|Endeavors magazine features Rose Cory’s climate change research|
|April 08, 2013|
In a March 21 posting on the website of Endeavors, UNC's research magazine, Mark Derewicz writes about Rose Cory, PhD, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Cory has "unmasked a new culprit in the case of quickening climate change," writes Derewicz, in his article, "Earth Cracked Open."
We reprint this portion of the article with permission.
The Arctic tundra is sinking. Landslides and sinkholes the size of football fields dot the landscape.
"If there were houses and roads and buildings up there, people would be freaking out," says Rose Cory, an environmental scientist at UNC. We'd be clamoring for reasons why the earth is swallowing our infrastructure. Cory could provide answers. And she could also tell us why we should be very concerned no matter where we live.
For years, climate scientists haven't included the melting permafrost in their climate change models. Now, the big thaw is on. Permafrost is adding CO2 to the atmosphere.
But Cory discovered that there's more to the equation -- those landslides and sinkholes are exposing once-frozen carbon to sunlight and adding more CO2 to the atmosphere than scientists had ever suspected.
Arctic permafrost is essentially underground soil that's been frozen for thousands of years. For a long time, scientists have known that as global temperatures rise and permafrost melts during summers, bacteria are consuming organic carbon in the soil. The bacteria convert the carbon into carbon dioxide and expel it back into the atmosphere. The added CO2--a greenhouse gas--contributes to the global warming trend.
"But we thought the bacteria respire CO2 in the dark, below the surface," Cory says. "And we didn't know the timing or other controlling factors. All we knew was there was a lot of potential to turn organic carbon into CO2."
Those unknowns were why climatologists didn't include melting permafrost in their climate change models.
A few years ago, though, geologists spotted huge sinkholes and landslides in the Arctic. Cory suspected that the carbon--once destined to convert into CO2 in the dark underground--would now convert to CO2 while being exposed to the Arctic summer sunlight--24 hours a day. She wanted to find out whether that mattered.
Read more on the Endeavors website.
|Last updated April 08, 2013|