28 September 2011, 19:31

Fields of extensive methane outbursts found in Arctic region

Fields of extensive methane outbursts found in Arctic region

Russian and American scientists have discovered new fields of intensive methane outbursts in the eastern part of the Arctic region. Some scientists believe that these outbursts may provoke stronger greenhouse effect.    The participants of an international expedition have fixed hundreds of torches-fountains of outgoing gas.

Russian and American scientists have discovered new fields of intensive methane outbursts in the eastern part of the Arctic region. Some scientists believe that these outbursts may provoke stronger greenhouse effect.   

The participants of an international expedition have fixed hundreds of torches-fountains of outgoing gas. This only a small part of what is hidden in permafrost, scientists say. On the bottom of the ocean methane is stored in hydrates - solid units, which began to fail at higher temperature emitting gas.

Some scientists presume that ocean’s warming may cause melting of hydrates which will leads to emission of billions of tons of methane. Because methane has stronger greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide this may have catastrophic consequences for the environment. Similar fears exist regarding melting of permafrost. Considering global warming, which signs are seen on the planet,  the scientists’ concern of is quite understandable.

However many experts think that possibility of such a scenario is very small.  In fact, no direct connection between higher concentration of methane and global warming has been stated yet, head of the Institute of oil and gas of the Russian academy of sciences Anatoly Dmitriyevsky says:

"Methane outburst in the process of natural failure of hydrates is a natural phenomenon.  The nature regulates such processes for many years. So that is a common thing and it does not imply any disaster."

Methane outbursts are unlikely to play a fatal role in the process of global warming, head of the Climate and energy program of the World Wild Life Fund Alexei Kokorin says:

"Now thanks to the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases including methane greenhouse effect rose by 2-3%. The temperature on the planet in average rose by one degree. But the main greenhouse gas is water vapor as it gives more than 90 % of greenhouse effect. That is why it is impossible to strengthen greenhouse effect to such a degree when Earth turns into Venus. I don’t think we can speak about any catastrophic consequences here."

Methane outbursts have occurred in the Arctic region since glacial period of for more than 15,000 years. Now scientists who found the new fields of outgoing methane in the Arctic region have not defined yet whether it is the consequence of hydrates failure or result of high activity of sea microorganisms. To know this for sure they should first analyze the samples they gathered during the expedition.

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