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Russia links up with Japan and Korea in a search for methane

By The Siberian Times reporter
08 August 2012

An expedition is underway to locate and analyse deposits of methane in 'underwater permafrost' in the seas of Okhotsk and Japan.

Akademik Lavrentyev research ship

'The group of Russian scientists will depart on board the Academician Lavrentyev research ship,' said the head of the research effort Anatoly Obzhirov.

'They will be joined later by eight Japanese and two South Korean experts in the port of Korsakov on the Island of Sakhalin.'

The scientists will check the Sea of Okhotsk and the northern part of the Sea of Japan.

'It is important for us to know if there are methane fields in this area as methane could be used in chemistry - to produce methanol - and in the energy industry,' Obzhirov told RIA Novosti. 

It is also important to pinpoint the location of massive methane deposits to ensure the safety of the future geological exploration of the region, he added. 

The expedition is until late August and will be followed by a thorough study of the collected data.

Earlier research has found the Eastern Siberian Sea to be 'bubbling with methane', released from underwater reserves, it was reported. 

It is seen as evidence global warming is thawing underwater permafrost, causing the release of methane that has been locked away for thousands of years.

There are fears that such releases will have devastating consequences for the climate. 

Permafrost has been called 'dirt that's been permanently frozen for hundreds or thousands of years'. 

At the time of the last Ice Age, sea levels around the Siberian coastline were 100 metres of so lower than they are nowadays. 

The exposed ground was frozen solid to depths of up to 700 metres, and in the intervening period the sea levels rose to cover this permafrost. 

The impact of global warming is to raise temperatures in the sea.

As this happens, the sub-sea permafrost has reached the point where it starts to thaw, so releasing gases.

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