Large Amounts of Methane Discovered
Seeping from Atlantic Sea Bed
"Scientists have discovered methane gas bubbling from the sea floor in an unexpected place: off the East Coast of the United States where the continental shelf meets the deeper Atlantic Ocean.
“This is a large amount of methane seepage in an area we didn’t expect. That raises new questions for us.”
The methane is emanating from at least 570 locations, called seeps, from near Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the Georges Bank southeast of Nantucket, Mass. While the seepage is widespread, the researchers estimated that the amount of gas was tiny compared with the amount released from all sources each year. In a paper published online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, the scientists, including Adam Skarke of Mississippi State University and Carolyn Ruppel of the United States Geological Survey, reported evidence that the seepage had been going on for at least 1,000 years.
Methane is a potent, if relatively short-lived, greenhouse gas, so the discovery should aid the study of an issue of concern to climate scientists: the potential for the release of huge stores of methane on land and under the seas as warming of the atmosphere and oceans continues.
“It highlights a really key area where we can test some of the more radical hypotheses about climate change,” said John Kessler, a professor at the University of Rochester who was not involved in the research."