While we’re on the subject of methane and feedback loops, the fires are growing more destructive in the boreal regions of the North, in fact worse than at any time in the last 10,000 years. These fires decrease the region’s albedo effect by blackening the Earth’s surface and they peel away the insulating layer of lichen and moss on the forest floor, exposing the underlying permafrost to accelerated thawing and microbial decomposition of the soils. These infernos result in an immediate release of methane and CO2 from the fires themselves and later from the freshly exposed permafrost below.

Climate Denial Crock of the Week


Chris Mooney in Mother Jones:

Scientists have known for some time about the risk of large-scale carbon emissions from thawing permafrost. But in recent years, they’ve become increasingly attuned to an additional—and very worrisome—aspect of this threat. As climate change proceeds, larger and more intense wildfires are increasingly scorching and charring the forests of the north. While these fires have always been a natural and recurring aspect of forest ecosystems, they now appear to be undergoing a major amplification. And that, in turn, may further increase the threat of permafrost thawing and carbon releases—releases that would, in turn, greatly amplify global warming itself (and potentially spur still more fire activity).

“You have this climate and fire interaction, and all of a sudden permafrost can thaw really rapidly,” explains Jon O’Donnell, an ecologist with the National Parks Service’s Arctic Network. Scientists call it a “positive feedback,” and it’s one of the…

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