Thawing Arctic Could Set Off Methane Climate Bomb

Billions of tons of strong greenhouse gas lie on ocean floor
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2008 4:08 PM CDT
The Siberian Sea, which may release huge amounts of methane gas into the atmosphere    (Wikimedia Commons)
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(Newser) – Climate scientists meeting this week in Vienna are contemplating a terrible prospect—the release of billions of tons of methane gas from the Arctic Ocean, Der Spiegel reports. Methane, 20 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, lies frozen in gas hydrates on the ocean floor, but rising global temperatures are loosening the ice’s grip.

Research has confirmed both that the methane-containing permafrost is warmer than it should be, and that water and air above the deposits are unusually saturated with methane. If released, the 540 billion tons of methane in the Arctic could drastically speed global warming, but, explains a researcher, "no one can say right now whether that will take years, decades or hundreds of years."