Global Warming: Arctic Storms Releasing Methane

global warming, artic storms, methane, science

 Arctic storms may be speeding up global warming due to a faster release of methane gas into the environment.  Large quantities of methane gas are being released off of the east Siberian shelf due to submarine permafrost that is slowly disappearing.

All of this was found at a great cost during August 2010. 11 sailors on board of a tug boat drowned, while trying to save a fishing boat in the arctic waters of Siberia.  What they did not know, was that they were trying to save Russian researchers that were trying to figure out if arctic storms that unsettle the ocean waters will increase the methane gas released from the ocean floor, thus causing trouble with global warming.

The researchers were drilling into a methane gas hot spot in the Laptev Sea from their fishing boat and trying to measure how much gas was released with their sonar.  The scientists discovered that the once solid permafrost was no longer frozen under the sea and was releasing 500 tonnes of methane gas into the atmosphere for every square kilometers of sea bottom every day.

Plumes of methane were found along the whole coastline of the research area, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf and off Norway’s coast at Svalbard.  The researchers also measured how two storms, one from 2009 and the other from 2010, would affect the levels of methane released into the sea.  They found the sea storms made the methane gas release faster into the earth’s atmosphere.

It was determined that global warming was linked to how the sub-sea permafrost was melting off the sea floor and that it is uncomfortably close to the thaw point of terrestrial permafrost.  The findings make things all the more scarier in what is happening with global warming.  It was found that if a massive “pulse” of 50 billion tonnes of methane gas were released at once, it could warm the earth by a degree or more.

Although, the data did not wholly show if a major pulse is going to happen.  The amount of methane gas is still quite small, but it helps the science community to understand how these arctic storms speed up the release of the methane gas that can cause global warming to accelerate.  Although, the release of these gases is small, it still is a time bomb ready to go off.  There is about 17 teragrams of methane released from the sea floor each day from the Ease Siberian Arctic Shelf, making one teragram equal to about 1.1 million tons.  And the Earth emits 500 million tons of natural and man-made methane into the Earth’s atmosphere each year.

These researchers risked their lives to show us proof of global warming and that Arctic storms are releasing methane into such desolate and dangerous areas of the earth, and that the chances are high that this problem will affect the whole planet. While the researchers where observing the second storm, they had to radio in for help because it became so dangerously strong.  So when the rescue tug boat was sent to the researchers, the boat then sunk before they were able to reach them, all of the researchers did survive unscathed. To share the bravery of one crew, the researchers dedicated their research paper “to the memory of the crew of Russian vessel RV Alexei Kulakovsky”.

By Tina Elliott