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First active sea-bed methane leak discovered

Posted on Thursday, 23 July, 2020 | Comment icon 16 comments

Antarctica is home to a quarter of the world's marine methane. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Jason Auch
Scientists have identified what is believed to be the first example of methane leaking from the sea floor.
Discovered by a team of researchers at Oregon State University, the leak is situated near the Cinder Cones at McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

Global warming is typically blamed on greenhouse gases produced by human activity such as industrial pollution and car exhaust fumes, however there are also believed to be large quantities of methane locked away beneath the sea floor - the result of algae decaying beneath the sediment.

The fear is that if the oceans warm up enough, this trapped methane could be released, producing a runaway warming effect that would be impossible to stop or reverse.
In this particular case however, the methane leak is not situated in a region of the ocean that has experienced this warming effect, leaving the reason for the phenomenon something of a mystery.

One of the more unsettling things about the find is that, under normal circumstances, when methane begins to seep through from the sea floor, microbes move in and consume it, which prevents it from ultimately reaching the surface and making its way into the atmosphere.

In this case however, for some unknown reason, there is no sign of these microbes.

"The methane cycle is absolutely something that we as a society need to be concerned about," study leader Andrew Thurber from Oregon State University told The Guardian.

"I find it incredibly concerning."

Source: Phys.org | Comments (16)

Tags: Methane

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #7 Posted by Essan on 23 July, 2020, 7:17
Some more info on methane clathrate: https://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-1/ocean-chemistry/climate-change-and-methane-hydrates/ https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/methane-hydrate
Comment icon #8 Posted by seanjo on 23 July, 2020, 14:28
At 15000 psi (pressure at the deepest part of the ocean) in -0.8 deg C (the temperature at the bottom of the antarctic ocean), methane is a gas. http://www.peacesoftware.de/einigewerte/methan_e.html
Comment icon #9 Posted by seanjo on 23 July, 2020, 14:30
So basically it's methane trapped in ice under pressure that is released when the ice melts.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Doug1029 on 23 July, 2020, 15:08
Now go 300 feet deeper, underneath tons of sea-floor mud. You might find this educational. https://geology.com/articles/methane-hydrates/ Doug
Comment icon #11 Posted by seanjo on 23 July, 2020, 15:30
And how is sea temperature going to affect that?
Comment icon #12 Posted by Doug1029 on 23 July, 2020, 15:35
There's a phase chart in the article that explains that nicely.  Increasing temps melt the clathrate, producing methane gas which eventually bubbles to the surface. Methane blowouts are nothing new.  This one in Antarctica sounds like it has been around for a long time and that it was only recently discovered.  If that's the case, the ecosystem has already adapted to it so we don't need to worry.  The big question is how many more of these can the climate take? Doug
Comment icon #13 Posted by Jon the frog on 23 July, 2020, 16:18
Japanese are starting to excavate solid methane from the sea bed in the sea of Japan. They call it methane hydrate or methane clathrate : https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Methane_clathrate
Comment icon #14 Posted by TripGun on 23 July, 2020, 19:13
Long suspected in mysterious sinking of ships in certain triangles. Good to see it is a natural phenomenon but still not a welcome one.
Comment icon #15 Posted by qxcontinuum on 24 July, 2020, 3:48
Well then harvest the damn thing. We need methane gas. The co2 resulted can feed trees if all the nations like Ireland and Scotland would decide to replant trees rather than keeping vaste lands the quality of air will increase. 
Comment icon #16 Posted by Poncho_Peanatus on 27 July, 2020, 23:18
more allarmist wooo woooo

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