PERmafrost and GAs hydrate related methane release in the Arctic and impact on climate change: European cooperation for long-term MONitoring (PERGAMON)
The Arctic is a key area in our anthropogenically-warming world as massive releases of methane currently locked up in permafrost and gas hydrates, both on land and in marine sediments, could increase atmospheric concentrations of this greenhouse gas much faster than predicted.
Large parts of the Arctic region consist of permafrost. Melting of this permafrost leads to the release of methane trapped within or beneath it into the ocean and atmosphere.
As most climate models predict a rapid increase in Arctic air and surface-water temperatures within the next few decades, the release of methane from free-gas or as gas-hydrate reservoirs in terrestrial and marine permafrost and from wetlands, tundra and shallow marine sediments, is likely to increase.
The vast Arctic continental shelf, wetlands and tundra might become major emitters of methane in the future.
At present, it is unclear whether the recent discoveries of methane anomalies in the Arctic shelf region are simply a result of better methods of detection, whether they reflect natural variability in background emissions, or whether they really represent a new methane source (induced by the thawing of permafrost and/or the dissociation of gas hydrates).
PERGAMON is therefore very timely as it will help to i) coordinate European and international research initiatives that are aligned to our objectives, and ii) keep the European and international community informed about ongoing and planned projects, funding opportunities and research efforts and advances.
Pergamon will also provide the opportunity to define a base-line level of methane flux from the Arctic, against which perturbations due to global-warming can be gauged. Given that Arctic is already warming at an increasingly rapid rate, it is imperative to establish this base-line level as soon as possible.