Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Warming Of Arctic Current Over 30 Years Triggers Release Of Methane Gas

Date:
August 16, 2009
Source:
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)
Summary:
The warming of an Arctic current over the last 30 years has triggered the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from methane hydrate stored in the sediment beneath the seabed. Scientists have found that more than 250 plumes of bubbles of methane gas are rising from the seabed of the West Spitsbergen continental margin in the Arctic.

Researchers in Germany have found that more than 250 plumes of bubbles of methane gas are rising from the seabed of the West Spitsbergen continental margin in the Arctic, in a depth range of 150 to 400 metres.
Credit: Image courtesy of National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

The warming of an Arctic current over the last 30 years has triggered the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from methane hydrate stored in the sediment beneath the seabed.

Related Articles


Scientists at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton working in collaboration with researchers from the University of Birmingham, Royal Holloway London and IFM-Geomar in Germany have found that more than 250 plumes of bubbles of methane gas are rising from the seabed of the West Spitsbergen continental margin in the Arctic, in a depth range of 150 to 400 metres.

Methane released from gas hydrate in submarine sediments has been identified in the past as an agent of climate change. The likelihood of methane being released in this way has been widely predicted.

The data were collected from the royal research ship RRS James Clark Ross, as part of the Natural Environment Research Council's International Polar Year Initiative. The bubble plumes were detected using sonar and then sampled with a water-bottle sampling system over a range of depths.

The results indicate that the warming of the northward-flowing West Spitsbergen current by 1° over the last thirty years has caused the release of methane by breaking down methane hydrate in the sediment beneath the seabed.

Professor Tim Minshull, Head of the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science based at that the National Oceanography Centre, says: "Our survey was designed to work out how much methane might be released by future ocean warming; we did not expect to discover such strong evidence that this process has already started."

Methane hydrate is an ice-like substance composed of water and methane which is stable in conditions of high pressure and low temperature. At present, methane hydrate is stable at water depths greater than 400 metres in the ocean off Spitsbergen. However, thirty years ago it was stable at water depths as shallow as 360 metres.

This is the first time that such behaviour in response to climate change has been observed in the modern period.

While most of the methane currently released from the seabed is dissolved in the seawater before it reaches the atmosphere, methane seeps are episodic and unpredictable and periods of more vigorous outflow of methane into the atmosphere are possible. Furthermore, methane dissolved in the seawater contributes to ocean acididfication.

Graham Westbrook Professor of Geophysics at the University of Birmingham, warns: "If this process becomes widespread along Arctic continental margins, tens of megatonnes of methane per year – equivalent to 5-10% of the total amount released globally by natural sources, could be released into the ocean."

The team is carrying out further investigations of the plumes; in particular they are keen to observe the behaviour of these gas seeps over time.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Westbrook, G.K. et al. Escape of methane gas from the seabed along the West Spitsbergen continental margin. Geophysical Research Letters, 2009; DOI: 10.1029/2009GL039191

Cite This Page:

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "Warming Of Arctic Current Over 30 Years Triggers Release Of Methane Gas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090814103231.htm>.
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). (2009, August 16). Warming Of Arctic Current Over 30 Years Triggers Release Of Methane Gas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090814103231.htm
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "Warming Of Arctic Current Over 30 Years Triggers Release Of Methane Gas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090814103231.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins