It will be particularly relevant in the "near term" of the next century or so, when it is likely that warming will increase pools of water on the Arctic surface, he said.
At the same time, he said, the biggest fears about a ticking climate bomb in the Arctic lie around stored carbon that is very deep underground, out of the reach of many surface waters.
That deep carbon is unlikely to be influenced by the same sunlight conversion process caused by thermokarst failures, he said. In many places, less than 10 percent of the Arctic surface is water, noted Smith. While the paper reveals an important process with a significant impact on warming, it is not pointing to a tipping point for the Arctic, he said.
"In the face of this threat, the [release] of CO2 from surface waters is small relative to the overall huge stocks of soil carbon frozen in the permafrost," he said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500