Vast Amounts of Frozen Methane Escaping into Atmosphere from Leak in Arctic Seafloor

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 10:42 in Earth & Climate

Large amounts of methane are leaking into the atmosphere from a section of seafloor under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, according to new study by an international research team. Methane is a greenhouse gas that lies frozen in sediments and permafrost -- frozen soil that remains below 0°C for several years -- in arctic continental shelves. Permafrost was thought to act as a leak-proof barrier that sealed in the methane, but warming arctic temperatures are thawing the permafrost. And the frozen methane is not only dissolving in the water -- it's escaping into the atmosphere. The researchers say that release of just a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger sudden climate warming. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf covers more than 2 million square kilometers of seafloor in the Arctic Ocean. Even prior to the new study, the region was known to be a significant source of...

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