How significant are these emissions to the climate, considering methane's potent impact as a greenhouse gas?
In 2012, we set out to better answer this question by launching our largest research project to date: A series of 16 independent, rigorously executed projects [PDF] designed to find out how much and from where methane is escaping into the atmosphere across the entire supply chain.
It has been argued that as a result of active methanogenesis, this significant carbon pool could provide a major contribution to global atmospheric methane emissions and composition following deglaciation of Antarctica.
However, to date, few studies have investigated how gas hydrates responded to past climate change—specifically—the impact of extensive ice-sheet expansion on gas hydrate stability and dissociation during the last glaciation.
The present distribution and stability of gas hydrates beneath oceans and permafrost, along with their potential to release large fluxes of methane and other potent greenhouse gases, are fundamental to determining long-term atmospheric composition and its impact on climate change.
Previous research reveals that subglacial soils, lakes, peatlands and marine sediments can store significant reserves of carbon within a GHSZ beneath the palaeo-ice sheets that covered North America and also beneath the Antarctic ice sheet today.
Here we synthesize observations of 1,900 fluid escape features—pockmarks and active gas flares—across a previously glaciated Arctic margin with ice-sheet thermomechanical and gas hydrate stability zone modelling.Our series was designed to help combine, compare or contrast methods to fuel precision, instead of confusion.For example, several studies use innovative aerial measurements taken by specially instrumented aircraft equipped with methane sensors.This window expanded in response to post-glacial climate warming and deglaciation thereby opening the Arctic shelf for methane release.Natural gas can exist in solid form of crystalline ice-like structures known as gas hydrates that are stable within the subsurface under high-pressure and low-temperature conditions bounded by the gas hydrate stability zone (GHSZ).