While some politicians and scientists embrace global warming and climate change with almost religious fervor, new evidence has surfaced to suggest the science is not in fact settled.
Researchers off the coast of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago have discovered that where methane gas bubbles up from seafloor seeps, surface waters above the seeps absorb twice as much carbon dioxide as surrounding waters, thus lessening the impact of climate change.
The previous assumption had been that methane seeps would inevitably increase the amount of greenhouse gases. Seeps occur above fissures on the seafloor caused of the earth’s tectonic activity.
Biogeochemist John Pohlman of the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, began the research near Svalbard to learn just how much methane the Arctic Ocean was contributing to the global balance in the atmosphere.
Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It traps nearly 30 times as much heat in the atmosphere. In the ocean, methane bubbles up out of deep seeps where it’s often stored in ice-like, crystal lattices of water called hydrates.
When the hydrates melt because of changing temperatures and pressure, the methane is released and it percolates into the atmosphere.
The absorption of carbon dioxide by waters where the methane bubbles up surprised scientists who’ve been researching climate change for years.
“This is … totally unexpected,” says Brett Thornton, a geochemist at Stockholm University who was not involved in the research. These new findings challenge the popular assumption that methane seeps inevitably increase the global greenhouse gas burden.”
Pohlman and his researchers concluded that the physical forces pushing the methane bubbles up also pump nutrient-rich cold waters from the seabed to the ocean surface, thus fertilizing phytoplankton blooms that soak up carbon dioxide.
This “fertilization effect” proved surprising as well. Pohlman and his team have published their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In fact, the study finds that in such zones, nearly 1900 times more CO2 is being absorbed than methane emitted. That’s a small but real consolation for those concerned about global warming, Pohlman says. In these limited zones, the atmospheric benefit from CO2 sequestration is about 230 times greater than the warming effect from methane emissions.”
The question now is how these findings might apply to ocean seeps in other parts of the world. Pohlman doesn’t assume that the methane fertilizing effect will be the same everywhere. But the recent discovery certainly calls for more research to get a better understanding of the overall impact of methane hydrate reservoirs.
It would appear that in no way is climate change science truly settled.
Source: Science Magazine