From Northern California to British Columbia, along the west coast in the U.S., our mother Earth’s got a case of the toots. Scientists during the deep ocean mapping survey have found out that a geologically-active strip of seafloor called the ‘Cascadia Subduction Zone’ is bubbling methane like mad. It is claimed this could be one of the most active methane seeps on the planet. Scientists have found 500 of these seabed vents bubbling methane gas into the Pacific Ocean off the United States. This is near twice the number of known U.S. seeps of the powerful greenhouse gas. This was declared recently by the official oceanographic survey of the U.S.
This is not a new phenomenon, for years, it is known to the scientists that methane, an odorless, colorless gas which is produced naturally during microbial digestion (and more famously, by farting cows) bubbles up from the seafloor where the conditions are just right for it to ooze out. Recent surveys have discovered hundreds of such methane seeps along the Atlantic continental margin, and it’s also believed there can be thousands or even more than that across the world.
Within the Earth science researchers globally – understanding these seeps, where and why and with what intensity they occur and what exactly the activity occurring below the surface which controls these seeps is a hot topic of discussion and research too. It is well known that methane is a potent greenhouse gas. In fact, scientists worry that the very warming of the oceans, climate change is speeding up the processes that produce methane, as this is most widely accepted theory of this phenomenon, in addition to melting icy methane hydrates that accumulate on the seafloor. Both these could lead to an enormous release of heat-trapping gasses to the atmosphere.
Latest study published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, which is also widely accepted by the scientists, is – inordinate number of these plumes were observed at a critical depth where frozen methane “ice”, or hydrate, decomposes on account of warmer ocean temperatures and these plumes are probably not coming from the seafloor sediments, but rather from decomposing frozen methane.
Though it is known historically, methane has contributed to sudden and dramatic swings in the Earth’s climate. Once in the Earth’s atmosphere, it acts as a very powerful greenhouse gas. But the downstream effects of this leaking methane aren’t entirely clear as of date. Climate warming-related methane emissions have been detected in Arctic permafrost and off the Atlantic coast too.