Siberian seabed methane: first numbers

The latest estimate of methane release from the shallow seas off the north coast of Russia — the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) — suggests that around 8 teragrams per year (1Tg = 1 million tonnes) of the gas are reaching the atmosphere. This is equivalent to previous estimates of total methane release from all oceans. The study, led by Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov and published in this week’s Science (Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, Science 5 March 2010, Vol. 327. no. 5970, pp. 1246 – 1250 DOI: 10.1126/science.1182221), is based on fieldwork over 2003 – 2008. Over 80% of the bottom water over the ESAS was found to be supersaturated with dissolved methane, and 50% of the surface water. More than 100 “hotspots’ were discovered, where large quantities of methane are escaping from the sea-floor. Here’s Shakhova discussing the paper’s findings in a University of Alaska Fairbanks video (press release):

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