The alarming link between melting arctic glaciers and ancient methane release

As glaciers melt due to climate change, methane rich springs emerge

Pxhere | Public Domain

In more alarming news for the climate, scientists have documented vast amounts of methane spewing into the atmosphere from heretofore underground springs – exposed to the air due to retreating Arctic “permafrost” glaciers,

We’ve known for some time that as permafrost melts, ancient bacteria and viruses, some dormant for millennia, resurface and consume “the frozen organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.”

A July study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers from the University of Cambridge, discovered that permafrost glaciers act as natural plugs that trap the ancient methane within the underground reservoir in the Arctic. These reservoirs are “made of organic carbon that is double the size of the current amount of carbon in the atmosphere,” Gabrielle Kleber, an Earth scientist at the University of Cambridge, told Business Insider. The high methane concentration in these springs is of great concern, as it can be ignited with a simple match. This unexpected factor has yet to be considered in climate models, underscoring the need to reassess the potential impact of these methane releases on the environment.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with a much higher heat-trapping capacity than carbon dioxide. Although it has a shorter lifespan in the atmosphere, its short-term impact can be substantial. The sudden release of ancient methane from the Arctic springs may contribute to a feedback loop, exacerbating the climate crisis and accelerating global warming. 

To address this emerging threat, immediate action is necessary. Reducing anthropogenic methane emissions is vital to mitigate the short-term impacts, and the best way we could start, by doing our part as a state, is by cutting methane emissions from oil and gas in Texas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new limits on methane from oil and gas in a rule expected to be finalized this fall. It’s critical that they adopt as strong a rule as possible – to prevent methane from leaking both from the Texas oilfields and the arctic glaciers. 


Darius Hajibashi


Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center

As the director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughter are working to visit every state park in Texas.

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