Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Arctic Methane Bubbles May Be Sign of Future Troubles

The sleeping giant of global warming, vast sub-sea deposits of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, may be waking up. Preliminary findings of a study along the northern coast of Russia, which were relayed to The Independent, suggest that methane bubbles formed from methane below the seabed are reaching the surface. Past scientific expeditions in this remote area have found increased levels of dissolved methane but not until this most recent expedition have the scientists seen methane bubbling to the surface, an indication that the amount of methane being released is now so great that it can not be all dissolved by the sea before surfacing. It is thought that the methane has been trapped under the permafrost for tens of thousands of years but with the recent increase of temperature in the Arctic due to a build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere openings in the permafrost are allowing the methane to escape.

Are the methane bubbles an indication that a great positive feedback mechanism has kicked in making it essentially impossible to halt global warming before a global catastrophe occurs? This certainly would seem to be a possibility given the predictions by scientists that such a chain of events could happen. We will have to wait for further evaluation of this finding and what its implications are but clearly there is more to worry about these days than an unraveling economic system.

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