The climate panic headline this week has been that the warming Arctic is burping out dangerous quantities of greenhouse gas Methane.
Published on Friday, March 5, 2010 by Agence France PresseHuge Methane Leak in Arctic Ocean: StudyWASHINGTON – Methane is leaking into the atmosphere from unstable permafrost in the Arctic Ocean faster than scientists had thought and could worsen global warming, a study said Thursday. From 2003 to 2008, an international research team led by University of Alaska-Fairbanks scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov surveyed the waters of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which covers more than 772,200 square miles (two million square kilometers) of seafloor in the Arctic Ocean. “This discovery reveals a large but overlooked source of methane gas escaping from permafrost underwater, rather than on land,” the study said. “More widespread emissions could have dramatic effects on global warming in the future.”
Methane is 30X more potent a greenhouse than CO2, so this sounds very alarming. Or does it? From the New York Times:
Dr. Shakhova said that undersea methane ordinarily undergoes oxidation as it rises to the surface, where it is released as carbon dioxide. But because water over the shelf is at most about 50 meters deep, she said, the gas bubbles to the surface there as methane. As a result, she said, atmospheric levels of methane over the Arctic are 1.85 parts per million, almost three times as high as the global average of 0.6 or 0.7 parts per million.
The first problem with the statement is that it is incorrect.