Siberia Seabed Leaks Methane, Threatens Climate, Scientists Say
By Alex Morales
March 4 (Bloomberg) -- The Arctic Ocean seabed off eastern Siberia has destabilized and is leaking methane, threatening to add to global warming, scientists in Russia, the U.S. and Sweden said today.
About 8 teragrams (8 million metric tons) of the greenhouse gas is leaking yearly from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, the researchers said in a study in the journal Science. That’s as much as is emitted from the rest of the oceans, they said.
Methane leaks are important to scientists studying climate change because it is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas. While the researchers said the leakage doesn’t “alarmingly” alter estimates for global emissions, it may be a precursor to larger venting of the gas.
“Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap,” said Natalia Shakhova, a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who led the research. “If it further destabilizes, the methane emissions may not be teragrams, it would be significantly larger.”
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 estimated some 582 teragrams of methane are emitted yearly. The atmospheric concentration of the gas in 2008 rose to a record 1,797 molecules per billion molecules of air, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said Nov. 24.
Shakhova said in a Science podcast interview that her team’s measurements are the first taken in the area, which was never before considered a source of methane. The research can now serve as a reference point for further study, she said. The leakage estimate is conservative because it only includes background venting and not sudden outbursts that may occur, Shakhova said
The research team also included scientists with the Russian Academy of Sciences and Stockholm University. They made their findings after taking measurements of methane in the atmosphere and dissolved in seawater from 2003 to 2008.
These measurements are from back in 2008, it is just now making it into the news. I'm searching for more current data...