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Over 500 gas plumes found to be bubbling up in the ocean along the eastern US coast

Posted August 26, 2014
Over 500 gas plumes found to be bubbling up in the ocean along the eastern U.S. coast
Methane streaming from the seafloor at ~425 meters (1400 ft) water depth offshore Virginia. Credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition.

A small team of researchers in the U.S. has discovered the presence of 570 bubble plumes along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. between North Carolina and Massachusetts—the plumes are believed to be methane seeps. In their paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the team describes their study of the seafloor and what the discovery of the plumes may mean for global warming.


The bubble  showed up on sonar scans conducted by the team over several outings during the period 2011 to 2013. Upon their discovery, the team took a closer look at several of the plume sources—some were surrounded by carbonate rock, which would have taken thousands of years to build up, indicting the plumes have been emitting gas for roughly the same length of time. Other plume sources, on the other hand, were not surrounded by such buildups and were located in more shallow areas, indicating they began emitting gas much more recently. It’s this second type that is of concern. They researchers believe it’s possible that a warmer ocean has caused crystallized hydrates to melt, releasing the methane they hold. That of course suggests that the bubbles themselves are filled with methane—a greenhouse gas.

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