When a Russian team recently stumbled upon a few methane “fountains” releasing large amounts of methane gas from shallow arctic waters directly into the atmosphere, they had no idea that there were hundreds, if not thousands, more. The UK’s Daily Mail reports that the Russian research vessel Academician Lavrentiev has identified at least 100 large methane plumes in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf that are releasing high amounts of the methane gas into the environment.
“We found more than 100 fountains, some more than a kilometer (just over three-fifths of a mile) across,” said Dr. Igor Semiletov, who was involved in the discovery. “These are methane fields on a scale not seen before. The emissions went directly into the atmosphere.”
Under normal circumstances, methane leaks deep in the ocean oxidize long before they reach the surface. Microbes in both marine and freshwater sediments convert methane into carbon dioxide on its way up to the ocean surface. But since the area where the methane fountains have been discovered is in relatively shallow water, there is not enough time for this conversion to take place.by