Monday, October 21, 2013

High Methane Levels over Laptev Sea

A major fault line crosses the Arctic Ocean, forming the boundery between two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. These plates slowly diverge, creating seismic tension along the fault line.

From where the Mid-Atlantic ridge enters the Arctic Ocean, it is called the Gakkel Ridge. The fault continues as the Laptev Sea Rift, on to a transitional deformation zone in the Chersky Range in Siberia, then the Ulakhan Fault between the North American Plate and the Okhotsk Plate, and then continues as the Aleutian Trench to the end of the Queen Charlotte Fault system.

Above map shows the location of some of the main points of interest, i.e. the Laptev Sea Rift and the Gakkel Ridge, where high methane readings have been recorded recently, as shown in the image below. Indicated in yellow are all methane readings of 1950 ppb and over, for a period of just over one day, October 19 - 20, 2013.  

To pointpoint more closely where methane is venting along the Laptev Sea Rift, the image below gives readings for October 20, 2013, pm, at just three altitudes (607 - 650 mb). 

This is a very dangerous situation, since high levels of methane have been recorded over the Arctic Ocean for more than a month now. Furthermore, large amounts of methane have vented in the Laptev Sea area in previous years. Added below is an edited part of a previous post, Unfolding Climate Catastrophe

In September 2005, extremely high concentrations of methane (over 8000 ppb, see image on the right) were measured in the atmospheric layer above the sea surface of the East Siberian Shelf, along with anomalously high concentrations of dissolved methane in the water column (up to 560 nM, or 12000% of super saturation).

The authors conclude: "Since the area of geological disjunctives (fault zones, tectonically and seismically active areas) within the Siberian Arctic shelf composes not less than 1-2% of the total area and area of open taliks (area of melt through permafrost), acting as a pathway for methane escape within the Siberian Arctic shelf reaches up to 5-10% of the total area, we consider release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time".

In 2007, concentrations of dissolved methane in the water column reached a level of over 5141 nM at a location in the Laptev Sea. For more background, see the previous post, Unfolding Climate Catastrophe

Satellite measurements show methane readings of up to 2411 ppb on October 20, 2013. Sadly, no current data are available from measurements in the Laptev Sea, neither methane levels in the water, nor atmospheric methane levels just above sea level. Perhaps in time, some data will become available from expeditions.


  1. Oct20th measures 2411ppb in 1 spot already way over the previous max a few days earlier. Then a report on Nov9 of 2650ppb which magically turns back into 1950ppb on Nov 14th for the same measurements & measurement period. The lid has been clamped on it & I have therefore no reason to believe less than 8ppm in some spots being COVERED UP & lied about. period.

    1. Readings such as the 2662 ppb on Nov 9 are snapshots measured by satellite instruments. Since methane is prone to be blown away by the wind, these readings can change quickly. Nonetheless, looking at longer periods makes it clear that huge amounts of methane have consistently been present over the Laptev Sea recently. This confirms earlier readings by Shakhova & Semiletov of 8000 ppb recorded from a ship as far back in 2005.