Huge craters in the floor of the Arctic Ocean are the collapsed remains of methane domes which exploded after the last Ice Age as the glaciers above them retreated, research suggests. Even now, some 11,600 years after the last gas domes burst, methane is still seeping out of the sea floor.
The methane explosions, which created craters up to 1 kilometre wide in an area that was once solid ice, but is now the northern Barents Sea off the coast of Norway, are not merely a geological curiosity. “These are processes that could take place in front of contemporary ice sheets,” says Karin Andreassen, a marine geologist and geophysicist at the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate in Tromsø, Norway, who led the study, published in Science1. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, so it is tempting to speculate that large seafloor explosions might contribute to global warming. But so far there is little evidence for this, as it is not clear if the gas reaches the atmosphere.
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