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Ocean Waters Prevent Release of Ancient Methane

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Ocean sediments are a massive storehouse for the potent greenhouse gas methane.

Ocean sediments are a massive storehouse for the potent greenhouse gas methane.

Trapped in ocean sediments near continents lie ancient reservoirs of methane called methane hydrates. These ice-like water and methane structures encapsulate so much methane that many researchers view them as both a potential energy resource and an agent for environmental change. In response to warming ocean waters, hydrates can degrade, releasing the methane gas. Scientists have warned that release of even part of the giant reservoir could significantly exacerbate ongoing climate change.

However, methane only acts as a greenhouse gas if and when it reaches the atmosphere—a scenario that would occur only if the liberated methane traveled from the point of release at the seafloor to the surface waters and the atmosphere.

With that in mind, environmental scientist Katy Sparrow ’17 (PhD) set out to study the origin of methane in the Arctic Ocean.

Read more at University of Rochester

Image: Katy Sparrow ’17 (PhD) and John Kessler collaborated with researchers from several universities, as well as researchers from the US Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. From left to right: Kathryn Schreiner, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry (Univ. of Minnesota Duluth); PhD candidate Fenix Garcia-Tigreros (UR); Sparrow; and Kessler, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, aboard the research vessel in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. (University of Rochester photo / John Kessler)