Massive Methane Concentrations over the Laptev Sea
22 February, 2014
High methane concentrations (2351 ppb at 19,819 ft altitude) are recorded on February 21, 2014. Analysis shows that these concentrations are the result of massive methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.
[ click on image to enlarge ]
The bottom-left inset on above image shows methane readings on February 21th, 2014, p.m. only and only for 7 layers with altitudes from 469 mb to 586 mb. At 469 mb (19,819 ft), a reading of 2351 ppb was recorded, i.e. 24% higher than the highest mean for that day (which was 1896 ppb at 586 mb).
Much of the methane showing up over Asia on the main image does not show up at altitudes where 2300+ ppb levels were recorded that day, indicating that these high readings were indeed caused by releases from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.
The methane may have been released from areas closer to the North Pole. The methane may have traveled underneath the sea ice and entered the atmosphere over the Laptev Sea where the sea ice is thin or fractured enough to allow the methane to pass through the ice.
The Naval Research Laboratory image below shows the sea ice thickness as at February 21, 2014.
On the other hand, the methane may have originated from the Laptev Sea, which could indicate destabilization of methane hydrates in the area, which is very worying due to large quantities of methane estimated to be contained in sediments there in the form of free gas and hydrates. In addition, the Laptev Sea is very shallow, resulting in much of the releases from the seafloor there entering the atmosphere without getting decomposed by microbes in the water.
The situation may be even worse than this, as no methane data have shown up for the past few days at the NOAA website. We'll keep monitoring the situation and add updates later.