Austmannadalen, Greenland – Exploring the Original State of the Earth

It happened on an evening during our climb to the top of Mt. Kiinaasak. We decided to stay overnight near a little lake at an altitude of 3,000 feet. After we set up the tent between large stones, we went for a swim. The water was cold, of course; this is Greenland. So we went into the water slowly. With every step, our feet sank into the soft ground of the lake. The ground began to dissipate like dark clouds in the sky. Bubbles appeared on the surface like the water we boiled on the stove this morning to make coffee. The situation was unusual, and we had no idea what was going on. Then we dived into the water and started to swim, and the bubbles disappeared. Later, back home at the computer, we realized the reason for the bubbles was methane.

At this time, scientists from the US space agency NASA (AVIRIS-NG project) have flown over an area of around 30,000 square kilometers between Greenland and Alaska. Using special instruments, they collected data related to methane concentrations. During the evaluation of the data, they found a pattern of so-called methane hotspots.

These spots are concentrated on average within a radius of about forty meters around still waters. According to the study, which was published at the beginning of 2020, permafrost under a lake thaws faster than beyond the forty-meter mark.

The surface warming in the Arctic is twice as high as the global average. One consequence of this is the melting of the permafrost, which releases methane. Methane is twenty-five times stronger as a gas than carbon dioxide. The scientific study “Methane Hydrate: Killer Cause of Earth’s Greatest Mass Extinction,” published in Palaeoworld Journal in December 2018, issued a dire warning: “The subsea permafrost in the Arctic is thawing, and we could experience a methane ‘burp’ of previously trapped gas at any moment, causing the equivalent of several times the total amount of CO2 humans have emitted to be released into the atmosphere.”

The results would be catastrophic.

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