Russian, Chinese, and Swedish scientists on a recent expedition to study the environmental consequences of marine permafrost melt in the Eastern Siberian Sea report seeing a patch of ocean “boiling” with methane bubbles—leaving them transfixed by the size of the “fountain” of escaping greenhouse gas.
Led by Earth scientist Igor Semiletov of Tomsk Polytechnic University, the researchers were afloat in the waters around Bennett Island in the New Siberian Archipelago, measuring methane levels in sea water and sediments, when they came across the geyser of methane gas, Newsweek reports.
A Tomsk Polytechnic statement explained the region is known to produce methane fountains, and the scientists had already used instruments to locate the giant in question on the seabed. What was so surprising and shocking, they said, was to stumble across the fountain in plain sight on the ocean’s surface, spewing methane bubbles that the researchers then scooped up by the bucketful.
Measuring atmospheric methane just prior to discovering the fountain, the researchers found levels of the super-potent greenhouse gas to be “six to seven times higher than the global average.” Around the fountain itself, levels were nine times above average.Newsweek says the latest red flag for ongoing permafrost melt and methane releases across the northern hemisphere joins such unsettling discoveries as 2016 footage of formerly rock-hard Siberian permafrost turned jelly-like, and the 2017 discovery of brand new craters at the bottom of the Barents Sea, 3,000 kilometres west of Bennett Island. The craters were the aftermath of methane under pressure exploding out of the ocean floor.