Permafrost has been warming in the last decade at rates up to 0.39 °C 10 year−1, raising public concerns about the local and global impacts, such as methane emission. We used satellite data on atmospheric methane concentrations to retrieve information about methane emission in permafrost and non-permafrost environments in Siberia with different biogeochemical conditions in river valleys, thermokarst lakes, wetlands, and lowlands. We evaluated the statistical links with air temperature, precipitation, depth of seasonal thawing, and freezing and developed a statistical model. We demonstrated that by the mid-21st century methane emission in Siberian permafrost regions will increase by less than 20 Tg year−1, which is at the lower end of other estimates. Such changes will lead to less than 0.02 °C global temperature rise. These findings do not support the “methane bomb” concept. They demonstrate that the feedback between thawing Siberian wetlands and the global climate has been significantly overestimated.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
Anisimov, O. 2007. Potential feedback of thawing permafrost to the global climate system through methane emission. Environmental Research Letters 2: 91–98. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/1082/1084/045016.
Anisimov, O., and R. Orttung. 2019. Climate change in Northern Russia through the prism of public perception. Ambio 48: 661–671. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1096-x.
Anisimov, O.A., V.A. Kokorev, and E.L. Zhiltcova. 2017. Arctic ecosystems and their services under changing climate: Predictive modelling assessment. Geographical Review 107: 108–124.
Anisimov, O.A., S.A. Lavrov, A.F. Zhirkov, and D.A. Kaverin. 2020. Permafrost data assimilation and reanalysis: Computational setup and model validation for North-European Russia and East Siberia. Russian Meteorology and Hydrology 45: 385–394.
AWI. 2019. Global terrestrial network for permafrost (GTN-P) database. Potsdam: AWI.
Biskaborn, B.K., S.L. Smith, J. Noetzli, H. Matthes, G. Vieira, D.A. Streletskiy, P. Schoeneich, V.E. Romanovsky, et al. 2019. Permafrost is warming at a global scale. Nature Communications 10: 264–278.
Bousquet, P., P. Ciais, J.B. Miller, E.J. Dlugokencky, D.A. Hauglustaine, C. Prigent, G.R. Van der Werf, P. Peylin, et al. 2006. Contribution of anthropogenic and natural sources to atmospheric methane variability. Nature 443: 439–443.
Callaghan, T.V., O.M. Shaduyko, and S.N. Kirpotin. 2021. Siberian environmental change. Special Issue. Ambio 50.
Christensen, T.R., S. Rysgaard, J. Bendtsen, B. Else, R.N. Glud, K.V. Huissteden, F.-J. W. Parmentier, T. Sachs, et al. 2017. Arctic carbon cycling. In Snow, water, ice and permafrost in the arctic (SWIPA). Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) report, 203–218. Oslo, AMAP publication.
Christensen, T.R., V.K. Arora, M. Gauss, L. Höglund-Isaksson, and F.-J.W. Parmentier. 2019. Tracing the climate signal: Mitigation of anthropogenic methane emissions can outweigh a large Arctic natural emission increase. Nature Scientific Reports 9: 1146–1153.
Dlugokencky, E.J., A.M. Crotwell, and J.W. Mund. 2019a. Atmospheric Methane Dry Air Mole Fractions from quasi-continuous measurements at Barrow, Alaska and Mauna Loa, Hawaii, 1986–2018, Version: 2019-03-04.
Dlugokencky, E.J., A.M. Crotwell, J.W. Mund, M.J. Crotwell, and K.W. Thoning. 2019b. Atmospheric Methane Dry Air Mole Fractions from the NOAA ESRL Carbon Cycle Cooperative Global Air Sampling Network, 1983–2018, Version: 2019-07.
Dyonisius, M.N., V.V. Petrenko, A.M. Smith, Q. Hua, B. Yang, J. Schmitt, J. Beck, B. Seth, et al. 2020. Old carbon reservoirs were not important in the deglacial methane budget. Science 367: 907–910.
Elberling, B., A. Michelsen, C. Schädel, E.A.G. Schuur, H.H. Christiansen, L. Berg, M.P. Tamstorf, and C. Sigsgaard. 2013. Long-term CO2 production following permafrost thaw. Nature Climate Change 3: 890–894.
Gruber, S. 2012. Derivation and analysis of a high-resolution estimate of globalpermafrost zonation. The Cryosphere 6: 221–233.
Hjort, J., O. Karjalainen, J. Aalto, S. Westermann, V.E. Romanovsky, F.E. Nelson, B. Etzelmüller, and M. Luoto. 2018. Degrading permafrost puts Arctic infrastructure at risk by mid-century. Nature Communications 9: 5147.
Hoffmann, S., S.D.H. Irl, and C. Beierkuhnlein. 2019. Predicted climate shifts within terrestrial protected areas worldwide. Nature Communications 10: 4787.
Höhne, N., T. Kuramochi, C. Warnecke, F. Röser, H. Fekete, M. Hagemann, T. Day, R. Tewari, et al. 2017. The Paris Agreement: resolving the inconsistency between global goals and national contributions. Climate Policy 17: 16–32.
Khvorostyanov, D.V., G. Krinner, P. Ciais, M. Heimann, and S.A. Zimov. 2008. Vulnerability of permafrost carbon to global warming. Part I: Model description and role of heat generated by organic matter decomposition. Tellus Series B-Chemical and Physical Meteorology 60: 250–264.
Kokorev, V.A., A.A. Yershova, and O.A. Anisimov. 2018. Permafrost web portal.
Masyagina, O.V., and O.V. Menyailo. 2020. The impact of permafrost on carbon dioxide and methane fluxes in Siberia: A meta-analysis. Environmental Research 182: 1–16.
Myhre, G., D. Shindell, F.-M. Bréon, W. Collins, J. Fuglestvedt, J. Huang, D. Koch, J.-F. Lamarque, et al. 2013. Anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing. In Climate change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed. T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, et al., 659–740. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schuur, E.A.G., A.D. McGuire, C. Schädel, G. Grosse, J.W. Harden, D.J. Hayes, G. Hugelius, C.D. Koven, et al. 2015. Climate change and the permafrost carbon feedback. Nature 520: 171–179.
Schädel, C.E., E.A.G. Schuur, R. Bracho, B. Elberling, C. Knoblauch, H. Lee, Y. Luo, G.R. Shaver, et al. 2014. Circumpolar assessment of permafrost C quality and its vulnerability over time using long-term incubation data. Global Change Biology 20: 641–652.
Shiklomanov, N.I. 2005. From exploration to systematic investigation: Development of Geocryology in 19th- and early–20th-century Russia. Physical Geography 26: 249–263.
Spash, C.L. 2016. This changes nothing: The Paris agreement to ignore reality. Globalizations 13: 928–933.
Tarnocai, C., J.G. Canadell, E.A.G. Schuur, P. Kuhry, G. Mazhitova, and S. Zimov. 2009. Soil organic carbon pools in the northern circumpolar permafrost region. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. GB2023.
Tørstad, V., and H. Sælen. 2018. Fairness in the climate negotiations: What explains variation in parties’ expressed conceptions? Climate Policy 18: 642–654.
Walter Anthony, K., T. Schneider von Deimling, I. Nitze, S. Frolking, A. Emond, R. Daanen, P. Anthony, P. Lindgren, et al. 2018. 21st-century modeled permafrost carbon emissions accelerated by abrupt thaw beneath lakes. Nature Communications 9: 3262.
Walter Anthony, K.M., S.A. Zimov, G. Grosse, M.C. Jones, P.M. Anthony, F.S. Chapin III, J.C. Finlay, M.C. Mack, et al. 2014. A shift of thermokarst lakes from carbon sources to sinks during the Holocene epoch. Nature 511: 452–456.
Walter, K.M., S.A. Zimov, J.P. Chanton, D. Verbyla, and F.S. Chapin. 2006. Methane bubbling from Siberian thaw lakes as a positive feedback to climate warming. Nature 443: 71–75.
Whiteman, G., C. Hope, and P. Wadhams. 2013. Vast cost of Arctic change. Nature 499: 401–403.
Yurganov, L.N., I. Leifer, and C.L. Myhre. 2016. Seasonal and interannual variability of atmospheric methane over Arctic Ocean from satellite data. Problems in remote sensing of the Earth from space 13: 107–119.
The authors are grateful to Professor F.E. Nelson for editing the English text. The study of climate change impacts in permafrost regions was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, Project 18-05-60005.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Anisimov, O., Zimov, S. Thawing permafrost and methane emission in Siberia: Synthesis of observations, reanalysis, and predictive modeling. Ambio 50, 2050–2059 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01392-y