Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Understanding methane's seabed escape

21.09.2011
A shipboard expedition off Norway, to determine how methane escapes from beneath the Arctic seabed, has discovered widespread pockets of the gas and numerous channels that allow it to reach the seafloor.

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!
Further information:
http://www.noc.ac.uk

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline
16.10.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht WSU researchers document one of planet's largest volcanic eruptions
12.10.2017 | Washington State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>