German climatologists assess whether Siberia is preparing a "methane bomb" for the whole world

German climatologists assess whether Siberia is preparing a "methane bomb" for the whole world
German climatologists assess whether Siberia is preparing a "methane bomb" for the whole world
4 August 2021, 10:32SciencePhoto: Barents Observer
The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study of methane emissions in Taimyr last summer, when a record heat hit the north of Siberia. Scientists have tried to assess the risk of a "methane bomb" - the release of huge volumes of methane, which could cause catastrophic warming.

The main conclusion is that the leakage of large amounts of greenhouse gas is still small, but more urgent research is needed, The Guardian reports.

Methane is one of the greenhouse gases. For 20 years, it accumulates 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide. A third of global warming today is caused by methane, the main sources of which are fossil fuel extraction, cattle, rice paddies and landfills. It is believed that the clock of the "methane bomb" is ticking in the Arctic, in the permafrost deposits. Although a disaster is unlikely in the coming years, if the climate crisis deepens and temperatures continue to rise, large gas emissions will become possible in the future.

The new study belongs to an international group of scientists led by the staff of the Friedrich Wilhelm University of the Rhine in Bonn. Climatologists analyzed data from satellite observations made over the territory of Taimyr, and found that the heat wave of 2020, when temperatures in northern Siberia exceeded the statistical average by 6 ° C, led to new emissions of methane. Gas has leaked from rocks, which are large reservoirs of hydrocarbons.

Methane concentration has been increasing since last summer. Probably, gas leakage from the ground continues to this day. While this is a minor anomaly, it shows that something is happening that scientists have not previously observed. To find out how dangerous these emissions are, it is necessary to find out as soon as possible with what intensity the gas is released. There is a theoretical possibility that in the future, with a strong increase in global temperature, the release of huge amounts of methane will lead to apocalyptic consequences.

Areas on Taimyr, where methane emissions have increased, almost coincided with the geological boundaries of limestone formations several hundred kilometers long, where gas wells are already being drilled. Apparently, the gas that the permafrost had immured in cracks in limestone began to be released after the heat wave led to soil instability. Researchers have hypothesized that melting permafrost is releasing not only methane released by microorganisms, but also fossil methane from the reservoirs below, with the latter in much larger quantities.

It is known that there is a lot of this gas in the World Ocean. However, scientists believe that it will take a long time to warm up the deep waters where it lies globally. Even if it does, most of the methane released will dissolve in seawater and be converted to CO2 by ocean bacteria before it reaches the atmosphere.

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