The Effect of Thawing Permafrost on the Ocean

Thawing means the process whereby something is changed from solid form to liquid form by heat and permafrost is a ground that is permanently frozen. Permafrost is also defined on thermal and temporal criteria. In this case, the term refers to a variety of materials like mineral and organic soil, rock and ice among others. Permafrost thawing is highly dependent on the climate change the change in the air temperature which is often caused by surface disturbance for example after vegetations have been cleared. Temperature change can also be caused by removal of insulating organic layer, forest fires among other factors.  This paper will discuss the effects of thawing permafrost on the ocean, an issue which has caused alarm to many scientists.
According to Stranahan (2008), the scientists have believed that permafrost thawing in frozen soils is likely to release quite a huge amount of methane which is a potential green house gas. More often than not, the heat-trapping gas usually accelerates global warming. Stranahan says that the scientists are watching with a great concern as the methane begins to bubble up from the bottom of the fast melting Arctic Ocean.  Currently, these scientists are concerned with the methane time bomb on the land. This happens when the arctic temperatures are warming gradually and melts the permafrost. It causes the frozen vegetation to decay, releasing methane and carbon dioxide. The methane time bomb bursts from the floor of the sea where there is the shallow arctic continental shelf.
It is estimated that by 2100, thawing permafrost may cause an increase in emission of the intoxicating greenhouse gas from 20 to 40 percent. This is beyond what can be generated by all natural and man made sources.

According to a recent climate research, it is clear that science is complex and the opinions of different scientists always vary. Some scientists hypothesized that during periods of rapid sea-ice loss, temperatures are likely to increase as far as 900 miles inland thus accelerating the rate of terrestrial permafrost thaw.  There is so little data that is available on frozen oceans and the world watching the fuse being lit on a marine methane bomb and therefore there is no scientist with certain information on the same. However researchers like Shakhova from Alaska University together with a participant in some of the Liberian shelf scientific cruises are concerned of the undersea permafrost layer. This layer has become unstable and it leaks methane.

The effects
According to Hyndman (2009), warming of the oceans is normally a pattern or trend that can not be easily kept back. The very warm oceans can be cooled only if it was possible for the atmosphere above to be made extensively cooler. However, this is not possible because the oceans are such a huge heat sink that covers about two thirds of the earths surface and therefore cannot cool the atmosphere enough so as to be able to cool the ocean.
As stated in the introduction part, thawing of the permafrost usually releases methane gas and carbon dioxide. When these two gases reach the atmosphere, they help trap the heat on the earth resulting to greenhouse effect.  This trapped heat leads to thawing of more permafrost. As the temperature continues to rise, the permafrost melts the more and this creates a vicious cycle. This is causing alarm to geologists and also the scientists.
This gas (methane and carbon dioxide) causes global warming. They are usually trapped in the soil and so bubbles out in huge amounts because of thawing permafrost. They seem to trigger what the researchers warn is a climate time bomb.  It is also said that the amount of carbon that is normally trapped in some types of permafrost called yedoma in Siberia is so common and it may be one hundred times more than the amount of carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere yearly as a result of burning of fossil fuels. The organic carbon deposits into the bottom of lakesseas usually provides food for bacteria that later produces methane. It happens that as these organic matters becomes exposed to the air it accelerates global warming very fast which causes climate change that triggers a sequence of so many consequences.
The increasing temperature in the atmosphere has always been moderated by the fact that there are water bodies like the oceans which soak up more than 80 percent effects of global warming.  The oceans absorb heat slowly from the atmosphere and it mounts up slowly contributing to a lot of energy that causes storms for example the hurricanes. These storms might become more frequent in future if global warming becomes severe.
The rising air temperatures first create a frost heave that normally turns the flat permafrost in series of hollows and hummocks. When the permafrost starts to melt, the water that collects on the surface begins to melt down and forms ponds that are prevented from draining away by the frozen marsh beneath. Then the ponds merge into large lakes and finally the remaining parts of permafrost melts and the lakes drains underground.
The warming of the atmosphere also causes a lot of evaporation from the ocean which increases the water vapor from the ocean into the atmosphere and therefore this also causes increased global warming. This is said to double the warming effect due to increased emission of carbon dioxide. In addition, there are the effects of intense flooding, mud flow and coastal erosions that are more severe especially on the west coast. Low rainfalls and drier vegetations leading to more thunderstorms, more fires, incidents of draughtfamine and so on. There can also be more drought and more rains depending on the balance between the precipitationrains and evaporation.
The floods and debris usually flow to the nearest coastal towns thus causing a lot of damage in that the buildings collapse and roads, telephone and electricity lines amongst other thing especially in areas where there mountains around are damaged. This damage leads so many other consequences in that, people die, properties in the buildings are destroyed, the countries lag behind in development as they attempt to restore what was lost and so forth.
According to Cullen (2005), some scientists have predicted that melting of ice leads to seasonal opening of the pathways of the ship. That is, they are usually destroyed and so it becomes hard for trading since ships cannot sail smoothly. A good example is the North West passage that offers potential trade route with Asia. Also animals living in the sea are usually at risk and they often die. For instance, as the ice melts then the home of an animal like the polar bear among other animals living in the oceans also disappear. Polar bears existed in large numbers a few decades ago but since the ice started melting, it is hard to find them.
With there is increased global warming, the water gradually warms causing the sea ice, green land glaciers and frozen ground to melt faster thus leading to increased water in the ocean. When the glacier ice melts, the water pours down the crevasses and holes in the ice whereby some of it freezes while some fall below the glacier causing more icebergs into the ocean.
Increases in global warming as a result of permafrost thawing causes high humidity and also brings about a considerable difference in that it limits peoples ability to cool by perspiration. The effect of this is often dramatic especially at temperatures near or above core temperatures of a human being. This is very dangerous since it can lead to death.  For example the temperature of India sometimes back had risen to 49.6 degree centigrade and 884 people died.

Permafrost thawing is an on going process that more often than not causes increase of surface water reservoirs which mobilizes the organic carbon from the soil pool to the rivers and to the ocean.  This process leads to global warming which is caused by climate change thus causing many negative effects that become a cycle.


Post a Comment