How much carbon as potential methane is there in the Arctic?

The Arctic holds several times atmospheric carbon.


o Arctic wetlands hold a great deal of carbon that is emitted as methane by warming.

o Permafrost holds a currently estimated carbon pool of double atmospheric carbon, mainly as potential methane. When permafrost thaws it adds to the wetlands

o The East Siberian Arctic Shelf holds over 90% of Arctic methane hydrate, which is estimated at double atmospheric carbon.

o The subarctic Boreal forest is the largest forest store of carbon, even more than the Amazon.

Boreal forest fires emit mainly CO2 but some CH4 is also emitted. In forested regions over permafrost the fire thaws surface permafrost  and more methane is released.

Arctic methane sources


A 2010 review of the Arctic carbon budget by D. McGuire et al finds that the Arctic contains several times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Most is potentially methane. The review finds many Arctic changes that will result from global warming will increase the emission of Arctic methane.

Arctic methane sources: Isotopic evidence for atmospheric inputs 2011 by R. E.Fisher et al illustrated the significance of wetland emissions that may respond quickly and powerfully to sustained climate warming.

Svalbard Arctic readings have shown methane emissions in the Arctic are leading to increased methane concentration in the air.

21.06.10 Measurements taken in Svalbard confirm that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to increase. Researchers are taking the increased methane concentration seriously. This is alarming if one of the reasons for it is the release of methane from thawing permafrost and the Arctic sea bed.


Current sources of Arctic methane emissions - feedback to global (Arctic) warming.


Leaking methane from the cryocap- edges of glaciers permafrost and new lakes in the ice were discovered by Katey Walter published in 2012. 


Methane was found leaking through the sea ice published by E. Kort 2012 presently assumed to be from proliferating surface microorganisms beneath the ice.


Increased methane from warming subarctic peat wetlands.


Thermokarst lakes in thawing permafrost


Thawing permafrost.


Sea floor sediment frozen solid methane gas hydrate.






Methane is highly reactive as a chemical in the atmosphere, making it very difficult to pin down

changes and sources of emissions and their effect.

This is made worse by inadequate monitoring capacities.


Methane tends to get concentrated over the high latitides.

Most emissions are from the NH and Hydroxyl OH that

removes methane works best in the cold.  


Though there is no agreement among experts, we know

that warming weltlands and thawing permafrost will release

more methane with more Arctic warming.


There is certainly evidence from several research approaches

that subarctic warming wetlands are releasing more methane.

Local permafrost research over many years has shown that

thawing permafrost is emitting methane.


Nick Breeze  article on Arctic methane with interview videos

CH4 sat AIRS Arctic 08 arctic carbon budget Arctic permafrost methane Walter Arctic methane seeps Summer Arctics

RUNAWAY Arctic methane amplifying feedback from

multiple large methane sources has for many years been

called the Arctic methane bomb. It is the main source

of amplifying feedbacks in the runaway climate change

scenario of global warming planetary catastrophe.


This is the most thorough published description.

The feedback loop can be described in simple

terms as follows: rising CH4 emissions from wetlands,

thawing permafrost, and destabilizing marine hydrates

increase atmospheric CH4 concentrations; this increase

in CH4 concentration, amplified by the effect of CH4

on its own chemical lifetime, results in a greater radiative

forcing on climate and terrestrial ecosystems.

The ecosystems, given our current understanding,

respond to the warmer, more humid conditions by

an  increase in BVOCs, which further augments the

chemical  lifetime of CH4. Finally, the resulting

additional radiative  forcing could lead to more or

faster thawing of permafrost, further destabilization

of marine hydrates, and potentially even larger

wetland CH4 emissions.  POSSIBLE ROLE OF WETLANDS,



: A REVIEW F. O’Connor


In addition to the warming effect of current forcing and emissions, methane plays a role in climatic feedback mechanisms that can exacerbate warming and even lead to abrupt, catastrophic climate change in the future. This risk is primarily associated with the rapid release of carbon stores in the Arctic.

A major release of Arctic methane would have a devastating impact on the global climate, and evidence indicates it has played a role in past warming events in the paleoclimate record.  J. Stolaroff et al Environ. Sci. Technol. July 2012.


Research has shown a syncronous increase in Arctic temperature, sea ice decline, Arctic methane.

The age of deadly methane feedback

Since 2007, there has been a step change in dangerous climate due to the start (sustained 2013) of planetary methane feedback emission cause by the warming planet.


It is normal for atmospheric concentrations of Arctic to be higher than other latitudes.The Northern hemisphere with its fossil fuel industry and heavy industrialization and wetland rice growing produces an unnatural amount of methane which gets concentrated in the Arctic. One reason of this is that atmospheric hydroxyl that breaks down methane works best in cold air.


From 2000 to 2007,the increase in atmospheric methane everywhere stalled. Since 2007 (the year of the big Arctic sea ice drop) atmospheric methane has been on a renewed sustained (2013) increase everywhere. NOAA has an interactive atmospheric GHG readout from ground stations worldwide.


Arctic methane in 2013 reached 1900 ppb (the 800,000 year methane maximum is 800 ppb).

The highest methane concentration is at Lac  La Biche Alberta right on the southern edge of the vast Canadian wetlands. Methane there is 2000ppb with spikes up to 250ppb. The 800,000 year atmospheric methane maximum is 800ppb,


Methane only lasts about a decade in the atmosphere, so a steadily increasing atmospheric concentration may mean the emissions are increasing at a great deal.


It has been found that this methane increase is mainly (if not totally) coming from the warming planet, as a feedback effect. The 2007 increase is assumed from subarctic wetland peat that responds rapidly to warming by producing more methane. It has also been determined to be coming from both hemispheres, so it must be coming from tropical as well as subarctic wetlands.


Arctic sources of methane are wetland peat, thermokarst lakes in thawing permafrost, thawing permafrost and Arctic subsea floor methane.


Satellites can monitor methane. The NASA AIRS satellite shows a dramatic increase in Arctic methane, but it does not pin point where the source is. Permafrost cannot be distinguished from wetland methane.


The SCIAMACY is designed to show up carbon emissions from source. It shows a steady atmospheric methane increase and an increase in global sources including wetlands.

SCIAM methane flying carpet to 2012 Boreal methane flux NOAA 2015 O'connor runaway Arctic methane 2012 report card

2015 AMAP assessment  Methane as Arctic climate forcer