A new Science paper with contributions from CAGE presents new findings on methane release and global warming.
Methane seepage from gas hydrates off the coast of Svalbard has been observed regularly. A study now confirms that this seepage has been going on for several thousand years, and therefore cannot solely result from new climate changes driven by mankind.
Climate change and unstable gas hydrates
These findings are the result of an international collaboration led by Christian Berndt from Geomar in Kiel, Germany, and was recently presented in Science with CAGE researcher Bénédicte Ferré (pictured right) as co-author.
One of the main questions CAGE asks is whether future climate changes will increase methane release from gas hydrates in the ocean.
The researchers can now conclude that previous observations of large contemporary emissions cannot be considered proof of accelerating hydrate destabilization.
Unknown at what rate methane reservoirs change
‘Our findings indicate that methane seepage has been going on longer than first assumed in this area, independent of anthropogenic warming,’ Bénédicte explains.
However, this does not mean that we can’t draw a line between climate change and unstable gas hydrates.
‘This is still worrying because although this seepage is not caused by warming, that doesn’t mean that future global warming won’t cause destabilization of gas hydrates,’ Bénédicte says.
Gas hydrates are only stable at high pressure and low temperatures. It is therefore of major importance to keep monitoring methane release, particularly in sensitive areas like the Arctic. One of CAGE’s effots for understanding rapid changes in methane release is to install permanent monitoring stations on the ocean floor.