Yamal Peninsula in Sibera has a massive problem: Gigantic sinkholes have opened in its permafrost, leaking huge amounts of the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. If that weren’t enough, methane is also leaking from the offshore seabed, with flares extending over eighty feet high. Worryingly, an even larger amount of methane is currently contained underneath the permafrost—permafrost that is rapidly melting, and which is far more fragile than perviously thought. The permafrost is being thawed from both sides due to global warming, and when it melts it could accelerate climate change that much faster.
According to Science Daily,”[T]here is a lot of greenhouse gas methane released from the seabed offshore the West Yamal Peninsula. Gas is released in an area of at least 7500 m2, with gas flares extending up to 25 meters in the water column. Anyhow, there is still a large amount of methane gas that is contained by an impermeable cap of permafrost. And this permafrost is thawing.”
“The thawing of permafrost on the ocean floor is an ongoing process, likely to be exaggerated by the global warming of the world’s oceans.” says PhD Alexey Portnov at Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment (CAGE) at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway.
Methane is a major greenhouse gas most often emitted by wetlands, livestock and leakage from natural gas systems. It carries 20 times the impact of carbon dioxide on climate change overall, making methane a silent killer of the planet. We can only hope that the Yamal permafrost will keep its toxic load under wraps, or the consequences could be dire.
Images via Wikimedia Commons