Friday, December 26, 2008

Permafrost meltdown lifting the lid on Methane

The East Siberian Sea is bubbling with methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, being released from underwater reserves, according to a recent expedition.

This could be a sign that global warming is thawing underwater permafrost, which is releasing methane that has been locked away for many thousands of years.

could cause "really serious climate consequences
Underneath the permafrost are stores of methane
not been leaking, because the sub-sea permafrost served as a lid

But now global warming may be starting to release these stores of methane into the atmosphere.

"Springtime air temperatures on the East Siberian Arctic shelf [have] increased up to 5 degrees Celsius [9 degrees Fahrenheit]," Semiletov said. "It's a hot spot."

In comparison, the world as a whole has warmed about 1.25 degrees Fahrenheit (0.7 degrees Celsius) since pre-industrial times.

If abrupt methane release became widespread, it could create a feedback loop that would lead to even more drastic global warming.

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