Active Leak of Sea-bed Methane Discovered in Antarctica
The first active leak of sea-bed methane in Antarctica has been confirmed by a team of researchers with Oregon State University. The researchers describe in their paper their trip to Cinder Cones located at McMurdo Sound situated in the Ross Sea, and why they believe it signals very serious repercussions for global warming, in the paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Beneath the ocean floor off the coast of Antarctica, scientists believe that there is a large amount of methane sealed. The algae decaying beneath the seafloor sediment is believed to be the cause of it. It has likely been there for a very long time. Scientists worry that the methane could be released if the waters above it were to warm as the planet has warmed. They fear that the planet would warm beyond our means to survive, as there would be so much methane released if that were to occur, that there would be no recovering.
The researchers said that the reason for the leak at the Cinder Cones is a mystery because it is not in a part of the ocean that has been warming. The reaction of undersea microbes is much more concerning. It has been shown in prior researches that the microbes undersea prevent the methane from making its way to the surface and into the atmosphere as the microbes move in and eat it when other parts of the seafloor begin releasing methane.
They note that the methane-eating microbes have not moved into Cinder Cones, though it has has been leaking for at least five years. Therefore, the methane is almost certainly making its way into the atmosphere. They point out the reason this is so concerning because it suggests that microbes may not move into the area quickly enough to prevent massive amounts of the gas from making its way into the atmosphere if other parts of the seafloor in Antarctica begin to seep methane due to warming.
Researchers say that it could take as long as five more years for microbes to move in, and they plan to continue monitoring seepage at Cinder Cones. However, as the pandemic has put their plans on hold, that research will have to wait.