A new study has refuted a commonly held fear among climate scientists that melting Arctic permafrost could massively accelerate global warming.
Scientists were primarily concerned that the melting permafrost would release large amounts of trapped methane, furthering the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere.
But a newly released US study suggests that melting permafrost may not have such a significant impact on increasing temperatures.
For the study, a research team led by the University of Rochester in New York State drilled and collected ice cores from the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica.
They then studied gases trapped in the ice cores dating back to a period of deglaciation between 8,000 and 15,000 years ago, a period that is thought to be somewhat analogous to the current era of global warming.
They discovered that very little methane made it from the particles into the atmosphere. The scientists believe that most of the methane was probably eaten by microbes contained in the top few inches of soil on permafrost.
As the microbes decomposed the organic matter through organic respiration, they released carbon dioxide instead of methane. While the carbon dioxide still adds to global warming it is a much less potent greenhouse gas than methane.