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Scientists find highly inconsistent permafrost warming in Kara Sea

The high temperatures are explained by warm currents from the Barents Sea, as well as by the influence of big Siberian rivers - the Ob, the Yenisei and the Lena

TASS, September 26. /TASS/. Russian researchers studied the permafrost deposits in the Arctic seas and found that warming of those frozen soil layers in the Kara Sea's different regions is highly inconsistent. In the future, this may lead to the permafrost destabilization and methane release in the sea's western areas, said press service of Skoltech (part of the VEB.RF Group).

"The scientists have found that the temperature of bottom sediments in the Arctic seas is uneven, especially in the Kara Sea - from plus 5 degrees Celsius in the west to minus 1.4 degrees Celsius in the east. The high temperatures are explained by warm currents from the Barents Sea, as well as by the influence of big Siberian rivers - the Ob, the Yenisei and the Lena," the press service said.

The group of scientists featured experts in oceans and permafrost. Skoltech's leading researcher Evgeny Chuvilin managed the group. The scientists came to this conclusion as they processed data obtained in their and other studies during the research of shelf areas in the Kara Sea and the East Siberian Sea, as well as in the Laptev Sea in 2019-2022.

These seas, the scientists say, account for about 80% of the submarine permafrost deposits in the Arctic, and this explains why their future is of particular concern of climatologists who fear huge releases into the atmosphere of methane trapped in underwater soils. Thus, the leading expert and his team studied the composition, structure and properties of the underwater soils, and compiled the permafrost temperature map for that Arctic region.

Having analyzed the map, the researchers indicated unexpectedly different temperatures of the underwater soils in different regions of the Arctic Ocean, and that was very characteristic for the Kara Sea. For example, near the Yamal Peninsula's western coast the bottom was warmed up to about 5 degrees Celsius, while in the Kara Sea's eastern parts the temperatures were negative - about minus 1-1.4 degrees Celsius.

The scientists explained the differences in ground temperature by the peculiar movement of warm and cold currents near the Russian Arctic shores, as well as by the fact that the Ob, the Yenisei and the Lena, that are among the world's biggest rivers, flow into the three seas. Their warm waters warm up the soil and contribute to the uneven melting of submarine permafrost, which must be taken into account in forecasting permafrost changes for coming decades and centuries.

About submarine permafrost

Huge reserves of so-called methane hydrates or clathrates are located at the Arctic Ocean bottom. This is what scientists call the compounds of water and methane that remain stable at low temperatures, high pressures or their combinations. Large amounts of clathrates had emerged on the bottom of all Arctic seas after the glaciation epoch began, when a significant part of the Northern Hemisphere was covered with a thick crust of ice.

This ice cover disappeared relatively recently, about 15-20 thousand years ago, when the glaciation era ended. Now scientists fear that a further increase in the world ocean temperatures, associated with global warming, will lead to a gradual destabilization of hydrates or even an explosion of their deposits on the bottom and huge amounts of methane may get into the atmosphere.