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Ancient Greenland Methane Study Good News For Planet

Source:  Copyright 2009, redOrbit
Date:  April 24, 2009
Byline:  Vasilii Petrenko
Original URL: Status ONLINE


An analysis of ancient Greenland ice suggests a spike in the greenhouse gas methane about 11,600 years ago originated from wetlands rather than the ocean floor or from permafrost, a finding that is good news according to the University of Colorado at Boulder scientist who led the study.

Methane bound up in ocean sediments and permafrost, called methane clathrate, has been a concern to scientists because of its huge volume, greenhouse gas potency and potential for release during periods of warming, said Vasilii Petrenko, a CU-Boulder postdoctoral fellow and lead study author. If just 10 percent of methane from clathrates -- an ice-like substance composed of methane and water -- were suddenly released into Earth's atmosphere, the resulting increase in the greenhouse effect would be equivalent to a 10-fold increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, he said.

Using carbon 14 as a "tracer" to date and distinguish wetland methane from methane clathrates, an ...

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