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 In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>