fair argument. Reading it again, I think I was reaching for the dramatic. Sometimes I get caught up in my own little cleverness and forget people read this stuff. Thanks.

    Misneach, even without global climate change the effects of the balloon of human population has done tremendous damage, destroying habitat and aiding the transport of species.

    And,I think there will be a world, it will just be a much different, less diverse and harsher place. (Assuming we find another means to power our self enclosed protective domes.

    Mike

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 9:14 PM  

  • Another sad side effect of global warming, something I was reading about yesterday - Polar bears, a species which most scientists studying them say will not last until the end of the century, have begun cannibalizing each other.

    Apparently, Polar bears will and do kill one another on a regular basis, but it's to do with territory or mating rights, and they had never - during all of the years of studying them - been known to eat one another. But since January of '04, researchers have found three corpses of Polar bears which had obviously been eaten by another bear. They're figuring it has to do with global warming and population expansion shrinking their territory and making it more difficult for them to reach their natural food sources. Hence, the more desperate are beginning to eat each other.

    I don't know. There's just something horribly sad about that.

    By Anonymous Rachie, at 11:50 PM  

  • Yeah, I saw that too. And I agree.

    Mike

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 7:09 AM  

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