Arctic methane rise worries experts

An increase in concentrations of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, over the Arctic is concerning scientists, Reuters reported. After a decade of stability, the experts are worried about a possible thaw of vast stores of the gas trapped in permafrost. Vast amounts of trapped greenhouse gases could be released in a thaw, accelerating global warming.


Norwegian officials said levels of methane in the atmosphere rose 0.6% in 2008, according to preliminary data from a research station in the Norwegian Arctic, after a similar 0.6% gain in 2007. Prior to 2007, methane levels had been stable for about a decade. The 2007 increase in the Arctic outpaced the global rise of 0.34%, for a new record high. Global data for 2008 are not yet available.


“The biggest worry is that there are emissions from the permafrost, and also from wetlands in the northern region,” Catherine Lund Myhre, senior scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, told Reuters. “There may be several causes for the rise. Currently it’s not solved.”


Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas behind carbon dioxide, accounting for about 18% of the heat-trapping greenhouse effect linked to climate change. The gas is emitted from natural sources, including decaying plants in swamps, human use of fossil fuels, rice paddies and landfills, and the digestive tracts of animals such as cows and sheep.


Another possible reason for high methane recordings in the Arctic could be a shift in local winds. New industrial sources in the region include Russian coal and natural-gas activities, or flaring from a gas field.


See full story