Methane time bomb ticks away in the ArcticSeptember 23rd, 2008 - 4:32 pm ICT by ANI
London, September 23 (ANI): Scientists have discovered that massive deposits of subsea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.
According to a report in The Independent, this is the first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed.
Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species.
Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russias northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane sometimes at up to 100 times background levels over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.
In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through methane chimneys rising from the sea floor.
They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a lid to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.
They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.
Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.
The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves; so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.
At some locations, methane concentrations reached 100 times background levels.
These anomalies have been seen in the East Siberian Sea and the Laptev Sea, covering several tens of thousands of square kilometres, amounting to millions of tons of methane, according to Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University in Sweden.
The conventional thought has been that the permafrost lid on the sub-sea sediments on the Siberian shelf should cap and hold the massive reservoirs of shallow methane deposits in place. The growing evidence for release of methane in this inaccessible region may suggest that the permafrost lid is starting to get perforated and thus leak methane, he said. (ANI)
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- Methane under permafrost could speed up global warming 20-fold - Sep 03, 2009
- Abrupt thaw in permafrost heightens climatic threat - Dec 04, 2011
- Economic impact of Arctic melt could amount to 2.4 trillion dollars by 2050 - Feb 08, 2010
- Arctic area, oceans lock up fourth of world's carbon dioxide - Oct 15, 2009
- Global warming may initiate release of underground methane into atmosphere - Sep 03, 2009
- Global extinction was not a sudden event - Feb 05, 2012
- Arctic lands and oceans account for 25 percent of world's net sink of CO2 - Oct 15, 2009
- Globe warming methane bubbling up from undersea reserves - Dec 21, 2008
- Freshwater methane emission changes greenhouse gas equation - Jan 07, 2011
- Dams the latest culprit in global warming - Aug 08, 2012
- Increased shipping likely to accelerate climate change as Arctic warms - Oct 26, 2010
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