Scientists Studying Underwater Permafrost Thaw Find Area of the Arctic Ocean Boiling With Methane Bubbles

Scientists Studying Underwater Permafrost Thaw Find Area of the Arctic Ocean Boiling With Methane Bubbles

Researchers capture methane leaking from the seafloor in the Arctic. (Photo: National Academy of Sciences)

The lead researcher said that "this is the most powerful" methane seep he has ever seen. "No one has ever recorded anything similar."

Scientists studying the consequences of methane emissions from underwater permafrost in the Arctic Ocean announced this week that they found a 50-square-foot area of the East Siberian Sea "boiling with methane bubbles."

"This is the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe," lead scientist Igor Semiletov said Monday, using a term for methane gas bubbling up from the seafloor to the surface. "No one has ever recorded anything similar."

Semiletov, a Russian researcher who has participated in 45 Arctic expeditions, set out on the Academic Mstislav Keldysh last month, accompanied by scientists from the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

Their discovery was announced in a statement from Russia's Tomsk Polytechnic University, where Semiletov is a professor. The researchers' findings from the expedition and Semiletov's remarks were translated and reported on Tuesday by The Telegraph.

Permafrost is a mix of soil, rocks, and sand bound together by ice that stays frozen for two or more years straight. As human activity causes global temperatures to rise, the world's permafrost is thawing—releasing ancient bacteria and viruses as well as greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that further heat the planet.

Compared with carbon dioxide, methane has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere but is better at trapping radiation, so methane's impact is more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Experts are increasingly concerned about the consequences of thawing permafrost that is located both beneath land and water in the planet's coldest regions. Last week, the Washington Post reported on "stunning and dramatic" scenes from a region of Eastern Siberia where "sections of many older, wooden buildings already sag toward the ground—rendered uninhabitable by the unevenly thawing earth," and "rivers are rising and running faster," sweeping away entire neighborhoods.

The Academic Mstislav Keldysh expedition's research team, led by Semiletov, traveled to an area of the Arctic Ocean known for methane "fountains" to study the effects of permafrost thawing. Around the "powerful" fountain they found east of Bennett Island, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere was more than nine times higher than the global average.

Describing the researchers' discovery of the fountain based on the university's statement, The Telegraph reported:

When researchers drew near to the "emerald-colored" water of the methane fountain, they "could see how gas was rising to the surface from the black depths of the sea in thousands of bubbly strands," according to expedition member Sergei Nikiforov.

They took samples of bottom sediments, water, and gas, scooping up the extraordinarily large methane bubbles in buckets rather than small plastic capsules and filling several pressurized canisters.

The next day, the expedition stumbled upon another giant seep of roughly the same size, even though discovering seeps among rough ocean waves is usually "harder than finding a needle in a haystack," Mr. Nikiforov said.

The expedition's findings, also reported on Tuesday by Newsweek, elicited alarmed reactions from readers and climate activists the world over:

A New Zealand chapter of the Extinction Rebellion movement—which launched a fresh wave of peaceful acts of civil disobedience around the world on Monday to demand bolder climate policies—tweeted in response to the expedition's discovery, "This is why the disruption we caused is very minor in comparison to what's coming."

"This is truly terrifying," tweeted Jim Walsh, an energy policy analyst at the U.S.-based group Food & Water Watch, linking to Newsweek's report. Noting scientists' concerns about permafrost thaw reaching a tipping point, he added that "we can't get off fossil fuels fast enough."

About The Author

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.

This article originally appeared on Common Dreams

books_causes

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

EVIDENCE

Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
by Steven Sherwood et al
We know the climate changes as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, but the exact amount of expected warming remains…
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
by Josie Garthwaite
Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record, research shows.
What The World Was Like The Last Time Carbon Dioxide Levels Were At 400ppm
What The World Was Like The Last Time Carbon Dioxide Levels Were At 400ppm
by James Shulmeister
The last time global carbon dioxide levels were consistently at or above 400 parts per million (ppm) was around four…
What An Ocean Hidden Under Antarctic Ice Reveals About Our Planet's Future Climate
What An Ocean Hidden Under Antarctic Ice Reveals About Our Planet's Future Climate
by Craig Stevens and Christina Hulbe
Jules Verne sent his fictional submarine, the Nautilus, to the South Pole through a hidden ocean beneath a thick ice…
Antarctic Ice Shelves Reveals A Missing Piece Of The Climate Puzzle
Antarctic Ice Shelves Reveals A Missing Piece Of The Climate Puzzle
by Katherine Hutchinson
Ice shelves, massive floating bodies of ice, are well-known for their buffering effect on land-based ice sheets as they…
Why We Won't Be Heading Into An Ice Age Any Time Soon
Why We Won't Be Heading Into An Ice Age Any Time Soon
by James Renwick
When I studied climate in my university geography course in the 1960s, I am sure we were told that the Earth was…
How Volcanoes Influence Climate And How Their Emissions Compare To What We Produce
How Volcanoes Influence Climate And How Their Emissions Compare To What We Produce
by Michael Petterson
Everyone is going on about reducing our carbon footprint, zero emissions, planting sustainable crops for biodiesel etc.
What Is Climate Sensitivity?
What Is Climate Sensitivity?
by Robert Colman and Karl Braganza
Humans are emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As these gases build up they trap extra heat…

LATEST VIDEOS

Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
by Josie Garthwaite
Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record, research shows.
kelp forrest 7 12
How The Forests Of The World’s Oceans Contribute To Alleviating The Climate Crisis
by Emma Bryce
Researchers are looking to kelp for help storing carbon dioxide far beneath the surface of the sea.
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
by Ken Buesseler
The ocean plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. The driving force comes from tiny plankton that produce…
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
by Gabriel Filippelli and Joseph D. Ortiz
“Do Not Drink/Do Not Boil” is not what anyone wants to hear about their city’s tap water. But the combined effects of…
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate impasse
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate Impasse
by InnerSelf Staff
Everyone has energy stories, whether they’re about a relative working on an oil rig, a parent teaching a child to turn…
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
by Gregg Howe and Nathan Havko
For millennia, insects and the plants they feed on have been engaged in a co-evolutionary battle: to eat or not be…
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
by Swapnesh Masrani
Ambitious targets have been set by the UK and Scottish governments to become net-zero carbon economies by 2050 and 2045…
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
by Theresa Crimmins
Across much of the United States, a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception.

LATEST ARTICLES

Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
by Ann Rowan
In the world of glaciology, the year 2007 would go down in history. It was the year a seemingly small error in a major…
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
by Edward Lempinen
By the end of this century, tens of millions of people could die each year worldwide as a result of temperatures rising…
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
by Janet Stephenson
A proposed multibillion-dollar project to build a pumped hydro storage plant could make New Zealand’s electricity grid…
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
by Guaduneth Chico et al
Wind power in the UK now accounts for nearly 30% of all electricity production. Land-based wind turbines now produce…
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
by Stuart Capstick
In new research, we have identified what we call 12 “discourses of delay”. These are ways of speaking and writing about…
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
by Gunnar W. Schade
If you’ve driven through an area where companies extract oil and gas from shale formations, you’ve probably seen flames…
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
by Avit K Bhowmik
Europe’s major airlines are likely to see their turnover drop by 50% in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,…
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
by Steven Sherwood et al
We know the climate changes as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, but the exact amount of expected warming remains…