Austmannadalen, Greenland – exploring the original state of the Earth

Exploring the region of Austmannadalen in the western part of Greenland is like exploring the original state of the Earth. Here, no one has ever changed anything. The only evidence of human activity can be found in the glaciers, which are melting because of global warming. They leave visible traces on the slopes that rise from fjords.

It happened on an evening during our climb up to the top of Mt. Kinausaak. We decided to stay overnight near a little lake. After we set up the tent, we went for a swim. Our feet sank into the soft ground of the lake. With every step we took, bubbles appeared on the surface of the water. The scene reminded me of boiling water. Later, back home, we did some research on the topic, and we quickly realized that the reason for the bubbles was methane.

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 25 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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