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Arctic melt releasing ancient methane

Scientists have found thousands of sites in the Arctic where stored methane is escaping into the atmosphere. The methane, some of which had been trapped in ice for thousands of years, is able to escape as the ice melts due to warming temperatures. Scientists are now worried that this methane gas, which is the second-most important greenhouse gas contributing to global warming, could exacerbate climate change. Much of this methane release has occurred in Alaska and Greenland. If this were to occur in other areas currently covered by permafrost such as northern West Siberia, as is predicted this century, a significant increase in methane carbon cycling could result, potentially strengthening global warming feedbacks. Several countries are currently researching ways to quantify this methane release. The most serious concern is that the release of methane will cause a positive feedback on global warming in the Arctic, which is already the fastest warming region of the planet.

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