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.
Mike Douglas | EurekAlert!
Monitoring lava lake levels in Congo volcano
16.05.2018 | Seismological Society of America
Ice stream draining Greenland Ice Sheet sensitive to changes over past 45,000 years
14.05.2018 | Oregon State University
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.
Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...
A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.
Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.05.2018 | Information Technology
18.05.2018 | Information Technology