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Methane emission in Arctic can contribute to global warming — scientists

September 28, 2015, 18:00 UTC+3 TOMSK
According to a professor, degradation of underwater permafrost if caused by sea level rise
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© TASS/Artiom Geodakyan

TOMSK, September 28. /TASS/. Scientists from the Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) have discovered anomalous fields where methane is emitted because of permafrost degradation on the Arctic shelf in Siberia. This can significantly change the climate on the Earth, Professor at Department of Geology and Mineral Exploration Natalya Shakova told journalists on Monday.

"Methane is a gas that is formed sedimentary sequences of the world ocean. For hundreds of years, it could not enter water or atmosphere because permafrost covered enormous deposits of gas like a lid. Now, permafrost is warming and becoming porous, so it no longer works as a lid," Shakhova explained.

According to TPU Professor at Department of Geology and Mineral Exploration Igor Semiletov, degradation of underwater permafrost if caused by sea level rise. The project of studying the Arctic shelf in Siberia has received a governmental grant worth 90 million rubles for three years. In the framework of the project, scientists went on expeditions to the Laptev Sea and the Arctic Ocean to evaluate the influence that the degradation of underwater permafrost has on the climate and ecological situation on the planet.

"Certain ‘wells’ form in permafrost — gas collectors, through which methane can pass like gas from a bottle with champagne, since gas is under pressure. This can lead to mass emissions of gas on eastern Siberian shelf and have consequences for the climate. Changing concentration of methane in the atmosphere can lead to increasing temperature on the planet. Since temperature will be changing, everything else will be changing as well," Shakhova noted.

Scientists also found that the water is oversaturated with "greenhouse" carbon dioxide. "In the water on the eastern Siberian shelf, carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. It was the most unexpected discovery. The water in this region is acidic, which means it is aggressive, and it disrupts the equilibrium, calcium of marine microorganisms. It changes the biological mass of these microorganisms and food base of food chain participants. Consequently, the ecology of marine ecosystem is changing, which is very dangerous," she added.

Shakhova stressed that while degradation of underwater permafrost is only starting to show in other regions of the world ocean, it has become "very dangerous" on the Siberian shelf.

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