Global Warming, Methane, and the Melting of Permafrost: See Here Methane Being Released from Permafrost by Dr. Katey Walter

Should the world’s permafrost fully melt, as it appears to be doing at a rapid clip, methane in the atmosphere will increase by ten times.

The consequences of such a methane release are unclear, but scientists are growing increasingly alarmed.

The Los Angeles Times has run an article on this subject today, and here is a clip of Dr. Katey Walter setting off methane under permafrost for a BBC documentary: 

Here’s a quote from the Los Angeles Times article:

That gurgling gas could change the entire model for predicting global warming. And lakes are not the only methane source: Newly discovered seeps — places where methane leaks to the surface — from the shallow waters of Siberia’s vast continental shelf are also likely to upset previous assumptions.

Walter’s work “has gotten a lot of attention,” said John E. Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Center in Fairbanks. “She found direct evidence of methane releases in high-latitude lakes. That was not fully realized before.”

In a field where the science often seems opaque, Walter’s research has a flashy side. She enjoys igniting methane seeps with a cigarette lighter, leaping away as the gas flares as high as 20 feet.

“It’s fun,” she says. “And it is informative.”

Videos of the stunts have swept through the Internet, rare visual evidence of possible danger ahead. At a recent Senate hearing, Al Gore played a clip of her lighting a methane seep. The BBC, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel have featured her in documentaries.

But the complex science of Arctic methane is only beginning to be understood. In the desolate wilderness of the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, a sense of urgency is palpable among Walter and three fellow researchers, hunkered down in neon-orange tents.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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