More Methane Discovered Bubbling From Arctic Sea Floor - 1000 Times Background Levels in Places


photo: Ville Miettinen via flickr.

While the scientists involved say there is no current reason for alarm, and that more study is needed to determine exact causes, pay attention to this one: Following up on a story that emerged back in August, BBC News reports that methane bubbling up from the Arctic sea floor appears to be stronger than first believed:Speaking about research currently being prepared for publication, Igor Semiletov of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks said that methane is being released from the East Siberian Shelf and "looks stronger than it was supposed to be."

The story back in August concerned methane being released from the sea floor near Spitsbergen, Norway.

Methane Released as Ocean Warms
This is the deal with methane bubbling up: Normally the methane is trapped as methane hydrate, kept stable by low temperatures and high pressure. But as the water in the Arctic warms--temperatures increasing about 1°C in the past 30 years--the depths at which methane hydrate remains stable are starting to decrease.

Gas Breaking Surface, Making It Into Atmosphere
At the Spitsbergen site it did not appear the the methane was breaking through the sea surface and making it into the atmosphere, but this newer research shows that, at least in this region, it's reaching the atmosphere.

Prof. Semiletov told the BBC that methane measured in the atmosphere in the region is about 100 times higher than normal background levels, increasing to 1000 times normal in some places.

Remember that though shorter lived in the atmosphere than CO2, methane is about 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas.

Global Warming Science
Methane Discovered Bubbling Up From Arctic Sea Floor
Major Source of Atmospheric Methane Identified Near Arctic Lakes
Permafrost Holds Twice as Much GHGs as Previously Thought: Over 1500 Billion Tons of CO2 & Methane

Tags: Arctic | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Causes

Best of TreeHugger