By Eric Pfeiffer | The Sideshow ± Wed, Dec 14, 2011
Russian scientists have discovered hundreds of plumes of methane gas, some
1,000 meters in diameter, bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean.
Scientists are concerned that as the Arctic Shelf recedes, the unprecedented
levels of gas released could greatly accelerate global climate change.
Igor Semiletov of the Russian Academy of Sciences tells the UK's Independent
that the plumes of methane, a gas 20 times as harmful as carbon dioxide, have
shocked scientists who have been studying the region for decades. "Earlier we
found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of meters in
diameter," he said. "This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful
and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's
Semiletov said that while his research team has discovered more than 100 plumes, they estimate there to be "thousands"
over the wider area, extending from the Russian mainland to the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.
"In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures,
bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed," Semiletov said. "We
carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale ² I think on a scale not
seen before. Some plumes were a kilometer or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere ² the
concentration was a hundred times higher than normal."