Methane Leaking From Arctic Seafloor Likely Not Caused by Human-Induced Warming

PJ Hansen/CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientists studying methane leaking from the Arctic seafloor off Norway near Spitsbergen say, with the usual caveat that more research is needed and the specific details not yet known, it does not appear that the potent greenhouse gas is being released because of human-caused climate change. At least some of the methane streams appear to have been leaking for hundreds of years.

Professor Christian Berndt from the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research says,

Methane hydrate is only stable at very low temperatures and under high pressure. The gas outlets off Spitsbergen lie approximately at a depth which marks the border between stability and dissolution. Therefore we presumed that a measurable rise in water temperature in the Arctic could dissolve the hydrates from the top downwards...however, the observed gas emanations are probably not caused by human influence. (Science Daily)

Prof Berndt speculates that either the methane leaks are the result of even longer term changes in temperature than the recent dramatic warming, or that there is some seasonal variation going on where the methane hydrates melt and reform.

Overall, and at least tentatively, some positive climate science-related news—albeit set in the context of atmospheric CO2 being such that even if emissions were reduced to zero today there's enough warming baked into the system that we will cruise past the critical 2°C warming threshold.

Tags: Arctic | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Science

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