Scientists have found evidence that static methane deposits in the Arctic Ocean – known as the “sleeping giants of the carbon cycle” – have begun to be released over a wide area of the continental shelf along the East Siberian coast, the Guardian could reveal.
High levels of powerful greenhouse gases have been found in the Lattev Sea near Russia to a depth of 350 meters, raising concerns among researchers that a new atmospheric response loop has emerged that could accelerate global warming.
The Arctic silt contains large amounts of frozen methane and other gases – known as hydrates. The effect of methane warming temperature is 80 times greater than that of carbon dioxide for more than 20 years. The United States Geological Survey has previously listed Arctic hydrate volatility as one of the four most serious scenarios for sudden climate change.
The international team aboard the Russian research ship R / V Academic Chaldea said most of the bubbles were currently dissolving in water but the level of methane on the surface is four to eight times more likely than expected and is entering the atmosphere.
“At the moment, there is no prospect of a major impact on global warming, but the point is that the process is now gaining momentum. Janan Gustafson, a Swedish scientist at Stockholm University, said in a satellite call for the ship that attention had been paid to the methane hydrate system and that the process would continue.
Scientists – who are part of a multi-year international shelf study campaign – insisted their findings were preliminary. The standard of methane releases will not be confirmed until they return, analyze the data, and publish their study in a peer-reviewed journal.
But the discovery of potentially volatile methane also raises concerns that a new tipping point has been reached that could accelerate global warming.
The Arctic is considered ground zero in discussions about the vulnerability of stable methane deposits in the ocean.
At a time when Arctic temperatures are now rising at twice the global average, the question of when and whether they will be released into the atmosphere is a matter of considerable uncertainty among computer models of the atmosphere.
The 60-member team at Academic Caldish believes they are the first to unequivocally confirm that methane release is already underway in a vast area of about 600 kilometers off the coast.
At six monitoring points over an area of 150 km in length and 10 km in length, they saw clouds of bubbles from the silt to the mud.
At an altitude of about 300 meters, they found a methane concentration of 1,600 nanomoles per liter at a location on the surface of the Laptav Sea, which is 400 times higher than expected if the sea and atmosphere were in balance.
Igor Semilatov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who is the board’s chief scientist, said the discharge was “significantly larger” than anything found before. “The discovery of actively releasing shelf slope hydrates is by far the most important and unknown,” he said. “This is a new page. They may have consequences for their severe climate, but we need more study before we can confirm it. “
A possible cause of instability is the infiltration of warm Atlantic currents into the East Arctic. This “attachment” is driven by human-induced climate disruption.
The latest discovery potentially marks a third source of methane emissions from the region. Semiletov, who has been studying the area for two decades, previously reported that gas was leaking from the Arctic shelf – the largest of any ocean.
For the second year in a row, his team has found crater-like pokemarks in the shallows of the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea dispersing methane bubble jets that reach sea levels as high as ten-hundredths. This is more like crates and cinholes obtained from the inland Siberian tundra in early autumn than usual.
Temperatures in Siberia were 5C higher than the average from January to June this year, a discrepancy caused by emissions from human-carbon dioxide and methane at least 600 times higher. Last winter’s sea ice melted unusually early. The stability of this winter is yet to come, having already begun more than at any time on record.