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.


The Arctic has switched from a carbon sink to source

with acclerating permafrost feedback underway (2019 NOAA Arctic Report Card)


Arctic methane amplifying feedback (in particular) from multiple large methane sources has for many years been called the Arctic  methane bomb. But today thawing Arctic permafrost is emitting CO2. methane and nitrpous oxide. This is a feedback runaway climate change situation of total planetary catastrophe.


There are many very large sources of  Arctic amplifying feedback.


Still a best explanation to start with is WWF's 2009

publication Arctic Climate Feedbacks:Global Implications


IPCC AR5 Feedbacks. AR5 was rather cursory on Arctic feedbacks.


Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications  WWF  2009

Executive summary: èAmplification of global warming in the Arctic will have fundamental

impacts on Northern Hemisphere weather and climate.è

(Chapter 1, Atmospheric Circulation Feedbacks)

èReduced sea ice amplifies warming. Reduced sea ice cover is already amplifying warming in the Arctic earlier than projected. This amplification will become more pronounced as more ice cover is lost over the coming decades.

Amplified warming spreads over land. Amplified atmospheric warming in the Arctic will likely spread over high-latitude land areas, hastening degradation of permafrost, leading to increased release of greenhouse gases presently locked in frozen soils, leading to further arctic and global warming.

Weather patterns are altered. The additional warming in the Arctic will affect weather patterns in the Arctic and beyond by altering the temperature gradient in the atmosphere and atmospheric circulation patterns. It may also affect temperature and precipitation patterns in Europe and North America. These changes will affect agriculture, forestry and water supplies.è



A most signifant study is the 2013 paper The impact of

lower sea-ice extent on Arctic greenhouse-gas exchange



There are two kinds of Arctic feedback loops

ALBEDO Melting snow and ice albedo cooling loss

leads to regional warming

GHGs The warming Arctic emits the three main GHGs-

CO2 methane and nitrous oxide


There are many Arctic amplifying feedbacks


o Far North snow albedo

o Arctic summer sea ice albedo

o Boreal forest (carbon)

o Sub-arctic wetlands (carbon)

o Permafrost (carbon, N2O

o Subsea floor methane hydrate (CH4 gas)


Here is an expert description of the Arctic feedbacks 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, PERMAFROST, AND METHANE HYDRATES IN THE METHANE CYCLE UNDER FUTURE CLIMATE CHANGE: 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.

albedo acf arctic fb1 Arctic sea ice Temp methane 2013 acfb WWF Arctic feedbacks Arctic carbon bomb 13 AR5 Arctic Boreal Feed