Satellite Data Video Shows Methane Escape in Arctic

An online video provides a vision of Arctic permafrost melting and concentrations of methane in the Arctic atmosphere over the past decade.

Climate scientists have long worried that methane stored in the Arctic could be released as the Earth heats up, fueling additional warming.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, trapping heat 20 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over 100 years. Billions of tons of the gas are stored in frozen Arctic soils, but as permafrost melts and new lakes form, concerns increase that methane will bubble-up rapidly.

Now, in a new video posted by a Vimeo user, it’s possible to watch the ebb and flow of methane in the air above the Arctic over the past decade. As the months ticks by, Russia and Canada turn red as methane escapes to the atmosphere at unprecedented rates.

The video is a compilation of maps available from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The maps show data on the ratio of methane in the Arctic atmosphere between March 2003 and March 2012. The data were collected by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), an infrared instrument aboard the AQUA satellite.

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4 Responses to Satellite Data Video Shows Methane Escape in Arctic

  1. melty says:

    Interesting. Can anyone link to a good explanation for why there is a peak towards Dec/Jan/Feb and a minimum in Apr/May/Jun?

    • Michael R. Himes says:

      The Mesosphere moderates spectral data given the dissociation of methane to water vapor and CO2. It is CO2 radiated heat into space that drives cooling of the Mesosphere in summer. However CO2 return cycle in winter drives cold to the earth’s surface again changing the data obtained.

  2. Vinny Burgoo says:


  3. Harold Lane says:

    This incidence of methane and CO2 increase looks ominous as it is increasing all the time. I have heard little from the media and nothing from politicians. I am concerned particularly with habitations, crop and tree growing in the North, it seems that we are heading for trouble sooner than we might have anticipated. Your thoughts gentlemen please. Harold Lane, Dornoch, Scotland.