Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Understanding methane's seabed escape

Date:
September 20, 2011
Source:
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)
Summary:
A shipboard expedition off Norway to determine how methane escapes from beneath the Arctic seabed has discovered widespread pockets of the gas and numerous channels that allow it to reach the seafloor.

Robot carrying seismic recorder is launched towards the seabed.
Credit: Image courtesy of National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)

A shipboard expedition off Norway, to determine how methane escapes from beneath the Arctic seabed, has discovered widespread pockets of the gas and numerous channels that allow it to reach the seafloor.

Methane is a powerful "greenhouse" gas and the research, carried out over the past week aboard the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross, will improve understanding of its origins in this area, its routes to the sea floor and how the amount of gas escaping might increase as the ocean warms. This could have important implications for global climate change and ocean acidification.

At the high pressures and low temperatures which are found at the bottom of the deep ocean, methane gas and water combine to form a solid, crystalline substance -- methane hydrate. It is very widespread in the parts of the deep ocean nearest to the continents. If the ocean warms, the hydrate can become unstable and methane gas is unlocked and can make its way into the ocean, forming plumes of bubbles.

A research cruise to the same area in 2008, also aboard RRS James Clark Ross, discovered numerous such plumes, as well as evidence for the presence of gas and the movement of fluids beneath the seabed. What was unclear though was how the gas was escaping into the ocean.

The current expedition is led by the University of Southampton's Professor Tim Minshull, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. The shipboard team -- which includes scientists from the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, its French counterpart, the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea (Ifremer) and the University of Tromsoe in Norway -- used a range of new technologies to probe the seabed beneath areas where methane gas was found to be escaping, due partly to recent warming of the ocean.

Ifremer's SYSIF sonar system produced detailed images reaching 100 to 200 metres beneath the seafloor, which show how gas is in some places trapped and in some places is travelling upwards through narrow fractures and pipes to the seafloor. A seismic system towed across the sea surface provided images of deeper gas pockets beyond the reach of the towed sonar.

Professor Minshull, who is Head of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton, said: "Methane gas escaping from the Arctic seabed might make an important contribution to global climate change, but we need to understand the origin of this gas and its escape route to work out how the amount of gas escaping might change as the ocean warms. We now have very clear images of the gas escape routes and also of many places where gas is trapped and not yet escaping."

Some of the team will return next summer to work with an electromagnetic sounding system that will allow better estimates to be made of the amount of methane stored beneath the seabed in this sensitive area.

The work forms part of an international effort involving scientists in Britain, France, Germany and Norway that has brought research vessels to the same small area every year since 2008, including two vessels in 2011. The expedition was one of two in this area this year funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.


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.


Cite This Page:

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "Understanding methane's seabed escape." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919113844.htm>.
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). (2011, September 20). Understanding methane's seabed escape. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919113844.htm
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "Understanding methane's seabed escape." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919113844.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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