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Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Understanding the Effects of Climate Change in the Arctic

Postgraduate researcher Hector Moreno and his colleagues at Ocean and Earth Science Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS) are exploring how rising temperatures as part of global climate change could lead to the release of trapped methane gas from chemical structures called hydrates in Arctic seafloor sediments.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. In 2008, more than 250 plumes of methane were discovered escaping from the seabed west of Svalbard, suggesting that such methane release is already happening. The Southampton team has used global climate models to project what might happen in this region over the next three centuries, using two scenarios – low and high greenhouse gas emissions.

Svalbard

By extending the calculations along the entire European and Russian edges of the Arctic Ocean, Hector has estimated that the potential annual release of methane could be similar to that from the Arctic tundra.

His research has been supported by a grant from the UK Government Department of Energy and Climate Change. Professor Tim Minshull, Head of Ocean and Earth Science Southampton who led the project, says "This work is important because it provides much more reliable estimates of future methane release than have been possible previously."

A summary of their work was recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Exploring rising temperatures

This work is important because it provides much more reliable estimates of future methane release than have been possible previously.

Professor Tim Minshull - Head of Ocean and Earth Science Southampton

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