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Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Climate feedbacks from a warming arctic

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists work to understand the fate of this carbon using computer simulations such as this model of snowmelt draining from polygonal ground near Barrow, Alaska.
April 26, 2015
Climate feedbacks from a warming arctic

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Arctic soils currently store nearly 20 years worth of human emissions of carbon in frozen permafrost, but the Arctic is warming faster than most of the rest of the Earth, meaning that this carbon may soon thaw and be released as greenhouse gases. Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists work to understand the fate of this carbon using computer simulations such as this model of snowmelt draining from polygonal ground near Barrow, Alaska.

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These polygons, (approximately 30-60 feet in diameter and shaded in brown tones based on elevation) change from low centered (such as those on the top right) to high centered (such as those on the lower left) in a warming climate, resulting in very different drainage rates. The water ponding on the surface is shaded in blue with darker colors indicating deeper water. Understanding the feedbacks of changing landscapes like these are critical to understand whether Arctic permafrost will become a major source of greenhouse gases in the coming century. Click HERE to read more about the research being conducted by LANL and the NGEE (Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment) Arctic team.


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