Methane is bubbling up in the East Siberian Sea, creating alarm among scientists that global warming may be melting underwater permafrost and releasing the powerful greenhouse gas locked away for thousands of years.
If these methane emissions from the Arctic speed up, it could cause "really serious climate consequences," Igor Semiletov of the Pacific Oceanological Institute in Vladivostok, Russia, told National Geographic. Semiletov and colleagues have been traveling along the Siberian coast, monitoring methane concentrations in the air and observing the seas.
"According to our data, more than 50 percent of the Arctic Siberian shelf is serving as a source of methane to the atmosphere," Semiletov said.
This vast shelf is about 750,000 square miles – about the same size as Greenland or Mexico – and about 80 percent of it is covered with permafrost, Semiletov said. Permafrost is basically dirt that's been permanently frozen for hundreds or thousands of years, much of it since the last ice age.
Click here for the National Geographic article.