Over 500 gas plumes found to be bubbling up in the ocean along the eastern US coast

Aug 25, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
Methane streaming from the seafloor at ~425 meters (1400 ft) water depth offshore Virginia. Credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition.

(Phys.org) —A small team of researchers in the U.S. has discovered the presence of 570 bubble plumes along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. between North Carolina and Massachusetts—the plumes are believed to be methane seeps. In their paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the team describes their study of the seafloor and what the discovery of the plumes may mean for global warming.

The bubble showed up on sonar scans conducted by the team over several outings during the period 2011 to 2013. Upon their discovery, the team took a closer look at several of the plume sources—some were surrounded by carbonate rock, which would have taken thousands of years to build up, indicting the plumes have been emitting gas for roughly the same length of time. Other plume sources, on the other hand, were not surrounded by such buildups and were located in more shallow areas, indicating they began emitting gas much more recently. It's this second type that is of concern. They researchers believe it's possible that a warmer ocean has caused crystallized hydrates to melt, releasing the methane they hold. That of course suggests that the bubbles themselves are filled with methane—a greenhouse gas.

Methane is known to have been trapped on the seafloor off the east coast of the U.S. after the most recent ice age due to lower sea levels exposing the sea floor. Scientists believe during that last , the area was covered by wetlands, which of course are known to produce methane as plants die. As the ice melted, and seawater covered the area, the methane became trapped by crystallized hydrates because of the chilly temperatures. As the ocean warms, that process is reversed, allowing methane to escape, seeping out as bubbles in a plume. Most of those bubble don't make it to the surface of course, they dissolve into the seawater that surrounds them—but that process leads to more carbon dioxide in the water, making it more acidic, which can kill animal and plant life.

Methane seeping from near a mound covered with deep-sea mussels at ~1400 m (4600 ft) water depth just south of Norfolk Canyon, offshore Virginia. Credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition.

It's still not known for sure what exactly is in the bubbles, they've yet to be analyzed, but the researchers are almost certain it's mostly . If that is the case, and if it turns out many of the plumes are new, meaning they are the result of ocean warming, scientists might have to tinker with models and theories that attempt to describe the impact of on both the sea, and the atmosphere.

Explore further: Researchers find significant amount of methane escaping East Siberian Arctic Shelf

More information: Widespread methane leakage from the sea floor on the northern US Atlantic margin, Nature Geoscience (2014) DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2232

Abstract
Methane emissions from the sea floor affect methane inputs into the atmosphere1, ocean acidification and de-oxygenation2, 3, the distribution of chemosynthetic communities and energy resources. Global methane flux from seabed cold seeps has only been estimated for continental shelves4, at 8 to 65 Tg CH4 yr−1, yet other parts of marine continental margins are also emitting methane. The US Atlantic margin has not been considered an area of widespread seepage, with only three methane seeps recognized seaward of the shelf break. However, massive upper-slope seepage related to gas hydrate degradation has been predicted for the southern part of this margin5, even though this process has previously only been recognized in the Arctic2, 6, 7. Here we use multibeam water-column backscatter data that cover 94,000 km2 of sea floor to identify about 570 gas plumes at water depths between 50 and 1,700 m between Cape Hatteras and Georges Bank on the northern US Atlantic passive margin. About 440 seeps originate at water depths that bracket the updip limit for methane hydrate stability. Contemporary upper-slope seepage there may be triggered by ongoing warming of intermediate waters, but authigenic carbonates observed imply that emissions have continued for more than 1,000 years at some seeps. Extrapolating the upper-slope seep density on this margin to the global passive margin system, we suggest that tens of thousands of seeps could be discoverable.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Methane hydrates and global warming

Jan 02, 2014

Methane hydrates are fragile. At the sea floor the ice-like solid fuel composed of water and methane is only stable at high pressure and low temperature. In some areas, for instance in the North Atlantic ...

Understanding methane's seabed escape

Sep 19, 2011

A shipboard expedition off Norway, to determine how methane escapes from beneath the Arctic seabed, has discovered widespread pockets of the gas and numerous channels that allow it to reach the seafloor.

Babbling brooks adding to climate change?

May 26, 2014

(Phys.org) —Studying stream bubbles isn't exactly a walk in the park. What, with the mud and ticks, the long days hiking and swimming through mucky streams, the sun exposure and scratching brush.

Recommended for you

NASA image: Agricultural fires in the Ukraine

8 minutes ago

Numerous fires (marked with red dots) are burning in Eastern Europe, likely as a result of regional agricultural practices. The body of water at the lower left of this true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging ...

NASA marks Polo for a hurricane

48 minutes ago

Hurricane Polo still appears rounded in imagery from NOAA's GOES-West satellite, but forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect that to change.

NASA sees Hurricane Edouard enter cooler waters

49 minutes ago

NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission or TRMM satellite and Aqua satellite gathered data on Hurricane Edouard's rainfall, clouds and waning power is it continued moving northward in the Atlantic into ...

First eyewitness accounts of mystery volcanic eruption

3 hours ago

New light has been shed on one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in the last 500 years—the so-called 'Unknown eruption'—thanks to an unusual collaboration between a historian and a team of earth scientists at the University ...

User comments : 24

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (5) Aug 25, 2014
In related news:

"Coal Oil Point, Santa Barbara... The nonmethane hydrocarbon emission rate from the gas seepage is 35±7 td−1 and a large source of air pollution in Santa Barbara County. Our estimate is equal to twice the emission rate from all the on-road vehicle traffic in the county. Our estimated methane emission rate for the Coal Oil Point seeps (80±12 td−1) is 4 times higher than previous estimates... An exception is the seepage field that once existed near offshore oil platform Holly. A reduction in seepage within a 1 km radius around this offshore platform is correlated with reduced reservoir pressure beneath the natural seeps due to oil production. Our findings suggest that global emissions of methane from natural marine seepage have been underestimated and may be decreasing because of oil production."

-So in order to reduce Atlantic emissions we need to tap it and burn it. Questions? Comments?
strangedays
4.5 / 5 (2) Aug 25, 2014
So in order to reduce emissions we need to tap it and burn it. Questions? Comments?


Would there not be an equation in there that we need to run - in order to more fully understand this situation? If we are extracting oil - which is reducing the seepage of hydrocarbons - but then we are burning that oil - and producing emissions - then we need to quantify all of those variables. Does that sound right?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (4) Aug 25, 2014
So in order to reduce emissions we need to tap it and burn it. Questions? Comments?


Would there not be an equation in there that we need to run - in order to more fully understand this situation? If we are extracting oil - which is reducing the seepage of hydrocarbons - but then we are burning that oil - and producing emissions - then we need to quantify all of those variables. Does that sound right?
Well if we consume it rather than letting it vent we can sequester the carbon. I am sure this is on the presidents mind.

"Obama Opens East Coast To Oil Exploration For First Time In Decades Amid Wildlife Concerns
JASON DEAREN AP 07/18/14 12:16 PM ET
ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Obama administration is reopening the Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil and gas exploration, approving seismic surveys using sonic cannons that can pinpoint energy deposits deep beneath the ocean floor."
Bob Osaka
5 / 5 (3) Aug 25, 2014
Methane hydrate or clathrate has been found almost everywhere in oceans at depths greater than 500m. These newly discovered sites vary in depth from <425m to >1,700m. None of the methane is escaping into the atmosphere but the venting is causing localized CO2 saturation of the sea water.
The studies suggest global warming models should be tweaked or tinkered with, just one more variable to be factored in. How different is the behavior of gas saturated sea water compared to unsaturated? Remember? Add it to the massive amounts of methane recently discovered venting directly into the atmosphere from thawed bogs that were previously permafrost. At what point do models reach a runaway cascade? If all of the ocean's clathrate were to diffuse into the atmosphere the Earth may begin to compete with Venus for the title of who's the hottest.
Whydening Gyre
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 25, 2014
In related news:

"Coal Oil Point, Santa Barbara... may be decreasing because of oil production."

-So in order to reduce Atlantic emissions we need to tap it and burn it. Questions? Comments?

Otto, you devious contrarian, you...:-)
baudrunner
3 / 5 (1) Aug 25, 2014
So in order to reduce Atlantic emissions we need to tap it and burn it. Questions? Comments?
WOT (waste of time) The sheer volume of global methane release precludes this as an exercise in futility. All that heat! It might be interesting to do the math to determine the direct influence on global warming were all of global methane release to be burned off.
The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is venting at least 17 teragrams of the methane into the atmosphere each year. A teragram is equal to 1 million tons.
http://www.scienc...2113.htm
Furthermore,
Globally, over 60% of total CH4 emissions come from human activities
http://epa.gov/cl...ch4.html
Whydening Gyre
4 / 5 (2) Aug 25, 2014
So in order to reduce emissions we need to tap it and burn it. Questions? Comments?


Would there not be an equation in there that we need to run - in order to more fully understand this situation? If we are extracting oil - which is reducing the seepage of hydrocarbons - but then we are burning that oil - and producing emissions - then we need to quantify all of those variables. Does that sound right?

A conundrum, it appears. From a quantitative standpoint, which GHG would you rather have the atmosphere full of? Methane or CO2...?
Whydening Gyre
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 25, 2014
WOT (waste of time) The sheer volume of global methane release precludes this as an exercise in futility. All that heat! It might be interesting to do the math to determine the direct influence on global warming were all of global methane release to be burned off. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is venting at least 17 teragrams of the methane into the atmosphere each year. A teragram is equal to 1 million tons.

DON'T LIGHT THAT MA - ...
thermodynamics
3.9 / 5 (8) Aug 25, 2014
Ghost said:
So in order to reduce Atlantic emissions we need to tap it and burn it. Questions? Comments?


When have I ever not had comments?

Apples and oranges.

Gas seepage at a well to extract oil or gas comes from deposits that are different in form from clathrates. The clathrates are a form of ice with methane in it. They form very close to an interface of the solid soil with water.

Seeps from a well comes from the deep deposit of oil or gas that is being tapped for a fuel. Naturally, removing the oil or gas from a well drops the pressure and limits the leakage.

Removing clathrates only produces a local change in the abundance of the clathrate. And those leaks have nothing to do with any body that could be tapped to reduce pressures.

Compare this information on clathrates with a typical oil well.

http://en.wikiped...lathrate

So, Ghost, it was a funny comment but it won't work for clathrates.
pandora4real
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 25, 2014
Why would you publish speculation about what it means before confirming that it is CH4? It's such bad science that it's a denier's wet dream. Is it time for debate on NOAA funding or something? There was a great plaque on the wall of our lab in the Netherlands that applies to the comments as well. "Here we don't argue about things, we go compute the answer". A pox on everyone's house. Just WHAT KIND of person besides a consummate sophist would argue about this when they haven't even bothered to collect a sample of the gas for analysis?!??? This paper should have been rejected. There are journals for "in progress" studies. Nature Geoscience is not one of them. Their peer review process must be appalling. That's tick-box #1- should this be published in this journal at this time? NO! Duh.
antigoracle
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 25, 2014
pandora has just, inadvertently, summed up climate "science" as practiced by the AGW Cult.
jyro
2 / 5 (4) Aug 25, 2014
To save the planet, "Drill baby drill".
ONTIME
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 26, 2014
This article seems to indicate some surprise but methane is a fact of life on earth and has numerous sources, without it we would be minus a energy source and the environmentalist could not complain about cattle.......
Steve 200mph Cruiz
3.7 / 5 (9) Aug 26, 2014
Lol @ goracle, just leave this site man, it's just funny reading everyone's smart comments, and then your dumb ass starts going off on on some global warming tangent, quit being a cliche.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (6) Aug 26, 2014
Why would you publish speculation about what it means before confirming that it is CH4? . . .

If it turns out most gas bubbles emerging from the ocean floor have been found to be methane, perhaps the researchers didn't see verifying these particular bubble streams are methane as a priority. Kind of like not bothering to check that the liquid condensing out of those clouds in the sky is water.

My friend Google seems to think this is the case.
antigoracle
1.9 / 5 (9) Aug 26, 2014
Hey Steve, did you even read the article. Of course not, otherwise you would have seen the references to global warming. So, why don't you stay on this site and stay being a dumb jackass.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (4) Aug 26, 2014
Apples and oranges... won't work for clathrates

Yes well from your source we see that ocean deposits are not the only examples:

"and they occur in deep sedimentary structures and form outcrops on the ocean floor. Methane hydrates are believed to form by migration of gas from deep along geological faults"

-But the intent would be to reduce the total methane released into the atmosphere. As ocean clathrate release increases, perhaps this could be offset by consuming accessible sources.

It may be possible to mine clathrate:

"A research and development project in Japan is aiming for commercial-scale extraction near Aichi Prefecture by 2016."

-Or perhaps a way could be found to gasify pockets of it for extraction similar to fracking. Im sure our russian friends would be willing to try nuclear/thermal. Perhaps they already have.
http://www.nature...-1.15649
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.2 / 5 (5) Aug 26, 2014
Well here you go.

"In 2008, Canadian and Japanese researchers extracted a constant stream of natural gas from a test project at the Mallik gas hydrate site in the Mackenzie River delta. This was the second such drilling at Mallik: the first took place in 2002 and used heat to release methane. In the 2008 experiment, researchers were able to extract gas by lowering the pressure, without heating, requiring significantly less energy."
Porgie
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 27, 2014
Over 500 gas plumes found to be bubbling up in the ocean along the eastern US coast -- Lets get to taping them and using it.
howhot2
3 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2014
Now that is what I'm talking about. 500 methane seeps and GROWING!!! All caused by global warming and the rise of ocean temperatures. Just an 0.01C increase will melt gigatons of methane clathrate soaking the atmosphere with a greenhouse gas 39x more potent than CO2! This will doom the planet to global warming extinction event unlike anything that has ever happened!

And it's our fault. Society's fault. The great methane burp is your fault deniers.
Waaalt
1 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2014
If all of the ocean's clathrate were to diffuse into the atmosphere the Earth may begin to compete with Venus for the title of who's the hottest.


Ha. Venus as a 'runaway greenhouse effect' and possible dire future of Earth is an old chestnut of the AGW crowd, a talking point that got yammered around a lot in the 70s and 80s.

You don't hear about it much anymore because it was all a bunch of garbage. The atmospheric chemistry of Venus is mostly because of it's near lack of both axial tilt and rotation, and the resulting extreme temperatures and weather.
sheila_cloudcroft
not rated yet Aug 31, 2014
Nothing more fitting for this then the words of Disney: https://www.youtu...mJCu38FA
11791
not rated yet Sep 01, 2014
Worldwide Methane Reduction Project

Vulvox is researching a method of reducing anthropogenic methane gas emissions by an awesome 38% !

According to an NOAA report; In 2007 methane rose by 27 million tons after nearly a decade with little or no increase. NOAA scientists released these and other preliminary findings as part of an annual update to the NOAA annual greenhouse gas index, that agency's greenhouse gas index, which tracks data from 60 sites around the world."

Anthropogenic emissions- methane made by human activities such as raising livestock, rice cultivation, landfills, and methane escaping from coal mines and gas wells are a major cause of greenhouse warming. Methane captures 23 times as much solar heat as carbon dioxide.

Vulvox is seeking funding for our project that can make a bigger dent in the amount of greenhouse warming than all the wind farms and solar energy panels installed to date. If we put it into production worldwide, our research program is capable of reducing a few more percentage points from the rate of greenhouse warming.

It will be much easier and cheaper to reduce anthropogenic methane from the sources listed on this webpage. For say, a billion dollars we can reduce the total greenhouse effect dramatically; A 38% methane reduction in anthropogenic methane emissions corresponds to 4.2% of all greenhouse warming. What else can you do with a billion dollars? Construct two giant CSP solar plants in the desert? The impact of those plants by themselves is minuscule. You would have to have a sustained program of building solar energy plants and other renewables costing trillions to effect the same drop in global temperature.

Vulvox is now soliciting donations and intern volunteers for jobs such as secretaries, sales development, product development, grant writers, publicity people, etc and we are also seeking industrial and university research partners, promoters, and angel investors to help us with this very important project.

Contact us to apply.

Contact
Neil Farbstein
President
Vulvox Nanobiotechnology Corporation
http://vulvox.tripod.com/id30.html" title="http://http://vulvox.tripod.com/id30.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">http://vulvox.tri...d30.html
http://vulvox.tripod.com
VNBCINC@gmail.com


11791
not rated yet Sep 01, 2014
Worldwide Methane Reduction Project

Vulvox is researching a method of reducing anthropogenic methane gas emissions by an awesome 38% !

According to an NOAA report; In 2007 methane rose by 27 million tons after nearly a decade with little or no increase. NOAA scientists released these and other preliminary findings as part of an annual update to the NOAA annual greenhouse gas index, that agency's greenhouse gas index, which tracks data from 60 sites around the world."

Anthropogenic emissions- methane made by human activities such as raising livestock, rice cultivation, landfills, and methane escaping from coal mines and gas wells are a major cause of greenhouse warming. Methane captures 23 times as much solar heat as carbon dioxide.

Vulvox is seeking funding for our project that can make a bigger dent in the amount of greenhouse warming than all the wind farms and solar energy panels installed to date. If we put it into production worldwide, our research program is capable of reducing a few more percentage points from the rate of greenhouse warming.

It will be much easier and cheaper to reduce anthropogenic methane from the sources listed on this webpage. For say, a billion dollars we can reduce the total greenhouse effect dramatically; A 38% methane reduction in anthropogenic methane emissions corresponds to 4.2% of all greenhouse warming. What else can you do with a billion dollars? Construct two giant CSP solar plants in the desert? The impact of those plants by themselves is minuscule. You would have to have a sustained program of building solar energy plants and other renewables costing trillions to effect the same drop in global temperature.

Vulvox is now soliciting donations and intern volunteers for jobs such as secretaries, sales development, product development, grant writers, publicity people, etc and we are also seeking industrial and university research partners, promoters, and angel investors to help us with this very important project.

Contact us to apply.

Contact
Neil Farbstein
President
Vulvox Nanobiotechnology Corporation
http://vulvox.tripod.com/id30.html" title="http://http://vulvox.tripod.com/id30.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">http://vulvox.tri...d30.html
http://vulvox.tripod.com
VNBCINC@gmail.com