Swedish researchers have found that the amount of methane leaking into the atmosphere from the Arctic Ocean is much lower than previously believed.
Methane is a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Researchers from Stockholm University looked into claims that catastrophically large amounts of the gas were being released into the atmosphere from the Indian Ocean, although the releases had not been spotted by atmospheric monitoring stations.
The scientists used data from an icebreaker in the eastern Arctic Ocean to directly measure the methane sea-to-air flux, the exchange through which the ocean and atmosphere interact.
“By understanding the airflow over the sea surface, and simultaneously measuring methane concentrations, we can determine how much methane is coming out of the ocean,” Stockholm University researcher Brett Thornton told Science Daily.
The researchers saw hotspots of methane emissions from the bubbles coming from the seafloor that were up to 25 times higher than emissions from onshore wetlands.
“The peak emissions are indeed large, but at the same time, they are also extremely limited in area,” Thornton said. “Yes, there is methane leaking from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere. But, at least for now, it is not globally important to atmospheric methane and global warming.”
Here in the U.S., the Trump administration rolled back a rule limiting oil and gas industry methane emissions.
The gas makes up about 10.2% of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the U.S. Half of that comes from the production, processing, storage, transmission and distribution of natural gas and the production, refinement, transportation and storage of crude oil.