Like a Tundra of Bricks
Arctic tundra may produce rather than absorb CO2, accelerating warming
It’s not often that drama emerges from the Arctic tundra, but there seems to be genuine excitement around revelations from a 20-year study just completed and published in the journal Nature. Researchers have long assumed that Arctic tundra would be a carbon dioxide “sink,” absorbing CO2 and slowing — at least slightly — the global-warming trend. Well, turns out not so much: According to the study, warming might cause accelerated decomposition of the lower levels of the tundra, releasing far more CO2 than subsequent growth will absorb and establishing a “positive feedback” that accelerates warming — and, incidentally, could foul up Canada’s attempt to meet its Kyoto targets. In other news from chilly-but-not-as-chilly-as-they-used-to-be spots, scientists have found that the collapse of the Antarctic’s Larsen B ice shelf two years ago has drastically accelerated the collapse of surrounding glaciers into the sea — a grim harbinger of things to come in a region particularly hard-hit by global warming.