A greenhouse gas is a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation. This process is the fundamental cause for the greenhouse effect. Primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.
However the whereabouts of these gases remains untraceable. Until now. A scientist from Assam is among the group of scientists who for the first time mapped potential greenhouse gas emission hotspots caused by defrosting grounds in the Northern hemisphere.
The Assamese scientist has revealed that the global mapping project has pinpointed regions wherein the risk for permafrost to release carbon dioxide is high. Permafrost refers to a layer of soil or rock that is frozen all the year round. When this layer thaws because of climate warming, it releases greenhouses gases such as carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. These greenhouse gases in the atmosphere absorbs heat, making the earth warmer.
‘In the study, for the first time we mapped the potential greenhouse gas emission hotspots due to thawing grounds in perennially frozen permafrost landscapes for the entire northern hemisphere. When the soil organic matter in the permafrost thaws due to warming, they decompose to release greenhouse gases. The most dramatic changes are likely to occur where permafrost thaw is accompanied by land surface collapse, known as thermokarst.’, he said.
Goswami and scientists from the Permafrost Carbon Network linked their occurrence to certain landscape characteristics for which information is available. By layering available maps of topography, soil type and permafrost conditions, they created a new map that shows which regions may have lots of thermokarst landforms. He also noted that Himalayan region also contains deep permafrost and hence can potentially pose threat to the ecology of the region.
‘Now, scientists can look to these areas to test assumptions about how fast the soil organic matter will turn into greenhouse gases. Accelerated thermokarst due to climate change will damage infrastructure in addition to its impact on hydrology, ecology and biogeochemistry. The Himalayan region also contains deep permafrost and hence can potentially pose threat to local infrastructure and overall ecosystem due to warming climate and degrading permafrost’, Goswami told the media.
About the Scientist
Santonu Goswami is a climate scientist who worked as the mapping lead for the abovementioned study. Hailing from Jorhat, Goswami also serves Indian Space Research Organization as a Senior Scientist.