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Nature Geoscience

May 21, 2012

In the Arctic, methane seeps cluster along boundaries of glacier retreat and in regions of thawing permafrost, according to a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience.

Perennially-frozen ground and glaciers of the Arctic trap methane leaking from hydrocarbon reservoirs, restricting the flow to the atmosphere. Katey Walter-Anthony and colleagues examined the prevalence and distribution of natural methane seeps in Alaska and Greenland, using ground-based measurements and aerial surveys. They identified over 150, 000 seeps, the majority of which where found along boundaries of glacier and permafrost melt. They suggest that future disintegration of glaciers and permafrost could facilitate the expulsion of subsurface methane to the atmosphere.

In an accompanying News and Views article, Giuseppe Etiope writes “The findings emphasize the potential significance of solid Earth geophysical processes to the atmospheric greenhouse gas budget “.

DOI:10.1038/ngeo1480 | Original article

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