A new study has revealed a complete reversal of what scientists previously believed about a contributor to global warming.
Researchers found that Arctic waters absorbed enormous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, causing a cooling effect that is 230 times greater than the warming from methane emitted from underwater seeps.
Scientists previously contended that methane seeps in the Arctic Ocean were contributing to global warming.
“If what we observed near Svalbard occurs more broadly at similar locations around the world, it could mean that methane seeps have a net cooling effect on climate, not a warming effect as we previously thought,” John Pohlman, a U.S. Geological Survey biochemist and lead author of the study, said Monday.
If Pohlman’s study results can be replicated at other methane seeps, it could impact how scientists calculate the global carbon “budget” and future projections of global warming.
“This is … totally unexpected,” said Brett Thornton, a Swedish geochemist who was not associated with the study.
During the study, a group of U.S., German and Norwegian scientists measured methane and carbon dioxide concentrations off the coast of Svalbard where they discovered that 2,000 times more carbon dioxide was taken out of the atmosphere than methane escaping from underwater vents.
The study “suggests physical mechanisms that transport methane to the surface may also transport nutrient-enriched water that supports enhanced primary production and CO2 drawdown.”
The study’s executive summary notes that “These findings challenge the widely held perception that areas characterized by shallow-water methane seeps and/or strongly elevated sea−air methane flux always increase the global atmospheric greenhouse gas burden.”
Pohlman noted that the “cooling effect” of the seeps might be limited to certain times of year, but he and his team were astonished when they discovered such low amounts of methane above the seeps.
Scientists have long warned that an immense release of methane from the sea floor could cause extensive amounts of warming. A 2016 study contended that “the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic.”
But Pohlman’s research suggests that there is more to be discovered about methane seeps and their effect on global greenhouse gas inventories.
“We are looking forward to testing the hypothesis that shallow-water methane seeps are net greenhouse gas sinks in other locations,” Pohlman said.
H/T: The Daily Caller
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