~Robert Stavins, the head of Harvard’s Environmental Economics program:
Published by tonyleather | January 3, 2012
"Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has warned of having witnessed unprecedented volumes of the lethal greenhouse gas methane - which is 20 times as bad as carbon dioxide for heat retention –bubbling to the Arctic Ocean surface during an extensive survey there.
A Russian research team been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years, and are astounded at the scale and volume of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.
In earlier surveys, the team had found torch-like plume structures were only tens of metres wide, but this time they have discovered, for the very first time, continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 100 times bigger.
The team were even more astonished that the sheer scale and high density of the plumes was such that over 100 were discovered in a relatively small area, suggesting that there should be thousands of them throughout the arctic region
It has been estimated that the Arctic permafrost is the storeroom for possibly billions of tonnes of methane gas, locked in the frozen ground, which extends for a vast distance into the seabed of the relatively shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf sea from the mainland.
With Arctic sea-ice disappearing at ever more rapid rates in the summer months, and the region subject to rapidly risingtemperatures, the Siberian permafrost is already melting, and should the the trapped methane be suddenly released, the atmosphere would quickly change so much that rapid and severe climate change would be inevitable.
The Russian team published a 2010 study which estimated annual methane emissions from this region at 8,000,000 tons a year, but the latest findings make this seem a gross underestimate of the real situation.
The Academician Lavrentiev research vessel carried out a ten thousand square mile survey of East Siberian coastal seas, deploying four highly sensitive seismic and acoustic instruments to monitor the methane bubbles rising to the sea surface from beneath the seabed in plumes.
Checks conducted at over one hundred stationary points revealed methane fields on a scale not seen before, with some plumes as much as a kilometre wide, the emissions going directly into the atmosphere at concentrations 100 times higher than has been normal before. It seems likely that, within 20 years the arctic will be ice-free in summer months, and even more alarmingly, that global warming has already reached the point of no return."