According to a new study, water at intermediate depths of the Pacific Ocean has been warming at a rate that can melt the carbon deposits and release harmful methane into surrounding water. It was found by researchers that water off the coast of Washington is slowly warming at a depth of 500 meters, about a third of a mile down. That is the same depth where methane changes from a solid to a gas.
The research suggests that there is possibility that ocean warming could cause the release of a powerful greenhouse gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas, various times more powerful than carbon dioxide in warming the planet.
“We calculate that methane equivalent in volume to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is released every year off the Washington coast”, said Evan Solomon, a UW assistant professor of oceanography. He is co-author of a paper to appear in Geophysical Research Letters.
It was earlier believed by scientists that global warming will release methane from gas hydrates worldwide and majority of focus has been on deposits in the Arctic. According to estimate of the research team related to recently released paper, hydrate decomposition off Washington had released 4 million metric tons of methane from 1970 to 2013.
This amount is equivalent to the methane from natural gas released from Deepwater Horizon blowout off the coast of Louisiana in the 2010. Also this amount is 500 times the rate at which methane is naturally released from the seafloor.
Solomon said Methane hydrates that are fragile reservoir of carbon can be affected with change in temperatures. If temperatures change, these can be released.
The main component of natural gas is Methane. Methane combines with water into a crystal called methane hydrate at cold temperatures and high ocean pressure. Because of biologically productive waters and strong geologic activity, the Pacific Northwest has strangely big deposits of methane hydrates.