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Dangers of thawing permafrost highlighted in global climate change study

15th May, 2017

Whilst in this country, frost often means slippery pavements and roads requiring winter gritting, there are occasions when frost can be protective.

Permafrost prevents greenhouse gases being released
A new international research study completed by the universities of Leeds and Exeter in partnership with the Met Office, has found that global warming will thaw about 20% more permafrost than previously thought. Not something for many people to be too worried about you’d think but permafrost actually prevents potentially significant amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Icy soil containing more carbon than in Earth’s atmosphere
Permafrost is frozen soil that has been at a temperature of below zero degrees Celsius for at least two years. Large quantities of carbon are stored in organic matter trapped in the icy permafrost soils, but when it thaws, the organic matter starts to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. The study reveals that permafrost is more sensitive to the effects of global warming than previously thought. It is estimated that there is more carbon contained in the frozen permafrost than is currently in the atmosphere. 

Permafrost the size of India
The study suggests that nearly 4m square km of frozen soil – an area larger than India – could be lost for every additional degree of global warming experienced. Thawing permafrost also has potentially damaging consequences for the stability of buildings located in high-latitude cities.

Around 35m people live in the permafrost zone. A widespread thaw could cause the ground to become unstable, putting roads and buildings at risk of collapse

Achieving global climate targets
The study suggests that permafrost is more susceptible to global warming that previously thought, but that huge permafrost losses could be averted if ambitious global climate targets are met.

Prepare for when frost hits with winter gritting
Whilst we don’t have to deal with melting permafrost in this country, the frost we do get can cause havoc for pedestrians and drivers alike when it hits the pavements and roads around your premises. So, to make sure that you are never caught out by frost and ice disrupting your business, get your winter gritting and snow clearing organised now. Call us today on 01728 633900 for a quote tailored to your needs.

Buildings are at risk where permafrost thaws

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