Aron Stubbins is definitely a water guy. He has, quite bravely, mapped his way to the Kolyma River, the largest river in the world with permafrost. Situated in the eastern Siberia, Stubbins had to cross 15 different time zones, stopping in one of the coldest cities across the globe – with the only aim of his adventure being to study a way to make the globe warmer.
Stubbins is a Northeastern University professor and an unquestionable expert when it comes to dissolved organic carbon. It is nothing but the residual substance after the death of flora and fauna, usually making the surrounding soil and rivers brown in colour. Stubbins is more intrigued by this because this carbon is crucial for climate change. It seeps into the rivers, eventually turning into carbon dioxide; it is suspected that there is a lot of this substance present in the Arctic permafrost.
Stubbins was ultimately led to this river, in order to study the Arctic permafrost and the underlying carbon. The results discovered that the carbon in there is almost 20,000 years old. “This old carbon has been frozen and locked away. It hasn’t had a chance to be degraded,” he said. “Like food in your freezer, it won’t go off as long as you keep it frozen. However, we wanted to know what happens when you turn the freezer off and it gets into the water column of the Kolyma River.”
He took some samples of the frost from the ice streams, filtering enough to keep only the carbon. He gave this substance to the bacteria in the Kolyma river water samples. More than half the carbon was eaten up in just two-three weeks. “It’s been stored here and frozen away for 20,000 years,” Stubbins said, “but if it melts and manages to make its way to the river, more than half of it can be converted to carbon dioxide in a matter of weeks.”
He is sure this is making the process of climate change much faster and quicker than we would like. Stubbins is working day and night in his lab at the Northeastern, finding solutions on this. He is largely focusing on ways to stop this climate change, and in another research, has paired up with Sasha Wagner to study black carbon. I am sure – as he is too – that Stubbins will succeed in his research, thus tackling one of the crucial problems the world is currently facing.