Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pop Goes the Methane

Remember those mystery craters discovered in the Russian north? They're still occurring and Arctic warming is the obvious suspect. As the Arctic warms it's taking the "perma" out of permafrost which is releasing massive amounts of once safely sequestered (frozen) methane.

Scientists have found that released methane is having all sorts of impacts in the polar region. Among them, it's contributing to the vanishing Arctic sea ice. As methane gas plumes bubble to the surface they can break up or prevent the formation of sea ice. On freshwater lakes boat owners have long used bubblers to prevent damaging ice from forming along the hulls of their yachts in winter. This is the same idea only it's a natural phenomenon and the bubbles are the powerful greenhouse gas, methane.

Then there are frozen methane blobs on the ocean floor called "clathrates." As the sea water warms they can melt releasing their methane to the surface. The bad news is that there is a lot of frozen methane on the seabed. The worse news is that scientists have found they played a significant role in major extinction events. The good news is that many scientists believe our clathrates are still too deep to thaw anytime soon. Many scientists as in "not all."

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