Sunday, January 21, 2018

Well, at Least One Catastrophic Climate Scenario Is Looking Less Likely

An aggregation of methane ice worms seen on a methane hydrate in the Gulf of Mexico. (Image Credit: NOAA) Click to Enlarge.
There’s been loads of media hype regarding the Arctic “methane bomb,” an idea that rising temperatures could cause a pulse of ancient methane, locked in permafrost and frozen hydrates on the ocean floor, to escape to the atmosphere, triggering catastrophic global warming.  Well, we have some positive news for you:  a new study finds little evidence to support this scenario playing out in at least one fast-warming part of the world.

The study, published this week in Science Advances, used a new radiocarbon analysis technique to parse out how much marine methane is from ancient sources versus more modern sources along a stretch of Alaska’s Beaufort Sea coastline. The authors found that ancient carbon—likely derived from methane hydrates and permafrost at the ocean floor—is indeed being released as methane into deep waters on this rapidly warming continental shelf. But those ancient sources don’t account for much of the methane near the surface, the stuff that could be making its way into the atmosphere.

The study didn’t directly investigate why, but the authors suspect seafloor methane could be getting broken down by ocean microbes before reaching surface waters, according to a press release.

Read more at Well, at Least One Catastrophic Climate Scenario Is Looking Less Likely

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