Large scale release of methane from clathrates has been associated with very rapid temperature rises and mass extinctions of species in the pre-historic past - Permian-Triassic extinction event and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
The story linked to below shows that it is not just “natural” releases that deserve attention because apparently there are large scale leaks from the global oil and gas processing infrastructure that have the same warming power of the emissions from over half of the coal plants in the United States. Because of methane’s lower residence time in the atmosphere, aggressively reining in emissions now would mean that far less of the gas would be warming the earth in a decade or so. Fixing the leaks would be a valuable “low hanging fruit” to get on with NOW!
click on this link to the New York Times story
This picture uses an Infra-red camera to show an “invisible” leak form a gas holder
In routine operations, great yet invisible plumes of gas enter the atmosphere when new wells are activated, old wells are invigorated to boost gas flows and wells are purged of fluids by letting out cough-like bursts of gas.