Arctic & Antarctica
via Wikimedia Commons

ARC - Huge Methane Cache Beneath Arctic Could Be Unlocked by the Moon

The moon could be affecting how much methane is released from the Arctic Ocean seafloor, a new study finds.

The tides, which are controlled by the moon, affect how much methane is released from seafloor sediments: Low tides mean less pressure and more methane released, while high tides create more pressure, and therefore less methane emission.

The research was conducted in the west-Svalbard region of the Arctic, with the findings published Oct. 9 in the journal Nature Communications.

"It is the first time that this observation has been made in the Arctic Ocean. It means that slight pressure changes can release significant amounts of methane. This is a game-changer and the highest impact of the study," study coauthor, Jochen Knies, a marine geologist at the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE), said in a statement.

Methane is a greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming by trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere.  Huge methane reserves lurk beneath the seafloor and ocean warming is expected to unlock some of that trapped methane. So understanding how the tides impact these seafloor methane emissions is important for future climate predictions.

To find this tidal effect, the team measured the pressure and temperature inside the sediments and found that gas levels near the seafloor rise and fall with the tides.

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