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UAF study finds extensive Arctic thawing

By KTVA CBS 11 News 11:53 AM December 2, 2013

Research focused on East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane emissions

ANCHORAGE – The amount of methane released from the Arctic seafloor doubles previous estimates, scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center found.

According to new data published in a recent issue of Nature Geosciene, authored by UAF researchers Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf vents more than 17 million tons of methane into the atmosphere annually.

The findings are part of an ongoing UAF research project. The two scientists’ twice-yearly expeditions to the Arctic revealed the subsea permafrost had thawed much more extensively than previously believed, and Shakhova said the amount of methane released from the warming sea floor now rivaled the amount released from the Arctic tundra.

“Increased methane releases in this area are a possible new climate change-driven factor that will strengthen over time,” Shakhova said.

The research team used techniques ranging from sonar and visual imagery to seafloor drilling to determine the amount of methane released. Because the gas traps heat so effectively, they said their findings could have far-reaching implications for global climate change.

“We believe that the release of methane from the Arctic, and in particular this part of the Arctic, could impact the entire globe,” Shakhova said.

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