Boiling sea with methane in Siberia

A few years ago, an area of sea in Siberian waters was found to be boiling with methane rising from the sea bed before. This ‘fountain was unlike anything seen before, and has concentrations of the gas across that region 6-7 times higher than average.

while this looks pretty, it could be a sign of us crossing a tipping point, which may make life far harder

Why is this worth writing about (especially a few years after the publication)? I would argue for one simple reason. There is a great deal of fear in the climate change science arena, regarding the melting permafrost. The issue is simple. There are potentially many millions or even billions of tonnes of dead animal and plant matter locked in the ice. Should this permafrost melt, all this matter will disintegrate and release billions of tonnes of methane and carbon dioxide.

To put this in perspective, it is thought that the Arctic ocean has roughly 60 billion tonnes of methane, and 560 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide locked in the permafrost. Now, while this is a relatively tiny percentage compared to all the carbon in the atmosphere, it would certainly be enough to create an imbalance in the climate, highly likely to tip us over various other climate tipping points.

A bigger fear is simple. Given that methane causes about 20 times the warming of carbon dioxide in the short term, this 60 billion tonnes is the equivalent of over 1000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

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