Methane leakage from the environment and human activity is a major problem of greenhouse gases. Methane is many times more efficient at capturing heat than carbon dioxide, and scientists now say that the Moon plays a key role in the amount of gas released.
It depends on the tide and the effect of the gravitational pull of the moon on them – something we can measure. By placing a piezometer in the Arctic Ocean for four days and nights, researchers were able to measure temperature and pressure changes over time.
What they found is that the presence of methane gas near the seabed rises and falls with the tide, which is an important feature of methane emissions, and one that will affect our climate change. seeing now and in the future. .
“We have noticed that gas accumulations, which are in the sediments within a meter of the seabed, are vulnerable to even small pressure changes in the water column,” said marine geologist Andreia Plaza-Faverola from the University of Tromsø – Arctic University of Norway. .
“Low tide means less hydrostatic pressure and higher intensity of methane emissions. High tide equals high pressure and lower intensity of the release.”
These methane leaks in the Arctic Ocean have occurred for thousands of years, caused by factors such as seismic and volcanic activity, but there is much more to learn about the mechanisms that cause this leak and will affect its level.
That’s where the Moon and the tides come in. The researchers say tides could be used as a way of predicting the amount of gas released from the Arctic Ocean on a day-to-day basis, even with changes in smaller tidal heights. of 1 meter (3.3 feet)).
One of the takeaways is that seabed gas emissions are more widespread than data from conventional sonar studies show, and we may have underestimated the level of gas in the Arctic. leaking right now, even if it’s not all released at once.
“The earth’s systems are interconnected in ways we still diverge, and our study reveals one of those interconnections in the Arctic,” Plaza-Faverola said.
“The Moon causes tidal forces, the tides generate pressure changes, and currents at the bottom which then shape the seabed and affect methane emissions under the sea.”
The study also raises the possibility that rising sea levels could counteract the release of methane from the oceans, as the increased water pressure keeps the gas trapped longer. This is one of several factors that scientists need to weigh.
Next, the researchers want to capture more data over a longer period of time to see how changes in tides affect methane emissions in the region as a whole: from deep-water sites like the one this, to shallow water areas where the effects of tidal differences on gas emissions are likely to be even greater.
Although tidal changes have been associated with methane emissions in the past, the geographic location of this study and the variables that observed even small differences in weight make it a crucial new information point for modeling future climate change.
“This is the first time this observation has been made in the Arctic Ocean,” says marine geologist Jochen Knies.
“It means that small weight changes can release a lot of methane. This is a game changer and the study’s highest impact.”
The research was published in Nature Communication.