Compost: a weapon of mass destruction?

In another example of how climate change is going to ask us to redefine much of our natural environment – two new studies highlight a growing threat to life as we know it – THE COMPOST BOMB. From Science Daily:

The compost bomb instability is a runaway feedback that occurs when the heat is generated by microbes more quickly than it can escape to the atmosphere. This in turn requires that the active decomposing soil layer is thermally-insulated from the atmosphere.
Catherine Luke explains: “The compost bomb instability is most likely to occur in drying organic soils covered by an insulating lichen or moss layer.”

Similar to the fears of sudden release of methane hydrates from the Arctic Ocean bottom – such a runaway feedback from peatlands will lead to rapid release of carbon, providing yet another (unaccounted for) positive feedback.

The scientists are now working on accounting for this “compost bomb” risk.

The Exeter team is now modelling the potential impact of the compost bomb instability on future climate change, including the potential link to the Russian peatland fires. It is also working to identify other rate-dependent tipping points.

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