Oh Floe! Melting Ice Releases Millions of Tons of Methane Gas

Scientists working on greenhouse gas emissions have discovered a new source of gas which is potentially 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide: Methane. Now don't start blaming the poor cows, this time it's not their stink. It's worse. Methane is currently being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed all because of the eroding ice cap.


These underground pockets of methane are believed to be, in the past, the cause of rapid increases in global temperatures, fierce climate fluctuations, and extinctions on a mass scale. Scientists working off of Russian’s northern coast have witnessed concentrations of methane, up to 100 times the normal level, bubbling up to the surface. To see what scientists make of the phenomenon, read more.

This intense resurfacing of methane is called a “methane chimney” which used to be kept submerged by permafrost — but once the permafrost began to melt away, more and more of these chimneys began to appear spilling methane into the atmosphere. Scientists now think that the amount of methane locked beneath the Arctic is more than the total amount of carbon stored in global coal reserves — and the Arctic is currently the fastest heating region on Earth.

Dr. Orjan Gustafsson one of the leaders of the expedition described the methane release: “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.” One more tidbit to mull over? The lack of ice on the Arctic pole, which used to reflect the heat from the sun is now open ocean, which absorbs the heat causing an even greater temperature increase. I think I just felt a chill.

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