Dec 11, 2014 03:46 PM EST
Water at intermediate depths is observed to be warming up as seafloor methane released into the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate, a recent study found. The said warming is happening at such a point where deposits of carbon will start to melt and free methane into the water. These deposits of methane gas, frozen in layers underneath the seafloor, are beginning to melt, thus, releasing methane into sediments and the surrounding waters, according to the University of Washington research.
The findings of the paper which will be published in Geophysical Research Letters indicate that ocean warming could be leading to the release of powerful greenhouse gases.
University of Washington associate professor of oceanography and a co-author of the study Susan Hautala said that many studies in the past concentrated on the surface as most information resides there. But this level ended up being the perfect place in which the pattern could be detected.
Most 4 million tons of methane has been released over the past forty years because of hydrate decomposition. The source is hydrate composition off the coast of Washington. Researchers discovered that this release rate of methane gas from the ocean is roughly 500 times the rate at which methane is normally released from the ocean floor.
Evan Solomon, a UW assistant professor of oceanography, said, "We calculate that methane equivalent in volume to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is released every year off the Washington coast."
Solomon said that methane hydrates are a great source of carbon which may be freed should a change in temperature arise. He said that he realized the importance upon analyzing the quantities. The research is among the first to analyze the lower latitude edge.
Although the scientists believe that global warming will lead to the release of methane from gas hydrates around the world, they are currently focusing on methane deposits in the Arctic. When combined with cold temperatures and high ocean pressure, methane combines with water, forming a crystal called methane hydrate. There is a larger concentration of methane hydrates in the Pacific Northwest due to its ongoing geologic activity and biologically productive waters.
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