Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Russian and Swedish researchers report on significant methane emissions in the Arctic from thawing seabed north of Siberia

05.03.2010
The powerful greenhouse gas methane is being released into the atmosphere from an area of the East Siberian Sea equivalent to more than four times the area of Sweden. Permafrost in the seabed has been previously assumed to act as an effective cap for the enormous amount of methane in the area, which, if released, could lead to an abrupt global climate warming.

In a comprehensive study in this week's issue of the journal Science, conducted by researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences, the University of Alaska, USA, and Örjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University, it is shown that the area is currently leaking annually 8 million tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. The current flow is equivalent to what was previously understood to apply for the entire world ocean, although it is not at present contributing to an acute change in the atmospheric methane balance.

The Russo-Swedish research expedition, the International Siberian Shelf Study (ISSS), which was completed just over a year ago, is the most comprehensive so far in the inaccessible and poorly explored waters off north-eastern Siberia, despite the fact that they constitute the world's largest coastal sea. Climate models suggest that an increase in atmospheric methane equivalent to just one percent of what is estimated to be contained in the frozen seabed would be sufficient to cause a significant climate warming. Earlier periods of rapid climate warming in the Earth's geological history have been associated with sudden releases of methane from the seabed.

During the ISSS expedition measurements of methane were made in the seabed, at different depths in the water and in the overlying air at over one hundred locations. Combined with measurements from previous expeditions led by the Russian leaders of the study, Shakhova Natalya and Igor Semiletov, it can be seen that methane concentrations in seawater are elevated in 80% of sea bottom samples and in more than half of the surface water samples and air samples. In areas with concentrations up to 100 times above the natural background levels, the ISSS expedition documented, with the help of seismic instruments and echo sounding, the presence of methane chimneys on the ocean floor and fields of methane bubbles that rose to the surface of the sea so fast that the methane did not have time to dissolve in the seawater.

"The East Siberian coastal seas are an extension of the Siberian tundra, which was flooded when glaciers melted and sea levels rose at the end of the Ice Age. The thawing of the permafrost in the soil may largely be a result of natural causes, such as geothermal heat from below (through cracks in the earth's crust) and from the seawater above, during the 5000-8000 years since the permafrost was flooded," says Örjan Gustafsson, professor of biogeochemistry at the Stockholm University, leader for the Swedish ISSS delegation onboard and one of the authors of the article.

"The possibility cannot be excluded that the human contribution to warming of the Arctic, with an extended summer period with no ice and warmer water, as well as increased runoff of warmer river water, could be the straw that broke the camel's back, or rather that which pushes the temperature of the seabed permafrost above melting point," says Professor Gustafsson.

Professor Gustafsson stresses that the calculations show that there is no reason for excessive concern about the current situation where the atmospheric methane content is not significantly affected by the emissions that occur at this time. He emphasizes the importance of more extensive studies of methane emission from the Siberian coastal seas in order to better understand the risk of increased methane fluxes in the future.

"It is important to learn more about how permafrost is warmed and how this translates to methane emissions. Expeditions need to be repeated over several years to evaluate whether there is a trend of increased methane fluxes and this will require greater international cooperation."

The expedition is funded by Swedish, Russian, Nordic and American financiers; in particular the Swedish Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

For further information contact:
Professor Örjan Gustafsson, Department of Applied Environmental Science (ITM) and Bert Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University
Email: orjan.gustafsson@itm.su.se
Tel: +46 (0)70-324 7317
For images and video clips from the expedition:
Contact Stockholm University's External Relations Office
Email: press@su.se Tel: +46 (0)8-16 40 90

Maria Erlandsson | idw
Further information:
http://wmedia.it.su.se/lhs/08086.wmv
http://www.vr.se

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Bioinvasion on the rise
15.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht Litter Levels in the Depths of the Arctic are On the Rise
10.02.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Positrons as a new tool for lithium ion battery research: Holes in the electrode

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New insights into the information processing of motor neurons

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Healthy Hiking in Smart Socks

22.02.2017 | Innovative Products

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>