Arctic methane is on the up

  • The scale and volume of methane release from the Arctic seabed is thought to be much greater than originally anticipated. Predicted to seep from the seabed at a rate of 8 million tonnes per year, Russian scientists now suggest this number is dramatically higher.
  • The scientists observed columns of bubbling methane much larger than those ever observed before with some having diameters up to 1000m.
  • As a green house gas, methane is 20 times more potent than CO2, but is this release of methane a precursor to catastrophe?
  • The authors suggest that methane concentrations are not spiking and instead these findings are more likely a long term response to seabed flooding some 8000 years ago.
  • Though the Arctic is warming the vast quantities of methane hydrates remain intact.

Though these findings do not suggest the methane ‘time-bomb’ has been activated the results do suggest the fragility of the Arctic and the vast quantities of methane stored in the seabed. Policy makers need to look to the Arctic as a barometer of climate change, but must express caution for fear of misinterpreting the data.

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