Scientists discovered evidence that frozen methane deposits from the Arctic Ocean, called “the sleeping giants of the carbon cycle,” began releasing over an extended area of the continental slope from the East Siberian coast, as the Guardian reported.
Increased levels of the potent greenhouse gas were noticed up to a depth of 350 meters in the Laptev Sea near Russia, provoking concern among researchers that a new climate feedback loop started and it might rapidly speed up the pace of global warming.
The slope sediments of the Arctic include an immense quantity of frozen methane and other gases called hydrates. Methane provokes a higher warming effect, about 80 times greater than carbon dioxide over 20 years.
The United States Geological Survey previously reported Arctic hydrate destabilization as one of the main severe scenarios for sudden climate change.
The international team aboard the Russian research ship R/V Akademik Keldysh stated that most bubbles were dissolving in the water. Still, methane levels at the surface were between four to eight times the average level, and they are all venting into the atmosphere, so you can see why that is so bad.
The Swedish scientist Örjan Gustafsson from the Stockholm University said in a satellite call from the research ship:
“At this moment, there is unlikely to be any major impact on global warming, but the point is that this process has now been triggered. This East Siberian slope methane hydrate system has been perturbed, and the process will be ongoing.”
The scientists accentuated the fact that their discoveries are preliminary. The extent of methane releases can’t be confirmed until they return, inspect the data they collected, and have the research published in a peer-reviewed journal.
However, the discovery of potentially destabilized slope frozen methane is alarming as it might mean that we passed a point that we might not be able to go back to ever again.