Monday, April 21, 2008

Methane Being Released from Arctic Sea Floor in Siberia

Here is some potentially catastrophic climate news. According to an article at Spiegel Online, Russian scientists are reporting that methane stored as frozen methane hydrates under the Arctic Ocean is being released into the atmosphere because of thawing that is taking place in Siberia. This is one of the positive feedbacks that climate scientists dread the most because of the enormous volume of methane that is stored as frozen hydrates. Although methane doesn’t last in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide does each molecule of methane traps much more heat. The scientists found that the permafrost had become porous on a shelf below the sea off the Siberian coast. They also found that the seawater in the area was oversaturated with methane and higher methane levels were detected in the air as high as about one mile above the site.

During the last several years it has been reported that methane levels in the atmosphere have leveled off. No one seems to know quite sure why. There have been reports of methane being released from below the thawing permafrost on land in Siberia but if this is occurring it hasn’t yet affected methane levels in the atmosphere. The next bit of very bad news regarding methane could be that atmospheric levels are beginning to sharply rise. Such news could leave us with few options other than to get ready for the oncoming catastrophe.

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