Thursday, 26 May 2016

Leading Siberian scientist warns about pet bogs and methane

New warning about climate change linked to peat bogs

Expert says deadly gas released from melting permafrost region will lead to 'awful' consequences for global warming.
By Vera Salnitskaya

Thaw of the frozen bogs, which take up as much as 80 per cent of the landmass of western Siberia, will release billions of tonnes of methane. Picture: Sergey Kirpotin

5 May 2015

A leading Siberian scientist has delivered another stark warning about climate change and said melting peat bogs could speed up the process.

Professor Sergey Kirpotin, director of the BioClimLand Centre of Excellence for Climate Change Research in Tomsk, said he has concerns over the 'awful' consequences in Russia’s sub-Arctic region.

He said that a thaw of the frozen bogs, which take up as much as 80 per cent of the landmass of western Siberia, will release billions of tonnes of methane – a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide – into the atmosphere. That, he concluded, will greatly speed up the effects of global warming around the world with potentially devastating consequences.

Sergey Kirpotin
Prof Kirpotin, 51, first made the discovery about the threat 10 years ago when it was found the permafrost melting for the first time since being formed at the end of the Ice Age. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

'Bogs are extremely important for humanity,' explained Prof Kirpotin. 'Over thousands of years bogs have been absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it at peat deposits. Carbon is a basic component of greenhouse gases. This way, bogs function as a sort of natural freezer as they don’t let the carbon build up in the atmosphere.

'However, the permafrost in northern areas of western Siberia has started melting. As the permafrost thaws, it creates new lakes and old ones get bigger. This way, all the organics trapped in permafrost started decomposing rather quickly. Obviously, a lot of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are released into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.'

He added: 'There is a so-called methane threat in the north of the bog. On top of that, the ice shelf is also thawing releasing methane hydrates and something really awful is happening.'

Probes with methane

Sergey Kirpotin and Rinat
Probes with methane. Sergey Kirpotin(left) and Rinat Manasypov holding the probes of snow, taken on Vasyugan Mire this winter. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Various experts have been examining Siberia’s bog land, and its changing conditions, for decades. The bogs covering western Siberia spread out to a total of 7.5million hectares and give the region a unique eco-system. Within this region, the Vasyugan Mire bog is the largest anywhere in the world.

At more than 53,000km sq in size – making it bigger than Switzerland – Vasyugan Mire is 10,000-years-old and is famous around the world for its rare flora and fauna. Under ice and snow for much of the year, recently tourism officials launched a bid to attract wildlife lovers and environmentalists to the area.

The BioClimLand centre was established a year ago and mainly focuses on climate studies, with a special laboratory for biochemical and remote environment monitoring.

Prof Kirpotin, 51, first made the discovery about the threat 10 years ago when it was found the permafrost melting for the first time since being formed at the end of the Ice Age.
Vasyugan Mire

Vasyugan Mire

Vasyugan Mire

Vasyugan Mire

Vasyugan Mire
'Bogs are extremely important for humanity. Over thousands of years bogs have been absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it at peat deposits.' Pictures: Sergey Kirpotin

He warned at the time that it could be an 'ecological landslide that is probably irreversible'. Now it seems the situation is more advanced than first thought. He said: 'The Arctic regions are more subject to climate change. There are so-called hot spots in the Arctic and northern western Siberia is one of them.

'That’s happening for a few reasons. Scandinavia is warmed by the Gulfstream so the changes there are not as rapid. Canada and Alaska have shorter meridional lengths. Siberia is the largest Arctic territory in the world, besides, there is a vast climate change [from continental] to extreme continental as you move from the west to the east. This way the changes in western Siberia are more extreme and dramatic than elsewhere in the world.'

The new warning comes just weeks after another Russian expert said the Arctic could be completely ice-free within just 40 years.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Oleg Anisimov said there is now evidence that temperatures are rising four times faster in the frozen region than the rest of the planet.

It would mean open water at the top of the world by 2050, with nothing more than a few floating icebergs where the North Pole was once located.


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