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Arctic methane gas emission 'significantly increased since 2014' - major new research 

By 0 and 0 and 0
04 October 2016


'The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014.' Picture: TPU

The findings come from an expedition now underway led by Professor Igor Semiletov, of Tomsk Polytechnic University, on the research vessel 'Academic M.A. Lavrentyev' which left Tiksi on 24 September on a 40 day mission. 

The seeping of methane from the sea floor is greater than in previous research in the same area, notably carried out between 2011 and 2014. 

'The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014,' he said. 'These observations may indicate that the rate of degradation of underwater permafrost has increased.'

Detailed findings will be presented at an international conference in Tomsk on 21 to 24 November. The research enables comparison with previously obtained data on methane emissions. 


research vessel 'Academic M.A. Lavrentyev'

New expedition in Laptev Sea on the research vessel 'Academic M.A. Lavrentyev' which left Tiksi on 24 September, suggests increase in the rate of underwater permafrost degradation. Pictures: The Siberian Times, Pacific Oceanology Institute

Dr Semiletov and his team are paying special attention to clarify the role of the submarine permafrost degradation as a factor in emissions of the main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide and methane - in the atmosphere. 

The team are examining how the ice plug that has hitherto prevented the exit of huge reserves of gas hydrates has today 'sprung a leak'. This shows in taliks - unfrozen surface surrounded by permafrost - through which powerful emissions of methane reach the atmosphere. 

Scientists are eager to determine the quantity of methane buried in those vast areas of the Siberian Arctic shelf and the impact it can have on the sensitive polar climate system.

Five years ago the professor has claimed: 'We found more than 100 fountains, some more than a kilometre across....These are methane fields on a scale not seen before. The emissions went directly into the atmosphere... Earlier we found torch or fountain-like structures like this... 

Taking samples

Taking samples

In 2104, the Russian professor said there were 500 abnormal fields of methane emissions. Picture: TPU

'This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing. Over a relatively small area, we found more than 100, but over a wider area, there should be thousands of them.' 

In 2013, his research partner Natalia Shakhova, a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, reported in journal Nature Geoscience, that the East Siberian Arctic Shelf was venting at least 17 teragrams of the methane into the atmosphere each year. A teragram is equal to 1 million tons.

'It is now on par with the methane being released from the arctic tundra, which is considered to be one of the major sources of methane in the Northern Hemisphere,' she said. 'Increased methane releases in this area are a possible new climate-change-driven factor that will strengthen over time.'

Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. On land, methane is released when previously frozen organic material decomposes. 

Professor Igor Semiletov

Dr Semiletov and his team are paying special attention to clarify the role of the submarine permafrost degradation as a factor in emissions of the main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide and methane - in the atmosphere. Picture: TPU

Under the seabed, methane can be stored as a pre-formed gas or as methane hydrates. While  the subsea permafrost remains frozen, it forms a cap, trapping the methane beneath. But holes are now developing through which the methane escapes. 

In 2014, the Russian professor said there were 500 abnormal fields of methane emissions.

The same year he explained: 'Emissions of methane from the East Siberian Shelf - which is the widest and most shallow shelf of the World Ocean - exceed the average estimate emissions of all the world's oceans. 

'We have reason to believe that such emissions may change the climate. This is due to the fact that the reserves of methane under the submarine permafrost exceed the methane content in the atmosphere is many thousands of times. 



Measurments performed during the international expedition SWERUS - C3 on the research vessel Oden in 2014. Pictures: Jorien Vonk

'If 3-4% from underwater will go into the atmosphere within 10 years, the methane concentration therein (in the atmosphere) will increase by tens to hundreds of times, and this can lead to rapid climate warming. This is due to the fact that the greenhouse effect of one molecule of methane is 20-30 times greater than one molecule of CO2.' 

The new expedition was organised by the Laboratory of Arctic Research in Pacific Oceanology Institute of the Far Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences in cooperation with Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU), the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, and was  funded by the Russian Government and the Russian Science Foundation.

The results of the expedition will be discussed at the international conference, which will be attended by scientists from 12 universities and institutes of Russia, Sweden, Netherlands, Great Britain and Italy. 

Comments (24)

Any who have the idea that the warming up Arctic and releasing methane from the melting permafrost isn't the most dangerous feedback loop to global warming don't understand the issue at all.

The warming Arctic will continue with a CO2 level now over 412ppm and rising at near 3ppm a year and the methane that has been releasing from the melting Arctic permafrost since 2007 is not chemically reverting to CO2 and water vapor will continue to accelerate the increase of atmospheric CO2 level.

That means more Arctic warming nd more methane releasing until the year comes when a trillion or more tons of methane releases... That will be equal to an additional 105 trillion tons of CO2 in the Greenhouse gases mixture... Then we will see a hot planet.... A very hot planet and all of the methane will burst out... Ask Trump to have someone turn out the lights.
Roy B. Smith, Tucson Arizona, USA
07/04/2019 21:09
Okay note that most of this is quoting what he said in 2014 and earlier, it's not recent quotes from him. The recent paper doesn't say any of those things. It just says that they visited some places drilled in the 1980s and they found that more of the clathrates had decomposed than predicted. In it he also speculates that there may be deposits below the sea bed of methane gas that would be released suddenly if the cap layers of clathrates dissolve and that there may be areas of clathrate that are lighter than water (they are if not mixed with sediment but usually are) and that this could be released to the surface suddenly. He has no evidence for either of those hypotheses, though they are things that can happen, are cases from other parts of the world but for this to be significant there would have to be vast reserves like that only lightly capped and easily released all in one go at about the same time.
Robert Walker, Isle of Mull, Scotland
24/03/2019 07:44
Quite obviously there is little time and little hope left for the future of mankind. I agree , reluctantly, with the approach of Guy Mc Pherson and Kevin Hester above which, in short, is do the most responsible thing you can do by decommissioning nuke plants and neutralizing whatever toxins we've unloosed thus far. Moral action in the face of assured destruction will be the highest calling and our only legacy. I am honored to be able to participate. Love.
Richard Onsrud, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA
24/05/2017 07:28
Excellent report. And timely, given the hash-up and inconclusive 'Ruppel Report'. Clearly we need as much monitoring and data as we can eat on this subject.
Spare a thought also for Dr Semilitov and his stalwart team. Working in these conditions is probably no fun, but they do so to bring scientific facts to the table. Well Done Sir!

Spaciba Tovarisch !
Daryl B West, St Austell, United Kingdom.
14/02/2017 07:07
Let's not forget this Siberian Times article from last July, where scientists on Belvy Island discovered huge amounts of methane pouring out of the ground, and observed ground-level methane at roughly 200 times normal, which coincided with a massive heatwave that averaged 7-8 C above-normal all summer long across Siberia, moving from west to east over the course of the summer, as well as coincided with your record forest fires last summer too. The same heatwave was causing high temperatures in Alaska in the fall that were 30 F or more above-normal too.

Now the proof: permafrost 'bubbles' are leaking methane 200 times above the norm, 22 July, 2016

"The gas analyser showed that.....the peak CO2 measurement was 7750 ppm, the CH4 reading was 375 ppm (or 375,000 parts per-billion)".
Mark Richardson, Broomfield, Colorado
13/02/2017 12:22

I don't rate your 'argument from authority" much when the authority is Real Climate over four years ago.

However, "The Methane Riddle: What Is Causing the Rise in Emissions?" in the Guardian and Yale's Environment 360 doesn't list the sources listed in this article but ...
Geoff Beacon, York
23/12/2016 22:18
"Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, but it also has an awesome power to really get people worked up, compared to other equally frightening pieces of the climate story."
"So far there hasn’t been strong evidence presented for detection enhanced methane fluxes due to anthropogenic warming yet."
crandles, Mold
13/12/2016 21:34
For anyone that wants to know more about where else methane hydrates can be found, look towards the energy companies. Surveys have been done and these methane hydrates can be found along every continental coastline.

As for where the methane is destabilizing, that too has been documented.

It is logical to assume that methane is leaking out of every coastline worldwide.

Hold onto your hats. The ride is about to get bumpy.
Kirk Brent, Vancouver, Canada
08/10/2016 21:20
The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of a fixed amount of methane decreases as methane degrades.
However, if methane levels are being replenished faster than it decays then only the GWP of methane when it is initially released, can be used.
That GWP value is 120.
Methane levels are increasing.
Now if you use this correct value in determining the CO2 equivalent of methane then you will see that methane is adding just as much if not more warming to the Arctic region.
It is a feedback loop.
More methane. More warming. More thawing. More methane.
The loop feeds itself.
This will only get worse.
Hurricane Matthew is just a small taste of what is to come.
Kirk Brent, Vancouver, Canada
08/10/2016 21:09
Melting and DE-ICING are two separate process.Last November three Hurricanes came to Pacific, I predicted ICE SHELVES WILL COLLAPSE.
NOT CO2, BUT DE-ICERS. CLIMATE WARS WILL WON BY THOSE WHO HAVE OCEANS & SEAS ANALYSIS SINCE 1980. Mushrooming of Desalination Systems in the Middle East is the main cause of GLOBAL WARMING. CAPTURE Deicers from heavy duty Desalination Systems. Concentrated deicers like 32,500 p.p.m. Sodium Chloride & 7,100 p.p.m Magnesium Chloride are calving the Ice-shelves from the base. By erecting Zero Discharge Systems ( ZDS ) in Heavy Duty Desalination Systems around World the deicing of ice-shelves & Glaciers can be stopped.( NASA's SEA SATELLITE detected more salts near the POLES.) --> More Ice Masses & Glaciers + No Sea Level Rise + No Methane Escapes + No Ozone Holes + Intensities of Hurricanes Will reduce + No Extreme Weather + NO DROUGHTS + More VEGGIES -- >> AIR CONDITIONING OF MOTHER EARTH" (Climate Change Third Group)

Book publishing soon in US " Environmental Rapes & H. R. Abuses Lead to Climate Change Control " ( Full colors-500 pages )
Raveendran Narayanan USA.
08/10/2016 09:38
Interesting, and a big question mark regarding the potential impact on climate warming.
Considering that Methane is 25 times more critical for greenhouse effect than CO2... We'd better pipe artic gas in a hurry, isn't it ?
Pipe on Track, France
08/10/2016 02:16
Can we perhaps start corking cow's buttholes?
John Micah Bakies, United States
07/10/2016 16:36
Siberian times, please keep up with this story. This is HUGE!
bernie,, 30 degrees Nortth, 90 degrees West
07/10/2016 13:40
This just shows how close we are the the limits of Earth's natural hability to deal with all the emissions we are creating.
Pedro Meyer, Tasmania
06/10/2016 20:17
Having heard about this from a Russian biologist last year, I pondered if there might be some enterprising engineer who might design a method to trap these emissions ---and turn them into LPG if ecomically feasible?
Richard Lowery, Downsville, La. (USA-США)
06/10/2016 11:29

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