A study released in Friday’s Journal of Science says that 8 million tons of previously unrecorded methane is leaking into the atmosphere every year. The methane is seeping from deep within the Earth’s core through breaks in the layers of permafrost under the arctic sea — previously thought by scientists to be unbreakable. Methane is 20 times as strong of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and is generally linked to the industrial farming industry — and flatulence in general.
It is well known that there is methane trapped beneath the Earth’s surface. Scientist had previously thought the permafrost in the arctic was too thick to allow the methane to leak through. Natalia Shakhova, co-leader of the study and scientist at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska said that, “subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap.” Though the study didn’t prove that permafrost is melting due to global warming, it does raise concern about the ability of permafrost to hold methane at bay if the Earth warms significantly.
Scientists involved in the study said that the permafrost should be watched for future increase in methane release which could help scientists understand if permafrost is melting due to climate change. They measured 5,000 sites for levels of methane in the arctic sea above Russia from 2003 to 2008. The scientists noted that the melting could be due to environmental factors and that methane has always been known to release from the ocean. The annual release of methane from the oceans was previously recorded as 8 million tons per year. This recent methane leak doubles that number.