Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Killer methane burps caused massive global warming

15.09.2005


Researchers have uncovered new evidence of a sudden, fatal dose of global warming 180 million years ago during the time of the dinosaurs. The scientists’ findings, published in Nature, 14 September, could provide vital clues about the climate change we are experiencing today.



PhD student Dave Kemp, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, and supervisors Drs. Angela Coe and Anthony Cohen from the Open University Department of Earth Sciences, along with Dr. Lorenz Schwark of the University of Cologne, discovered evidence suggesting that vast amounts of methane gas were released to the atmosphere in three massive ‘methane burps’ or pulses. The addition of methane, a greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere had a severe impact on the environment, warming Earth about 10°C, and resulting in the extinction of a large number of species on land and in the oceans.

Dr Angela Coe says: “We’ve known about this event for a few years through earlier work by our team and others, but there’s been a great deal of uncertainty about its precise size, duration, and underlying cause. What our present study shows is that this methane release was not just one event, but 3 consecutive pulses that occurred within a 60,000 year interval. Importantly, our data demonstrate that each individual pulse was very rapid. Also, whilst the methane release was very quick, we’ve found that the recovery took much longer, occurring over a few hundred thousand years.”


The methane came from gas hydrate, a frozen mixture of water and methane found in huge quantities on the seabed. This hydrate suddenly melted, allowing the methane to escape. The OU researchers based their findings on geochemical analyses of mudrocks that are preserved along the Yorkshire coast near Whitby, UK, and date from the Jurassic Period of geological time.

Dave Kemp says: “The methane was released because slight wobbles in the Earth’s orbit periodically bring our planet closer to the Sun, warming the oceans sufficiently to melt the vast reserves of hydrate. We believe that this effect was compounded by volcanic emissions of other greenhouse gases. After the methane was released into the atmosphere from the seabed it reacted rapidly with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is also a powerful greenhouse gas that persists in the atmosphere for many hundreds of years, and it was this gas which caused such a massive global warming effect”.

Dr Anthony Cohen adds: “One of the most important aspects of the study is that it provides an accurate timescale for how the Earth, and life, reacted to a sudden increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Today we are releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels. It is possible that the rate at which carbon dioxide is being added to the atmosphere now actually outstrips the rate at which it was added 180 million years ago. Given that the effects were so devastating then, it is extremely important to understand the details of past events in order to better comprehend present-day climate change. With this information, we are better informed about what action needs to be taken to mitigate or avoid some of the potential detrimental future effects.

Owen Gaffney | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nerc.ac.uk

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction
26.07.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds
25.07.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Programming cells with computer-like logic

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period

27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>