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I thought you would be interested in this article from environment: YALE magazine, the Journal of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
By Mark Schrope
Methane, the major component of natural gas, is found in much lower concentrations in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, but it is about 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas at trapping heat within the atmosphere. Researchers have long wondered whether sudden releases of methane from the seafloor, where in places it is heavily concentrated in ice formations known as hydrates, might have played a significant role in driving climate shifts over geological history. One idea is that changes in temperature or sea level rise could destabilize large swaths of hydrates, which stay frozen only under a narrow temperature and pressure range, releasing methane and affecting climate. But scientists have never been able to study such a potential release on a grand scale.
Enter the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. While most of the focus has been on spilling oil, an estimated 40 to 50 percent of the material gushing out of the seafloor was methane. John Kessler, a geochemist at Texas A&M University, recognized this massive methane release as a useful, if unwelcome, tool for studying how the gas behaves when released in large quantities into the sea. Kessler asked Peter Raymond, professor of ecosystem ecology at F&ES, to join a team that would explore the issue with funding from the National Science Foundation.
The key question was what would happen to the…
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