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September 17, 2007

Big Poop

I try to find something interesting every day. Today, this story in the New York Times caught my eye:

DUVANNY YAR, Russia (Reuters) - Sergei Zimov bends down, picks up a handful of treacly mud and holds it up to his nose. It smells like a cow pat, but he knows better.

"It smells like mammoth dung," he says.

This is more than just another symptom of global warming.

For millennia, layers of animal waste and other organic matter left behind by the creatures that used to roam the Arctic tundra have been sealed inside the frozen permafrost. Now climate change is thawing the permafrost and lifting this prehistoric ooze from suspended animation.

But Zimov, a scientist who for almost 30 years has studied climate change in Russia's Arctic, believes that as this organic matter becomes exposed to the air it will accelerate global warming faster than even some of the most pessimistic forecasts.

"This will lead to a type of global warming which will be impossible to stop," he said.

You'll need to sign up for the Times (details in WebVista) to be able to read the whole thing.