"As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks"

"FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A bubble rose through a hole in the surface of a frozen lake. It popped, followed by another, and another, as if a pot were somehow boiling in the icy depths. Every bursting bubble sent up a puff of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas generated beneath the lake from the decay of plant debris. These plants last saw the light of day 30,000 years ago and have been locked in a deep freeze — until now. ..."

"It was another small clue for scientists struggling to understand one of the biggest looming mysteries about the future of the earth.

Experts have long known that northern lands were a storehouse of frozen carbon, locked up in the form of leaves, roots and other organic matter trapped in icy soil — a mix that, when thawed, can produce methane and carbon dioxide, gases that trap heat and warm the planet. But they have been stunned in recent years to realize just how much organic debris is there."

Justin Gillis reports for the New York Times December 16, 2011.

SEE ALSO:

"'Fountains' Of Methane 1,000M Across Erupt From Arctic Ice - a Greenhouse Gas 30 Times More Potent Than Carbon Dioxide" (London Daily Mail)

"Methane Time Bomb in Arctic Seas -- Apocalypse Not" (Dot Earth)

"Methane in the Arctic: The End of the World, Or What?" (Grist)

"Methane Discovery Stokes New Global Warming Fears" (Independent)

 

Source: NY Times, 12/19/2011