Russian scientists studying the environmental consequences of permafrost thawing beneath the Arctic Ocean came found their worst fears in the most powerful methane gas fountain ever recorded.

A 50 square foot area of the East Siberian Sea appears to be "boiling", with bubbles of thawed gas creating a "methane fountain" that's unlike anything they had seen before.  Concentrations of the gas are up to 16 parts per million, more than nine times higher than the atmospheric average.  Such a leak from an undersea pocket of gas is called a "seep".

"This is the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe," said lead scientist Dr. Igor Semiletov of Tomsk Polytechnic University, and he should know.  Semiletov has participated in 45 Arctic expeditions.  "No one has ever recorded anything similar," he added.

Much of Russia is covered in permafrost, ground that is/was permanently frozen.  But man-made global warming has impacted the far northern reaches of earth more quickly than the rest, thawing out that frozen earth and releasing the gasses trapped inside.  

Methane is a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, it can warm the earth 86 times as much as carbon dioxide over 20 years in the atmosphere.  This is leading climatologists to fear that it will lead to more global warming, which will cause more thawing and gas seeps - something known as a positive feedback loop.  Methane could also raise the acidity of the ocean's water and kill off sea creatures as it breaks down.