Scientists like these in Arctic Alaska and other polar regions are studying the melting permafrost.

Scientists like these in Arctic Alaska and other polar regions are studying the melting permafrost.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Chris Arp

Defrosting Arctic releasing powerful greenhouse gas


Vast quantities of methane are locked in the frozen ground and sea beds of the Arctic, and the warmer it gets, the more will be released contributing to climate change.

25 times more potent than CO2

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. It’s 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide and we know that there are vast stores of methane that are now trapped,” says Dale Marshall, national program manager at Environmental Defence Canada.


The only way to stop this methane escaping is to slow global warming. But July was the world’s hottest month on record and the 15th month in a row to break a monthly heat record, reports the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Temperatures in the far north are increasing about twice as fast as in regions further south.

Last winter’s maximum level of Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest on record, say U.S. scientists.
Last winter’s maximum level of Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest on record, say U.S. scientists. © NASA via AP

Methane release accelerating

As the ground and sea ice melt, methane is already being released.

“Emission of methane that’s being released from the Arctic is actually accelerating,” says Marshall. “We’re getting greater and greater emissions that are coming from there and we know that’s going to continue…

“The amount of methane that’s there is much, much larger than what’s been released so far. And so we want to keep as much of it locked into frozen ground as we can.

“But the reality is that emissions have been increasing because the ground is melting, because the sea ice is melting and the sea beds are melting as well with the warming oceans.”

This item was prepared in answer to your question, “What’s the big deal about methane release in the north?”

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