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New Greenhouse Gas Threat Possibly Emerging April 27, 2012
Satellite Image
High concentrations of the greenhouse gas methane have been measured in the air above cracks in Arctic sea ice.
U.S. scientists are sounding the alarm that the greater breakup of the Arctic ice cap each summer could be releasing a powerful greenhouse gas that could further amplify global warming.

It’s long been feared that the melting of the permafrost, especially across Siberia, could release billions of tons of climate-altering methane gas stored in the frozen ground.

But airborne observations have found that methane is also seeping out of cracks in sea ice across remote parts of the Arctic.

Researchers, writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, say they don’t know exactly what process is creating the greenhouse gas.

“While the methane levels we detected weren’t particularly large, the potential source region, the Arctic Ocean, is vast, so our finding could represent a noticeable new global source of methane,” said NASA’s Eric Kort.

Previous studies have found high concentrations of methane in Arctic surface waters, but no one had predicted it would find their way to the atmosphere above.

Photo: NOAA