Peat Bogs: Hot Spot

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ambience: Evening, lake

Most scientists agree that the world is warming and there are parts of the world that have actually warmed more intensely than others. Well, western Siberia is of these “hot spots”, and it’s home to the world’s largest peat fields. When Siberia warms, it may well affect all of us. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Peat is undecomposed plant matter. When it does decompose, it releases C02 and methane- greenhouse gasses which increase global warming. There are vast repositories of peat around the world, especially in Siberia. What’ll happen if Siberia warms up? Larry Smith is an associate professor in the Department of Geography at UCLA. He recently conducted a survey of Siberia’s peat fields.

“These peatlands are currently putting out vast amounts of methane, so warming them and drying them could result in a reduction in the amount of methane being released, which would be favorable from a global warming point of view. However, if the peatlands are thawed, and were to catastrophically dry and become essentially a compost heap, they could potentially begin releasing very large amounts of carbon dioxide from these massive stocks which have been accumulated over the last eleven thousand five-hundred years.”

And that would accelerate global warming?

“Absolutely. That would represent a positive feedback to global warming. It would represent a previously unrecognized natural source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, if that were to take place. However, I must say, that this study in no way addresses whether that’s likely to happen or not – this is just speculation. All this study found out was how old they are, and that there is much more carbon stored there than we previously knew.”

Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Peat Bogs: Hot Spot

What might happen if Siberia's peatlands thaw and become a giant compost heap?
Air Date:10/12/2010
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: Evening, lake

Most scientists agree that the world is warming and there are parts of the world that have actually warmed more intensely than others. Well, western Siberia is of these "hot spots", and it's home to the world's largest peat fields. When Siberia warms, it may well affect all of us. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Peat is undecomposed plant matter. When it does decompose, it releases C02 and methane- greenhouse gasses which increase global warming. There are vast repositories of peat around the world, especially in Siberia. What'll happen if Siberia warms up? Larry Smith is an associate professor in the Department of Geography at UCLA. He recently conducted a survey of Siberia's peat fields.

"These peatlands are currently putting out vast amounts of methane, so warming them and drying them could result in a reduction in the amount of methane being released, which would be favorable from a global warming point of view. However, if the peatlands are thawed, and were to catastrophically dry and become essentially a compost heap, they could potentially begin releasing very large amounts of carbon dioxide from these massive stocks which have been accumulated over the last eleven thousand five-hundred years."

And that would accelerate global warming?

"Absolutely. That would represent a positive feedback to global warming. It would represent a previously unrecognized natural source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, if that were to take place. However, I must say, that this study in no way addresses whether that’s likely to happen or not - this is just speculation. All this study found out was how old they are, and that there is much more carbon stored there than we previously knew."

Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

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