Arctic Emissions of Nitrous Oxide Worse Than Expected, Radio Ecoshock, Mention on CounterPunch

Duh. Arctic Emissions of Nitrous Oxide GHG a Dozen Times Worse Than Expected. OOPS. Part 1 of 2 // Apr 20, 2019

Surprise… Nitrous oxide emissions from our rapidly warming north are up to 12-times higher than we previously thought, since thawing Arctic permafrost is a huge source. The problem is:

  • 1) The top 3 meters of permafrost contains 73 billion tons of nitrogen;
  • 2) As it thaws microbial action releases bucket loads of N2O; and
  • 3) N2O is a very powerful Greenhouse Gas, with a Global Warming Potential about 300 times that of CO2 (lifetime in atmosphere of 114 years).

In this video I chat about what this all means.
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Oops. Arctic Emissions of Nitrous Oxide GHG a Dozen Times Worse Than Expected. Duh. Part 2 of 2 // Apr 20, 2019

In this second video, I show the science in plots and images from the paper:

Abstract:  The microbial by-product nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas and ozone depleting substance, has conventionally been assumed to have minimal emissions in permafrost regions. This assumption has been questioned by recent in situ studies which have demonstrated that some geologic features in permafrost may, in fact, have elevated emissions comparable to those of tropical soils. However, these recent studies, along with every known in situ study focused on permafrost N2O fluxes, have used chambers to examine small areas (<50 m2).

Wilkerson, Dobosy, Sayres, Healy, Dumas, Baker, Anderson: Permafrost nitrous oxide emissions observed on a landscape scale using the airborne eddy-covariance method, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 19, 4257-4268,, 2019.

Introduction (small edits, to be concise):  ‘N2O is the third most influential anthropogenic greenhouse gas behind CO2 and CH4. Inert in the lowest atmospheric layer, N2O eventually rises into the stratosphere. There, photolysis and electronically excited oxygen atoms convert N2O to nitrogen oxides that catalytically deplete ozone. N2O is currently the dominant anthropogenically emitted ozone-depleting substance. It is expected to remain so throughout the entire 21st century. Due to increased industrial processes and agricultural practices that rely on heavy fertilization, N2O concentrations have been steadily rising in the atmosphere. With a global temperature-change potential over a 100-year timescale of 296, the climate system is more sensitive to changes in N2O concentrations than to changes in either of its carbon-based GHG counterparts.
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The Burning Question, Radio Ecoshock Interview with with favorite host, Alex Smith.  This is from Thursday, April 17, 2019.  As he says:

Canadian climate scientist Paul Beckwith joins me to thrash through scary new science: the limits before extinction, ocean drivers of our lives, and why weather has gone rogue.

‘In the month of March 2019, the Arctic was 20 degrees hotter than it should be. Under that massive heat, sea ice is at a record low. Unprecedented Arctic warming is distorting weather in the Northern Hemisphere where the majority of humans live. Extreme weather has brought unhappiness, vast damage, and death. In this new climate age, the idea of progress has been replaced by constant efforts to recover‘.
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The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems, by Robert Hunziker, APRIL 19, 2019.  What happens when all of the sea ice is gone?  After quoting recent work or mentions of Dr. Peter Wadhams, Paul is also quoted:

According to the tenacious climate scientist Paul Beckwith, the “refrigerator effect” is lost in the Blue Ocean Event, meaning the “water temperature is not pegged close to the freezing point when there is no ice left to melt.” (Source: Paul Beckwith, climate system scientist, University of Ottawa)‘.
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About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
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