In the future, climate change could abruptly increase the amount of methane released by lakes in the permafrost regions of the Arctic. An international research team, including experts from the Alfred Wegener Institute, has now determined that the rapid thaw under lakes has been neglected in models so far and that bacterial decomposition of organic matter in the thawed sediments may strongly increase the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane. Like a giant freezer, the permanently frozen soils of the Arctic store tremendous amounts of dead biomass, especially organic matter from ancient vegetation well preserved in the permafrost. Normally, only the uppermost centimetres or metres of this soil thaws during the brief Arctic summer and refreezes in autumn. But climate change is intensifying the degree of thaw:
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