Melting permafrost in Antarctica emits CO2

The melting of Antarctica's permafrost could play a key role in the planet's climate future, as it would release significant quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Melting permafrost in Antarctica emits CO2

The problem is very serious, and more serious than we thought. The melting of Antarctica's permafrost could play a key role in the planet's climate future, as it would release significant quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere.

For the first time, an estimate of the greenhouse gas emissions due to the thawing of the frozen ground of the Antarctic region is given by the Italian project SourcE and impact of greeNhousE gasses in AntarctiCA, just concluded, funded by the National Antarctic Research Program and coordinated by Livio Ruggiero, of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in collaboration with New Zealand.

Melting permafrost in Antarctica: The problem is very serious

The Seneca project has seen 3 years of analysis on a small portion of the territory leading to the provision of the first estimates of these emissions and also to the discovery of hitherto unknown geophysical dynamics that could have an impact on much larger scales than expected.

Global warming in recent decades has gradually led to the thawing of land at very high latitudes, the so-called permafrost, in which large quantities of greenhouse gases, such as CO2 and methane, had been trapped for a long time

The words of Livia Ruggero of project Seneca

Livia Ruggero explained, during an interview for the Italian news agency ANSA: "Our project wanted to verify the presence of greenhouse gases in snow-free soils in the Antarctic region and measure their quantities and emissions, information that no one had ever collected so far.

Until now it was thought that Antarctica, where areas not covered by snow or ice are small but expected to grow, does not emit greenhouse gases but we have observed that this is not the case. Antarctica's emissions had never been factored into climate models." While the emissions that are taking place in the Northern hemisphere are now well studied and monitored, in particular from the vast expanses of Russia and Canada and which in the not too distant past hosted large quantities of plants and trees, in the Southern hemisphere there were no more data.