(ORDO NEWS) — The world’s oceans are heating up, the methane ice at its bottom is melting, huge masses of gas are released into the atmosphere and multiply the greenhouse effect, bringing the biosphere to mass extinction.
Such an apocalyptic scenario was drawn by science in the 2000s – as it turned out, completely in vain. What is wrong?
American scientists from the University of Rochester, the US Geological Survey and the University of California at Irvine have directly demonstrated the failure of the so-called methane hydrate gun hypothesis.
Their study showed that methane hydrate deposits are indeed melting due to ocean warming, but the released methane just doesn’t reach the atmosphere. It dissolves completely at great depths and is processed by bacteria.
Methane hydrate is water ice with a large amount of natural gas in the crystal lattice. Externally, methane hydrate looks like densely packed snow, which can be set on fire, and then it will burn due to the release of gas.
At first, scientists thought that methane hydrate existed in its natural form only in the outer regions of the solar system.
Subsequently, it turned out that the World Ocean also hides huge deposits of methane hydrate under its bottom – from one to five quadrillion (10 to 15) cubic meters.
This discovery caught the attention of entrepreneurs in the 2000s. Methane hydrate packs natural gas very tightly: one cubic meter of this ice can contain 160-180 cubic meters of methane, which ultimately gives a huge potential for energy. But even more worried environmentalists.
The fact is that methane hydrate is formed at low temperatures and or high pressure, and even with a slight warming, it begins to decompose into water and natural gas. Thus, climate change threatens the safety of all these huge deposits of methane hydrate under the oceans.
The scheme is as follows: global warming warms the oceans, methane hydrate begins to decay en masse, the released natural gas rises from the bottom and enters the atmosphere.
Considering that methane produces a greenhouse effect ten times stronger than carbon dioxide, it turns out something like a warming chain reaction.
The oceans are warming, more methane is being released into the atmosphere, which creates an increasingly strong greenhouse effect, the oceans are warming even more, more methane is being released into the atmosphere.
And this cycle can no longer be stopped, just as a shot from a gun cannot be stopped.
At first, scientists even believed that this would lead to catastrophic heating of the planet during one human life. In later works, this period stretched for thousands of years.
However, not everyone agreed with the methane hydrate gun hypothesis from the very beginning.
American researchers decided to check how realistic the scenario of the hypothesis is, because the oceans are already breaking temperature records due to global warming.
To do this, scientists took many samples of sea water from different depths on the Atlantic and Pacific shelves of the United States and determined the origin of the methane dissolved in it.
The gas that is released from the breakdown of methane hydrate has a unique isotopic signature, so it is not difficult to recognize.
It turned out that surface waters contain an insignificant amount of gas from methane hydrate: it is practically absent down to a depth of 550 meters.
The data obtained show that this methane is completely dissolved in deep waters, after which oceanic bacteria process it into carbon dioxide.
There is also little good in this process: it increases ocean acidification, and besides, some part of carbon dioxide still enters the atmosphere and contributes to the greenhouse effect.
But its consequences are incomparable with the “shot of a methane hydrate gun.” Considering that the same team of scientists had previously obtained similar results in northern waters, the methane hydrate gun hypothesis seems to be untenable.
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