Study Finds Moon’s Gravitational Forces Controlling Methane Gas Release in Arctic Ocean The Weather Channel

Full moon

(NASA / Joel Kowsky)

For thousands of years, the Arctic Ocean has naturally released enormous amounts of methane into the atmosphere – a fact that is not widely known. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and its release can have a significant impact on the global climate. The world’s oceans are large reservoirs of this gas, where it is stored as solid hydrates of methane at the bottom of the sea.

Climate experts have warned the world that these leaks may intensify as the ocean warms. In this way, we can enter a self-accelerated loop of more emissions – more heating – more emissions. While anthropogenic activities continue to contribute to increasing methane concentrations in the atmosphere, a recent study indicates that the only natural satellite of our planet – the Moon – could also contribute in some form.

The moon controls the wave

Since its formation, the Moon has always influenced the Earth’s activities in many ways. The moon helps to stabilize the planet’s climate, controlling its oscillation on its axis and also influences the ocean tides. However, the Moon’s ability to control methane release in the Arctic Ocean has been quite unknown even to scientists so far.

The new study states that tides – controlled by the moon’s gravitational forces – can work to release methane from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

Full moon in Tromsø, Norway

Full moon in Tromsø, Norway.

(Maja Sojtaric)

“Terrestrial systems are interconnected in ways we still decipher, and our study reveals one of such interconnections in the Arctic: the moon causes tidal forces, tides generate changes in pressure and bottom currents which in turn shape the seabed and affect emissions of methane of the fascinating submarine! “Research co – author Andreia Plaza Faverola said in a statement.

According to the study’s authors, this is the first time such observations have been made in the Arctic Ocean. Moreover, the study finds that even marginal changes in pressure can lead to the release of significant amounts of methane. “We have noticed that gas accumulations, which are in sediments less than a meter from the seabed, are vulnerable to even slight pressure changes in the water column. the lower pressure and intensity of release “explains Andreia Plaza.

How the study was conducted

For this study, the team of European researchers used observations made by an instrument called a piezometer – a device used to measure water pressure. It was placed in the sediments on the western edge of Svalbard of the Arctic Ocean for four days. The team closely monitored changes in two main parameters – water pressure and water temperature in the sediment pores.

Taking over the pressure instrument, piezometer, which monitors the release of methane from the sediments on the ocean floor.

(Przemyslaw Domel)

By studying the data taken from the device, it was found that the presence of gas increases and decreases with the change of the wave. For this examination, the team specifically selected an area that was free of previous methane leaks, but stores significant gas concentrations.

The research finds that these observations mean that the current emissions we have calculated so far in the Arctic may be underestimated. Explaining the implications of methane release, co-author Jochen Knies says, “What I found was unexpected and the implications are large. This is a deep water site. Small changes in pressure can increase gas emissions, but methane will remain. the ocean due to the depth of the water. But what happens in shallower sites? This approach must also be done in shallow Arctic waters for a longer period. In shallow waters, the possibility of methane reaching the atmosphere is greater. “

The research was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Tromso (ITU) and the Arctic University of Norway.

The study was published in the journal Communications about nature and can be accessed here.