Arctic seabed methane stores destabilizing, venting

Physorg reports:

A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team led by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov.

The research results, published in the March 5 edition of the journal Science, show that the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is leaking large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.

“The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world’s oceans,” said Shakhova, a researcher at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center. “Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap.”

Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It is released from previously frozen soils in two ways. When the organic material—which contains carbon—stored in permafrost thaws, it begins to decompose and, under oxygen-free conditions, gradually release methane. Methane can also be stored in the seabed as methane gas or methane hydrates and then released as subsea permafrost thaws. These releases can be larger and more abrupt than those that result from decomposition.

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1 thought on “Arctic seabed methane stores destabilizing, venting

  1. David R. Evans

    It is long past time that the World shifts from a carbon-based economy. As oceans warm, much more methane will be released, and cataclysmic climate change could be irreversible. Suggested read:

    http://www.amazon.com/Hydrogen-Economy-Jeremy-Rifkin/dp/1585422541

    Empires are warring over oil and energy pipelines. This old technology is being perpetuated by powerful moneied interests that have been trading blood and suffering of innocent people for oil and gas for more than a century. Changing to hydrogen from the destructive fossil fuels will usher in a new period of peace and a stabalized climate. The technology is already here; we only need the dessemination of this information and the political will to implement this inevitable change. The only question is, will we be too late?

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