facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

Dangerous Arctic Ocean methane leak found

March 4, 2010 at 5:41 PM   |   Comments

FAIRBANKS, Alaska, March 4 (UPI) -- U.S.-led scientists say part of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane has started leaking the gas into the Earth's atmosphere.

The international team of researchers warns the release of just a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.

The scientists led by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Assistant Professor Natalia Shakhova and Associate Professor Igor Semiletov say the frozen methane is becoming unstable because of the melting of permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

The scientists said their study suggests the permafrost that had long been thought to be an impermeable barrier has become perforated.

"The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world's oceans," said Shakhova. "Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap."

Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is a methane-rich area that encompasses more than 772,000 square miles of seafloor in the Arctic Ocean, more than three times as large as the Siberian wetlands that have been considered the primary Northern Hemisphere source of atmospheric methane.

"The climatic consequences of this are hard to predict," Shakhova said.

The research is reported in the journal Science.

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Massive sunspot sending violent flares toward Earth Massive sunspot sending violent flares toward Earth
2
Stone tools reveal Ice Age settlement in the Andes Stone tools reveal Ice Age settlement in the Andes
3
Powerful new microscope sees cell division in real time Powerful new microscope sees cell division in real time
4
Astronomers discover worst-smelling comet in space Astronomers discover worst-smelling comet in space
5
Coal-rich Poland wants concessions in EU climate deal Coal-rich Poland wants concessions in EU climate deal
Trending News
Around the Web
x
Feedback