• Damon Swisher

Lunar Cycle Effects on Methane in the Arctic Ocean May Protect the Climate

Methane Gas as a Greenhouse Agent

If you follow the track record of climate change catalysts, methane stands among the most influential through it's harmful greenhouse gas effects. Over the past few years, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere has been increasing - and we are only just now beginning to understand why, and where it comes from. Though some amount is produced by human activity (farming, mining) it doesn't account for all of the additional results from our testing. It's coming from somewhere else, and a recent research paper may have found it out.

Methane From the Arctic Ocean

It's no secret that methane is seeping continuously from the Arctic Ocean, though it's a fact that very few know about. In 2013, it was estimated that 17 million tonnes of methane seep into the atmosphere annually, making the Arctic Ocean a major contributor to the greenhouse gas array. Is it warming that is causing this massive seep?

No, in fact - a second study was conducted in 2017 to determine whether or not climate change was responsible for the release of methane from the Arctic Ocean.

It was observed that the fluctuation in temperature, between 2-4 °C, did not massively affect the release of methane - and that these fluctuations began long before the issue of climate change was realized. What about an increase in fluctuations? From the research paper, it appears the fluctuations began increasing thousands of years ago as well, and hasn't changed the amount if methane released. So, what does cause an increase in methane release from the Arctic Ocean?

Published in Nature Communications, a natural research journal, a research paper documented the effect of tides and sea-level on methane emissions in the Arctic. The tides are a mighty phenomena that can hardly be reckoned with - sailors know how to plan around them, civil engineers and coastal builders dedicate entire careers to inhibit them - and if you've ever spent a day at the beach, you might recall slowly moving your sun-tanning chair back and forth to avoid getting soaked!

And now, according to the research paper, the tides may indirectly control the release of methane in the Arctic. More specifically - the paper observed that pressure changes, even small, affect the trapped methane on the ocean floor and contribute to it's release. An increase in pressure contributes to an increase in methane release intensity, and the periodicity affects the methane release schedule.

The Pressure is ON

Using a piezometer, which is a tool used to measure liquid pressure based on a section of the liquid's change in height relative to the force of gravity and environment, the researchers were able to measure pore pressure from two stations in the Arctic Ocean. The piezometer analyzed each station for four days, which returned the data used for their results. The data was significant; it demonstrated that slight changes in pressure had the ability to release methane from accumulations of gas below the surface of the sea floor. During low tide, with less hydrostatic pressure, high intensity of methane release was observed. But with high tide the affect was opposed, and the methane release intensity was diminished. The conclusion of the research is shocking; the influence of high tides and large water columns counteracts the increasing temperatures by keeping the methane trapped in the Arctic Ocean, and the effect will only grow as the water level rises.

"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.- Jochen Knies.

This reinforces the truth of ecology, that the ecosystem is connected in a way we still barely understand. Humanity should be credited for at least observing that connections such as these exist, but before we can fully understand our impacts on our planet and the effects of the changing world, we have miles of research and systems to connect. At the moment, it is lie we are trapped within a web of tight strings, and we can see and hear them all vibrating around us. Even though we can't see where most of the strings start or end, we pluck a few strings near us, and we sense that all of the strings are vibrating stronger as time passes. Is one string vibrating more, causing the rest to vibrate by connection? Are any of the string's vibrations cancelling out the vibrations of another?

We just don't know. But if you're interested in staying up to date with ocean science, climate science, and marine news - you should consider following TheVast on social media! We have a Twitter and Facebook, as well as a Youtube channel where we upload fun and informative videos. If you'd like to take it a step further, you can sign up to our weekly newsletter and you won't miss out on important news and events!

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