By: Ella Ford
Summary: Seeps of gas hydrates have found their way from the Atlantic Ocean floor to the atmosphere in regions such as the Gulf Stream and locations surrounding Antarctica and South Georgia Island. Gas hydrates, also commonly referred to as methane hydrates and "climate time bombs," are a type of clathrate, a substance in which a crystal-like cage-forming structure of a water molecule encloses a gas. The formation of gas hydrates requires specific geological, physical, and chemical conditions in the realms of water temperature and pressure. Although the best conditions for gas hydrate formation is in waters of low temperature and high pressure, warm water temperatures and very high amounts of pressure with great depths allow for these clathrates to form, as well. Primarily configuring in continental slopes of the ocean floor, gas hydrates begin to shape at depths of around 500 meters in the open ocean and when brought to the surface, the lumps of gas hydrates resemble ice surrounded by the ocean floor. Methane is suspected to be leaking into the atmosphere due to delays in the consumption of the gas by microbes within the ocean sediment or the water column above the ocean floor. Researchers studying the seafloor in Antarctica have found that microbes were late to arrive at "seep sites," causing the methane to escape into the atmosphere during the time they were not present. Leaks of gas hydrates are believed to be set off by climate change, as well, as the warming of ocean water causes the greenhouse gas formations to dissolve at a more rapid pace. If gas hydrates become unstable and unfreeze, enormous volumes of methane may pour into the ocean and eventually roam into the atmosphere, contributing further to ocean acidification and climate change.
Why we should care? I believe that humans should care about the release of methane from the ocean and sea floors because, as mentioned, the leakage of methane into the atmosphere contributes further to climate change and ocean acidification.
I found this particular topic interesting because I have seen photos of bubbles rising from the ocean or sea floor before, but I do not think that I had ever questioned where these bubbles came from and what was causing them to escape from the ocean and sea floors. I did not have previous knowledge concerning the release of methane from the sea and ocean floors, and I think that this article explained how the delay of the microbes arriving contributed to the escape of the methane into the atmosphere very well. I also enjoyed how the author included two scientist's perspectives and overall knowledge on this issue, Andrew Thurber and Jemma Wadham. The picture attached to this article of the seastars and microbes on the sea floor of a dive site in Antarctica drew me in, as well!
Science in Action.
Dr. Andrew Thurber in an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University.
Andrew Thurber is an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University with over 20 publications of research ranging from topics like food-webs and viral outbreaks in coral to ocean biogeochemistry and polar ecosystem dynamics. Thurber's profile mentions his research interest of the impacts cross-domain interactions have on ecosystem function in marine communities and the research he is currently embarking on. Presently, Thurber is aiming to pinpoint how what an animal eats impacts the biogeochemical processes of bacteria and archaea. His profile details the two specific habitats of Antarctic Spionid beds and deep-sea methane seeps that Thurber works in for his current research, as "each allow a different approach when studying these interactions." This scientist's research is relevant to my blog because he has contributed to and lead studies directly relating to the release of methane from the sea-floor, and his current research within deep-sea methane habitats revolves around my chosen topic, as well.