The Climate Bomb Lurking Under Arctic Permafrost

New research aims to better understand how much methane – a potent greenhouse gas – is burbling to the surface of the Mackenzie Valley in Canada’s Northwest Territories as the permafrost melts.

Hidden beneath the frozen ground of the Arctic could be a ticking time bomb. Vast reservoirs of methane – a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide – lie beneath the permafrost, and as global temperatures rise and the permafrost thaws, it could leak out and speed up the pace of climate change in an ever-faster vicious circle.

A team of researchers from Germany spent two years measuring the release of methane from the Mackenzie River Delta in northern Canada. They were trying to figure out how much of the gas was the normal “biogenic” emissions produced each summer by decomposing organic matter in Arctic wetlands, and how much is coming from ancient underground “geologic” sources leaking through gaps in the permafrost year-round. Read more in Arctic Deeply.