Thursday, March 25, 2010

Disappearing Islands.....

Disputed isle in Bay of Bengal disappears into sea
(Associated Press 24th March, 2010 - Nirmala George)


NEW DELHI – For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued over control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal. Now rising sea levels have resolved the dispute for them: the island's gone.

New Moore Island in the Sunderbans has been completely submerged, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said.

"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Hazra.

Scientists at the School of Oceanographic Studies at the university have noted an alarming increase in the rate at which sea levels have risen over the past decade in the Bay of Bengal.

Until 2000, the sea levels rose about 3 millimeters (0.12 inches) a year, but over the last decade they have been rising about 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) annually, he said.

Another nearby island, Lohachara, was submerged in 1996, forcing its inhabitants to move to the mainland while almost half the land of Ghoramara island was underwater, he said. At least 10 other islands in the area were at risk as well, Hazra said.

"We will have ever larger numbers of people displaced from the Sunderbans as more island areas come under water," he said.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 150 million people, is one of the countries worst-affected by global warming. Officials estimate 18 percent of Bangladesh's coastal area will be underwater and 20 million people will be displaced if sea levels rise 1 meter (3.3 feet) by 2050 as projected by some climate models.

India and Bangladesh both claimed the empty New Moore Island, which is about 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) long and 3 kilometers (1.5 miles) wide. Bangladesh referred to the island as South Talpatti.

There were no permanent structures on New Moore, but India sent some paramilitary soldiers to its rocky shores in 1981 to hoist its national flag.

The demarcation of the maritime boundary — and who controls the remaining islands — remains an open issue between the two South Asian neighbors, despite the disappearance of New Moore, said an official in India's foreign ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on international disputes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Hi all,

Happened across this article from Steve which may spur you further to consider changing your present meat-based diet.....

(Sept 9th, 2005)
Link :

Are human beings anatomically more similar to natural carnivores or to natural herbivores? Let’s find out….

Intestinal tract length. Carnivorous animals have intestinal tracts that are 3-6x their body length, while herbivores have intestinal tracts 10-12x their body length. Human beings have the same intestinal tract ratio as herbivores.

Stomach acidity. Carnivores’ stomachs are 20x more acidic than the stomachs of herbivores. Human stomach acidity matches that of herbivores.

Saliva. The saliva of carnivores is acidic. The saliva of herbivores is alkaline, which helps pre-digest plant foods. Human saliva is alkaline.

Shape of intestines. Carnivore bowels are smooth, shaped like a pipe, so meat passes through quickly — they don’t have bumps or pockets. Herbivore bowels are bumpy and pouch-like with lots of pockets, like a windy mountain road, so plant foods pass through slowly for optimal nutrient absorption. Human bowels have the same characteristics as those of herbivores.

Fiber. Carnivores don’t require fiber to help move food through their short and smooth digestive tracts. Herbivores require dietary fiber to move food through their long and bumpy digestive tracts, to prevent the bowels from becoming clogged with rotting food. Humans have the same requirement as herbivores.

Cholesterol. Cholesterol is not a problem for a carnivore’s digestive system. A carnivore such as a cat can handle a high-cholesterol diet without negative health consequences. A human cannot. Humans have zero dietary need for cholesterol because our bodies manufacture all we need. Cholesterol is only found in animal foods, never in plant foods. A plant-based diet is by definition cholesterol-free.

Claws and teeth. Carnivores have claws, sharp front teeth capable of subduing prey, and no flat molars for chewing. Herbivores have no claws or sharp front teeth capable of subduing prey, but they have flat molars for chewing. Humans have the same characteristics as herbivores.

But aren’t humans anatomically suited to be omnivores?
Nope. We don’t anatomically match up with omnivorous animals anymore than we do with carnivorous ones. Omnivores are more similar to carnivores than they are to herbivores. For a more detailed summary table that compares the properties of carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores side by side, see this page:
Comparative Anatomy & Taxonomy

The link above also debunks the opportunistic feeder theory, which states that because humans can eat like omnivores, that we must therefore be omnivores. And this is of course false because mere behavior doesn’t indicate suitability. There are plenty of things we can do as a species that would threaten our survival if we all considered them suitable default behavior, such as shooting each other, lobbing hand grenades, or sending spam.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Having a problem sleeping like a baby???

My mom suffers from a bad case of insomnia from as long as I can remember. We have tried all sort of cures but to no avail... so I am going to give this piece of good advice from Dr Mao a try.... and see if mom will finally get to sleep like a log.... zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZ.


Nearly two out of three Americans are affected by insomnia and other sleep disorders. With that many people resting poorly, it is a wonder anyone gets through the workweek—let alone their whole life! While there are many pharmaceuticals available to induce sleep, there are centuries-old traditional techniques that can get you your zzz’s naturally.

The traditional Chinese medical view on sleep
In Chinese Medicine, nighttime is considered yin time—the time when your body takes care of itself instead of your desires. Proper sleep is necessary for your body to repair itself and regenerate. It is also critical for the proper functioning of organs such as the liver, which performs most of its detoxification at night while you are sleeping.

Insomnia is one of the most common conditions I see in my practice, usually as part of a pattern of imbalances. Excessive worry, anxiety, and depression all negatively affect the delicate balance of the liver, spleen, and heart, disturbing the spirit and activating the mind. Once the mind is active, it becomes increasingly difficult to fall asleep. To reach deep, restful sleep, your spirit and heart must be calm and your liver and spleen networks must work together to process nutrients.

Read on to learn four traditional, time-tested ways to reach deep, restorative sleep:

. Acupressure for sleep enhancement
Acupressure is an ancient healing technique, in which you use your fingertips to press key points on your body to stimulate natural healing. Here are two acupressure points you can press to induce restorative sleep:

• Inner Gate, known technically as Pericardium-6 is three finger-widths above your wrist crease, between the two tendons on the inside of your left forearm. Apply moderate pressure with your right thumb, holding for 5 minutes and breathing deeply. Repeat on the other arm.

Bubbling Spring, also known as Kidney-1, is on the bottom of your foot, at the center of the indentation below the ball of your foot. Press down with your thumb, hold for 30 seconds, relax for five, and again continue for five minutes.

For a deep, calming sleep, try to do 10 minutes of acupressure each night.

2. A traditional sedative: Jujube seed
In Chinese medicine it is thought that the heart houses the spirit. When the heart is weak, the spirit becomes restless and cannot properly rest at night, which you experience as insomnia or poor, unrefreshing sleep. The herbal remedy for this condition is the seed of the jujube date. A traditional sedative, jujube seed calms the spirit, strengthens the heart, and supports a good night’s sleep. Research has shown that this seed is rich in saponins, which promote relaxation and sleep while reducing irritability and anxiety. A typical dosage is 500 mg a day. Look for jujube seed in health food stores, online, and from acupuncturists and Chinese herbalists, where it is often combined in a formula with other natural herbs.

You might also try traditional herbal formulations that contain sleep-enhancing herbs. Anxiety/Sleepless formula contains jujube seed and other herbs to help diminish insomnia, anxiety, and mental exhaustion. Also, Emotional Tranquility tea is an herbal blend formulated to settle the mind and soothe the emotions, very useful for people suffering from stress and insomnia.

3. Empty your mind before sleep
Rumination, the emotion of the spleen network, concentrates energy within the brain. For example, when one continually ponders problems, the most frequent symptom experienced is insomnia. In this case, the energy stays in the brain at night instead of following its normal course of descending to the lower part of the body, which allows one to sleep peacefully. Try writing in a journal every night to get thoughts and worries out of your mind and down on paper. Another way is meditation, which has long been practiced to get beyond the thinking mind and into a deeper state of relaxation. Nearly all of my insomniac patients have benefited from my guided Stress-Release Meditation. (In fact, many people report falling asleep to this meditation as I narrate it on a CD, which I try to take as a compliment!)

4. Four Exercises that target insomnia
The famous Taoist physician Ge Hong, who lived during the Han dynasty in the third century, promoted this set of exercises as prevention and treatment of insomnia. Chinese studies indicate that these moves effectively improved the sleep quality of chronic insomniacs when practiced nightly for two to four weeks. Now you can try them.

(1) Lie on your back with your knees bent. Use your hands to pull your knees toward your chest and breathe naturally. Hold the position for one minute, then relax, straighten your legs, and rest your arms and hands at your sides.

(2) Remain on your back, inhale, and stretch both arms up above your head. As you exhale, bring your hands down and massage your body from your chest to your abdomen, then rest your hands at your sides. Repeat with every breath for one minute.

(3) Still on your back, make fists with both hands. Place them under your back as high as possible toward the shoulder blades, one fist on either side of your spine. Take three complete breaths, then reposition your fists downward one notch and repeat, moving downward every third breath until your fists are at waist level. Take five breaths here. Now put your fists on either side of the tailbone and take five more breaths.

(4) Lie face down and place your hands under your abdomen. Slowly inhale, filling your abdomen and chest, and feel the energy permeate your whole body. Then slowly exhale and visualize negativity leaving your body. Pause after each exhalation and relax every muscle. Do this for one minute.

5. A Taoist sleep position: The Deer Sleep Posture
Ge Hong recommended following the four anti-insomnia exercises above with this particular sleeping posture. Turn partway over to sleep on your right side. This is called the “deer sleep posture” because it looks similar to the position of a deer asleep in the wild. Bend your right arm at the elbow, with the palm facing up in front of your face. Rest your left arm with your elbow on hip, hand dropped down in front of your abdomen. The right leg is naturally straight, and the left knee is bent, resting on the mattress in front of your right thigh.

There are many more solutions to sleep issues and several other common conditions in my book Secrets of Self-Healing, which gives practical explanations about traditional Chinese medicine.

I hope you find the ways to sleep like a deer, a log, or a baby! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

—Dr. Mao (March, 08, 2010)


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

British team trek to measure CO2 in Arctic Ocean

OTTAWA (AFP) – Three British explorers set out on a skiing expedition on Monday across 500 kilometers (310 miles) of floating sea ice to investigate rising acid levels in the Arctic Ocean that threaten marine life.

The team led by polar explorer Ann Daniels headed northward from a remote staging area in Canada's far north to collect data and samples for the Catlin Arctic Survey, an international scientific mission.

Over the next two months, they are to haul sledges weighing up to 120 kilograms (264 pounds) over pressure ridges and rubble fields, and swim across leads of open water, as wind chills push temperatures down to minus 75 Celsius (minus 103 Fahrenheit).

Eventually, they will meet up with other scientists who will fly ahead to an "ice base."

Results from the expedition will be made available to scientists in Europe, Canada and the United States.

"The expedition focus is on ocean acidification which some scientists describe as the Earth's 'other carbon dioxide problem,'" said Daniels in a statement.

Although most international attention has focused on the effects of carbon dioxide emissions in pushing up temperatures, scientists believe dangerous levels of ocean acidity are a problem that also needs exploring.

But there is scare research on its effects.

This expedition is believed to be the first of its kind.

Some scientists believe that, based on current projections, the world's oceans' pH could reach levels by 2050 not seen for 20 million years.

And if this occurs it may become corrosive to shelled organisms such as lobsters, crabs and oysters. Rising acid levels in sea water reduces the availability of the carbonate mineral -- used by many marine organisms to form their shells.

Carbon dioxide is absorbed into cold water more easily than warmer seas, making the Arctic Ocean particularly vulnerable.

The Catlin expedition is the second in as many years. In 2009, survey director Pen Hadow led a mission to map out thinning Arctic sea ice as part of a larger study of global warming.

Source :

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


4 Simple Secrets to Feeling Happier Every Day

By Lucy Danziger, SELF Editor-in-Chief - Posted on Thu, Mar 04, 2010

Do you wish you could spend more of your days feeling fulfilled? Or wonder why you aren’t happier, despite all that’s good in your life? If you let slip-ups or criticisms nag you, replaying them as a negative inner monologue long after the snafu has passed, you are in fact like everyone else, at least most women I know.

I have news that really will put a smile on your face. You can significantly increase your level of happiness—without being granted a surprise inheritance or an elusive 25th hour in every day—by adopting new ways of thinking. You see, while about 50 percent of our happiness quotient is determined by what researchers call our natural “set point” for happiness, and 10 percent depends on the circumstances of our lives, a whopping 40 percent is entirely up to you—the way you react to events, cope with stress, choose to spend your time and more.

The fact that we can influence nearly half of our contentment is huge, and
realizing the role we can all play in boosting our joy spurred me to team up with SELF’s mental-health expert, Catherine Birndorf, M.D., to write our new book, The Nine Rooms of Happiness (Voice). What we’ve found: By changing your approach to certain situations, you can make your inner voice more positive, enjoy your passion (whether it be gardening, an active lifestyle or traveling) and find a sense of purpose which helps you be happier in each of the “rooms” of your emotional house. (We use the metaphor of your life as a house to allow you to see different areas of your life as rooms: The bedroom for romance, the office for work and money issues, the living room for friendships, etc.)

Just like anything else worthwhile—your health, your financial security—
improving your happiness is a matter of making tiny tweaks in your decision making that have big, long-term payoffs you will be thrilled with later. Make these 4 habits a regular part of your day to reap more fulfillment, today and every day.

1. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing

The airlines have it right when they tell you in case of emergency, put your own oxygen mask on before you help the person next to you. It’s not selfish, it’s self-preservation. The same is true when it comes to caring for all those around you in your daily life. Yes, it’s wonderful to be giving, especially with your time, but at a certain point you can give too much of yourself, and then it’s just depleting and you’re no good to anyone.

When you get to this point, you need to learn to say no to the next person who asks you to chair another school benefit. You can also ask for help from your spouse, your best pal or your child’s friend’s mother in sharing carpooling duties, for instance. You’ll have more opportunities to pursue your own interests and nurture facets of your personality that make you happier, and then you’ll be more of a giver when you have the energy again.

So whether it’s signing up for a local extension course, getting outside for a walk after dinner, taking a morning swim, reading on your porch or doing whatever else it is that turns you on and replenishes you, you’ll feel less overwhelmed by too many “have tos” with more “want tos” in your week. Think of it this way: You have to be strong to help others. Taking care of your inner self is as important as taking care of your outer self. Know your limits, and be happy to be healthy.

2. Now is the moment! Enjoy it!

I remember when I was a child, enjoying long, luxurious afternoons with pals in the playground while my mother and her friends watched us. We had hours to explore every inch of the place and it felt freeing. I think of those as perfect moments of my childhood. But when it came time to take my own kids to the playground, I was always rushing them to and fro. I thought to myself: What will they remember? Me saying “Hurry up!” on the way to the park.

My daughter, especially, loved to dillydally, and now I understand that for her, pausing on the street to stoop down and watch a caterpillar was more interesting than being at the swings. I had to slow down, too, and say: My memories of the playground may play like a movie on the screen in my mind, but her movie will be of this, the “fuzzy wuzzy” she helped to safety. My thinking had to change from "Get to the playground to have fun!" to "Have fun here, or wherever you may be." This is it. Now is the moment. Enjoy it! Connect. This could be another perfect moment, for her, if you let it be.

3. Find your “mouse hole!”

No matter how much of a people person you are, everyone needs some moments alone each day to recharge. (Think about it: Even your phone gets to recharge!) Time is the one gift you can give yourself each day to be happier and ward off a bad mood, and it doesn’t cost a thing (or require you to go anywhere). However, when you’re living with roommates or raising kids or inundated with more work than ever and fewer hours to do it in, claiming time and space to yourself can seem like an impossibility. Fortunately, you don’t need to jet off to a palm-tree-dotted island (though that would be nice) or even sleep in the guest room (also tempting sometimes) to get that precious time alone.

When my daughter was 3, she used to crawl into her “mouse hole,” the tiny space under the platform of the plastic slide in her room, and drag a picture book or stuffed animals in and play by herself. She told me, “You can’t come in; it’s a mouse hole and only I fit inside.” The wisdom was clear: Even a kid needs time and personal space to herself, to block out the world and think.

I generally find my time and space when I am swimming or jogging, away from it all. Think of where you feel most relaxed, whether it’s at a local coffeehouse, or even just folding laundry in an unhurried way. Find those peaceful sojourns, banish all the worries and think about the big picture of what makes you happy. The important thing is to try to figure out what that is and then make more time for it in your life, whether it’s being in nature, sharing experiences with the ones you love, or helping others find their emotional satisfaction.

Whatever it is, you’ll feel better just thinking about it. After this mini-break, I guarantee you’ll feel better and more grateful when you get back to the hustle and bustle of your emotional “house” and your busy life there.

4. Conflict can be OK!

This is something we all need to learn. When a friend is mad at you, or you at them (or you are not agreeing with a coworker about the best approach to a project), the hardest thing sometimes is to call the person up and talk about it. But once you do, you always feel better. Chances are, the thing you disagree over is minor, and you have more in common than not, but you need to discuss the situation to find out where you agree and where you don’t.

Call your pal and arrange to get together to talk. Tell her she means so much to you and you want to get beyond this stumbling block, and hear her out; then tell her your point of view. Rather than assign blame, let her know you’re sorry for the hurt you caused, or explain that you feel hurt.

Connecting, especially with friends, is important to your happiness long-term, studies show. While you don’t need to overlap completely to have a lot in common (and a lot of fun together), you do need to communicate and get past the little disagreements. Find the overlap and learn from each other, celebrate your differences and laugh about them, too. You can say to yourself: It’s not a case of either/or but both/and, since it’s not either we agree on everything or we can’t be friends. We can both be pals and disagree in one area. We can have conflict in one area, yet still be friends forever. Conflict is healthy. In fact it’s part of life.

Glean more happiness secrets at Lucy’s Blog at or by reading The Nine Rooms of Happiness by Lucy Danziger and Catherine Birndorf, M.D.



Growing low-oxygen zones in oceans worry scientists

By Les Blumenthal, McClatchy Newspapers Les Blumenthal, Mcclatchy Newspapers – Sun Mar 7,2010

WASHINGTON — Lower levels of oxygen in the Earth's oceans, particularly off the United States' Pacific Northwest coast, could be another sign of fundamental changes linked to global climate change, scientists say.

They warn that the oceans' complex undersea ecosystems and fragile food chains could be disrupted.

In some spots off Washington state and Oregon , the almost complete absence of oxygen has left piles of Dungeness crab carcasses littering the ocean floor, killed off 25-year-old sea stars, crippled colonies of sea anemones and produced mats of potentially noxious bacteria that thrive in such conditions.

Areas of hypoxia, or low oxygen, have long existed in the deep ocean. These areas — in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans — appear to be spreading, however, covering more square miles, creeping toward the surface and in some places, such as the Pacific Northwest , encroaching on the continental shelf within sight of the coastline.

"The depletion of oxygen levels in all three oceans is striking," said Gregory Johnson , an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle .

In some spots, such as off the Southern California coast, oxygen levels have dropped roughly 20 percent over the past 25 years. Elsewhere, scientists say, oxygen levels might have declined by one-third over 50 years.

"The real surprise is how this has become the new norm," said Jack Barth , an oceanography professor at Oregon State University . "We are seeing it year after year."

Barth and others say the changes are consistent with current climate-change models. Previous studies have found that the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

"If the Earth continues to warm, the expectation is we will have lower and lower oxygen levels," said Francis Chan , a marine researcher at Oregon State .

As ocean temperatures rise, the warmer water on the surface acts as a cap, which interferes with the natural circulation that normally allows deeper waters that are already oxygen-depleted to reach the surface. It's on the surface where ocean waters are recharged with oxygen from the air.

Commonly, ocean "dead zones" have been linked to agricultural runoff and other pollution coming down major rivers such as the Mississippi or the Columbia . One of the largest of the 400 or so ocean dead zones is in the Gulf of Mexico , near the mouth of the Mississippi .

However, scientists now say that some of these areas, including those off the Northwest, apparently are linked to broader changes in ocean oxygen levels.

The Pacific waters off Washington and Oregon face a double whammy as a result of ocean circulation.

Scientists have long known of a natural low-oxygen zone perched in the deeper water off the Northwest's continental shelf.

During the summer, northerly winds aided by the Earth's rotation drive surface water away from the shore. This action sucks oxygen-poor water to the surface in a process called upwelling.

Though the water that's pulled up from the depths is poor in oxygen, it's rich in nutrients, which fertilize phytoplankton. These microscopic organisms form the bottom of one of the richest ocean food chains in the world. As they die, however, they sink and start to decay. The decaying process uses oxygen, which depletes the oxygen levels even more.

Southerly winds reverse the process in what's known as down-welling.

Changes in the wind and ocean circulation since 2002 have disrupted what had been a delicate balance between upwelling and down-welling. Scientists now are discovering expanding low-oxygen zones near shore.

"It is consistent with models of global warming, but the time frame is too short to know whether it is a trend or a weather phenomenon," Johnson said.

Others were slightly more definitive, quicker to link the lower oxygen levels to global warming rather than to such weather phenomena as El Nino or the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a shift in the weather that occurs every 20 to 30 years in the northern oceans.

"It's a large disturbance in the ecosystem that could have huge biological changes," said Steve Bograd , an oceanographer at NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Southern California .

Bograd has been studying oxygen levels in the California Current, which runs along the West Coast from the Canadian border to Baja California and, some scientists think, eventually could be affected by climate change.

So far, the worst hypoxic zone off the Northwest coast was found in 2006. It covered nearly 1,200 square miles off Newport, Ore. , and according to Barth it was so close to shore you could hit it with a baseball. The zone covered 80 percent of the water column and lasted for an abnormally long four months.

Because of upwelling, some of the most fertile ocean areas in the world are found off Washington and Oregon . Similar upwelling occurs in only three other places, off the coast of Peru and Chile , in an area stretching from northern Africa to Portugal and along the Atlantic coast of South Africa and Namibia .

Scientists are unsure how low oxygen levels will affect the ocean ecosystem. Bottom-dwelling species could be at the greatest risk because they move slowly and might not be able to escape the lower oxygen levels. Most fish can swim out of danger. Some species, however, such as chinook salmon, may have to start swimming at shallower depths than they're used to. Whether the low oxygen zones will change salmon migration routes is unclear.

Some species, such as jellyfish, will like the lower-oxygen water. Jumbo squid, usually found off Mexico and Central America , can survive as oxygen levels decrease and now are found as far north as Alaska .

It's like an experiment," Chan said. "We are pulling some things out of the food web and we will have to see what happens. But if you pull enough things out, it could have a real impact."

Source :

Saturday, March 6, 2010



By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent – Thu Mar 4, 2:26 pm ET

OSLO (Reuters) – Large amounts of a powerful greenhouse gas are bubbling up from a long-frozen seabed north of Siberia, raising fears of far bigger leaks that could stoke global warming, scientists said.

It was unclear, however, if the Arctic emissions of methane gas were new or had been going on unnoticed for centuries -- since before the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century led to wide use of fossil fuels that are blamed for climate change.

The study said about 8 million tonnes of methane a year, equivalent to the annual total previously estimated from all of the world's oceans, were seeping from vast stores long trapped under permafrost below the seabed north of Russia.

"Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap," Natalia Shakhova, a scientist at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska, said in a statement. She co-led the study published in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

The experts measured levels of methane, a gas that can be released by rotting vegetation, in water and air at 5,000 sites on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf from 2003-08. In some places, methane was bubbling up from the seabed.

Previously, the sea floor had been considered an impermeable barrier sealing methane, Shakhova said. Current methane concentrations in the Arctic are the highest in 400,000 years.


"No one can answer this question," she said of whether the venting was caused by global warming or by natural factors. But a projected rise in temperatures could quicken the thaw.

"It's good that these emissions are documented. But you cannot say they're increasing," Martin Heimann, an expert at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany who wrote a separate article on methane in Science, told Reuters.

"These leaks could have been occurring all the time" since the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago, he said. He wrote that the release of 8 million tonnes of methane a year was "negligible" compared to global emissions of about 440 million tonnes.

Shakhova's study said there was an "urgent need" to monitor the region for possible future changes since permafrost traps vast amounts of methane, the second most common greenhouse gas from human activities after carbon dioxide.

Monitoring could resolve if the venting was "a steadily ongoing phenomenon or signals the start of a more massive release period," according to the scientists, based at U.S., Russian and Swedish research institutions.

The release of just a "small fraction of the methane held in (the) East Siberian Arctic Shelf sediments could trigger abrupt climate warming," they wrote.

The shelf has sometimes been above sea level during the earth's history. When submerged, temperatures rise by 12-17 degrees Celsius (22-31 F) since water is warmer than air. Over thousands of years, that may thaw submerged permafrost.

About 60 percent of methane now comes from human activities such as landfills, cattle rearing or rice paddies. Natural sources such as wetlands make up the rest, along with poorly understood sources such as the oceans, wildfires or termites.

Most studies about methane focus on permafrost on land. But the shelf below the Laptev, East Siberian and Russian part of the Chuckchi sea is three times the size of Siberia's wetlands.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

(For Reuters latest environment blogs, click on: