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Millions of Tons of Methane Bubbling Up from Melting Arctic Seabed

By David Sassoon

Sep 24, 2008

The Independent (UK) reported in today that scientists have discovered "chimneys" of methane -- a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide -- rising from the melting Arctic seabed.

Scientists believe sudden release of stores of methane have in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and mass extinctions.

Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University in Sweden, one of the leaders of the expedition, described the scale of the methane emissions in an email exchange sent from the Russian research ship Jacob Smirnitskyi.

"We had a hectic finishing of the sampling programme yesterday and this past night," said Dr Gustafsson. "An extensive area of intense methane release was found. At earlier sites we had found elevated levels of dissolved methane. Yesterday, for the first time, we documented a field where the release was so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve into the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface. These 'methane chimneys' were documented on echo sounder and with seismic [instruments]."

Dr. Gustafsson told the paper that at some locations, methane concentrations reached 100 times background levels, covering several tens of thousands of square kilometres, amounting to millions of tons of methane.

The study is being prepared for peer review publication by the American Geophysical Union, and is being overseen by Igor Semiletov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who since 1994 has led about 10 expeditions to the region.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.

Scientists fear that its release could unleash a giant reaction that feeds on itself: more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

Pop quiz: what's more dangerous, the meltdown of the Arctic, or the meltdown of Wall Street and global credit markets?

Earth to Washington: Read My Bubbles.

This is a wake up call - to the solution!

The solution to climate change is literally under our noses - when we eat. Eating plant-based (vegetarian) food we can solve the majority of the problem. We can revegetate and reforest most of the 30% of the Earth's ice free surface used for livestock, thus absorbing the C02. We can eliminate the methane and related c02 from livestock... even use less energy in hospitals due to decreased illnesses of all types, especially cancer, heart disease, diabetes (the three main causes of hospitalisation and death in Australia and the US). The following benefits to the vegetarian lifestyle will create a heaven on Earth.

Methane/Arctic

Wow. Massive amounts of methane gas in the Arctic. A frightening new assault on our atmosphere. And idiots in this country have for way too long ignored the warning signs. Now that there is so much scientific evidence that supports the findings of serious global warming, there is still, at best, a very slow response. It more and more looks like way too little, way too late in combating this threat to life on planet earth.
While I am not a believer in any religion, I was raised in a very religious home...I do remember the Biblical threat of Armageddon. The enormous harm to our environment and atmosphere may prove to be irreparable harm and maybe destruction over time to life on earth. How desperately I hope the more intelligent and caring humans find a way to solve this escalating crisis . How I hope for everyone now and in the future that there is a way to correct the harm and save this gorgeous, wonderful planet.

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