The rebooted Cosmos was a fascinating series for all sorts of reasons, but perhaps one of its most memorable sequences was Neil DeGrasse Tyson ominously explaining what methane leaks can do in an already heating-up world. It’s just one more example of the chain of effects, each multiplying on the last in intensity, that happen in nature when it’s messed with too much.
Scientists Discover Hundreds Of Methane Leaks Bubbling From The Floor Of The Atlantic Ocean
By Jeff Spross, ThinkProgress. August 26, 2014.
In what could be a clue to the future effects of climate change, scientists have discovered a huge collection of methane leaks from the ocean floor off the United States’ eastern seaboard.
Their work, published Sunday in Nature Geoscience, used a research vessel equipped with sonar to map a 94,000-square-kilometer area that arcs from North Carolina up to Massachusetts. Within that expanse, according to Scientific American, they discovered around 570 separate plumes of bubbles rising from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. And while the scientists haven’t yet collected samples, the bubbles’ sources suggest they contain methane.
That raises the possibility that the hydrates, which are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature, are being melted by warming waters. That heat could be brought by natural cycles and variability — or by climate change. Another twist is that most of the methane is absorbed by the ocean long before it breaches the surface. The process reacts with oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, which in turn increases the acidification of the ocean in the vicinity. So there’s the possibility that warming waters from climate change could release more methane, thus further speeding up the ocean acidification that is itself being driven largely by humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions.