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)
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