Meth-heads seek Arctic farts

Detection of methane in the Arctic

It’d be impressive if they were seeking something useful, like major hydrocarbon resources for extraction but no, this is not about development at all, just more global warming hand-wringing.

A team of scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) and the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences has just completed an airborne measurement campaign that allowed for the first time to measure large-scale methane emissions from the extensive Arctic permafrost landscapes. The study area extended from Barrow, the northernmost settlement on the American mainland, across the entire North Slope of Alaska, to the Mackenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The airborne measurements (Airborne Measurement of Methane – AIRMETH) at a flight level of only 30 to 50 meters above ground addresses two major questions: How much methane is emitted from permafrost areas into the atmosphere? Do well known geological point sources, i.e. the leakage of gas along geologic faults, contribute significantly to the total amount or does the microbially produced methane from the upper soil layers dominate?

“First of all, with these measurements we can quantify the current emis-sions and establish baseline data. On this basis, potential future climate-related changes can be determined. In addition, our data will help to better understand the still incompletely explored carbon cycle in the Arctic”, said the GFZ scientist Torsten Sachs, head of the campaign.

In order to clarify the exact relationship between older geogenic and younger biogenic methane, isotope analysis would be required. In the Mackenzie Delta, however, the location of some geological sources is well known, so that selective measurements in the immediate surroundings allow conclusions about their contribution to the total emissions. In 2002, the GFZ was already involved here in a scientific drilling program for methane hydrate research. Covered by a 600 meter thick permafrost layer, this region stores unusually highly enriched methane hydrate reservoirs. These are currently considered the world’s most significant accumulations under permafrost conditions.


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One response to “Meth-heads seek Arctic farts

  1. So by definition, this team would be fart catchers?

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