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Greenland: a methane sink rather than an emissions source

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Feb1,2024

Greenland: a methane well instead ;t qu’an emission source

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The ice-free area of ​​Greenland is dominated by tundra dry, and here in northern Greenland these are dry landscapes where there is practically no vegetation.

Agence France-Presse

Greenland absorbs more methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that accelerates global warming, than it emits, shows a study by Danish scientists at the University of Copenhagen published in the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment(New window).

On average since 2000, the dry areas of ice-free Greenland have consumed more than 65,000 tonnes of methane per year from the atmosphere, while 9,000 tonnes of methane have been released each year from its wetlands, note the researchers in a press release.

These results are encouraging, because methane, the second largest contributor to global warming after CO2, is particularly harmful to the environment . It is responsible for about 30% of the rise in temperatures since the industrial revolution, according to the United Nations.

For researchers, the Greenland phenomenon is partly explained by the extent of Greenland's dry zones, where methane from the atmosphere is consumed in the upper layers of the ground, and partly by the fact that the ice-free areas of Greenland have only been ice-free since the last ice age.

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Geologist Bo Elberling Bo takes soil samples from a nunatak, a mountainous area surrounded by the Greenland ice sheet.

This means they have never stored much carbon, which could lead to significant methane emissions, as measured elsewhere in the Arctic, geologist Bo Elberling, who led the study, said in the statement. 'study.

In Greenland, methane absorption is made possible by a unique group of microorganisms in the upper layer of Arctic soil, which ingest methane that enters the ground from the atmosphere and transform it into carbon dioxide, the effect is less harmful for the climate, it is specified.

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Considered by the team as good news for the climate, this knowledge could be useful for the development of climate models.

It remains to be seen whether these results can be transposed to the rest of the Arctic, a region considered to be a climatic time bomb.

The conclusion is not that Greenland will have an impact on the total quantity of global atmospheric methane or that it will be decisive for methane budgets in the Arctic, underline the researchers.

Greenland's methane uptake is simply too low compared to other known methane sources such as Siberia, they add.

Methane lasts 12 years in the atmosphere, compared to centuries for carbon dioxide, but it has a greenhouse effect 25 times more powerful than CO2.

It is notably released into the atmosphere with the thawing of permafrost in the Arctic, in turn fueling increased warming, and therefore continued thawing.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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