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Arctic Methane Level Increases

May 29, 2009

Methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases continued its trend of rising level in the Arctic atmosphere, raising worries of possible release of its immense volume stored in the permafrost.
Methane, emitted from natural sources — such as from decaying plants in swamps or by termites — and by human use of fossil fuels, rice paddies, landfills and from the digestive tracts of animals such as cows and sheep, is the second most important greenhouse gas behind carbon dioxide, accounting for about 18 percent of the heat-trapping greenhouse effect from human activities that might trigger more heat waves, floods or rising seas.

envisat_asar_gm_animation_h arctic lowest ice level 

Envisat ASAR mosaics of the Arctic Ocean  and highlights the changes in sea ice. The ice-free areas appear as dark grey and the sea ice areas as light grey.

Against a global rise of 0.34 per cent,  methane level has measured  a rise of  o.6 percent last year after a similar gain of 0.6 per cent in 2007, as recorded at the Zeppelin station located on  a remote island in the Norwegian arctic. The methane release rise is happening now after its level remaining stable for a decade.

There are already indications of increased emissions from the permafrost and also from the adjoining wetlands in the northern region. A thaw of permafrost, such as in Siberia or Canada, could release vast amounts of trapped greenhouse gases and in turn accelerate global warming

Excessive rains for the last two years in the tropics promoting higher wetland emissions, local wind shifts, higher industrial activities in the near arctic areas, any one of them or together  could be the causative agents triggering the rise.


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