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Imagine That! - Ocean Floor Burp


Imagine That!
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Imagine That! - Ocean Floor Burp

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

Miles below the surface of our oceans lies a gaseous beast waiting for its day to rise...in the form of an enormous ocean floor burp!

Imagine That!

Scientists have known for a long time that periods of global warming seem to correspond with large amounts of methane gas found in the atmosphere, but didn't know exactly where that methane was coming from. Now, researchers at the University of Wyoming have a better idea...

Methane hydrate is an ice-like solid locked up in sediment and buried beneath the ocean floor. But it's an enormously unstable substance...so unstable, in fact, that a small change in temp, which isn't unusual, or a shift of the floor it rests under, like common underwater landslides, and the CH4 could be released into the ocean, and subsequently into the atmosphere. Not good, as carbon dioxide and methane are both greenhouse gasses.

But it's not all bad, as professor of geophysics and researcher on the project, Steve Hollbrook, explains:

Hollbrook: "Methane is natural gas -- it's a fuel, you can burn it. So if we could figure out a way to unlock this stuff from the sediments, then you could potentially produce it. It could be a relatively clean source of fossil fuel energy because CH4, methane, is a pretty clean fossil fuel."

Fill 'er up! I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at nsf.gov.

 
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