31 Jul 2009:
Arctic Tundra Undergoing
Major Changes As it Warms, Studies Show
Several recent studies show that the rapid warming of Arctic tundra is leading to a host of sweeping changes, including more extensive fires, the growth of larger vegetation, more absorption of solar energy, melting permafrost, and substantially larger releases of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases. Taken together, the studies demonstrate that rising temperatures set in motion a vicious circle of more warming and higher releases of greenhouse gases. In Alaska, scientists studying a 2007 fire that burned nearly 400 square miles of the Brooks Range found that the burned tundra lost 40 to 120 grams of carbon per square meter, while pristine tundra absorbed 30 to 70 grams
. Burned tundra also absorbed 71 percent more solar radiation than normal and caused permafrost to melt to a depth of several inches. A study in the Canadian Arctic has shown that tundra vegetation is becoming weedier, larger, and darker, significantly increasing the amount of absorbed sunlight and further boosting temperatures
. The study also showed the warming tundra giving off unexpectedly high levels of methane and nitrous oxide. And in Scandinavia researchers found that by warming Arctic peatlands by nearly 2 degrees F over eight years, the tundra released an extra 60 percent CO2 in spring and 52 percent in summer
, according to a study in the journal, Nature
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S. View the photos.
Ugandan scientists monitor the impact of climate change on one of Africa’s most diverse forests and its extraordinary wildlife. Learn more.
video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs. Watch the video.
video goes onto the front lines with Colorado firefighters confronting deadly blazes fueled by a hotter, drier climate. Watch the video.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.