Equipment for sampling methane emissions from the sea floor is deployed in the Laptev Sea. Photo: Tomsk Polytechnic University

4 October 2016 (Siberian Times) – A new expedition in the Laptev Sea suggests an increase in the rate of underwater permafrost degradation.

The findings come from an expedition now underway led by Professor Igor Semiletov, of Tomsk Polytechnic University, on the research vessel Academic M.A. Lavrentyev which left Tiksi on 24 September 2016 on a 40-day mission. 

The seeping of methane from the sea floor is greater than in previous research in the same area, notably carried out between 2011 and 2014. 

“The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014,” he said. “These observations may indicate that the rate of degradation of underwater permafrost has increased.”

Detailed findings will be presented at an international conference in Tomsk on 21 to 24 November. The research enables comparison with previously obtained data on methane emissions. 

Dr Semiletov and his team are paying special attention to clarify the role of the submarine permafrost degradation as a factor in emissions of the main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide and methane - in the atmosphere. 

The team are examining how the ice plug that has hitherto prevented the exit of huge reserves of gas hydrates has today “sprung a leak”. This shows in taliks - unfrozen surface surrounded by permafrost - through which powerful emissions of methane reach the atmosphere. […]

“If 3-4% from underwater will go into the atmosphere within 10 years, the methane concentration therein (in the atmosphere) will increase by tens to hundreds of times, and this can lead to rapid climate warming. This is due to the fact that the greenhouse effect of one molecule of methane is 20-30 times greater than one molecule of CO2.” [more]

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