First Active Methane Leak Observed off Antarctica

Proceedings of the Royal Society B, July 22.

A team of scientists has discovered the first active leak of methane through the Antarctic seafloor, in the Ross Sea. Researchers monitored microbial communities that can consume the greenhouse gas before it reaches the atmosphere, and therefore play an important role within the methane cycle. Their work reveals a delayed response rate of these microbes: it took more than a year for the methane-consuming microorganisms to begin filtering away the gas.  Five years later, the growing community still lacked the ability to completely mitigate the release of methane, allowing the gas to continue leaking into the atmosphere. Since Antarctica holds as much as a quarter of the planet’s ocean-based methane, these findings can improve the accuracy of future global climate models by considering the time it takes microbial communities to respond to influxes of methane.

Compiled by Amy Imdieke