Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Melting Permafrost and Methane

In a warming world, permafrost, which comprises 24% of the land in the Northern Hemisphere is at risk of melting, releasing its stored carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and methane.

Methane hydrates have been in the news lately after Japan announced in March that it had extracted natural gas from deep in the ocean floor!  The source of the natural gas was methane hydrates, or methane molecules trapped in ice crystals.  In reading a recent National Geographic article, I learned that “methane hydrates buried beneath the seafloor on continental shelves and under the Arctic permafrost are likely the world’s largest store of carbon-based fuel. The figure often cited, 700,000 trillion cubic feet of methane trapped in hydrates, is a staggering sum that would exceed the energy content of all oil, coal, and other natural gas reserves known on Earth.”

Below are some links for learning more about methane & permafrost:

Wunderground: Permafrost in a Warming World

NASA: Methane: A Scientific Journey from Obscurity to Climate Super-Stardom

NASA Mission: Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE)
Nature Education Knowledge: Methane Hydrates and Contemporary Climate Change

UNEP: Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost (See Chapter 4)

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