In Warming Arctic, Major Rivers Show Surprising Changes in Carbon Chemistry


In two major Arctic rivers, a changing climate and shifting human activities are provoking a surprising response.

Over the past several decades, the Arctic has begun to show signs of significant ecological upheaval. The rate of warming in the Arctic is nearly twice the global average, and those changes are triggering a cascade of destabilizing environmental effects. Ice is melting, permafrost is thawing, and experts say fires in Arctic forests are as damaging as they’ve been in 10,000 years.

But new research suggests that the same factors driving the Arctic’s changing climate are fueling a geological response that could play a small part in counteracting those changes’ malign effects.

In a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers from Florida State University report that, in two major Arctic rivers, 40 years of climate change seem to have fortified a natural process that consumes and stores atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The process of interest to researchers was the production of riverine alkalinity, or the ability of river water to resist changes that would make it more acidic. Alkalinity is produced when carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater weathers rock surfaces.

Continue reading at Florida State University

Image via Norman Kuring, NOAA