New research finds - global heating is melting vast northern fields of permafrost so fast that - within decades - they'll likely stop cooling the planet as they have for millennia - and start doing just the opposite.
by Larry Powell Permafrost Slide at Big Fox Lake, Ontario, Canada - 2015. A Creative Commons photo by MIKOFOX. For thousands of years, so-called "permafrost peatlands" in Earth's Northern Hemisphere have been cooling the global climate. They’ve done it by trapping large amounts of carbon and nitrogen which would otherwise escape into the air as harmful greenhouse gases. More recently however, scientists have observed, they've been melting due to manmade global heating. As they melt, they're releasing large amounts of substances like methane - a potent greenhouse gas - into the air. But, without proper maps, it's been hard for scientists to get a handle on the degree to which this might be happening - until now. New ones drawn up using thousands of field observations, show; Permafrost peatlands cover a vast area of almost four million square kilometres. And, to quote from the study, "Under future global warming scenarios, half to nearly all