Hundreds of methane flares observed offshore Western Svalbard in the Arctic are caused by a process that started at the end of the last ice age, according to the study. The methane release happens because the gas is freed from melting hydrates – an icy substance found below the ocean floor, containing methane in a cage of frozen water.
Ocean water warming was previously thought to be the cause of the hydrate melt in this particular area. But the study in Nature Communications suggests otherwise.
“Our investigations show that uplift of the sea floor in this region, caused by the melting of the ice masses since the end of the last ice age, is probably the reason for the dissolution of methane hydrate.” says first author of the study Professor Klaus Wallmann at GEOMAR.
Image: Gas hydrates are formed under cold temperature and high pressure conditions beneath the ocean floor. They contain large amounts of greenhouse gas methane. (Credit: CAGE)