Ancient methane escaping from melting glaciers could warm the planet

metano de los glaciares

Inspenet, December 30, 2023.

As Arctic glaciers melt, a recent study reveals that the release of methane gas trapped for millions of years under the ice has the potential to contribute to increased global warming.

Glacial retreat is the big driver of gas escape here ,” said Andy Hodson, a glaciologist at the University Center of Svalbard, Norway.

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What scientists are discovering in Svalbard, Norway, provides valuable information for understanding the changes occurring in the United States. As the Arctic experiences a rise in temperature, there is a rise in sea level along the coasts and greater instability in the atmosphere, factors that contribute to extreme weather events in the country.

In Svalbard, an archipelago near the North Pole, Hodson and his colleagues are identifying emissions of the aforementioned gas emerging through groundwater springs. As part of their research, they examined 123 of these springs , finding methane present in all but one.

What’s leaking is pretty modest, but what’s down there is pretty vast ,” Hodson said.

Methane and climate change

Carbon dioxide emissions generated by vehicles and factories are the main cause of climate change and have the ability to persist in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Although methane has a shorter atmospheric lifetime, its ability to retain heat is considerably greater.

The main sources come from both the production of fossil fuels and agricultural activity. More than 100 countries, including the United States, have signed the Global Methane Commitment, which seeks to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030. However, there is concern on Hodson’s part that the global accounting for gas emissions does not include gas released in the Arctic.

If there is a huge natural rush of methane about to arrive, that will change our planning for methane management ,” he said. ” It is important if we are to commit to responsible methane management ,” he added.

Permafrost, a frozen layer of soil, has the capacity to hold large amounts of ancient methane underground. When a glacier retreats, it can create space at the edge of the permafrost, facilitating the release of methane gas.

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