As Peat Bogs Burn, a Climate Threat Rises

Aug 12, 2016

By Henry Fountain

Kristyn Housman grabbed the end of a sampling auger, a steel tube that two colleagues had just drilled into a moss-covered hummock in a peat bog, and poked through a damp, fibrous plug of partly decomposed peat.

Peat has been building up for centuries in this bog, where the spongy moss is interspersed with black spruces and, on a late spring morning, the air is teeming with mosquitoes. The sample, taken from three feet down, is at least several hundred years old, said Ms. Housman, a graduate researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

“There’s literally tons of carbon here,” she said, looking around the bog, which covers several acres off a muddy oil-company road amid the vast flatness of northern Alberta.

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One comment on “As Peat Bogs Burn, a Climate Threat Rises”

  • @OP link – The world has already had vast releases of carbon from peat, in Indonesia. Last year, bogs that had been drained for agriculture, and were drier because of El Niño-related warmth, burned for months, creating a haze visible from space and causing widespread health problems. At their peak in September and October, the fires released more carbon per day than was emitted by the European Union.

    There are vast stores of carbon which have been building up for thousands of years, in the peat bogs, and once these dry out due to human drainage plans or from the climate warming, they are very vulnerable to fires which can burn for months.

    Both tropical area and tundra fires are becoming much more common, and threaten to be major feedback CO2 polluters accelerating global warming and ocean acidification!

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