Melting Permafrost


The subject of methane hydrates has yet again been featured in the BBC news.  The BBC news has featured stories about the possible deleterious effects of the melting permafrost since at least 2005. *see below.  Research has been in progress on the subject for many years *see below, yet the 4th Assessment of the IPCC does not mention methane hydrates or methane clathrates.  The nearest they get is to mention that the permafrost is melting:


“Snow cover is projected to contract. Widespread increases in thaw depth are projected over most

permafrost regions.” {10.3, 10.6}  pg.12


Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis

Summary for Policymakers

Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change



It is generally known and not controversial that as the permafrost melts, methane is released.  It was well known well before 2007 that there are vast amounts of methane locked up in clathrates.


“Recent estimates constrained by direct sampling suggest the global inventory occupies between one and five million cubic kilometres (0.24 to 1.2 million cubic miles).[19] This estimate, corresponding to 500-2500 gigatonnes carbon (Gt C), is smaller than the 5000 Gt C estimated for all other fossil fuel reserves but substantially larger than the ~230 Gt C estimated for other natural gas sources.[19][21] The permafrost reservoir has been estimated at about 400 Gt C in the Arctic,[22][citation needed] but no estimates have been made of possible Antarctic reservoirs. These are large amounts, for comparison the total carbon in the atmosphere is around 700 gigatons.[23]  ^ Geotimes — November 2004 — Methane Hydrate and Abrupt Climate Change


So, why was it not even mentioned in the IPCC Assessment?








Methane hydrate — A major reservoir of carbon in the shallow geosphere?

Keith A. Kvenvolden

U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA 94025 U.S.A. [1988]




“The world’s largest frozen peat bog is melting, which could speed the rate of global warming, New Scientist reports.”  [2005]


“Scientists drilling ocean sediments off Canada have discovered methane ices at much shallower depths than expected. The finding has important implications for climate studies, they believe.” [2006]


“Methane bubbles observed by sonar, escape from sea-bed as temperatures rise. Scientists say they have evidence that the powerful greenhouse gas methane is escaping from the Arctic sea-bed.”  [2009]


“Scientists have uncovered what appears to be a further dramatic increase in the leakage of methane gas that is seeping from the Arctic seabed.”  [2010]


“Evidence from Siberian caves suggests that a global temperature rise of 1.5C could see permafrost thaw over a large area of Siberia.  A study shows that more than a trillion tonnes of the greenhouse gases CO2 and methane could be released into the atmosphere as a result.”   [2013]