ABC News Online, 5 March 2010
For the Science abstract - http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/327/5970/1246
Scientists have discovered the Arctic ocean seabed is leaking huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere.
The research published in the journal Science shows the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic shelf, which was thought to be a barrier sealing methane, is perforated.
Scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences say more methane will be released if the permafrost is further destabilised.
CSIRO spokesman Pep Canadell says the study identifies a possibly overlooked source of methane in the atmosphere.
"Maybe before we were wrongly attributing it to cows or rice paddies or whatever, all the major sources of methane we have," Mr Canadell said.
"And now when we measure fluctuations in the atmospheric methane concentration we can more properly attribute where these sources are coming from."
He says the study provides, for the first time, an estimate of the contribution of the Arctic to overall methane emissions.
Current average methane concentrations in the Arctic are the highest in 400,000 years.