Not Exactly Permanent
In cold regions, mostly near the poles as shown in the map, the ground below the surface is permanently frozen – or maybe not so permanently. NASA scientists are studying this permafrost, looking for signs that it is starting to melt, and release its stored carbon.
Why It Matters
- Four or more times more carbon is stored in frozen soils in the Arctic than has been released into the atmosphere from all human activities since 1850.
- Since carbon dioxide cause global temperatures to rise, the release of carbon into the atmosphere will accelerate global warming.
- This is called a positive feedback mechanism since the reaction increases the direction the system is going.
With the link below, learn more about melting permafrost. Then answer the following questions
- ScienceAtNASA, ScienceCasts, The ‘Sleeping Giant’ in Arctic Permafrost (video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZSM8GcmJKg
- Using the words carbon and permafrost, explain how melting permafrost is an example of a positive feedback mechanism.
- Why is the Arctic the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for global warming?
- How do warmer temperatures cause permafrost to release carbon?
- What would happen if all the permafrost in the Arctic melted?