Permafrost, Lakes, and Climate-Warming Methane Feedback: What is the Worst We Can Expect?
Author(s)Gao, X.; Schlosser, C.A.; Sokolov, A.; Walter Anthony, K.; Zhuang, Q.; Kicklighter, D.W.; ... Show more Show less
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Permafrost degradation is likely enhanced by climate warming. Subsequent landscape subsidence and hydrologic changes support expansion of lakes and wetlands. Their anaerobic environments can act as strong emission sources of methane and thus represent a positive feedback to climate warming. Using an integrated earth-system model framework, which considers the range of policy and uncertainty in climatechange projections, we examine the influence of near-surface permafrost thaw on the prevalence of lakes, its subsequent methane emission, and potential feedback under climate warming. We find that increases in atmospheric CH4 and radiative forcing from increased lake CH4 emissions are small, particularly when weighed against unconstrained human emissions. The additional warming from these methane sources, across the range of climate policy and response, is no greater than 0.1 C by 2100. Further, for this temperature feedback to be discernable by 2100 would require at least an order of magnitude larger methaneemission response. Overall, the biogeochemical climate-warming feedback from boreal and Arctic lake emissions is relatively small whether or not humans choose to constrain global emissions.
MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change
Report no. 218
Joint Program Report Series;218
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