Sunday, September 23, 2012

Methane fields in the Laptev Sea

Below is part of a recent interview published by Voice of Russia - click here for the full report. Editorial note: We anxiously await further findings from the research team as to what the source is of these releases, when the methane was formed and by how much these releases are likely to increase over the years.

Methane emission in the Arctic – a possible key to the global warming

Maria Dunayeva
18.09.2012, 16:52
Russian scientists have discovered more than 200 sources of methane emissions in the Arctic, particularly in the north of the Laptev Sea. Two of the methane fields exceed 1 kilometer in diameter, said Igor Semiletov, expedition head aboard the Viktor Buinitsky research vessel. Methane emissions in the Arctic have been observed before and are explained by bacterial activity. Head of the ecology department at Moscow State University, Dmitry Zamolodchikov, spoke about the possible consequences in an exclusive interview with the Voice of Russia.
How would you comment on this discovery by Russian scientists?

Different examples of methane emissions in Arctic coastal regions and in the tundra systems have been observed over the last 20 or 30 years. There is really nothing surprising about this. Because, first of all, we are talking about frozen substances and cold conditions in the coastal area, in addition to the water pressure, all of which make perfect conditions for so called gas hydrates. That is a bond between methane and water, which looks like snow, and is fairly unstable. Gas hydrates can quite easily break and can cause, correspondingly, methane emissions. Methane emerges as a result of bacteria activity in an environment with little oxygen which decomposes organic substances. The tundra has a humid climate, meaning it has the perfect conditions for the methane-producing bacteria. In that sense tundra is the source of methane and these bacteria are active in this region. In other words the Arctic has many mechanisms for production of natural methane. There are many mechanisms that conserve methane, for example gas hydrates. Many of those mechanisms are broken at higher temperatures. Therefore, in some cases, mass emissions of methane can be observed.

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