Leaking methane reservoirs offshore Svalbard



Methane hydrate—a solid substance in which methane is trapped within ice-like crystals—is stable at low temperatures and high pressures and may be destabilized by ocean warming on both geological and human time scales. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and methane released from hydrate provides a potential positive feedback mechanism in global climate change [e.g., Archer and Buffett, 2005]—in theory, the more methane is released by the hydrates, the warmer the climate gets, causing the ocean to warm and release more methane. However, methane escaping from the seabed is oxidized and dissolved in the ocean, and insufficient methane may reach the atmosphere to affect the climate significantly. Its importance for climate change therefore depends on whether the flux from the seabed is great enough to overcome solution in the ocean and perturb atmospheric concentrations over sufficiently long time scales.


Work at sea was funded by the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council and Ifremer. We thank all who sailed with us on cruises JR269A and JR269B for their contributions to the success of both cruises.