Northern permafrost soils represent the largest terrestrial organic carbon pool on Earth. A study the northern circumpolar permafrost zones reveals that landscapes susceptible to abrupt thawing with the release of significant quantities of carbon dioxide and methane cover 20% of the northern permafrost region and store up to half its soil organic carbon.
The source of the accelerating rise in atmospheric methane concentration since 2007 remains an open question. A recent study using satellite imagery suggests that the increase may be ascribed to increased fossil fuels and livestock sources in roughly equal measure.
Approximately 800,000 years ago something changed in the Earth’s climate system that led to the climate then following a series of approximately 100,000 year cycles. Small, predictable changes in the Earth’s orbit about the Sun act as triggers for the glacial and interglacial periods, but other factors such as ice sheet volume, CO2 concentration, and biological feedback mechanisms are also involved.
During the first pulse of increasing atmospheric CO2 at the beginning of the last deglaciation the carbon-13 ratio dropped precipitously indicating that a source of the CO2 was a large pool of carbon of organic origin. Comparison with other data including the atmospheric carbon-14 record point at outgassing from Southern Ocean deep water as the source of the CO2 increase in this early period of the deglaciation.