Researchers say Arctic Ocean leaking methane at an alarming rate
FAIRBANKS — Ounce for ounce, methane has an effect on global warming more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and it’s leaking from the Arctic Ocean at an alarming rate, according to new research by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Their article, which appeared last week in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience, states that the Arctic Ocean is releasing methane at a rate more than twice what scientific models had previously anticipated.
Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center have spent more than a decade researching the Arctic’s greenhouse gas emissions, along with scientists from Russia, Europe and the Lower 48.
Shakhova, the lead author of the most recent report, said the methane release rate likely is even greater than their paper describes.
“We decided to be as conservative as possible,” Shakhova said. “We’re actually talking the top of the iceberg.”
The researchers worked along the continental shelf off the northern coast of eastern Russia — the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which is underlain by sub-sea permafrost.
Much like the now-submerged Beringia, the land bridge that once connected Alaska to Russia, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf was dry land until around 7,000 to 15,000 years ago, when it flooded and became part of the Arctic Ocean. During that time on dry land, the shelf developed a layer of permafrost that is now in danger of melting away and releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases.
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