Episode 507 Arctic Methane

Leonid Yurganov is a scientist who measures the methane emissions all around the world with spectrometry from satellites. He has twenty years’ data on the subject by now. Peter Wadhams specializes in the study of sea ice and the methane being released in the Arctic. Yurganov shows some maps of the north pole area taken from his instruments at different times. Much more methane is being emitted lately than previously, and much more in the winter than the summer. We are worrying a lot now about the potential for bursts of methane from the sea. However, there is more methane being emitted gradually from permafrost on land. For the video, audio podcast, transcript and comments: https://tosavetheworld.ca/episode-507-arctic-methane.


Leonid Yurganov

Peter Wadhams


methane, permafrost, sea, arctic, emission, radiation, russia, spectrometer, area, emitted, siberia, methane emissions, source, land, problem, satellites, surface, dissolved, ocean, Russian


Leonid Yurganov, Peter Wadhams, Metta Spencer


          In this conversation, Peter Wadhams and Leonid Yurganov discuss Yurganov’s work in mapping methane concentrations in the atmosphere using satellite spectrometer data. He uses a spectrometer to measure electromagnetic radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface and that methane absorbs radiation at certain frequencies. They show maps of methane concentrations in the Arctic, which have increased significantly since 2004, and explain that methane emissions from the Arctic Ocean are increasing faster than globally, which is about three parts per billion per year. Methane in the Arctic increased 15 by 345 ppb, so it  is becoming more significant as a greenhouse gas, and there is growing concern about its impact on climate change. Yurganov’s work helps to identify where methane is coming from and track its changes over time.


            The increasing trends in methane emissions in the Arctic are more concerning than methane emissions elsewhere in the world. Metta Spencer asks why there’s more emission of methane in the winter than the summer. Yurganov explains that it’s not more but faster. He says the seasonal differences between summer and winter methane emissions are due to two barriers in the Arctic water, one of which is a warm and salty layer called the pycnocline. The Atlantic Ocean pushes this warm water into Barent Sea and the sun’s radiation also warms the pycnocline layer in the summertime, so it locks in the dissolved methane in the summertime.

         There are many methanotropic bacteria in the water. They eat the dissolved methane, so only a limited number of bubbles of it reach the surface.

         The other barrier is ice, which traps dissolved methane. In the summer, the ice melts, allowing methane to be released, while in the winter, the ice cover seals the seabed and prevents methane from escaping. Permafrost under the sea is mostly limited to the shelf, and if the ice in the Barent Sea were to disappear completely, the sediment would thaw, releasing large plumes of methane gas. And nowadays with global warming, there is not necessarily ice on the Barent Sea even in the winter, as formerly, so methane is escaping.

         While methane emissions are increasing, Yurganov emphasizes that this is measured in trends in parts per billion per year and that more research is needed to determine the concentration and rate of change.

            Yurganov shares the results of a study estimating annual methane emissions in the Arctic for the last five years, indicating that two-thirds of the emissions are from ocean sources, and the rest are from land sources, including Western Siberian Lowland and Sea of Okhotsk.

         Wadhams notes that while there is concern about sudden bursts of methane from Arctic seas, in the long run, melting permafrost on land will produce a greater amount of methane. However, the rate of methane production from melting permafrost on land is not fully understood. The discussion also touches on explosions occurring in Siberia, where there have been about 20 craters found, with concerns over potential methane emissions from these events. They also briefly discuss burning off methane as a solution for the emissions from the sabotaged Nordstream pipeline, with Wadhams agreeing that methane should be burned off to reduce emissions.

         The topic of climate research and policy in Russia is explored. Yurganov, an expatriate Russian, says that there is a strong interest among scientists in studying the Arctic and its effects on climate change in Russia, but he is uncertain about the government’s efforts in addressing the issue.

         Yurganov has published several papers in Russian journals and presented reports in his former Institute and NASA Institute. He notes that there are two kinds of response to climate change in Russia, one being a bureaucratic response with reports and meetings, and the other being a local response, where measures are taken to accommodate warming soil in permafrost. He also mentions that there is public awareness of the problem, and he has published a popular article in a Russian magazine, which was read by many. However, Yurganov’s contacts are limited, and he cannot speak for the whole country.

         Wadhams shares that he has been in touch with Igor Semiletov, who studies methane release from the East Siberian Sea and has found that the amount of methane released in plumes from the seabed is increasing each year, which is a serious problem. Overall, while there is interest and research being conducted on climate change in Russia, the extent of the government’s efforts and response is unclear.


Metta Spencer  00:00

** This is a machine-generated transcript that may contain errors. Do not cite it without checking for yourself by watching the video and catching any obvious errors.**

Hi, I’m metta Spencer. And today we’re going to I guess, Maryland, and also determine Italy. And we’re actually going to go to the Arctic, of course, because my two guests are a specialist on Arctic methane issues. And we have things to worry about having to do with the methane emissions in in the Arctic. So I’m glad to have a conversation today with my British and Italian friend Peter Wadhams, who is in Turin, Italy, and in Washington, DC, or nearby guess in Maryland, is Dr. Leonid Yurganov, and these two guys already know each other. Yes. And now Peter, if you will explain a little bit to us about Leonid’s interest and introduce him, to me really, we can, we can get going.

Peter Wadhams  01:03

Okay, well, Leonid and I work together in the Antarctic, in the in the winter. And in 1989, this was originally this was when a German ship that I was on and, and the Russian ship that landed was on, we’re working together and and subsequently, we’ve we’ve carried on our contacts as they need us move to, to America. And he’s really the leading figure in, in being able to map methane concentration in the atmosphere using satellites. And that’s really a key way of working out how much methane there is in the atmosphere, where it’s where it’s coming out, where it’s situated all of these things, which are actually very important, but people didn’t realize they were important, until suddenly, the fact that methane is now taking over almost from carbon dioxide as a, as a greenhouse gas means suddenly everybody’s worried about methane, and wants to know about it and where, where it’s coming from and what it’s doing. So those are questions that that lay in the center.

Metta Spencer  02:29

Please tell me how you do this because I thought methane was a colorless gas that certainly wouldn’t be visible to the human eye and I would think even less visible to a satellite. So how in the world do you do this?

Leonid Yurganov  02:44

My background is atmospheric spectroscopy. I was born in Russia and when I was 50 years old, I left Russia and the rest of my career was was abroad. In Russia, I use it carbon monoxide mostly and using bigger using ground based spectrometers and sound as a source of radiation. After moving over to the west, I started to started to analyze data from satellites. Satellites also have the same not the same but very similar instrumentation as I used before in Russia. And this spectrometers installed at your own satellites give us that global picture – the possibility to measure machine in the Arctic always see during or night. You understand that ground based measurements over in Arctic Ocean during for night is very, very difficult. Logistically,

Metta Spencer  04:28

Yeah, you’re gonna have to give me you know, Lesson 101 in what a spectrometer will do.

Leonid Yurganov  04:35

Yes, this this kind of measurements is called remote sensing. Remote sensing means that measurements only distance and spectrometer does not measure concentration itself. It measure the radiation, it may be different sources of radiation from the ground, it is a radiation from the sun from satellites, it may be either radiation from the sun and _____ from the ground, or it may be radiation from the Earth itself, any room relatively warm body emits radiation.

Metta Spencer  05:35

When I hear the word radiation, I think of nuclear radiation but you’re using it to refer to a much broader range of things, right? heat or light or

Leonid Yurganov  05:47

I was physicist. For me it’s natural, maybe for you,…

Metta Spencer  05:51

It’s a shame that not only I am dumb but my audience doesn’t know much more than I do. So, we have to you have to explain to if to a child

Leonid Yurganov  06:05

There are different deviations that difference in wavelength. So, if radiation is very, very fast, it is  visible light for example. If f it changes more slowly, it is infrared radiation. The sun emits visible radiation and also infrared but mostly visible radiation. WE see  light and radiation the same essence. Light is a kind of radiation but radiation may be visible, infrared, and microwave. And so,

Metta Spencer  07:07

now what about nuclear radiation?

Leonid Yurganov  07:09

Nuclear radiation is absolutely different.

Metta Spencer  07:13

Okay. I want to get clear about that. And we’re talking about radiation that’s non nuclear,

Leonid Yurganov  07:20

electromagnetic radiation, that’s exactly the source of our information that can that can be obtained through satellite spectrometers

Metta Spencer  07:40

Okay, now, you were talking about looking at radiation at nighttime from the Arctic where there’s nothing visible. What is it you’re going to be picking up when you look for methane, for example,

Peter Wadhams  07:59

A surface emits radiation too. Not only sun but also the surface of the earth and it emits it day time, night time, all the time. It depends on the temperature of the surface, the higher temperature, the higher radiation. Also, this radiation is received by spectrometer and then it is resolved on two different spectral regions. In some spectral regions spectral regions is a frequency of radiation or wavelengths of radiation. At some some frequencies or wavelengths, the methane absorbs this radiation, you see.

Metta Spencer  08:50

When something absorbs radiation, what does?

Leonid Yurganov  09:04

Methane absorbs radiation, yes. radiation is also. But. I simplify it a little bit because

Metta Spencer  09:20

Does everything emit radiation? Am I emitting radiation right now?

Leonid Yurganov  09:24

Yes, yes. And yes, if you come, if you go to  hospitals, at the entrance, they have a special special device to your into your skin and it shows the temperature. Yes.

Metta Spencer  09:49

So the temperature is radiation.

Leonid Yurganov  09:52

Okay. The higher temperature, the higher radiation. And this photometer ( it is called photometer) is directed to you and it receives radiation from your body.

Metta Spencer  10:08

So, okay, so these thermomonitors that they use at the airport and things. Those are small spectrometers?

Leonid Yurganov  10:20

Yes, it may be a spectrometer to. Okay, well,

Metta Spencer  10:26

I’m really getting educated today. Thank you. Because this is stuff I should know. But I didn’t know this.

Peter Wadhams  10:32

In 2000 it was the first separate light that losers tropospheric gazes was launched, it was called ______. In 2002, the second instrument was launched. After that during this two decades, from 2002, we have lots of data about global concentrations of methane.

Metta Spencer  11:02

So you can show maps of where there’s methane being emitted. I would think that as soon as you get in the air is going to be moving around anyway. Doesn’t sort of  get all blown around and integrated? Or does it stay in a place long enough so you can tell where it’s coming from?

Peter Wadhams  11:27

Yes, mystery is emitted in different in different areas. I will show you.

Metta Spencer  11:37

Yeah, you have some I believe you already have some photos you want to show me or graphs or something?

Leonid Yurganov  11:44

Yes, sure. Let’s see concentrations of methane that was detected by instrument called S 404 kilometres for summertime,  and white areas are areas where a spectrometer does not work because of low temperature and ice. And you see red spotsm it  is for 2004. So it’s the beginning of measurements.

Metta Spencer  12:35

And let me see that that’s Russia over there with a red is, right? Is that the Laptev Sea and that kind of area.

Leonid Yurganov  12:48

This is Russia. Siberia. Is snow covered. Canada, Alaska, Greenland. And this is Bering sea. This is Novaya Zemlya Island and this is Kara Sea in winter, but in summer. Okay. In summer it is visible.

Metta Spencer  13:29

But now you’re saying that this red means that around in Scandinavia, they’re emitting a lot of methane?

Leonid Yurganov  13:35

Not scandinavia. It is the higher concentration of methane. For example, in Barent Sea, Kara Sea more than over the Atlantic Ocean.. Then, let’s compare with the picture that was measured in 2019. And you see, again in summer. Actually this was made July 2019. And the winter, early winter, November December, January 19 and January 2020. And you see difference between them. So that means that methane increased between between 2004 and 2019.

Metta Spencer  14:47

Oh, so there’s that much difference? Oh my! I’m sorry, but now that’s only in the winter, but not in the summer?

Leonid Yurganov  15:03

But not in the summer. To be more specific, there is also a global trend, not Arctic trend. This global trend is three ppb. Ppb is a measure of concentrations. Every year concentration globally increases with three ppb per year. And the scales changed, taking into account this global trend, so, no difference between them means that globally and in the Arctic concentration, increased 15 by 345 ppb. Okay, great, you see. So, that means that Arctic Ocean increases faster than globally. Methane from the Arctic Ocean increases faster than globally, faster than globally. So, this is argument in favor of existence of methane emissions..

Metta Spencer  16:23

Hold on, I want to make sure I know what you’re saying. The two large graphs on the right hand are global. Is that?

Leonid Yurganov  16:33

No, no, there’s no global. This is the view from the North Pole.

Metta Spencer  16:38

Okay, they’re all from the North Pole.  But you said that the North Pole — the northern area — is increasing the methane emissions more than the globe, just all over the world. So there’s a lot more emissions coming out of the Arctic and especially in in the winter.

Peter Wadhams  17:03

Yes, exactly. In the winter — not more, but faster. It’s not a matter of absolute of how high the same emission but how it changes in the Arctic seas. It changes faster than here. But compare  this area, this is Atlantic Ocean near Great Britain. And compare with this. Changes not much, but changes in __________________-_________. In 2004 it was ice covered area. Ice is  diminishing between these three years. But this information is important to make make a conclusion about how much concentration and how fast it is changing. Yes.

Metta Spencer  18:38

Okay, I’m shocked. Peter, Are you shocked?

Peter Wadhams  18:42

Well, yeah, I mean, it the it shows an increasing trend, which is very worrying. Methane is showing increasing trends.

Leonid Yurganov  18:54

Yes, that’s the concentration but this paper is trends  — trends in ppb per year. Three ppb per year is blue ish. And here is about five ppb.

Metta Spencer  19:12

But now explain to me why there’s more emission of methane in the summer than the winter.

Leonid Yurganov  19:20

Oh, it’s a good question. You’re really smart. Okay. That’s okay. Let’s look at this diagram. This diagram explains the sources of methane in the in the Arctic Ocean. This is atmosphere. This satellite it measures methane and this is sea. These are deposits of natural gas. That consists 90% of the methane. Methane seeps through the deposits coming to the seabed and here it is partially converted in the methane hydrates. Maybe you heard about that — clathrates — and after that methane is going up, lifting and dissolves here in the water. In this water, lots of bacteria. This bacteria uses methane as food.

Metta Spencer  21:09

Oh yeah, okay. Methanotropic bacteria.

Leonid Yurganov  21:18

Yes, methanotropic bacteria Yes, exactly. They use methane as food — but dissolved methane. They cannot eat gaseous methane; they use dissolved methane. So, bacteria eats most pf methane and just a few bubbles going up. This is Barent Sea.  The Barent Sea is relatively deep and this is more typical for the Laptev Sea, which is shallow. The shelf itself is permafrost it is difficult. Laptev Sea and as seas of that area in Siberia, Siberia This is Barent Sea that is close to Atlantic sea and this part of ocean is closer to Pacific. Alaska is there somewhere. Okay and here is another source of methane is permafrost. Permafrost is thawing approximately 20 centimeters per year. Changes in permafrost year by year and also methane clathrates are found there in Laptev Sea and seas of that part of Russian coast. So, now, why is this seasonal change? It is interesting question. So we have source; we have atmosphere; between source and atmosphere – water. And in the Arctic water we have two kinds of barriers. One kind is pycnocline. Pyconocline or thermocline — it’s synonymous almost. what is pycnocline or the thermocline? it is a warm and salty layer. And you may notice when you swim in a lake in summertime, the upper layer of water is warm and deep water is cold. That’s because warm water is lighter than than cold waters. AtlanticOcean pushes this warm water into Barent Sea. And this layer is also warmed by sun radiation, electromagnetic, by sunlight. It exists all the summertime. So dissolved methane is locked by pycnocline.

Metta Spencer  25:39

Locked so the methane cannot penetrate and escape through the pycnocline?

Leonid Yurganov  25:46

Yes, exactly. Another barrier is ice. If there is ice, also another barrier. It’s easier to

Metta Spencer  25:59

Yeah, that’s what I would have thought. That’s why I would expect there’d be more methane emissions in the summer than the in the winter because the ice is so covered. How does it penetrate and get through the ice?

Leonid Yurganov  26:17

In summertime, in northern part of Barent Sea, there is no ice. You’re right.

Metta Spencer  26:24

There’s no ice on the Barents Sea?

Leonid Yurganov  26:25

In summertime?

Metta Spencer  26:27

oh, no, but in the winter?

Leonid Yurganov  26:32

In winter also, but most of Barent Sea is free of ice. Peter knows this better than I.

Peter Wadhams  27:26

Yeah. The ice has been retreating all over the Arctic, but the Barent Sea is 

Metta Spencer  27:47

It’s really largely the ice that keeps it down. And when there’s a place where there’s no ice, then in the winter is going to come out more?

Peter Wadhams  27:58

Yes, it’s the ice that sort of holds down the methane because there’s a layer on the seabed, a layer of permafrost, which is sort of a frozen ground, and it kind of seals the sediments, it seals everything below it. It’s like a pressure cooker. And in the past, that didn’t melt in the summer. So you wouldn’t have methane coming out of the ocean at any time of year particularly because the ice was there in the winter and the summer. But now the ice is only present in the winter, if at all. Then in the summer, the water warms up. And that thaws the permafrost layer on the seabed and enables the methane to be released. So a big fear amongst the methane scientists is that if the  climate warms up to the point that you don’t get sea ice forming at any time of year in, say, the Barent Sea, then the sediment itself will thaw, which is methane hydrates and will turn into methane gas. And the methane will come out in big plumes of gas. And this is something that is already happening. And in fact, at the end, I’ve got a couple of slides from another Russian colleague who’s been filming that this year in the East Siberian sea.

Metta Spencer  30:04

Now according to this map or diagram, the the permafrost under the sea is limited pretty much to the shelf. This graph doesn’t show any permafrost at the bottom of the deep Arctic ocean. Right? Now, is that true? Or is it just this particular drawing? Is there also permafrost everywhere or only mostly in the shelf?

Peter Wadhams  30:36

It’s mostly on the shelf. Because if there’s any really deep (Leonid maybe knows better than I do) but if it’s really deep, then when the methane comes out, because of the release of pressure, the methane melts or dissolves in the ocean on the way to the surface, because methane doesn’t doesn’t dissolve in seawater easily, but it does slowly dissolve. So if the methane is coming out from shallow water, like these pictures we see, then it reaches the surface, and it’s released into the atmosphere and causes all kinds of mayhem. But if it’s released in deepwater, then it doesn’t reach the surface like the vertical picture here on the bottom right corner, it shows methane bursts coming out of the seabed, but not reaching the surface. The methane is dissolving before it reaches the surface, so that  plume of methane disappears. Whereas if the water were shallower, the plumes of methane would reach the surface and get into the atmosphere and cause general chaos.

Metta Spencer  32:09

When you say the methane dissolves,  I don’t quite know what that would amount to, What happens when you have a methane bubble that dissolves?

Peter Wadhams  32:27

Well, it’s just a gas bubble. And because it’s soluble in water, it just shrinks and disappears, because it’s all the gas has dissolved into the water. It’s a slow process. So if you’ve got a methane plume coming out of the seabed, it can get to the surface without dissolving and then the methane gas bubbling out of it would look a bit like the the Nordstrom gas pipeline.

Metta Spencer  33:19

Yeah. Where did you say this this shallow part is? Is this is this the Barents Sea?  Where’s the shallow spot?  You’re getting more emissions on the shelf or not than in the deep part of the ocean?

Leonid Yurganov  33:49

I’m sure. The shallow spot is here.

Peter Wadhams  34:02

Yeah, that’s about a third part of the Arctic is very shallow. And it’s deep

Leonid Yurganov  34:10

30 or 40 meters, but here the depth is 200 meters.

Metta Spencer  34:18

So that’s where you’re going to get it? You could predict further in the future that you’ll always get more methane emissions from areas that are on the shelf then in the deeper region? Right. Okay, now do you have other things you want to show us, Leonid?

Leonid Yurganov  34:43

Yes. The final result of this study is here. This estimate of annual methane emissions from the Arctic for In the last five years, using measurements from three satellite based instruments and milligram flux.  Flux means the amount of methane that enters the atmosphere from one square meters in milligram per day, After integration or surveying this methane for this special areas we found that emission from the surface Arctic between this 60 degrees circle and the ocean is land and the amount of methane per year that emitted from the ocean is blue (green for land,  blue for sea). So, we see that the amount of methane emitted by sea is two thirds of land emission — somehow below land emission. And for seas, we can distinguish between Kara emitted area – it’s called Barents-Kara Sea, but also includes some part of Novaya Zemlya. It is approximately a little bit less than half of methane of the total Arctic Ocean. Methane is emitted from this area, Other areas also contribute to total emission but less than the Barent Sea. So, this is final results of our study. It was published one year ago and so far this study is not going so fast as before.

Metta Spencer  37:51

Okay, so now trying to sum up the difference between methane emissions over water and methane emissions from permafrost on land, what can we see? Now I see that there’s something called WSL, which is must be land.  What part of the world is that there?

Leonid Yurganov  38:20

West Siberian Lowland. This is an area of swamps. Swamps are another important source of  methane — not just Arctic methane  but different kinds of swamps. I’m not quite familiar with the terminology but the ordinary word is swamps.

Metta Spencer  39:02

Ah, that must be Western Siberia, right?  And you got a red hot spot over there. What is that and why is it red?

Leonid Yurganov  39:22

Oak? Okay. It’s Sea of Okhotsk. This area and as this is well known, place for extraction of oil and gas.

Metta Spencer  39:50

And so is that where the methane is coming from and on land?

Leonid Yurganov  39:55

It’s not land. It’s Sea of Okhotsk.

Metta Spencer  40:01

Are they getting oil and gas out of the ocean there?

Leonid Yurganov  40:05

Yes. In concentration with different estimates from different satellites, but it is significant source of methane. It is well known, studied for maybe 30 years and found lots of clathrates.

Metta Spencer  40:40

I’m very interested in these Zimov folks out in in Siberia, Cherkassy or someplace. And I’ve seen so many photos of cliffs of black melting permafrost with, with all these bones and things in it. Where’s that on the map? And it doesn’t seem to show on this map as anything dramatic, is that right? Because that’s what we I hear about the most —  all of the methane coming out of that area on land.

Leonid Yurganov  41:21

It’s a good question. Difference between between marine sources, oceanic sources and terrestrial sources is in the patchy nature of marine sources, but terrestrial sources are spread over entire Arctic terrestrial areas. And sthat’s why in annual emissions, the land emits more than sea, but it’s some kind of illusion, misunderstanding.

Metta Spencer  42:15

Well, are you saying we shouldn’t worry as much about the permafrost as we do the the clathrates?

Leonid Yurganov  42:27

 It’s a complicated question. It’s not easy. Permafrost is another source of methane. But clathrates are just part of methane from from permafrost.

Metta Spencer  42:49

Oh, there clathrates in the permafrost, too. I thought clathrates were just in the ocean.

Leonid Yurganov  42:55

Yes, clathrates both in the ocean and in the permafrost.

Metta Spencer  42:59

Oh, okay.

Peter Wadhams  43:02

Just maybe it’s clear from the conclusions here that you’ve got total emission of about — from the ocean sources, that’s to see Lockhart scanned the Siberian sea and Barent Sea, Kara Sea – the ocean sources is two thirds of the emissions from the land. And that’s a very important result, because something that people have have been talking about over the last few years is what’s the contribution of thawing permafrost on land to methane emissions. And the reason for worry is that there’s a huge area of permafrost in the northern hemisphere, in Eurasia, and the quantity of permafrost is vastly greater than the quantity that’s going to be available from the ocean. But the question is, how fast will it come out? Because when the permafrost melts or when it thaws, it turns into this gunky rotting vegetation. The vegetation then has to rot, and produce a variety of gases, one of which is methane. So the question is, you’ve got a huge area of permafrost on the landmass of Siberia, thawing away, but at a rate which we don’t fully understand how much methane it’s producing, but it’s producing methane. And the estimates that I’ve seen are that in the end, there will be more methane to come out of the melted permafrost on land than there will be  from the ocean. So, these sudden possible bursts of methane from the Arctic seas, which could cause gigantic damage, if they come out very quickly, will be very dangerous. But the the slower emissions from land in the end will produce a greater amount of methane. So in the long run, we need to worry about melting permafrost on land, while in the short run, we have to be terrified by sudden outbreaks of of methane coming out of the East Siberian sea and other seas.

Metta Spencer  46:18

okay, but now look, I would hardly take encouragement from that. Because of all these explosions where there’s a big blast in Siberia. They found 20 or so these huge craters where there have been explosions. So if they’re happening on land, are they happening under the sea too? And we don’t know, maybe we don’t know about them, but because you don’t see a pit the way you would on land. But is it happening everywhere? That there could be big explosions? And why would you worry more about explosions under the sea than on land?

Peter Wadhams  47:10

Well, I guess under the sea, it could produce a huge amount of methane in a short time.

Metta Spencer  47:22

But what about those explosions in Siberia on the land? These craters are like a block or two is, you know, in diameter.

Peter Wadhams  47:33

Well, I don’t know what the absolute quantity of methane is that comes out or one of those? Maybe? Yeah. Maybe Leonid has more information than I do. I think there’s there’s only been about 20 explosions so far. And the quantity, again, if you compare it with the Nordstrom pipeline, who will choose the measure of large, large emissions of methane, then maybe it’s not so extreme. I didn’t want

Metta Spencer  48:18

That’s an interesting point. Because, you know, we’ve been reassured. They always reassure people, when even if it’s false, that, you know, it’s really not such a big emission from that Nord Stream sabotage. But, that sounds to me like something they have to worry about. Why does somebody tell them to hurry and set fire to that stuff? Because don’t you want to burn it off as quick as possible? So? Yeah, no, they haven’t set fire to it. They should do that, shouldn’t they?

Peter Wadhams  48:50

Well, yes, I think so. I mean, I’ve had lots of letters and about that. People saying, why, when you burn methane, you’re turning it into carbon dioxide, which is sort of less than 5% of the global warming potential. Then just just burn it all off. And and it may be some practical problem concerned with causing an explosion or something, but I don’t know. It seems to me to be obvious that you should go around, burning off.

Metta Spencer  49:29

Why don’t you phone them? Say Hi, I’m Peter Wadhams, and I know what I’m talking about. So you set fire to that thing.

Peter Wadhams  49:38

I can try.

Metta Spencer  49:41

Yeah, they’ve listened to you. I don’t know. Or maybe of course, the Russians might listen to learn it. Do people in Russia listen to you any more than they would listen to me or Peter?

Leonid Yurganov  49:57

I think so.

Metta Spencer  49:58

I don’t have the impression that the Russian government is doing much to promote climate research or certainly any changes in policies that would affect climate in Russia. So you are an expatriate Russian. And I just wonder how much research is going on there? And how seriously are scientists taken when they make recommendations for handling problems? Climate? How much Is the government paying attention to those people? And would they pay any more attention to you as now a Westerner than they would to Peter or me?

Leonid Yurganov  50:49

Actually, I published a few papers in Russian journal, in Russian language. In 2019, I presented two reports in my former Institute, and also in NASA Institute. So there is a very interest in study of this Arctic — the same in Russia is going on. So it is going definitely, and especially, I was impressed by people from  Skolkovo. Maybe Peter knows this institute, Skolkovo. And they found the same clathrates in permafrost that may exist at normal pressure. It’s very interesting effect. So this is going. on. But if you’re asking about about governmental efforts, I have no idea.

Metta Spencer  52:17

Well, okay, but am I wrong in thinking that the government is almost in denial? The way Trump was in denial in the US and just ignoring the problem? Is that true as much in Russia, that the government is just ignoring the problem? Or are they actually supporting research and maybe will make some changes in practices, as you discover more?  Of courese, I don’t know what we can figure out to do to solve the problem, but if there are no changes that need to be made in various practices, what do they do? Do they work on trying to fix the problem or not?

Leonid Yurganov  53:12

Fix? What do you mean fix?  There are several effects of global warming in Russia and two kinds of response, one responsive bureaucratic response in writing papers in writing reports, special meetings and so on. And another way of response is response on a local scale. For example, if you go to Siberia, to Arctic coast of Siberia, you will see that some measures are taken for accommodation, accommodation to warmngn soil in permafrost. It is a great problem and it is understood by Russians and they try to make measures against this to make it life easier. To prevent destruction of buildings and so on. So, there’s also two kinds of response.

Metta Spencer  54:51

The only Russians I know mostly just talk about it as if it’s not even a problem. And and I think they’re there must be lots of scientists who are very aware of the problem and are working on it. But I’m not, you know, not in contact with those people. And  I see no evidence here of the kind of research they’re doing. Are you strongly in contact with people in Russia, other scientists who are studying any of the topics that you’ve been discussing?

Leonid Yurganov  55:24

Yes, a couple of years ago, I published a popular article in a Russian magazine. And I noticed that this article was, was read by many. So the public also is aware of the problem. That editor of the journal also was very kind, and he invited me to write another paper, so it’s

Metta Spencer  56:05

I’m glad to hear it. Because, for example, it was not just Russian, but the New York Times, six months or so ago, published an article, I think it was in a big article in maybe the Sunday Times magazine. And they were enthusiastically excited and pleased by the melting permafrost in Russia. Because the theory was, this author said, Oh, it’s going to turn all this land into arable land that they couldn’t grow crops on before. And now with the permafrost, gone, they’ll be able to raise all this wonderful food. And I thought you are out of your minds, don’t you know what this melting permafrost is going to do? And they didn’t want to mention it as a problem. So this is a kind of stupid lack of awareness of the dangers that really upset me and maybe I don’t need to be upset but I am upset already with the people around me in North America and Europe who deny it. And I’m even more upset with the people I know in Russia who seem oblivious to the whole thing. So, maybe I want to

Leonid Yurganov  57:27

My contacts are not very wide and may be limited. So I do not insist that this is no problem maybe.

Peter Wadhams  57:42

 I was in touch with Igor Semiletov, who works on field studies of methane in the East East Siberian sea. And each year goes out with usually a Russian ship to look at this release of methane from from the seabed and is it getting to be more extreme and he’s finding usually that from year to year the amount of methane released in in plumes from the seabed goes up so it’s it’s it’s getting to be a more serious problem although not disastrous as yet. Okay. Well, this is looking straight down at the sea surface from from the ship. And the green is a massive of methane bubbles rising to the surface but hasn’t reached the surface yet. So that’s this mass here. So it doesn’t look very impressive, it will look better when when the whole gas reaches the surface. Oh, In contrast, this is just a picture of the sabotaged gas pipeline. And because that is much bigger, it’s a much bigger outbreak of course, but it’s the same thing. It’s gas bubbles, rising to the surface being emitted into the atmosphere.

Metta Spencer  59:44

This has been fascinating and I I really appreciate it very much.

Leonid Yurganov  59:59

very much Thank you.

Metta Spencer  1:00:34

Bye bye.


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