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Author Topic: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw  (Read 5853 times)

Vergent

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Artful Dodger

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2013, 10:32:08 AM »
The Guardian reports:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/21/temperature-rise-permafrost-melt

Quote
A global temperature rise of 1.5C would be enough to start the melting of permafrost in Siberia, scientists warned on Thursday.

... which leads to this article published in Science Express on Feb 6, 2013:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/02/20/science.1228729

Quote
Abstract:
Soils in permafrost regions contain twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, and permafrost has an important influence of the natural and built environment at high northern latitudes. The response of permafrost to warming climate is uncertain and occurs on time scales longer than has been assessed by direct observation. In this study, we date periods of speleothem growth in a north-south transect of caves in Siberia to reconstruct the history of permafrost in past climate states. Speleothem growth is restricted to full interglacial conditions in all studied caves. In the northernmost cave (at 60°N), no growth has occurred since Marine Isotopic Stage (MIS) 11. Growth at that time indicates that global climates only slightly warmer than today are sufficient to thaw significant regions of permafrost.

My opinion, the melt is already underway now at +0.8C warming. Evidence from methane seeps, drunken forests, and melting thermocarst show nature won't wait for 1.5C
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Gray-Wolf

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2013, 03:22:55 PM »
With the rapid changes across the Arctic this past 15yrs I wonder if we should be looking at a scaled down 'abrupt warming' driven by albedo loss and re-deployment of energies once spent on ice melt?

With some of the past abrupt warming dumping 10c onto temps ,over a matter of decades, an abrupt 0.7c rise does not appear out of the question?

With the ozone issues placing a lot of Antarctica in a 'splendid isolation' the past 25yrs or so how quickly will we see global temps begin to flood into this void now the ozone issues are reducing? The west Antarctic Ice sheet would appear , historically, to lead the Greenland ice sheet in melt back, over past warmings, so we must expect a similar albedo flip to begin to appear there once the circumpolar's slacken their influence as the ozone hole heals. If Greenland's ice/snow loss impacts our energy budget then what will the addition of W.A.I.S. do?

I am not hopeful that mankind will achieve the 2c temp rise ceiling so a 1.5c one sounds plain ridiculous!
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StuartC

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2013, 03:48:00 AM »
My opinion, the melt is already underway now at +0.8C warming. Evidence from methane seeps, drunken forests, and melting thermocarst show nature won't wait for 1.5C

I agree entirely! And judging by the photos of rollercoaster roads and wobbly buildings in Alaska, it's been going on for some time. I think what may have happened is that a rather misleading press-release was put out by someone who obviously doesn't read Neven's Blog.

This gave the impression that an increase of 1.5C is needed to start melting permafrost, which was reflected in the articles we've seen.  What the authors said was subtly different and must be to do with the depth of the melting, not just the latitude.  The final line of the abstract says:

". . global climates only slightly warmer than today are sufficient to thaw significant regions of permafrost."

I think the emphasis is on significant and their intention is to show that a (1.5C) increase on today's temperatures would melt the permafrost down to the depth of the Ledyanaya Lenskaya Cave they studied, which is at latitude 60°N and further north than any present deep melting.  Obviously it would help to know the depth of the cave, but that's not mentioned in the press release.

So the press release is seriously misleading and could be an excuse for complacency, but the paper is probably worth taking seriously - and definitely not not good news. Paper here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/02/20/science.1228729

Press release here:

http:
//www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-02/uoo-cpt022113.php


NB: edited to give more emphasis to the depth of the cave . . .
« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 04:30:31 PM by StuartC »
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RaenorShine

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2013, 05:37:00 PM »
Peter Sinclair of the Yale Climate Forum has just released an accessible video on Youtube including interviews with Dr Charles Miller (NASA's CARVE mission) and Dr Anton Vaks, author of this study about permafrost melt



Well worth a watch, as are his other videos and website http://climatecrocks.com/

StuartC

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2013, 11:17:50 PM »
Peter Sinclair of the Yale Climate Forum has just released an accessible video on Youtube including interviews with Dr Charles Miller (NASA's CARVE mission) and Dr Anton Vaks, author of this study about permafrost melt

Thanks RaenorShine.

In Peter Sinclair's brief interview co-author of this paper, Anton Vaks of Oxford University, explains these findings much more clearly than the press release did, which changes everything!

First, they are referring to a 1.5C temperature increase over pre-industrial times rather than the present, so as we already have 0.8C of warming there's only another 0.7C needed to reach the point he's concerned about.

And second, Anton Vaks says, "We have probably managed to put a finger on the threshold of when exactly the continuous permafrost begins to melt.  This is probably the tipping point."   So he seems to think that GHG release from permafrost is not a linear process with respect to temperature, but that the 1.5C is a threshold that will cause a major release to begin.

As others on the video point out, in theory at least we have control over GHG emissions from fossil fuels, but in the case of permafrost there's no way to control it and once started it would just go on by itself.  There's a related article on the Yale Climate Change Forum which is worth reading:

http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2013/02/video-on-frozen-dirt-and-methane-we-cannot-go-there/

Peter Sinclair says he's editing his interview with Dr Vaks and will post an extended version soon, so there's more to come on this scary subject.
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Anne

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2013, 06:09:13 PM »
Meanwhile, a confluence of climate change, political change, and world markets enables people to make a living from selling the mammoth tusks revealed by the melt.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/125-mammoth-tusks/larmer-text

solartim27

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2018, 04:40:35 PM »
This could have gone in several different threads, but this seemed to be the best to me. 

Great story on caves dug in Alaska, with some cool pictures.  Covers everything from surface changes to methane release to newly emergent bacteria.  Another related story coming this afternoon.
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/01/24/575220206/is-there-a-ticking-time-bomb-under-the-arctic
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Susan Anderson

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2018, 05:34:30 PM »
I listened to the NPR item about zombie pathogens, and for those who for whatever reason don't go to the source, the sum was that extreme cold over time kills bacteria and even viruses, and though scientists have tried really hard, they haven't yet been able to piece together old diseases because of this damage. There was a cautionary note about extreme science and its eagerness to recreate, for example, the Spanish flu of 1918 that killed millions. But I'd take that with a grain of salt. The argument about science's ability to create dangerous tools will rage on ...

Anne

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2018, 12:10:49 AM »
I'm not taking any salt with that! The reconstitution of the Spanish flu virus from a recovered frozenSiberian cadaver was reported in Science in 2005:
Quote
Abstract
The pandemic influenza virus of 1918–1919 killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people worldwide. With the recent availability of the complete 1918 influenza virus coding sequence, we used reverse genetics to generate an influenza virus bearing all eight gene segments of the pandemic virus to study the properties associated with its extraordinary virulence. In stark contrast to contemporary human influenza H1N1 viruses, the 1918 pandemic virus had the ability to replicate in the absence of trypsin, caused death in mice and embryonated chicken eggs, and displayed a high-growth phenotype in human bronchial epithelial cells. Moreover, the coordinated expression of the 1918 virus genes most certainly confers the unique high-virulence phenotype observed with this pandemic virus.

Characterization of the Reconstructed 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic Virus
Terrence M. Tumpey &c
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/310/5745/77

And the US Government takes it seriously, at length here, including discussion of biohazard precautions: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/1918flupandemic.htm

Susan Anderson

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Re: Siberian Caves Reveal Advancing Permafrost Thaw
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2018, 01:33:30 AM »
Yes, I saw that years ago. This was last week.

See for yourself, here (extended quote included): "Are There Zombie Viruses In The Thawing Permafrost?"   January 24, 2018 All Things Considered, Michaeleen Doucleff
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/01/24/575974220/are-there-zombie-viruses-in-the-thawing-permafrost

Quote
Zimmerman tried to revive the bacteria. He took a smidge of tissue from the lungs. Warmed it up. Fed it.

"But nothing grew," Zimmerman says. "Not a single cell."

Zimmerman says he wasn't surprised the bacteria were dead. Pneumonia bacteria have evolved to live in people at body temperature, not cold soil.

"We're dealing with organisms that have been frozen for hundreds of years," he says. "So I don't think they would come back to life."

But what about viruses — like smallpox or the 1918 flu? "I think it's extremely unlikely," Zimmerman says.

In 1951, a graduate student decided to test this out. Johan Hultin went to a tiny town near Nome, Alaska, and dug up a mass grave of people who had died of the 1918 flu.

He cut out tiny pieces of the people's lungs and brought them back home. Then he tried to grow the virus in the lab.

"I had hoped that I would be able to isolate a living virus," Hultin told NPR in 2004. "And I couldn't. The virus was dead.

"In retrospect, maybe that was a good thing," Hultin added.

A good thing, yes. But here's the disturbing part. Hultin tried to capture the 1918 flu virus again, 45 years later.

By this time he was a pathologist in San Francisco. He heard scientists were trying to sequence the virus's genome. So at age 73, Hultin went back to Alaska. And he took a piece of lung from a woman he named Lucy.

"Using his wife's pruning shears, Hultin opened Lucy's mummified rib cage. There he found two frozen lungs, the very tissue he needed," the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"Her lungs were magnificent, full of blood," Hultin told the paper.

At the same time, a Canadian team of scientists went hunting for the 1918 flu virus in Norway. They dug up seven bodies. But none of them were frozen, and the team failed to recover any virus particles.

In the 1990s, Russian scientists intentionally tried to revive smallpox from a body in their permafrost. They recovered pieces of the virus but couldn't grow the virus in the lab.

All these attempts — and all these failures — make you wonder: Maybe it isn't melting permafrost we should worry about when it comes to zombie pathogens, but what scientists do in the lab.

It's not over until the fat seal sings

When I finished writing this story in December, I ended it with a faint warning about the dangers of human curiosity. I was convinced that the only way "pathogens" would rise up from the permafrost was if a scientist bent over backward to resurrect the creatures in the lab. The chance of it happening naturally seemed infinitesimally small.

But then I received an email from Zac Peterson: "After kneeling in defrosted marine mammal goo ... doctors treated me for a seal finger infection," Peterson wrote. A photo showed a purplish-red infection covering the front of his knee.

Seal finger is a bacterial infection that hunters contract from handling the body parts of seals. The infection can spread rapidly into the joints and bones. Sometimes people lose fingers and hands.

The doctors never tested Peterson's infection to see if it really was seal finger. It responded well to simple antibiotics — the treatment for seal finger.

The only seals Peterson had handled were those in the log cabin. Those seals had been frozen in permafrost for decades.

"Even if there's a possibility it was something else," Peterson wrote, "I still tell people that I got infected by an 800-year-old strain of a seal hunter's disease that was trapped in ice."

Peterson just might be the first victim of "zombie bacteria" rising from Alaska's thawing permafrost.