Methane Emits More Than Expected In Arctic Freezing Weather

Posted: Dec 22 2015, 6:18am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Methane Emits More Than Expected in Arctic Freezing Weather
This image shows eddy covariance flux tower in winter in Atqasuk, Alaska, USA (Global Change Research Group, San Diego State University). The special, on demand, heating of the sonic anemometer developed by Donatella Zona and Walter Oechel allowed extending the flux measurements during the entire year under the harsh arctic conditions while maintaining data quality. Credit: Salvatore Losacco
  • Methane Emissions in Arctic Freezing Weather more than Expected

A new study finds that the Arctic tundra releases at least as much methane during its cold season as it does during summer.

The methane gas that leaks from the ground during the cold Arctic season has been estimated to be higher than it was thought to be previously. A lot of methane is escaping from the ground vents in the Arctic tundra.

The soil remains frozen from September to May. And the tundra releases tons of methane gas which goes on to pollute the atmosphere. At least half of the methane escapes during the winter months. And dry tundra lets loose greater methane than wet tundra.

The findings were published inside a journal. Methane is a pollutant that warms the atmosphere and is 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. The methane trapped in the tundra is released after the soil decomposes annually.

The organic matter in the soil goes rotten and lets off methane gas. However, climate change could lead to greater release of methane. Researchers have been using special tools to measure the leakage of methane gas in the Arctic.

Most of the readings were taken during the summer season in the Arctic. This does not take into account the long brutal winter season which remains extant for 70% to 80% of the year.

The models up until now have been inadequate. What they assumed turned out to be untrue. The water below the freezing surface does not completely undergo freezing. It is sandwiched between two layers of tundra.

How much methane is released during the Arctic winter was found out using a number of methods. Plant matter trapped in the soil especially cause methane emissions. Satellite mapping facility was used to detect the methane leakages. After hundreds of hours of experiments a final map of the region was made.

The Arctic biome is one that is especially threatened by global warming. As climate change continues apace, the polar ice caps have started melting. And there is little that can be done about this SNAFU.

Short of controlling the pollutants that are released into the atmosphere (which would stop the progress of industrial civilization dead in its tracks) there seems no other way out.

That is why we need more intelligence than was used in getting us into this problem in the first place. The risks and costs must be evaluated since nobody wants to go back to the Stone Age.

The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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