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Melting Glaciers and the Release of Methane

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 2/28/2010

What do the melting glaciers and the release of methane have to do with each other? Read on to find out!

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    According to new research, global warming is now causing the permafrost of glaciers to melt which in turn is now releasing millions of tons of methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is twenty times more powerful than the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and is proving detrimental to our climate as the global temperature continues to increase.

    The research suggests that the underground stores of methane are responsible for the majority of the recent global warming, and may even be possible for the recent extinction of many different species.

    The cycle is a viscous one, as the increase in global temperature is causing more of the permafrost to melt, which in turn causes the release of more methane, which continues to drive the global temperature upward creating more problems for the life forms here on Earth.

    The scientists conducting this researched sailed the entire length of the Northern Russia coast, and have been greatly disturbed by their findings. They found that there are highly concentrated areas of methane across the several thousand square miles of sea area that comprises the area known as the Siberian Continental Shelf. Several areas in this region have what they refer to as “methane chimneys" where the methane gas is bubbling up from the sea floor, and making its way into the atmosphere.

    The permafrost region has seen an overall temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius in the past few years, and it is feared that the holes in the permafrost created by current global warming will only allow more methane to escape into the atmosphere and therefore accelerate the increasingly serious issue of global warming.

    The total amount of methane thought to be located in these sea floor reserves is much greater than the amount of carbon dioxide trapped in the various stores all over the planet. The focus now is on stabilizing these reserves so as to prevent a further and rapid increase in global temperatures and to take measures to minimize the effects of global warming as to sustain as many life forms as possible.

    Resources:

    Exclusive: The methane time bomb