ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Methane from underground reservoirs is streaming from thawing permafrost and receding glaciers, contributing to the greenhouse gas load in the atmosphere, a study led by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has found.
The study, published online on Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, is the first to document leakage of deep geologic methane from warming permafrost and receding glaciers, said its lead author, Katey Walter Anthony.
Release of methane into the atmosphere from any source is troubling because methane has far more potent greenhouse powers than carbon dioxide, climate scientists say. Methane has more than 20 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide, University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers said.
Scientists have speculated about such methane releases and modeling has predicted that it would happen as the cryosphere - the earth's layer of ice and frozen ground - softens and melts, Walter Anthony said in a telephone news conference on Monday.
"But no one had ever shown that it was occurring or that it was a widespread phenomenon," she said. "This paper really is the first time that we see with field evidence that this type of geologic methane is escaping as the cryosphere retreats."