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Scientists to heat terrain in climate test

June 28, 2010 at 6:20 PM

WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they are planning a large-scale ecosystem experiment in Alaska to test the effect of global warming on arctic terrain.

While research has been conducted on the impact of climate change in temperate regions of the world, little is known about the effect global warming could have on arctic regions, the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory said in a release Friday.

"The arctic regions are important to the topic of global warming," Stan Wullschleger of the laboratory's Environmental Sciences Division said, "because of the large land area they occupy around the world and the layer of permanently frozen soil, known as permafrost."

The lab's researchers are devising experiments that will purposely warm an Alaskan test area to determine ecosystem response to projected climate conditions, Wullschleger said.

"The way we design and arrange the above- and below-ground heaters will allow us to warm the air and soil in a manner representing future conditions and then study the consequences of that warming," Wullschleger said.

The project's goal is to determine whether carbon stored in permafrost will be released as the soil warms. This could have major consequences for climate, scientists say.

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