The carbon budget of the northern cryosphere region
The northern cryosphere is undergoing substantial warming of permafrost and loss of sea ice. Release of stored carbon to the atmosphere in response to this change has the potential to affect the global climate system. Studies indicate that the northern cryosphere has been not only a substantial sink for atmospheric CO2 in recent decades, but also an important source of CH4 because of emissions from wetlands and lakes. Analyses suggest that the sensitivity of the carbon cycle of the region over the 21st Century is potentially large, but highly uncertain because numerous pathways of response will be affected by warming. Further research should focus on sensitive elements of the carbon cycle such as the consequences of increased fire disturbance, permafrost degradation, and sea ice loss in the northern cryosphere region.