Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Domes of frozen methane may be warning signs for new blow-outs

06.06.2017

The results are published in PNAS.

"Every year we go back to the dome area with our research vessel, and every year I am anxious to see if one of these domes has become a crater," says lead author of the study Pavel Serov, PhD candidate at CAGE at UiT The Arctic University of Norway.


500m wide and 10m high, the methane domes on the Arctic Ocean floor are containing huge amounts of methane. Illustration: Pavel Serov/CAGE

Credit: Pavel Serov/CAGE

These domes are the present-day analogue to what scientists think preceded the craters found in the near-by area, which were recently reported in Science. The craters were formed as the ice sheet retreated from the Barents Sea during the deglaciation some 12.000 years ago.

At the time, 2km thick ice-cover loaded what now is the ocean floor with heavy weight. Under the ice sheet the methane became stored as hydrate, a solid form of frozen methane.

"We believe that one step before the craters are created, you get these domes. They are mounds of hydrates, technically we call them gas hydrate pingos. They are hydrate and methane saturated relics of the last ice-age. They haven't collapsed yet. And the reason is a matter of narrow margins" states Serov.

20 meters from the brink of collapse

The dome area is situated on the Arctic Ocean floor just north of the craters. It is deeper, but not by much. The domes are found some 20 meters deeper. Essentially the height of the Buckingham Palace keeps these methane domes from blowing out the gas and becoming craters.

"Hydrates are stable in low temperatures and under high pressure. So, the pressure of 390 meters of water above is presently keeping them stabilised. But the methane is bubbling from these domes. This is actually one of the most active methane seep sites that we have mapped in the Arctic Ocean. Some of these methane flares extend almost to the sea surface" says Serov.

He is reluctant to speculate as to how much methane may be released into the ocean should the domes collapse entirely and abruptly. It is not possible to predict when it may happen either. But every sediment core collected in the area is full of hydrates.

This is actually the first time that domes such as these have been found outside of the permafrost areas.

More stable than in permafrost

However unstable these domes on the Arctic Ocean floor may be, they are still more stable than the pingos found in sub- sea permafrost in Canadian and Russian Arctic.

"The gas hydrate pingos in permafrost are formed because of the low temperatures. But the water-depth that supports gas hydrates in sub-sea permafrost is only 40 to 50 meters. There is no significant pressure there to keep them in check. Sub-seabed permafrost is deteriorating constantly and quickly" notes Serov.

Even though they are more stable than the permafrost pingos, the Barents Sea domes are on the limit of their existence.

"A relatively small change in the water temperature can destabilise these hydrates fairly quickly. We were actually very lucky to observe them at this point. And we will probably be able to observe significant changes to these domes during our lifetime."

Media Contact

Pavel Serov
pavel.russerov@uit.no
479-986-7350

 @CAGE_COE

Pavel Serov | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uit.no

Further reports about: Arctic Arctic Ocean Barents Sea CAGE Hydrate craters ice sheet ocean floor warning signs

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered
18.01.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht A close-up look at an uncommon underwater eruption
11.01.2018 | Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>