Thawed soil of the Svalbard polar archipelago releases huge amounts of methane

Huge amounts of methane have been found in Arctic groundwater, indicating the presence of significant greenhouse gas emissions in the region. The discovery was made by European and Canadian climate scientists and published in the journal Nature Geoscience. According to scientists, these sources of methane are a significant and rapidly growing factor in gas emissions, which until now has not been taken into account in estimates of the global methane budget of the planet.

Methane, which belongs to greenhouse gases, exceeds carbon dioxide in power of influence on heat balance of the Earth in short term period. About a third of the greenhouse effect is due to methane emissions, so scientists want to control all sources of this gas.

Researchers have found that one of the most significant and yet unaccounted for sources of methane is groundwater in the Earth’s circumpolar regions. In these regions there are still areas of unmelted permafrost, under which there is a layer of soil with groundwater reserves. These waters are constantly replenished by melting glaciers and are in contact with clathrate deposits – compressed compounds of methane and water that accumulated in the ground during the glacial era.

The researchers collected groundwater samples from different regions of the Svalbard Archipelago and found that most samples contain significant amounts of methane. The concentration of methane in some samples was 600 thousand times higher than in the Earth’s atmosphere. This means that groundwater sources on Svalbard emit 2.31 thousand tons of methane into the atmosphere every year, which is comparable with the level of emissions from the oil and gas industry in some European countries. These emissions are also comparable to the amount of methane released into the atmosphere as a result of melting permafrost in Greenland.

This source of methane is still not taken into account in estimates of total gas emissions, which negatively affects the accuracy of climate change predictions. Scientists warn that these emissions could cause the rapid melting of the planet’s circumpolar regions, which current climate models did not predict.

This discovery underscores the need for further research and monitoring of methane emissions in the Arctic groundwater. Scientists must consider this source of natural methane emissions to better predict climate change and develop mitigation measures.

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