Climate change: Warming soils may intensify Earth's temperatures, warn scientists

Climate change: Warming soils may intensify Earth's temperatures, warn scientists”

According to Jerry Melillo, U.S. Marine Biological Research Laboratory scientist, Bacteria live inside the ground and feed on the matter and release carbon dioxide as a by-product.With an increase in heat, the microbes can digest more, thus releasing more amount of heat.

"This self-reinforcing feedback is potentially a global phenomenon with soils, and once it starts it may be very hard to turn off", one of the team, Jerry Melillo from the MBL, told Meghan Bartels at Newsweek. They scrutinized plots of soil, heating some to five degrees Celsius higher than normal levels with underground cables. In the paper published in the journal Science, the lead scientists of the investigation concluded that around 17% of carbon liberated from the soil was due to the heating.

The first phase of the experiment ran from 1991 to 2000. The second plot in the block was also threaded with electric wires, but its temperature was not increased. Microbes played a role in the greater production of carbon. Since 2014, carbon emissions from the heated plots have again dropped, and the monitoring continues today.

The research has revealed some shocking things and indicated that the warm dirt has heated up Earth and accelerated the process of global warming. "Once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off. There is no switch to flip". The world's soils contain about 3,500 billion tons of carbon.

When we think about the current climate change, the soil wasn't given any attention.

The main objective of this experiment was to measure how carbon dioxide might escape from Earth as the atmosphere warms.

Daniel Meltcalfe of Lund University, who was not a part of the study, told The Guardian if the findings hold across other terrestrial ecosystems, a larger amount of soil carbon might be vulnerable to decomposition than we thought.

The only encouragement we can take from this lengthy study is that we're learning more all the time about how carbon cycles and various natural tipping points could influence overall temperature rise on the planet. The past three years has seen carbon release slow again, with researchers thinking microbes might be reorganizing.

"The future is a warmer future", says Melillo.

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