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Scientists find good news about methane bubbling up from the ocean floor
Date:12/20/2007

and lead author Susan Mau, a postdoctoral fellow in Valentine's lab, tracked the plume down current from the seeps at 79 surface stations in a 280 square kilometer study area. They found that the methane plume spread over 70 square kilometers.

By boat, the authors sampled the water on a monthly basis. They found variable methane concentrations that corresponded with changes in surface currents. They also found that more wind releases more methane into the atmosphere. Overall, they discovered that about one percent of the dissolved methane escapes into the atmosphere in the area they studied, a long-term average. This lead the authors to hypothesize that most of the methane is transported below the ocean's surface -- away from the seep area. Then it is oxidized by microbial activity.

To back up their findings of their surface sampling of the water, the scientists used a mass spectrometer hauled behind the boat as well. This equipment allowed for very high-resolution chemical information about the methane. This effort showed no significant difference in the numbers.

"We showed that the currents control the fate of the gas and supply it to bacteria in a way that allows them to destroy the methane," said Valentine.

Valentine said that while the seeps at COP are among the largest in the world, they can be found just about anywhere.


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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara  
Source:Eurekalert

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