Methane Domes in the Arctic Ready To Explode

A recent ominous discovery lying in the depths of the Arctic ocean has environmentalists around the world very worried.  Several massive icy domes full of methane lying in the Arctic Sea are very close to imploding. Due to temperatures rising in the area, protective icy layers on the domes are now being eroded leading to leaking of the gases at dangerous levels. These domes are technically known as gas hydrate pingos, these mounds stretch as far as 1km high, and can emit vast quantities of methane.  If they erupt vast amounts of methane will be emitted into the atmosphere, methane is around 36 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas and is far more damaging to our environment as it produces 21 times as much warming as CO2.

So how did these domes form? Around 23,000 years ago these gigantic underwater glaciers were covering the mixture of gas and water that lay beneath at the bottom of the Barents Sea, just off Norway. But as temperatures gradually rose, what began as a 2km thick layer of ice became a hugely eroded layer of 30 metres by the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago.

What remains of the domes that exploded 12,000 years ago are giant craters on the sea floor, however just to the north of these ancient craters are the domes that scientists are worried will explode in the same manner very soon. Scientists from the UiT The Arctic University in Norway, led by Pavel Serov, have been investigating the domes over the last few years, and they have observed that these domes have started leaking a small amount of the gas, making them very vulnerable to collapse in the near future.

Serov explained in a recent interview on the imminent danger, “The pressure of 390 metres of water above is presently keeping them stabilised, but the methane is bubbling from these domes. This is actually one of the most active methane seep sites that we have mapped in the Arctic Ocean. Some of these methane flares extend almost to the sea surface.”

So whatever side of the fence you sit on climate change, the proof here is inescapable. It will only take the smallest rise in global temperature for a reaction to occur, and as researchers recently confirmed, the Arctic is heating up at twice the rate of the rest of the world. According to Serov, they are definitely going to blow in our lifetime.

This research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences