mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Methane Abounds off US Atlantic Coast

Researchers have found more than 500 methane vents on the seafloor off the Atlantic coast of the United States. The sheer number of these so-called “seep areas” has taken scientists by surprise—before this new research, surveys had found just three similar seeps in the region. The BBC reports:

Previous surveys along the Atlantic seaboard have shown only three seep areas beyond the edge of the US continental shelf.

In an area between North Carolina and Massachusetts, they have now found at least 570 seeps at varying depths between 50m and 1,700m. […] The scientists say there could be about 30,000 of these hidden methane vents worldwide.

“The methane is dissolving into the ocean at depths of hundreds of metres and being oxidised to CO2,” said [Prof Adam Skarke from Mississippi State University, who led the study]. “But it is important to say we simply don’t have any evidence in this paper to suggest that any carbon coming from these seeps is entering the atmosphere.”

Many of these vents are pumping out methane at depths which are conducive to the formation of methane hydrates, also called fire ice. In this form, the gas is trapped in a lattice of ice, though it can be released if heated or brought up to the surface. In fact, there’s a nascent industry emerging intent on bringing fire ice out of the water to do just that: unlock the methane within to be harnessed as an energy source. These new findings off the eastern U.S. coast could attract some of those firms’ attention. The study’s lead author Professor Adam Skarke cautioned that “[t]here is no evidence to say that these clathrates are related to conventional gas reservoirs, so there is no evidence to say they are a recoverable resource,” but as fracking has shown, new technologies can make energy booms out of unconventional resources.

Putting that question aside, the discovery of these underwater methane seeps underscores just how little we understand about our climate. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, and while the study didn’t find any indication that these leaks were finding their way into our planet’s atmosphere, that remains a key concern. Yes, our climate is changing, and yes, humans are playing a big part in that change, but time and time again we’re reminded of how little we know beyond those basic facts.

Features Icon
show comments
  • lord acton

    It’s almost like the whole universe is made up of clouds of gas…..

  • Boritz

    “But it is important to say we simply don’t have any evidence in this paper to suggest that any carbon coming from these seeps is entering the atmosphere.”

    It is also important to remember that there has been no evidence of global warming for 17 years though based on the reporting you can hardly blame the average person for not knowing that or considering it unimportant if they do.

  • Rick Johnson

    It is a basic fact that our climate is changing, but it is pure assertion on your part, with no credible evidence to back it, that humans are playing an role in that change.

    That claim is likely to be Green BS.

    • stanbrown

      It’s like the IPCC’s high confidence. They can’t explain why it warmed from 1910-1940 or cooled from 1940-1975 or paused after 1998. But they are extremely sure of why it warmed from 1975 to 1998 and that catastrophe awaits the world 100 years from now.

      The more people say stupid things, the more likely they are stupid (or dishonest). When people can’t explain 3/4 of the climate trends for the last century, they don’t have a clue what the hell is going on. To claim confidence that they do is utter foolishness.

  • Refuz Tosay

    because of the obvious propaganda – “and yes, humans are playing a big part in that change” – I intend to never visit your site AGAIN. I used to enjoy reading the articles. now cant trust you. your claim is unsupported by evidence – the planet hasn’t grown any hotter in the last 15 years despite your models – thus the marketing re-branding from global warming to climate change. so now your positioning is; “climate change” so no matter what happens – hotter or colder, calmer or more active – you can claim you predicted the future. your hoax is losing ground every day and your dream of global taxation collected by the United Nations fades with it – good bye. PS; I hope the editors of the site understand how letting eco maggots spout their drivel has negative consequences for readership…just one foul sentence is ruining your credibility and visitors…

  • CaliforniaStark

    “Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas.”

    Please explain the basis of this statement. Methane remains in the atmosphere on average only about 12 years. Compare that with the over 100-year atmospheric life of carbon dioxide or nitric oxide.

    Probably because of its short life span, methane levels are not increasing in the atmosphere — unlike carbon dioxide In fact, the recently proposed Obama’s Climate Action Plan expressly states that methane levels have decreased 11% since 1990.

    It is hard understand how a gas that last little over a decade, and is not accumulating in the atmosphere, can be referred to as potent.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service