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2012 AAAS Meeting

Highlights from the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Vancouver, February 16-20

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7:38am, February 22, 2012

New calculations boost carbon released from thawing permafrost
Changes in permafrost as it thaws could release more carbon into the atmosphere than scientists had suspected, new research suggests. When permanently frozen ground thaws, it deepens the “active layer” of soil from which carbon can percolate, Charles Koven of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California reported February 19. Under pessimistic scenarios in which greenhouse gases continue to rise, some 60 to 80 percent of permafrost could disappear by 2100, he said. Calculations of how soil types vary by depth suggest that up to 700 petagrams (700 billion metric tons) of carbon could be vulnerable to decomposition. “Typically people haven’t thought of the depth distribution of soil carbon, but that’s critical,” Koven said. —Alexandra Witze

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