A research team made a worrisome discovery off the Siberian coast, The Guardian reports. The scientists say they believe they are first to uncover observational evidence that frozen methane deposits in the Arctic Ocean have started to be released after determining that methane levels at the ocean's surface were four to eight times higher than expected.
The deposits are considered "sleeping giants of the carbon cycle" and could theoretically expedite climate change, given that methane has a warming effect 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period, The Guardian notes. But while the discovery sounds alarming, it's also been met with skepticism from some climate scientists.
Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, argued there is no evidence Arctic methane had a "big effect" even in earlier periods when the region was warmer than it is now.
The scientists who made the discovery, meanwhile, have acknowledged their work is preliminary, and said the scale of methane releases will not be confirmed until they return and analyze the data. Either way, "there is unlikely to be any major" climate effect "at this moment," Swedish scientist Örjan Gustafsson, told The Guardian from the research vessel. But he did maintain his stance that "the process has now been triggered." Read more at The Guardian.