We always think of sunlight as something that is hugely beneficial to our wellness and wellbeing, but would we feel the same if we realised the detrimental effect that it is having on our environment?
Scientists have discovered that ancient carbon in the Arctic is being released due to the effects of being exposed to sunlight. Permafrost is melting and collapsing under the strength of the sunlight, causing the gas carbon dioxide (CO2) to be released into the atmosphere at a much faster rate than had previously been thought.
George Kling, an aquatic bio-geochemist with the University of Michigan, alongside several of his colleagues, studied areas of Arctic Alaska where the permafrost is rapidly melting, causing the land surface on top to collapse and forming huge holes caused by erosion, along with landslides and exposure of previously buried soils to the atmosphere.
Another team (also including Kling) was led by the University of North Carolina, and found that the sunlight increases the conversion of this underlying soil carbon into carbon dioxide by around 40 percent, and perhaps more. This can cause a serious threat to the environment, which is something which may affect the long-term wellbeing of all humans.
Reported in the jouranl Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is the first of its kind to reveal the effect of this permafrost melting, and what happens when the underlying carbon is exposed to sunlight.
It is not just the conversion but the rate of conversion that has alarmed scientists, as this now means that permafrost carbon (and the erosion thereof) is going to be a huge factor in global warming and, therefore, in the future of the planet.