We have got a problem

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Keskiviikko 18.5.2022 klo 15:54 - Mikko Nikinmaa

More than half of Arctic land area belongs to Russia. Now that Russia is for a good reason isolated from most of the world, it is virtually impossible to get to have on-site information about what happens to the permafrost land in this time of climate change. This is a big problem, as there are huge deposits of natural gas under the permafrost, and if it melts, uncontrolled leaks of this very potent greenhouse gas get into the atmosphere.

Uncontrolled methane leaks have probably already taken place, as the appearance of unexplained craters has been reported before the Russian attack on Ukraine. Also, the measured methane concentration in air exceeds the concentration, which can be explained on the basis of agriculture, animal production and losses during oil and natural gas excavation, transport and use. So, now that we cannot follow the occurrence of leaks on site, the importance of remote sensing increases. Land-based measuring stations cannot report what is happening, as they are also in Russia and not available for Western climate scientists.

Luckily we now have quite extensive satellite surveillance system, which enables rapid evaluation of methane and other greenhouse gas concentrations. It is clear that the exact locations of methane leaks remains unknown, but that would be the case even if one had access to Russian locations, since most of the permafrost area is uninhabited.   

Avainsanat: climate change, methane, permafrost, Russia

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