Hundreds of Giant Seafloor Craters Found in the Barents Sea

Hundreds of giant craters erupting methane have been found in the Barents Sea. Some are over a kilometer in width.

This was expected by scientists and those who have researched this issue. Rising level of methane in the Arctic have been increasing to higher and higher levels for quite some time now. These craters are still leaking methane, but this is similar to the gigantic blowout craters also recently found in Siberia.

But here is the bad news…

The last time the world warmed up and the ice sheets retreated, enormous quantities of methane were released from the sea floor. With the world rapidly warming again, the same type of methane release (a very potent greenhouse gas) is expected to occur again.

The explosive release of methane gas from subglacial sediments produced massive craters on the seafloor. During a recent expedition to the area, Andreassen’s team documented well over a hundred of these craters, which measured between 300 and 1,000 meters (980 to 3,280 feet) wide. Hundreds of smaller craters measuring less than 300 meters wide were also observed, and the researchers identified more than 600 methane flares in-and-around the craters that are still spewing the gas, though at rates far lower than what transpired during the explosive phase. Some of these craters were identified in the 1990s, but new scanning techniques allowed the researchers to survey the seafloor comprehensively.

Speaking to Gizmodo, Andreassen said methane blowouts are the best explanation for the craters. “We have numerically modeled the evolution of methane hydrates through the last Ice Age up until today, and the methane hydrates became unstable at the time estimated for crater formation,” she said.

Importantly, Andreassen said similar blowouts could happen in the near future on account of climate change. Areas in front of retreating ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica could host underlying hydrocarbon reservoirs.

It has been evident for many years now that the climate system is becoming more and more unstable. New research in Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic continue to reveal new and startling discoveries that have contributed to the growing body of evidence that Earths climate has destabilized with significant and dangerous levels of warming to come.

 

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