Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scary Headline: Giant Plumes of Methane in Arctic Ocean

From "The Sideshow" at Yahoo News

Giant plumes of methane bubbling to surface of Arctic Ocean
By Eric Pfeiffer | The SideshowWed, Dec 14, 2011

Russian scientists have discovered hundreds of plumes of methane gas, some 1,000 meters in diameter, bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. Scientists are concerned that as the Arctic Shelf recedes, the unprecedented levels of gas released could greatly accelerate global climate change.

Igor Semiletov of the Russian Academy of Sciences tells the UK's Independent that the plumes of methane, a gas 20 times as harmful as carbon dioxide, have shocked scientists who have been studying the region for decades. "Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of meters in diameter," he said. "This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing."

Semiletov said that while his research team has discovered more than 100 plumes, they estimate there to be "thousands" over the wider area, extending from the Russian mainland to the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

"In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed," Semiletov said. "We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale — I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were a kilometer or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere — the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal."
My first thought upon reading this article was - OHMYGODDESS!  I was pretty sure that methane is produced only by decaying/decomposing organic matter -- I double-checked tonight to make sure -- and the thought that something now is going on in the frigid depths of the Arctic that is releasing this gas is just plain scary to me.  Then I calmed down, and realized that this methane is probably ancient and being released from caches deep in the earth, and that it was created millions of years ago when the earth was much different than it is today.  I certainly hope it's not due to massive die-offs of sea life now rotting away on the floor of the Arctic Ocean...

I have no idea what's going on, but a LOT of methane is now making its way to the surface and being released into our atmosphere.  Maybe it has been doing this for time immemorial, and we're just noticing it now because the ice covering is disappearing and the process has become more obvious!  But, the comments by the scientists about the increasing size of these plumes is particularly disturbing.  Why are the sizes of the plumes increasing

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