Arctic Methane Release


Methane is the main ingredient of natural gas and an extremely potent greenhouse gas, far more powerful than carbon dioxide. Over 60% of the total of the methane emitted is from natural sources such as wetlands, as well as human activities; industry, agriculture, and waste management activities. Natural gas and petroleum systems are the largest source of methane. As natural gas is extracted from the earth, processed and transported through pipes to consumers, about 1.5 percent of it escapes.

Methane is usually trapped as methane hydrate in sediment beneath the seabed. As temperature rises, the hydrate breaks down and the methane is released from the seabed, mostly dissolving into the seawater. If the trapped methane were to break the sea surface and escape into the atmosphere, it could speed up sea-ice retreat, reduce the reflection of solar energy and accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

Some climate experts had previously suggested the sub-sea permafrost would not thaw for 5,000 to 7,000 years, but recent researches show the process is happening on a much more rapid time scale.

Due to the rising of the global temperatures for many years, Arctic Ocean is releasing methane at a rate more than twice what scientific models had previously anticipated. The continuous ice melting is releasing the powerful greenhouse gas methane, which is concentrated in the arctic tundra and is also found as semi-solid gas hydrates in the sea.

Also, the arctic has oil and gas reserves with an estimate of up to 100 billion dollars if invested within a decade. Drilling into the arctic is too risky and could have devastating consequences for the region. In addition, storms throughout the Arctic Ocean have increased in the past decade, according to multiple studies cited by the research team. These storms speed up the methane release just as shaking a soda causes the carbonation to rise more rapidly to the top and escape.

The excess of these emissions will lead to more warming, which in turn will accelerate the ice melting and will increase climate impacts such as flooding, sea level rise, damage to agriculture and human health which may cost economy around 60 trillion dollars.

The main problem that governments face is that they do not know how much exactly methane could be released from permafrost. If they even have an estimate, it could help them take decisions in this issue.


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