The moon controls the release of methane in Arctic Ocean

UIT THE ARCTIC UNIVERSITY OF NORWAY

Research News

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IMAGE: FULL MOON IN TROMSØ, NORWAY. PHOTO: MAJA SOJTARIC view more CREDIT: MAJA SOJTARIC

It may not be very well known, but the Arctic Ocean leaks enormous amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane. These leaks have been ongoing for thousands of years but could be intensified by a future warmer ocean. The potential for this gas to escape the ocean, and contribute to the greenhouse gas budget in the atmosphere, is an important mystery that scientists are trying to solve.

The total amount of methane in the atmosphere has increased immensely over the past decades, and while some of the increase can be ascribed to human activity, other sources are not very well constrained.

A recent paper in Nature Communications even implies that the moon has a role to play.

Small pressure changes affect methane release

The moon controls one of the most formidable forces in nature – the tides that shape our coastlines. Tides, in turn, significantly affect the intensity of methane emissions from the Arctic Ocean seafloor.

“We noticed that gas accumulations, which are in the sediments within a meter from the seafloor, are vulnerable to even slight pressure changes in the water column. Low tide means less of such hydrostatic pressure and higher intensity of methane release. High tide equals high pressure and lower intensity of the release” says co-author of the paper Andreia Plaza Faverola.

“It is the first time that this observation has been made in the Arctic Ocean. It means that slight pressure changes can release significant amounts of methane. This is a game-changer and the highest impact of the study.” Says another co-author, Jochen Knies.

New methods reveal unknown release sites

Plaza Faverola points out that the observations were made by placing a tool called a piezometer in the sediments and leaving it there for four days.

It measured the pressure and temperature of the water inside the pores of the sediment. Hourly changes in the measured pressure and temperature revealed the presence of gas close to the seafloor that ascends and descends as the tides change. The measurements were made in an area of the Arctic Ocean where no methane release has previously been observed but where massive gas hydrate concentrations have been sampled.

“This tells us that gas release from the seafloor is more widespread than we can see using traditional sonar surveys. We saw no bubbles or columns of gas in the water. Gas burps that have a periodicity of several hours won’t be identified unless there is a permanent monitoring tool in place, such as the piezometer.” Says Plaza Faverola

These observations imply that the quantification of present-day gas emissions in the Arctic may be underestimated. High tides, however, seem to influence gas emissions by reducing their height and volume.

“What we found was unexpected and the implications are big. This is a deep-water site. Small changes in pressure can increase the gas emissions but the methane will still stay in the ocean due to the water depth. But what happens in shallower sites? This approach needs to be done in shallow Arctic waters as well, over a longer period. In shallow water, the possibility that methane will reach the atmosphere is greater.” Says Knies.

May counteract the temperature effects

High sea-level seems thus to influence gas emissions by potentially reducing their height and volume. The question remains whether sea-level rise due to global warming might partially counterbalance the effect of temperature on submarine methane emissions.

“Earth systems are interconnected in ways that we are still deciphering, and our study reveals one of such interconnections in the Arctic: The moon causes tidal forces, the tides generate pressure changes, and bottom currents that in turn shape the seafloor and impact submarine methane emissions. Fascinating!” says Andreia Plaza Faverola

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The paper is the result of a collaboration between CAGE, Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, and Ifremer under the project SEAMSTRESS – Tectonic Stress Effects on Arctic Methane Seepage

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Streetcred
December 14, 2020 2:15 pm

If all of these “climate scientista” would refrain from pronouncements for a year we could save a tri-zillion tonnes of methane seep. Just sayin’ 😉

Rory Forbes
December 14, 2020 2:33 pm

Oh dear! It’s worse than we thought!

AGAIN!

M.W.Plia
December 14, 2020 2:50 pm

“The potential for this gas to escape the ocean, and contribute to the greenhouse gas budget in the atmosphere, is an important mystery that scientists are trying to solve.”

Seriously? The greenhouse gas budget??

This article is nothing more than a continuation of the irresponsible fearmongering from the climate cult. Methane is measured in parts per billion, its atmospheric warming effect is indistinguishable from zero.

And methane (CH4) oxidizes into carbon dioxide and water vapor on contact with oxygen. You can check with your local natural gas company for the accurate time/ temperature equation they use for when it’s safe to go back in the house after a gas leak. This is why after 3 billion years of life dying and rotting there isn’t more than 1.8 ppm methane in our atmosphere.

stewartpid
Reply to  M.W.Plia
December 14, 2020 4:01 pm

Fear mongering indeed. I used to joke about “scary climate change stories …. scarier than the last climate change story” but now it is true on a daily / hourly basis. Pure climate change p0rn.

fred250
December 14, 2020 2:55 pm

So, man ISN’T causing all the “carbon” emissions..

Is that what they are saying 😉

Sara
Reply to  fred250
December 15, 2020 5:35 am

Not only that, since it’s in the ocean bottom up there in the Cold Place, how ever will they stop it from going on leaking?

MarkW
December 14, 2020 3:07 pm

If low pressure increases the amount of methane being released, then won’t this problem be solved by rising seal levels?

EdB
Reply to  MarkW
December 14, 2020 3:24 pm

Now that’s a good observation. Our F150s are saving us from the methane bomb.

Peter W
Reply to  MarkW
December 14, 2020 4:09 pm

Of course! This is obviously why there was no problem with methane 6,000 years ago when the earth was warmer and sea levels were several feet higher. See? Problem solved! No problem!

saveenergy
December 14, 2020 3:10 pm

” the methane will still stay in the ocean due to the water depth…In shallow water, the possibility that methane will reach the atmosphere is greater.” Says Knies.”

So, NO problem as we are told that sea level is rising at unprecedented rates, therefore the shallow water becomes deep water & stops the release …simples.

MarkW
Reply to  saveenergy
December 14, 2020 4:44 pm

Warmer water temperatures also means more biological activity, which in turn converts the methane to CO2 and water before it has a chance to reach the surface.

Rud Istvan
December 14, 2020 4:01 pm

Dunno about the Moon. Do know that ‘Arctic leaking methane’ alarm has two differentparts, both inaccurately reported and both basically false concerning climate change
.
In the Siberian bubbling offshore seeps, the issue is simple and local. There are massive natural gas deposits there, which Russia exploits (NORDSTROM Baltic pipeline 2 to Germany). Some of their near surface arctic reservoirs have lost their sealing ‘caprock’ thanks to past glaciation at lower sea levels, and now leak. Biggest caprock leak ever was what are now the Athabascan tar sands in Canada. The planet obviously survived.

For the ‘thawing tundra’ rest, the best recent local biology studies show that tundra bacterial methanotrophes thrive, so severely limit overall summer methane emissions. ‘Hungry’ at thaw beginning, ‘starving’ be refreezeup. To quote that famous Jurassic Park line, “life finds a way”.

Gary Pearse
December 14, 2020 4:02 pm

Immense ammounts of methane have neen added blah blah… It’s already reached…brace yourself… 1.7ppm!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 14, 2020 5:40 pm

“The total amount of methane in the atmosphere has increased immensely …”

Yes, as Gary points out, 1.7 PPB! As a co-worker would always point out when discussing raises, “Five-percent times zero is still zero.”

Lawrence Mason
December 14, 2020 5:49 pm

Well by God, we need to get rid of the Moon!

Redge
Reply to  Lawrence Mason
December 15, 2020 12:08 am

No need.

The moon is already moving away from the earth at a rate of 38 mm (1.5″) per annum and has been for centuries.

When she gets bored of her travels, she’ll come back as she has for the last 4.5 billion years or so.

TonyG
Reply to  Lawrence Mason
December 15, 2020 10:25 am

Don’t we have to start by passing a resolution, or entering some sort of international agreement?

RelPerm
December 14, 2020 7:20 pm

“Earth systems are interconnected in ways that we are still deciphering…”

!!! NO NO NO !!!
THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED

Steve Case
December 14, 2020 8:14 pm

….the Arctic Ocean leaks enormous amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane.

The Global Warming Potential numbers since the first IPPC reports have increased from around 50 times more powerful than CO2 to over 80 times more powerful. When the 6th IPCC Assessment report come out in a year or so, it’s going to increase to nearly 100 times more powerful. It really is that silly.

The total amount of methane in the atmosphere has increased immensely over the past decades,

It’s been tracked since 1984 and it goes up on average between 6 and 7 parts per billion every year.
Source:
https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_ch4/

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Steve Case
December 14, 2020 8:48 pm

Including water vapour, methane contributes approx. 0.066% to the greenhouse effect, provided you accept the current belief that the “greenhouse effect” is actually a measurable factor (considering at current levels H2O and CO2 are probably fully saturated in their radiative spectra). So it’s highly unlikely 6 – 7 ppb per annum of CH4 will make a serious difference … especially considering its short atmospheric half life.
https://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

It’s my belief that all those arctic methane calthrates are our future energy supply … in great abundance.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Rory Forbes
December 15, 2020 8:23 am

I believe it is more like a 6.6% average contribution to global greenhouse warming THEORETICALLY.

But still a relatively small percentage.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
December 15, 2020 9:07 pm

“I believe it is more like a 6.6% average contribution to global greenhouse warming THEORETICALLY.”

Not according to the article I appended to my comments. If H2O is 95% and CO2 is 3.25%, it’s unlikely that CH4 has any significance at all. The trouble is; there are too many opinions and not enough empirical evidence. Over the past 30+ years I’ve read lots of opinions and seen little evidence supporting them.

Paul Johnson
December 14, 2020 9:50 pm

Wait just a minute –
“The measurements were made in an area of the Arctic Ocean where no methane release has previously been observed but where massive gas hydrate concentrations have been sampled.”
Where would that be? The Arctic Ocean is largely closed and while there are significant tides around Greenland, tides in the Arctic Ocean itself are minimal.
“It (the piezometer)measured the pressure and temperature of the water inside the pores of the sediment. Hourly changes in the measured pressure and temperature revealed the presence of gas close to the seafloor that ascends and descends as the tides change.” They only measured pressure and temperature and not actual methane emissions. If their premise is that reduced overburden pressures during a low tide result in outgassing from the sediments, why should any subsequent low tides release any further gas?
“Hourly changes in the measured pressure and temperature revealed the presence of gas close to the seafloor that ascends and descends as the tides change.” If this gas-saturated layer rises and falls with the tide, how does it ever reach the surface?

Steve Case
Reply to  Paul Johnson
December 15, 2020 7:54 pm

Gordon A. Dressler December 15, 2020 at 8:23 am
I believe it is more like a 6.6% average contribution to global greenhouse warming THEORETICALLY.

But still a relatively small percentage.

The issue isn’t how much methane contributes to global warming, but rather how much the annual increase in methane will affect global temperature in the future. The Global Warming Potential numbers tell us that methane is pound for pound 86 times more potent than CO2 as a green house gas.

Methane is on track to increase by about 0.5 ppm by 2100 and by mass it’s about 36% of CO2, that means about .18 ppm of CO2 would be the equivalent. So if CO2 increased from 400 ppm to 400.18 ppm how much would that run up global temperature. Figure out how small of an increase that would be (nearly nothing) and multiply it by 86 (still nearly nothing).

That is the reason we are never told how much increasing methane will run up temperature, and various jurisdictions in California are banning natural gas over this bullshit.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Steve Case
December 15, 2020 8:44 pm

Steve Case,

1) You need to understand exactly what Rory Forbes posted on December 14 at 8:48 pm, which elicited my correction.

2) Methane’s molecular weight (not mass) is 16 lb/lb-mole and CO2’s molecular weight (again, not mass) is 44 lb/lb-mole

3) You cannot scale a theoretical greenhouse effect in a mixture of gases based on the difference in molecular weights between any two of the greenhouse-active gases, such as you did above with estimating methane’s ppm increase to an equivalent increase in CO2 ppm (even allowing that you referenced “mass” rather than “molecular weight”). It is LWIR absorption and emission characteristics (line spectra) that determine “greenhouse” effect relative magnitudes, not molecular weight or “mass” proportion.

4) In gas mixtures, the measurement quantity “ppm” is acknowledged by the scientific community to mean “parts per million by volume, or ppmv” unless specifically called out to mean “parts per million by weight, or “ppmw”. It appears that you are assuming the ppm numbers are all mass-based; but they are not, they are volume based.

Steve Case
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
December 16, 2020 12:12 pm

Gordon A. Dressler December 15, 2020 at 8:44 pm
Steve Case,

1) You need to understand exactly….

The question is, “How much global temperature rise will methane produce by the end of the century considering that since 1984 it has averaged an annual increase of about 6.5ppb?”

The answer to that question is what policy makers need to know, and as far as I know, they haven’t a clue what it is.

I say it’s so darn little as to be essentially nothing. What do you say it is?

Steve Case
Reply to  Paul Johnson
December 15, 2020 8:06 pm

Paul Johnson December 14, 2020 at 9:50 pm
Wait just a minute –

If their premise is that reduced overburden pressures during a low tide result in outgassing from the sediments, why should any subsequent low tides release any further gas?

There’s a saying, “Beware of carefully worded bullshit.”

Rune
December 15, 2020 12:17 am

FWIW: The mention of Tromsø brings many pleasant memories to mind. I lived there for two years and have lots of family there. The summers are brilliant with the midnight sun throwing light everywhere all the time. Walking up a mountain during the night is a nice experience.

I’m not that keen on the wintertime up there, but if you catch the aurora borealis then I suppose it is okay. I think I suffer a bit from PTSD because all that sunlight in the summers unfortunately do not make up for the lack of sunlight during the winter. At least not for me. 🙂

Brilliant beaches, but I have to quote a couple of guys who were jumping off a pier last time I was there. A woman asked them if the water was cold. “Well… It isn’t warm.” was their reply.

A TV show I’d like to recommend is ‘113’ (https://tv.nrk.no/serie/113/sesong/1). It is a documentary that follows the emergency services on the island and surrounding area. At one point, an ambulance driver joked with his colleague “we should give him some extra morphine and maybe he will sell his boat for cheap”.

Jay Willis
Reply to  Rune
December 15, 2020 1:54 am

Rune, your comment is way more interesting than the article above the line, thanks.

Ric
December 15, 2020 3:17 am

Climate emergency! Cancel the Moon! Bring it down!

Sara
December 15, 2020 5:40 am

When does the Arctic Gas F**t Protest Movement start?

Chris
December 15, 2020 6:28 am

The north Atlantic rift also releases methane, just as every carbon based life form does when it dies and decomposes in an anaerobic environment. What happens to the methane – it breaks down in sunlight and H and C rebond with O2 to form H2O and C02.

December 15, 2020 8:04 am

[[It may not be very well known, but the Arctic Ocean leaks enormous amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane. These leaks have been ongoing for thousands of years but could be intensified by a future warmer ocean. The potential for this gas to escape the ocean, and contribute to the greenhouse gas budget in the atmosphere, is an important mystery that scientists are trying to solve.]]

What is even less well known is Planck’s Radiation Law, which gives CO2’s weak puny 15 microns a Planck radiation temperature of -80C like dry ice, which can’t even melt an ice cube.

Methane (CH4) (cow farts) has an atmospheric concentration in the parts per billion, not parts per million like CO2. Methane’s radiation emission/absorption wavelengths are 3.5 microns and 8 microns, which have Planck radiation temperatures of 1031F (555C) and 192F (89C), which are way outside Earth’s normal surface temperature range of -50C to +50C, thus methane can’t even interfere with Earth surface radiation any more than CO2, except maybe over Old Faithful.

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-primary-science-behind-the-cause-of-man-made-climate-change-Is-CO2-really-the-main-cause-as-I-keep-seeing-news-about-other-gases-such-as-methane-being-a-much-greater-influence-on-the-atmosphere-and/answer/TL-Winslow

Gordon A. Dressler
December 15, 2020 8:16 am

Wikipedia lists the following ranking for the greenhouse effect from the following atmospheric gases, in decreasing order of contribution:
— water vapor: 10-50,000 ppm (geographic/weather variations) . . . 36-72 % contribution
— carbon dioxide: ~400 ppm . . . 9-26 % contribution
— methane: ~1.8 ppm . . . 4-9 % contribution
— ozone: 2-8 ppm (stratosphere only) . . . 3-7 % contribution.

So, to the extent that Wikipedia has any credibility at all remaining related to climate issues, the above article is asking me to worry about tidal variations in the Arctic region causing rate-of-release changes in a greenhouse gas that theoretically contributes less than 10% of any possible real, greenhouse gas-caused global warming.

Sorry, I learned long ago to recognize all the danger signs related to buying a pig-in-a-poke.

BTW, Sun-induced tides are about half the size of Moon-induced tides . . . a fact not mentioned in the above article, and probably not inadvertently.

Tom Abbott
December 15, 2020 8:28 am

From the article: “The moon controls one of the most formidable forces in nature – the tides that shape our coastlines. Tides, in turn, significantly affect the intensity of methane emissions from the Arctic Ocean seafloor.

“We noticed that gas accumulations, which are in the sediments within a meter from the seafloor, are vulnerable to even slight pressure changes in the water column. Low tide means less of such hydrostatic pressure and higher intensity of methane release. High tide equals high pressure and lower intensity of the release” says co-author of the paper Andreia Plaza Faverola.

“It is the first time that this observation has been made in the Arctic Ocean. It means that slight pressure changes can release significant amounts of methane. This is a game-changer and the highest impact of the study.” Says another co-author, Jochen Knies.”

Gamechanger? How so? Hasn’t this process been going since the Earth and Moon were formed? So what game has changed?

I think the only thing that has changed is these scientists understanding of the process. A revelation to them, but old news to Mother Nature.

DMacKenzie
Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 15, 2020 10:10 am

It’s a “game changer” in the sense of his personal interpretation….for the rest of us…..not so much….

D Cage
December 15, 2020 9:45 am

Hardly a surprise when years ago this site had an article giving the climate cycles as 23 yr 8 mnth and 15 yr 2 mnth which is the match of lunar and earth years. It also explains why the best predictions I saw for future climate change was done by some history students on a stag night in a Brighton pub using old astrology charts which involved the moon orbits. Unfortunately I did not take it seriously at the time as they were pretty tanked and thought it a huge joke up so we never recorded it properly.

JohnTyler
December 15, 2020 10:06 am

During the several ice ages presumably the Arctic Region and the Arctic Ocean were one gigantic ice cube. If this is so, that would suggest during ice ages Arctic methane escape would be a big fat zero. After all, the Arctic sea floor would be under hundreds (thousands?) of feet of ice. And without all that methane heating up the atmosphere, the ice ages should never have come to an end.

But wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles; ALL these ice ages – even without Arctic Ocean emissions of methane- ended when the earth warmed up.
Geez, how about that.

gmak
December 16, 2020 6:10 am

ErekAlert! Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

Roger
December 16, 2020 6:18 am

Are there tides at the North Pole?

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