Letting some of it trickle out while trying to soak it all in

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First scientific pub

My first scientific publication went out this morning in the comments section of Nature. I think you need a subscription to download it but here's a link to the article,

Climate change: High risk of permafrost thaw

Arctic tundra just north of the continental divide in the Brooks range

There has been a much bigger response than I expected (I mean, I think this stuff is cool and important but I didn't realize how interested the science journalism community would be).

Here's a link to the Institute of Arctic Biology's "in the news" site with some articles about the article!

The take home nuggets from the article are:

1. The amount of organic matter stored in permafrost-region soils is huge-around 1700 gigatonnes. This is twice as much carbon as is in the atmosphere, four times what humans have emitted since the industrial revolution, and (this is the one that gets me) more carbon than exists in all living things (pile up all the blue whales, redwoods, termites, and bacteria and they won't equal the northern soil pool).

2. This carbon is there because of chilly soils. Any spruce needles, dead roots, or squirrel bodies that fall into the soil are refrigerated (or frozen completely) which slows decomposition.

3. As the climate warms a portion of this soil carbon will be released as carbon dioxide and methane (two of the major greenhouse gases). Because this release will come from remote and distributed landscapes it will be particularly difficult to contain. We estimate that carbon from the permafrost region will have more than twice the impact on global climate than carbon released by deforestation over the next century. However, emissions from fossil fuels are predicted to remain the biggest driver of climate change. Permafrost carbon simply amplifies the impact of greenhouse gases we emit. The estimates we generated indicate that this extra carbon could increase the impact of human emissions by 20-30%.

Thermokarst feature where permafrost has collapsed near the Toolik Field Station. This thaw slump formed in three months this summer.

Old Ben Franklin is right in this case, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." 


  1. OH BENJAMIN ABBOTT what a WONDERFUL thing. So proud of you! Way to go! Also, I love this blog...

  2. This is fantastic Ben. You gave an incredibly eloquent interview on the radio as well. "All the blue whales & red woods" Great analogy! You rock man!

  3. Dude, sick stuff. I always knew that science was the way to get famous. Where is the radio interview that Cody raved so much about?

  4. Thanks for the support you guys!

    Here's a link to the KUAC report Sam: http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kuac/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1881080

    The coverage of the article starts 3:15 into the clip.

  5. Ben, what a fine thing to see the results of your work enter into an important conversation.

  6. hey benaboo. I heard you on the radio this evening. nice job! love that comparison of living carbon to permafrost carbon. that's a kicker. so we wont need to heat our homes next 'winter' right?

  7. as a friend of your father's and collaborator in matters handke, ben, i suggest you pick up a copy of Handke's A SLOW HOME COMING and read the first chapter of the title novel. i spent nine wonderful months in alaska after grad school, first as a fire fighter, working out of the airport road center, then as an assistant geological surveyor. it was odd to be fightin fires in the brooks range, north of the arctic circle, and oh boy did i get to know the dangers of fighting fires in forests with permafrost, always glad not to have had a foot blown off or a tree at the edge of the yukon, near galena, fall on me, actually it was a whole bunch who had been liberated of their surface root system and that came crashing down. so what we need to save the world, is a new little ice age??? i got to know fairbanks quite well between expeditions, and spent some of the best times of my life at a place called THE TIMBERLINE, south fairbanks, a black jazz joint with its own still in back. > http://www.facebook.com/mike.roloff1?ref=name