Methane gas trapped underground in Siberia causes earth's surface to wobble

Methane gas is twice as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the Earth's atmosphere

Jess Staufenberg
Sunday 24 July 2016 18:40
Underground methane bubbles

Enormous gas bubbles trapped underground are causing areas of grass in Siberia to tremble like trampolines.

Methane gas, which is twice as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the Earth's atmosphere and is usually locked beneath permafrost, is reportedly being released as warmer weather causes the soil to thaw.

Scientists on the remote Bely Island located off a northern peninsula in Siberia have been videoed prodding patches of earth which appear to bounce and wobble like an airbed.

They have speculated that warmer temperatures in the Arctic circle are allowing methane gas to move up through soil that is usually frozen solid, according to the Siberian Times.

Since methane gas plays a significant role in warming the Earth's atmosphere, its release due to warmer temperatures has long since been observed with anxiety by researchers. May this year was the hottest ever recorded, with record rises in levels of carbon dioxide in Antarctica in particular.

In Siberia, there is also evidence the phenomenon leads to small explosions in the ground. Russian scientists are analysing craters on the Yamal and Taimyr peninsulas near to Bely Island in an attempt to confirm the link.

The extraordinary sight of the gas trapped just below the ground was videoed by researchers Alexander Sokolov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ plant and animal ecology Institute, and Dorothee Ehrich, of the Arctic University of Norway.

They press a bulge under the grass at least a metre in circumference with their wellies, causing it to bounce and wobble as though made of liquid.

And when a scientist digs their heel into the earth, the methane gas is audibly released through the tear in the grass.

Researchers have previously described "powerful" methane plumes more than 1,000 metres in diameter bubbling to the surface of the Arctic sea.

Hundreds of millions of tons of methane gas are locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, according to experts.

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