Climate Warming Causing Unexpected Release Of Methane

Climate warming is causing the release of methane in the far north from a previously undocumented source.  Past research has found methane created by bio-degradation of thawing organic matter, but a University of Alaska Fairbanks led study has confirmed a deeper, older source. UAF researcher Katey Walter Anthony describes the gas as geologic methane.

Melting of overlaying permafrost and glaciers are allowing the ancient methane to escape. Walter Anthony and fellow researchers surveyed Alaska and Greenland looking for unfrozen lakes in winter, and then checked them for gas bubbling to the surface.

Walter Anthony says lab analysis confirmed the methane was from geologic sources like coal and oil reservoirs, information which could lead to new resource exploration in some cases.  She says the volume of geologic methane could rival ecological sources of the greenhouse gas.  Methane is the third-strongest greenhouse gas behind carbon dioxide and water vapor.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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