Environmental Dilemma (02:16)
Methane hydrates are a powerful energy source but also contain greenhouse gases. Atmospheric methane concentrations have doubled in 250 years and methane molecules contribute 20 times more to global warming than carbon dioxide.
Methane Hydrate in Oceans (03:30)
In 2008, sixty plumes were discovered when a British team investigated the hydrate stability field at 400 meters below sea level—in which increasing water temperature and decreasing pressure could melt the ice. This greenhouse gas source could jeopardize life on earth.
Confirming Methane Hydrate Leaks (03:57)
In 2011, increasing atmospheric methane and CO2 levels worsened methane hydrate emissions, suggesting the Arctic will melt faster than other areas. A team finds plumes on the Svalbard seabed, but they are not reaching the surface.
Methane Hydrate Mystery (02:06)
Gas plumes are released from the ocean bed but do not reach the surface. Chemical composition analysis of water samples reveals bacteria consume methane, transforming it into carbon dioxide.
Deepwater Horizon Study (03:18)
The 2010 oil platform disaster released 200,000 metric tons of methane emissions. Scientists observed the ocean's reaction and found most methane stagnated at 1,000 meters, out of reach of methane eating bacteria.
Massive Microbial Reaction (02:37)
Ocean oxygen changes support the hypothesis that microorganisms consumed a layer of methane within two months. Bacteria should be able to consume large amounts of methane hydrate, but they also emit C02—contributing to ocean acidification.
Ocean Acidification Research (01:55)
Marine animals are losing carbonates needed for calcium production. French scientists predict that therapods will disappear from the Arctic as a consequence of increased CO2 from methane hydrate emissions.
Arctic Ocean Acidification Evidence (03:41)
Methane emissions consumed by bacteria are increasing CO2 concentrations, depleting sediment oxygen, and destroying bivalve shells. Some methane consuming bacteria do not use oxygen.
Marine Microbiology Research (02:11)
Some sediment organisms generate methane and others consume it. Scientists observe ocean floor bacteria to learn about it's effects on the climate.
Anaerobic Methane Consumption Research (03:03)
Earth originally lacked atmospheric oxygen. German scientists discovered that archaea and bacteria combine to consume methane in an oxygen free environment—explaining why few emissions escape the ocean.
Methane in Permafrost (03:12)
A large area of Siberian soil contains the greenhouse gas. Increasing temperatures threaten to decompose Ice Age organic matter. Scientists collect data for climate change analysis and monitor soil temperature.
Permafrost Melting Process (02:32)
A Siberian construction company cools ground temperature for foundation stability. Increased precipitation has caused polygon lake formation, exposing organic matter and accelerating methane production. Ecosystem complexity makes it difficult to predict climate effects.
Permafrost Methane Hydrate Leak (03:27)
Siberian forests are offsetting methane emissions—but permafrost also contains methane hydrates. Canadian scientists determine a plume is caused by hydrates, not decomposition. Natural processes seem to limit emissions.
Studying Planetary Climate History (02:55)
Warming and cooling cycles can help determine future methane evolution. Scientists analyze gas bubbles in polar ice cores in Greenland to understand past methane fluctuations. Increases occurred in response to global warming phases, rather than causing them.
Antarctic Methane Research (02:32)
Atmospheric methane levels increased by 50% during the last great thaw. Scientists collect 11,500 year old ice cores in Antarctica; learn about the gas extraction process. They discover the methane increase was caused by wetlands, rather than by methane hydrates.
Anthropogenic Methane Emissions (01:12)
Scientists conclude that naturally occurring methane hydrates play a small role in global warming. However, oil and gas industry negligence is responsible for large leaks. Methane hydrates may be a new energy source.
Credits: Methane: Dream or Nightmare—Part 1 (00:30)
Credits: Methane: Dream or Nightmare—Part 1
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