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Wikenigma - an Encyclopaedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopaedia of the Unknown Science

Methane hydrates

Mehane hydrates - a.k.a. methane clathrates - are an important part of global methane storage (see Global Atmospheric Methane Cycleplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigGlobal Atmospheric Methane Cycle

Methane is roughly 30 times more potent as a Greenhouse Gas than CO2. Over the last 30 years, the measured levels in the atmosphere have been steadily rising, - maintaining a clearly defined seasonal cycle. 1900 parts per billion (ppb) …

They are commonly found in permafrost deposits and on and under the sea floor, being a frozen, naturally‐occurring, and highly‐concentrated form of methane linked with water molecules.

For stability, they require low temperatures (typically < 15 °C) and moderately high pressures. When warmed, the trapped methane is released and ultimately enters the atmoshphre - where it is a potent 'greenhouse' gas. This greenhouse effect leads to higher global temperatures which in turn releases more methane from the hydrates. Thus, they may be a profound factor in the case of positive-feedback 'runaway' global warming.

Allthough the science behind the storage and release mechanisms are well understood, at present the quantity of naturally stored methane hydrate workdwide is unknown. With expert estimates varying by a factor of more than 30 times.

These uncertainties make accurate calculations of potential global warming models considerably more problematic.

Note: Current midrange estimates put the global quantity at around 2.4 trillion tonnes of CH4

Source: Review of Geophysics Volume 55, Issue1.

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