Permafrost in the Arctic releases methane abundantly

Permafrost in the Arctic releases methane abundantly
Permafrost in the Arctic releases methane abundantly

Researchers have discovered thousands of foci of methane release to the surface from the gradually thawing permafrost. And this is a very bad sign.

Flying over some of the most inaccessible parts of Alaska and northwestern Canada, NASA researchers discovered a stunning area of thawing permafrost - the frozen layer of soil that covers much of the region.

It would seem, so what's wrong with that? However, there is one important caveat. By thawing, the permafrost releases not only water, but also an impressive amount of methane, CO2 and other greenhouse gases, which accelerate the heating of the atmosphere. As you know, the Arctic is currently heating up twice as fast as any other region of the Earth, but it is still too cold for geologists to figure out where all this methane comes from.

Using an infrared spectrometer, scientists have examined over 30,000 square kilometers of the surface, collecting a map of the numerous methane releases from the depths of the soil. As it became clear from the results of these observations, methane is mainly concentrated near lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands, usually within 30-40 meters from the water.

Why is this happening? Nobody knows. Previous studies have also shown that there are so-called thermokarsts in the Arctic - lakes and other fairly large bodies of water that not only bubble by themselves due to the large amount of methane, but even accelerate the melting of permafrost around.

One of the most likely reasons is that thermokarst reservoirs facilitate the diffusion of methane from decaying plants. Carbon, frozen into the ground for thousands of years, serves as food for bacteria, which in the course of their life abundantly emit methane. This speeds up thawing, the bacteria get even more food - and the cycle repeats.

Climatologists predict that in the near future the total share of permafrost in the Arctic will decrease by another 45%. And this is millions, billions of tons of CO2 and methane that are released into the atmosphere. So, even if humanity stops all industrial activities and stops polluting the atmosphere, the problem of greenhouse gases will not disappear anywhere.

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