Alarm as scientists uncover the first seafloor leak of METHANE
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A methane leak has been identified coming out of the Antarctic seabed, causing alarm among climate scientists and conservationists. 

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas which traps almost 30 times more heat as the same amount of carbon dioxide.

The stream of methane coming from 30ft below the surface and into the ocean is ‘incredibly concerning’, scientists say, as it will speed up ocean warming.  

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A methane leak has been identified coming out of the Antarctic seabed, causing alarm among climate scientists and conservationists. Methane-eating microbes which took five years to adapt to consume the gas can be seen at the 10ft-long site as white mats (pictured)

Antarctica’s seabeds are known to be a source of an enormous amount of methane, but it has never before been spotted seeping into the ocean. 

It is thought ancient algae deposits are the original source of the methane which are trapped under sediments.  

Researchers who had previously speculated about this event had hoped methane-devouring microbes in the water would feast on the gas and limit emissions. 

However, the latest research, which documents the leak, also found these microorganisms avoided the gas for more than five years.  

This is another dark omen for climate change as the speed at which these microbes adapt to absorb the gas could be critical in limiting warming.  

Due to the delay in microbial colonisation, it is almost inevitable the methane has been released into the atmosphere, scientists believe.  

Divers have frequented the site of the leak at Cinder Cones in McMurdo Sound (pictured) since the 60s and a visit in 2011 first spotted the leak which had appeared spontaneously 

In 2017 Earth’s atmosphere absorbed nearly 600 million tons of methane, the colourless, odourless gas that is one of the most potent pollutants (pictured). Natural sources soaked up around most of this, but there was a net positive output of methane of around 16million tons

Methane traps almost 30 times more heat than the same amount of carbon dioxide and more than half of all methane emissions now come from human activities. Carbon emissions dropped drastically during the coronavirus lockdown but experts say there is ‘n chance’ such a significant decrease also occurred for methane  

‘The delay [in methane consumption] is the most important finding,’ lead author Andrew Thurber, from Oregon State University in the US told The Guardian

 ‘It is not good news. It took more than five years for the microbes to begin to show up and even then there was still methane rapidly escaping from the sea floor.’ 

Now the microbes can be seen at the 10ft-long site and appear as white mats on the seafloor.  

What caused the gas to breach the seabed remains unknown but it is thought it is not due to the warming water in the ocean above it, because the Ross Sea, where the leak was found, has not yet warmed significantly.   

The seep is also located on the side of a marine volcano, but this seems to be coincidence and not the cause of the leak.

Divers have frequented the site of the leak at Cinder Cones in McMurdo Sound since the 60s and a visit in 2011 first spotted the leak which had appeared spontaneously.  

But due to the inaccessibility of the region it took until 2016 for scientists to study the leak and a further four years to research and publish this scientific paper. 

During this 2016 expedition, a second leak was also found.  

Methane emissions reach highest level on record

Levels of methane have surged in recent years and the atmospheric concentration of the greenhouse gas has now reached a record high, a study shows.  

Scientists say several human activities are to blame for the soaring levels, including coal mining; oil and gas production; cattle and sheep farming; and landfills. 

Stanford University researchers and the Global Carbon Project assessed emissions from 2010 up until 2017, the last year complete data was available. 

It found that in 2017 Earth’s atmosphere absorbed nearly 600 million tons of the colourless, odourless gas that is one of the most potent pollutants. 

Methane traps almost 30 times more heat than the same amount of carbon dioxide and more than half of all methane emissions now come from human activities.  

Research is starting to focus more on methane and its impact on global warming, due to its high potency.

Carbon remains the most alarming anthropogenic greenhouse gas, because of the sheer quantity in the atmosphere, but methane is becoming of increasing concern because it is far more impactful on a like-for-like basis.   

However, while much is known about the carbon cycle, little is understood about the global lifecycle of methane, making it hard to control and limit. 

Recent research tried to produce the first truly comprehensive estimate of man-made methane emissions. 

Stanford University researchers and the Global Carbon Project assessed emissions from 2010 up until 2017, the last year complete data was available.

This revealed methane levels have surged in recent years and the atmospheric concentration of the gas has now reached a record high.

Scientists say several human activities are to blame for the soaring levels, including coal mining; oil and gas production; cattle and sheep farming; and landfills. 

It found that in 2017 Earth’s atmosphere absorbed nearly 600 million tons of the colourless, odourless gas that is one of the most potent pollutants. 

Annual methane emissions are up by around nine per cent, equivalent to 50 million tons per year, from the early 2000s, the new data shows. 

This, scientists say, is roughly the same as putting 350 million more cars on the world’s roads or doubling the total emissions of Germany or France.

Professor Rob Jackson, who led the study, said: ‘We still haven’t turned the corner on methane.’

On a global scale, there are two major drivers of methane emissions in the world, fossil fuels and farming, the latest figures show.

The research found that there was a net positive output of around 16million tonnes but most climate models, including this one, do not take into account for for a delay in the microbial consumption of escaping methane.

The findings of the  latest study are available in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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