Global warming has emerged as one of the gravest challenges of our time, at least according to some experts. If the current science on global warming turns out to be correct, the world could experience massive and sweeping changes in the decades ahead. Now, on recent study found a large number of methane plumes off the Pacific Northwest coast.
This is no small matter. Huge reserves of methane are stored at the bottom of oceans across the world. Frozen and under immense pressure, the methane is prevented from entering our atmosphere, where it would wreak havoc as a powerful greenhouse gas.
Methane is estimated to be about 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2.
Previously, such methane plumes were a relatively rare sight. Scientists found 168 off the West Coast in the most recent study. In past studies off the east coast, scientists managed to find only three of such plumes. In the most recent student, back in 2014, scientists found 570 methane plumes off the east coast.
Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, and up until now much of it has been preserved in deposits at the bottom of the ocean. Methane is estimated to be 23 times at potent of a greenhouse gas as CO2.
The most recent discovery of so-called methane plumes is off the coast in the Pacific Northwest. This is no small matter as methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and could potentially accelerate global warming.
The potential release of massive amounts of methane is no small matter. While carbon dioxide is the most well-known greenhouse gas, largely owing to the fact that it is emitted in massive amounts, and has been linked to human activity, it is actually a relatively weak greenhouse gas, at least compared to methane.
Methane is suspected for previously causing big and often sudden swings in the Earth’s climate. Much of the methane on Earth is actually trapped, frozen in the ocean, but as oceans warm up, this powerful greenhouse gas could be released. Global warming could thus accelerate.
A previous study found that from 1970 to 2013 some 4 million metric tons of methane hydrate was released.
As the oceans warm further, this rate of release could increase dramatically.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas
In the United States, methane is the second most emitted greenhouse gas, trailing over carbon dioxide. In 2013 methane accounted for 10 percent of all emissions created by human activity.
Globally, human activity accounts for about 60 percent of all methane being released. In reality, this number is arguably higher as human activity is forcing nature to release methane. Methane contributes to about 25 percent of all man-made global warming.
In the US, about 10 percent of methane comes from coal mines and manure use each, while another 18 percent comes from landfills, and still an additional 29 percent comes from natural gas use. Enteric fermentation, which refers to the digestive movements of animals, accounts for 26 percent.
The EPA estimates that “pound for pound” methane is 25 times more potent of a greenhouse gas over the course of a hundred years. Other organizations have found that within the first two decades of being released, methane is actually 84 times as potent.