Methane, frozen for thousands of years, is being released by warming water temperatures, says a new study.
University of Washington research over the past ten years, monitoring 168 bubble plumes, has noted a disproportionate number at a depth that is critical for the stability of the frozen methane hydrates.
A previous study done by UW found the ocean in that area was warming at a depth of about one-third of a mile, caused by water from a global hot spot off the coast of Siberia that followed the ocean currents across the Pacific Ocean to the region.
The researchers say the methane release is confirming the earlier study of warming water temperatures, which predicted the warming would destabilize the methane deposits on the Cascadia subduction zone, that runs from northern California to Vancouver Island.
The some-what good news is that most of the newly-released methane seems to be consumed on its way to the surface. Marine microbes take the methane and convert into carbon dioxide that eventually makes its way along the coast and into coastal waterways.
Professor Johnson added, “Current environmental changes in Washington and Oregon are already impacting local biology and fisheries, and these changes would be amplified by the further release of methane.”
The findings from the new study will appear in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.