Russia, US to study methane emission in Arctic

Moscow: A group of 27 Russian and US scientists has left on board a research vessel to study unprecedented emission of methane gas in the eastern Arctic, which could lead to acceleration of global warming.

The 45-day expedition will focus on the sea shelf of the Laptev Sea, the East Siberian Sea and the Russian part of the Chukotka Sea, where 90 per cent of underwater permafrost is located.

"This expedition was organised on a short notice by the Russian Fund of Fundamental Research and the US National Science Foundation following the discovery of a dramatic increase in the leakage of methane gas from the sea bed in the eastern part of the Arctic," the expedition leader Professor Igor Semiletov was quoted as saying by Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

As compared to carbon dioxide, methane traps about 20 times more solar heat.

"We assume that the leakage of methane results from the degradation of underwater permafrost…A massive release of such a powerful greenhouse gas may accelerate global warming," Semiletov said.

The Professor, who has been studying methane seepage in the region for the last 15 years, is the coordinator of the International Siberian Shelf Study (ISSS), which has launched a number of expeditions to the Arctic Ocean.

"The studies are reaching a more serious level. Many Russian and US universities have joined the ISSS programme, bringing in the most advanced equipment which will allow us to study the structure of underwater permafrost with more precision," Semiletov said.

Russia`s Chukotka and the US State of Alaska have a common sea border across the Bering Strait.