Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Methane hydrates and global warming

Date:
January 2, 2014
Source:
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)
Summary:
Off the coast of Svalbard methane gas flares originating from gas hydrate deposits at depth of several hundred meters have been observed regularly. A new study shows that the observed outgassing is most likely caused by natural processes and can not be attributed to global warming.

This image shows carbonate crusts at the observing site HYBIS at 385 meters water depth. For comparison: the white organisms in the right part of the picture have a length of about 15 cm. Carbonates of this size require several 100 years to build-up.
Credit: GEOMAR

Off the coast of Svalbard methane gas flares originating from gas hydrate deposits at depth of several hundred metres have been observed regularly. A new study conducted by an international team under the leadership of scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and MARUM -- Center for Marine Environmental Sciences in Bremen shows, that the observed outgassing is most likely caused by natural processes and can not be attributed to global warming.

Related Articles


The study has been recently published in the scientific journal Science.

Methane hydrates are fragile. At the sea floor the ice-like solid fuel composed of water and methane is only stable at high pressure and low temperature. In some areas, for instance in the North Atlantic off the coast of Svalbard, scientists have detected gas flares regularly. The reasons for their occurrence were still unclear but one hypothesis was that global warming might cause the dissolution of gas hydrates. Over the past years, comprehensive investigations by an international team of researchers led by scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel have now shown that it is very likely that the gas flares are caused by natural processes.

"In 2008, when we observed the outgassing of methane for the first time, we were alarmed," reports Professor Christian Berndt, lead author of the study from GEOMAR. "The gas originates from depths where the hydrates should normally be stable. But we knew that a relatively small warming might melt the hydrates," Berndt explains. Thus, the key question was to find out what causes the outgassing. Step by step, several expeditions that took place in the following years helped to solve the mystery.

One of the most obvious assumptions was that the increasing global warming has already extended into these regions of the North Atlantic. However, the investigations partly carried out with the German research submersible JAGO, pointed clearly to natural causes. "On one hand, we have found that the seasonal variations in temperature in this region are sufficient to push the stability zone of gas hydrates more than a kilometre up and down the slope," Professor Berndt explains. "Additionally, we discovered carbonate structures in the vicinity of methane seeps at the seafloor," Dr. Tom Feseker from MARUM adds. "These are clear indicators that the outgassing likely takes place over very long time periods, presumably for several thousand years," Feseker continues.

Does this mean that global warming has no impact on potential methane release from the seafloor off Svalbard? Certainly not, because over long periods of time the deep ocean will also warm up and in particular the polar regions are affected. Here, enormous amounts of methane hydrate are stored in the ocean floor. "As a powerful greenhouse gas methane represents a particular risk for our climate. A release of large amounts of the gas would further accelerate global warming," says Prof. Berndt. "Therefore, it is necessary to continue long-term monitoring, particularly in such critical regions as off Svalbard," the Geophysicist concludes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. Berndt, T. Feseker, T. Treude, S. Krastel, V. Liebetrau, H. Niemann, V. J. Bertics, I. Dumke, K. Dünnbier, B. Ferré, C. Graves, F. Gross, K. Hissmann, V. Hühnerbach, S. Krause, K. Lieser, J. Schauer, L. Steinle. Temporal Constraints on Hydrate-Controlled Methane Seepage off Svalbard. Science, 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1246298

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). "Methane hydrates and global warming." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140102142008.htm>.
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). (2014, January 2). Methane hydrates and global warming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140102142008.htm
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR). "Methane hydrates and global warming." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140102142008.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) — Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) — As falling oil prices boost Americans' spending power, the U.S. government is also gaining flexibility from savings on oil. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) — A scuba diving Santa Claus explored the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dive shop owner Spencer Slate makes the dive each year to help raise money for charity. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
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