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Excerpts: "The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed."

Fire from methane gas bubble, 12/12/07. (photo: Geir Drablos, Flickriver)
Fire from methane gas bubble, 12/12/07. (photo: Geir Drablos, Flickriver)

Shock As Retreat of Arctic Sea Ice Releases Deadly Methane Gas Levels

By Steve Connor, The Independent

15 December 11

Russian research team astonished after finding 'fountains' of methane bubbling to surface.

ramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane - a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide - have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

"Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. 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," Dr Semiletov said. "I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them."

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.

Dr Semiletov's team published a study in 2010 estimating that the methane emissions from this region were about eight million tonnes a year, but the latest expedition suggests this is a significant underestimate of the phenomenon.

In late summer, the Russian research vessel Academician Lavrentiev conducted an extensive survey of about 10,000 square miles of sea off the East Siberian coast. Scientists deployed four highly sensitive instruments, both seismic and acoustic, to monitor the "fountains" or plumes of methane bubbles rising to the sea surface from beneath the seabed.

"In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed," Dr Semiletov said. "We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale - I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were a kilometre or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere - the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal."

Dr Semiletov released his findings for the first time last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. your social media marketing partner


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+37 # Michael Lee Bugg 2011-12-15 10:38
I have said for years that, as a species we are just intelligent enough to be dangerous to life as we know it. Glad I don't have children! The greedy and the stupid will never give up their current lifestyle to ensure lasting stability even if they believe what they are being told about climate change. Just look at all the religious people who claim to believe in Hell!
+20 # pbbrodie 2011-12-15 11:59
What's really unbelievable about this is why aren't the oil companies recovering all of this free natural gas, instead of spending fortunes trying to obtain it in other ways?
+6 # Texas Aggie 2011-12-15 14:09
There are programs to recover the methane in the frozen hydrates, but in this case, the release is too diffuse to be collected.
+5 # Todd Williams 2011-12-15 16:22
That's a damn good idea. I was wondering the same thing. Why let all this stuff go up? I've heard of mining the floating islands of trash in the ocaen for platic. Why not recover this methane? makes sense to me.
+25 # Andrew Hansen 2011-12-15 10:45
Here we go. Sadly, the climate-change deniers won't be the first in line.
+11 # Karlus58 2011-12-15 10:56
Coincidentally, I just happened to watch an interesting disaster movie on SyFy channel over the weekend depicting this very topic. It started out as an unknown occurence in Russia that turned out to be this exact scenario.
+17 # uuzul 2011-12-15 11:36
The geoengineering projects, ongoing since the late 90's, were designed for many reasons, the major one being to melt a NW passage for oil vessels to bring out Arctic oil. Also, the US Air Force has declared weather wars... the Arctic will continue to melt, the earth to get hotter, as long as chem-trails and HAARP continue to operate. Your tax dollars (and corporate greed) at work.
+17 # banichi 2011-12-15 12:10
Unfortunately, this is the result of actions taken over the last decades (if not longer) and the methane plumes are unlikely to be stopped even if we halted the actions that have raised global warming to this point already.

Bye, bye, earth as we grew up in it. Probably the tipping point is now clear and obvious, that we have already passed the one that we've been afraid of, but did not know how to define.
+5 # brenda 2011-12-15 12:38
LOL. Maybe this is what wormwood is all about. By the way, methane doesn't support life as we know it. Now lots and lots of methane in the air means we will be screwed sooner or later. Maybe this is how the dinosaures died. A massive methane release. I remember in Africa a large methane release bubbleing up from the lake they were near. Maybe all that underground nuclear testing opened the vein.
+6 # Texas Aggie 2011-12-15 14:08
The methane being released here doesn't come from a vein. It comes from the frozen methane hydrates in the seabed that are being released as they thaw.
+3 # Todd Williams 2011-12-15 16:24
Wormwood? What's that got to do with methane? I musta missed something. Maybe I've been drinking too much absinthe!
+2 # Kootenay Coyote 2011-12-15 22:18
Methane DOES support some life 'as we know it' - in deep-sea vents, both hot & cold. But not us....
+1 # Regina 2011-12-16 09:22
Brenda: You sound as though the only people you learned science from were politicians, not teachers. Unfortunately, that's too often the case. The planet-killers depend on the public's ignorance, and feed it on every issue.
+13 # jwb110 2011-12-15 13:29
Capitalist Flatulence!
+16 # mwd870 2011-12-15 13:46
But there is no global warming - I heard a bunch of Republican candidates for president say so.
+4 # Midwestgeezer 2011-12-15 14:57
Not to worry. God will protect us. It's all a part of his plan. Right?
+3 # Archie1954 2011-12-15 20:31
This is the beginning of the end! Do you see Venus, that will be the earth in a few thousand years.
+3 # seefeellove 2011-12-15 20:41
I heard that if you drink a lot of booze, and take a lot prescription drugs, eat a lot of processed sugar, watch a lot of TV, buy a lot of stuff, and party likes it's 1999, all these problems will go away. This planet is being destroyed by hungry ghosts.
+2 # aitengri 2011-12-15 23:40
Granted, there are few immediate fixes. But, with the political will (big condition, that!) "we" must set up an instant command economy, in which all money is withdrawn from consumerist circulation and social energy directed towards crash programs to develop a methane collection technology, an alternate energy distribution system, a mass transit installation/co nstruction program, and a "cease and desist" crunch to put the brakes on all of the petroleum industry's gasoline production (i.e., shut down the refineries, while banning the use of personal automobiles that are not at least 50% hybrid - redundant measures, admittedly, but a crash program has that quality of all or nothing effort - - this may be where the occupy movement may have to go. Again, COMMAND ECONOMY and the end of free market capital investment.
0 # boudreaux 2011-12-16 08:33
All of this in the name of Greed, they should have listened to the scientist regarding what is going on and then if this was a planet where the higher up cared some things maybe coulda, woulda, shoulda been different but Greed will always overthrow Mother Nature but in the end Mother will make sure that she will heal herself with or without us and it looks like the latter.....but in the end it won't matter who is to blame b/c when your mind is wrapped around Greed and how much you can get regardless to the welfare of the planet, the planet will always suffer from man's doings.

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