The Arctic is highly vulnerable to climate change, but the environmental, economic, and societal impacts of climate change may be global rather than just regional. Some scientists currently believe that destabilizing Arctic gas hydrates, both onshore and offshore, could significantly accentuate global warming. Justification of this belief needs a more thorough understanding of the permafrost and sediment hydrate distribution.
Many scientists currently believe that hydrates are extensive and by far the greatest potential source of methane in the Arctic. However, scientists have little understanding of their stability, particularly in relation to permafrost melt. Unlike their deep-water equivalents, which are stabilized by hydrostatic pressure, polar hydrates are regulated by temperature; low temperatures are critical to their stability. The hydrates in the shallow seas that dominate the Arctic Ocean are highly vulnerable to warming because the protective layer of methane-oxidizing and heat-distributing water is very thin over the vast shelf area.