Unseasonably warm in Omsk: new book on climate change

Posted by mjs76 at May 20, 2010 02:31 PM |
Environmental change in Siberia is the topic of a new book edited by Professor Heiko Balzter, Head of our Department of Geography, and published next month.

Siberia is a vast area – more than 13 million square kilometres – extending from the Ural Mountains right the way across Asia to the Okhotsk Sea. It’s vast, it’s bleak*, it’s largely covered in forests and it’s very, very cold… but not as cold as it used to be. In fact the average temperature in the region has risen by three degrees Celsius since the 1960s.

This rise in temperature affects the predominant vegetation and consequently the entire ecosystem. For example, several of the book’s chapters focus on different aspects of the spread of pine forests through Siberia at the expense of larch forests.

Furthermore an area this big – Siberia accounts for about eight per cent of the planet’s entire land surface – affects the entire world. Unbelievably vast amounts of methane and carbon dioxide are locked up in frozen Siberian peats bogs which cover an area larger than France and Germany combined. Or at least, they were locked up until 2005 when the bogs started thawing for the first time in 11,000 years…

Monitoring and understanding climate change in Siberia is therefore essential for the future of the planet and the information collected in Professor Balzter’s book will prove invaluable to climate change researchers. A total of fifty scientists have contributed to the book’s 15 chapters, mostly from Russia but also include Paul Monks and Alan Hewitt from our Earth Observation Science Group.

Back in the late 1990s, Heiko Balzter was a contributor to the SIBERIA project, a joint European-Japanese project to map the region using satellite data (rather tortuously, the name comes from ‘SAR Imaging for Boreal Ecology and Radar Interferometry Applications’). He also worked on the SIBERIA-2, SIBFORD, GEOLAND and GEOLAND2 projects and led the Earth Observation Section at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology before coming to Leicester.

Environmental Change in Siberia will be published by Springer on 20 June.

* Actually, it's not all bleak. Check out the Siberian tourism website.