Subcap Methane Feedbacks, Part 1: Fossil methane seepage in Alaska

Originally published at Skeptical Science.

As permafrost thaws, methane is released as the vegetable matter in the soils decomposes. This methane bubbles to the surface in lakes and ponds and accumulates under the ice in the wintertime. New research has shown that the most vigorous methane seeps in Alaska are fed also by methane emitted by thermal decomposition of organic matter in deeper and much older sediments. Continuous permafrost acts as a top seal to this fossil methane, preventing it from reaching the surface and, as global warming melts and perforates this cap, we can expect the pent-up gas to be released more quickly. This source of methane, released from traps under the permafrost, is a potential third source of methane feedback in the Arctic, in addition to permafrost soils and methane hydrates. 

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Subcap Methane Feedbacks. Part 3: Methane from beneath the ice

Originally posted at Skeptical Science

The previous two parts (one here and two here) of this series examined the evidence for seeps of geological methane through the cap provided by permafrost and looked at estimates of the magnitude of such seeps in relation to other sources of atmospheric methane. In this section, we will look at the emerging evidence for actual and potential methane releases related to glaciers and ice sheets. The sources of this methane are varied: fossil methane released through reactivated fractures; organic matter once buried and now exhumed; and possible methane hydrates lurking under the big ice sheets.

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