Siberian peat bog unleashes giant methane cloud

The thawing of the world’s largest peat bog will release billions of tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and scientists believe little can be done to stop it. The landscape is rapidly changing in a huge expanse of western Siberia, roughly the size of Germany and France combined, as the frozen tundra, enveloped in permafrost for millennia, turns into a series of shallow lakes.

Since the onset of climate change temperatures in the Siberian sub-Arctic have risen faster than almost anywhere else in the world and the thaw has now started what Sergei Kirpotin, a botanist from Tomsk State University, described as an ·ecological landslide that is proabably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climate warming.

Average temperatures in western Siberia have risen by 3 degrees Celsius over the last 40 years, a rise most scientists put down to a combination of man-made climate change, natural cycles and the fact that as snow and ice melt to reveal land and water the darker, uncovered areas absorb more heat.

The precise impact of the melt is not yet known, but the Siberian bogs hold an estimated 70 billion tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. (First reported August 2005)