Satellite Images Reveal Methane “TIME BOMB” in Siberia

By: | August 12th, 2021

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In recent years, scientists have been worried about the catastrophic release of methane from thawing wetlands in Siberia’s permafrost. They call it a “methane time bomb”. But now they are warning that the bomb’s timer is ticking dangerously low.

Satellite imagery of northern Siberia reviewed by an international organization show vast stretches of limestone are emerging and thawing out

Permanently frozen permafrost soils cover a wide belt between the Arctic Circle, Alaska, Canada, northern Europe, and Russia. If they thaw, this can pose dangers, because of the alarming methane emissions during thawing.

Siberian heatwave last year resulted in warming up of limestone. This resulted in its cracking and release of large pockets of gas. 

Lead study author, Nikolaus Froitzheim, said, “We found that two elongated areas of elevated methane concentration on the PULSE map perfectly coincide with two stripes where limestone formations occur in the subsurface,”

Robert Max Holmes, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, said, “What we do know with quite a lot of confidence is how much carbon is locked up in the permafrost. It’s a big number and as the Earth warms and permafrost thaws, that ancient organic matter is available to microbes for microbial processes and that releases CO2 and methane,”  

“If something in the Arctic is going to keep me up at night that’s still what it is.”

But the release of greenhouse gases isn’t the only matter of worry. This thawing of the permafrost could also unleash ancient viruses and bacteria trapped in the ice. 

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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