One of the big science news items listed on Monday, Aug. 25 at the Guardian Liberty Voice reported that methane gas has been seeping into the Atlantic from the shores of more than 570 locations along the eastern coast of the United States. This is unusual, as methane seepages are usually found in “tectonically active areas,” and places that have access to “petroleum basins, like the Gulf of Mexico.” The eastern shores of the U.S. are not known for high occurrences of tectonic activity and most of the methane seepages do not seem to be results of oil and natural gas deposits.
Nature Geoscience reports that this seepage is not anything new and has been in fact occurring for more than 1000 years. Microorganisms that live in low oxygen conditions (Methanogens) produce methane as a metabolic byproduct. Most of the methane seepage is reported to “occur between 800 and 2,000 feet” and “the methane is probably escaping from frozen substances called hydrates” where many methanogens can live.
Methanogens can thrive in any place that has low or no oxygen such as in the guts of cows and humans, inside of microbes that live in organisms such as termites, in rice paddies and marshes, wrote Astrobiology Magazine in 2005. The percentage of methane produced from these sources was reported to equal nearly 70 percent of the methane contributed to the Earth’s atmosphere.
From these figures, it may seem that the methane byproduct that methanogens produce give no real cause for alarm. The methane production by methanogens has been an ongoing occurrence, a part of the natural cycle. However, many are still concerned that as the planet's climate gets warmer, more methane gas seepage will cause an irreversible change that will affect us all. Methanogens’ role in this may very well tip the scales.
Methanogens, which can thrive in extreme environments, have been found kilometers deep inside the ice of Greenland. The microorganisms thrive in glacial ice and under certain circumstances can contribute much more methane gas to the atmosphere, creating “massive deposits of methane clathrates [hydrates], which account for a significant fraction of organic carbon in continental margin sediments.” Methanogens, “represent a key reservoir of a potent greenhouse gas (methane).” Astrobiology Magazine reported that “a large amount of methane is locked inside ice crystals under permafrost and beneath the continental shelves. These deposits of methane hydrate [...] are vast. They are thought to contain far more carbon than all fossil fuels put together.”
In their frozen state, the methane gas seems to stay put. However, as glacial ice continues to melt, more methane and carbon are released into the atmosphere which could cause increased global warming. Scientists and climatologists have been warning us about this. It seems that evidence unequivocally points to climate change catastrophes and humans are making what is otherwise natural rush its course at a frightening rate.
Take it from some of the experts, 97 percent of whom agree that “climate-warming trends over the past century are likely due to human activities.” These experts are speaking from every medium, such as Twitter and Instagram to try to get people to wake up and make changes that could save us from impending doom.