Global warming the Northern Urals and Western Siberia could be a source of increased danger. No one yet knows what poses the permafrost and what will be the effect on its melting.
Spring in Yekaterinburg, once again came to Jean Zhuzel, world-renowned climatologist, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (established 1988), awarded in 2007 the Nobel Peace Prize. His goal – the creation of the Urals Federal University physics laboratory environment and climate. It will focus on the study of the impact of global warming on the permafrost of the Urals and Western Siberia.
A grant of 150 million rubles for the establishment of the laboratory and the university Jean Zhuzel won last fall. Then the Ministry of Education and Science of the five hundred applications approved 39 Russian universities, and only one – Urals. The laboratory shall be formed within two years.
– Mr. Zhuzel exactly why the permafrost of Siberia and the Urals became the object of your research?
– First, it contains a lot of organic materials. Second, the permafrost is very sensitive to climate change. Its melting may lead to uncontrolled release of methane and carbon dioxide. The consequences of this process is unpredictable.
Today, this area has plenty of research. However, the topic is still unknown. If you look at the hypothesis, proposed by different groups of scientists, you will notice that they differ greatly in determining the composition of the permafrost. No one knows that she carries in itself.
– How will the study be conducted?
– Our objective – to investigate the carbon and water cycles in the northern areas, to predict their changes under the influence of global warming.
The main source of information for us – the isotopic composition of water and gases, carbon dioxide and methane. Water and carbon cycles are the most important climatic subsystems.
For the average person the snow, which is, for example, today, and will drop out after a week or a year, it is the same. Scientists are also studying the isotopic composition of precipitation, the ratio of, say, oxygen-16 and oxygen-18, can learn a lot about the history of the water cycle. Studying the ice, we can reconstruct the climatic processes that occur on Earth thousands of years ago, as well as build a predictive model.
Recently in this scientific field developed many new approaches, tools and equipment. 30 years ago when I started to do research, we studied the isotopic composition of water by mass spectrometry. Now there is an infrared spectrometer, allowing to make continuous measurements of the content we need isotopes in water vapor. In addition, the studies we intend to make active use of satellite data and ground-based infrared Fourier transform spectrometry (necessary equipment is installed in the observatory Kourovka owned Urfa).
– Laboratory equipment will be supplied from abroad?
– The equipment, measuring instruments for the study of water isotopes are produced by only two companies, both located in California (USA). We tried to start a similar production in France, but success is not achieved.
Jean Zhuzel sure: if you do not take measures, in 2020, in the process of global warming point of no return comes
– Too hard?
– On the contrary, its main characteristics – simplicity and reliability. In France, there are many laboratories that produce the necessary equipment, but it is used for their own use and for sale does not go.
Production equipment can be set up and Urfa in the laboratory, but we need highly qualified specialists in optics and other fields.
– Continuing the conversation about staffing: who will work in the laboratory of the research team?
– It will be an international: in addition to leading scientists in the Urfa It will include about 20 experts from Germany and France, as well as students and graduate faculty of the Institute of Natural Sciences of Urfa.
Our goal – two years to build a strong team of professionals. Therefore, we plan to organize an active exchange of personnel. In early spring, a group of young scientists from Yekaterinburg went to our laboratory at the Institute of Laplace in Paris, is engaged in similar research (before the appointment of the director of the institute was headed by Jean Zhuzel. – Ed.). They will work with satellite data. Soon to come to the Urals is one of the French laboratory professionals to install and configure new equipment and training Kourovka Observatory Russian colleagues.
– You are on their own initiative decided to take part in this project?
– Rather, it was the initiative of Urfa. In February of 2011 in Yekaterinburg hosted a meeting on cooperation between Russia, France and Germany. It was not associated with Institute of Natural Sciences Professor of Urfa. – Ed., Which in 2004 wrote a scientific article, which first were based on satellite data, then convinced me to apply for a grant. If the meeting never took place, I would not do it: my mood was not too optimistic – the competition is high, the competition was attended by dozens of scientists from around the world.
– What is your schedule?
– It was planned that I would give this project for four months a year. And so it happens. In the Urals, I spend two to three months, the rest of the time working on a project in France. I am sure that after the establishment of the laboratory, I’ll go to Russia regularly post here, and their colleagues.
– Ural project is able to give you something as a professional?
– I am a scientist, my main result – the publication of articles. I am pleased that the project will be a whole series of them. In addition, I am pleased to scientific cooperation.
Two degrees from disaster
– Global warming – in the past two decades, one of the most debated topics in the world. With the climate really is something going on: Okay, in the Urals, the last two winters were not too soft, and Europe this year freeze – in France, came to minus 30 …
– You are too young measures the intervals. The warming in your area really is. Over the past 50 years, average temperatures have risen by more than one degree. These rates are twice the world’s population in general (the average rate of climate change – plus two degrees for a hundred years).
Of course, I understand that global warming is perceived differently in Africa and in the Urals. But the fact remains that the last decade (not considering the individually year by year) was the warmest of those that we experienced. Even in your region was below the snow. Due to the heating of the atmosphere decreases the concentration of sea ice, increases the temperature of the oceans, which in turn distributes the heat on the Earth. In addition, it is clear that we are witnessing the melting of glaciers. They raise ocean levels by 3 mm per year.
– Why the Urals and Western Siberia are ahead of the world?
– The cause of global warming is primarily a human activity. Over the past 50 years, it has led to a sharp increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: carbon dioxide – by 40%, nitrous oxide – 20% methane – twice. Obviously, because of the advanced industrial and fossil fuel emissions in the Urals, Siberia and Russia as a whole is quite high.
– What are the consequences of global warming?
– If we do not reduce emissions, in the century the global temperature will add to 4 – 4.5 degrees Celsius.
The consequences must be considered in a regional context. To countries within the continents, are threatening droughts and forest fires, soil erosion and destruction of vegetation. States bordering the water, and the island is strongly affected by melting glaciers. Raising the water level in the oceans for a century by a few meters longer get a feel for the rest of Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh, the coastal part of China. A significant part of their territory would be flooded. In tropical areas increased cyclonic activity, the climate will become extreme.
Russia, the Urals and Siberia in this plan a little easier (if you do not take into account the problem of melting of the permafrost). However, you will affect the consequences of some kind.
To adapt to such changes is almost impossible. Obviously, because of the inability to start a new adaptation of a great migration of peoples.
– That is, in the Urals over time can still install a tropical climate?
– It’s hard to imagine. I think that the only way to establish a tropical climate in the Urals, is to move it to the tropics. It will take some time: about five million years …
– Always wanted to ask a stupid question Climatology: the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” could become a reality?
– The main idea of the film lies in the fact that humanity is faced with the sudden cooling of the ocean. The film is going for a week, which of course is unrealistic.
However, the idea of “The Day After Tomorrow” – not quite so fantastic. It is based on the knowledge that we were studying the ice cores in Greenland. In the film, due to global warming has begun freshening of the ocean which was followed by stopping the Gulf Stream. According to one theory, something similar has happened about 20 thousand years ago, when, probably, a huge glacier broke off and fell into the ocean.
I follow the theory of the continuity of ocean currents (due to rotation of the Earth). Moreover, even if we imagine that the Gulf Stream will rise in three centuries, the world will have another. The temperature will rise by 5 – 7 degrees. So “The Day After Tomorrow” – is pretty terrible tale.
– But seriously, you need to change and how much we have left for this time?
– In my opinion, the fundamental steps to reduce the effect of global warming must be taken now to 2017, the maximum – up to 2020. This is a critical point. Then the process becomes irreversible.
– It seems that the authorities are aware of world powers. At the very least, China is going up in 2020 to 40% reduction in emissions. In the end, there is the Kyoto Protocol …
– It is not effective because it is not ratified by all countries. In addition, it aims to reduce emissions by 5%. In the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol will come, in fact, only the European countries, maybe someone else. But it is only 15% of global emissions. In 2020 will earn a new deal on emissions, I hope to be joined have all of the state.
We are not able to stop global warming. But we can limit it. The Kyoto Protocol provided plus two degrees per century. I think this level is reasonable.
To keep the climate, all countries, including Russia (now its task under the Kyoto Protocol – to keep emissions at 1990 levels. – Ed.), It is necessary to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, primarily from fossil fuel use.
I will not repeat truisms: we must use renewable energy sources, to consider the development of nuclear energy.
Exactly, until we are far from being able to keep the temperature at two degrees in 2100. There is good reason to believe that we will face a warming of more than three degrees. We must prepare for that by the end of the century mankind will be very difficult.