US researchers now estimate climate change is accelerating the likely melt of frozen, deep-sea methane hydrates, leading to the potential discharge of an overwhelming 16,000 metric tons of methane annually.
Although the methane would initially be consumed by marine microbes, these would release CO2 with a resulting imbalance that could result in numerous dead zones, where the water would lose as much as 95% of its life-sustaining oxygen.
In addition, the microbial production of CO2 would increase ocean acidity, jeopardizing the survival of many species and disrupting marine ecosystems. As a further side effect, key nutrients such as nitrate, copper and iron that are useful to organisms would also be depleted due to the activity of the microbes.
Experts have detected large seafloor methane stores beneath waters throughout the Arctic as well as in the North Pacific Oceans, with some lakes and seas already showing the bubbling of methane plumes and similar microbial processes.
Study co-author Dr. Scott M. Elliot, a marine biogeochemist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA, stated, “This will be a truly big environmental pollution problem in the next few decades. This problem is not going to go away.”
Our appreciation, Dr. Elliot and colleagues, for alerting us to this destructive scenario being formed beneath our oceans. Let us quickly adopt more sustainable lifestyles to avoid such dire outcomes to the planet.
During a September 2008 interview on the US-based Environmentally Sound Radio, Supreme Master Ching Hai addressed the threat of methane release in the context of global warming, while highlighting the way for human prevention.