An increase in methane may be slowing down global warming, according to new research.
Gas bubbles from the greenhouse gas that are seeping up from the seafloor off the coast of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago (above) are being absorbed twice as much as carbon dioxide by surface waters.
The findings suggest that methane seeps in isolated spots in the Arctic could therefore slow down climate change.
Biogeochemist John Pohlman of the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, found that CO2 levels actually dropped whenever their ship crossed a seep over the archipelago.
Brett Thornton, a geochemist at Stockholm University who was not involved in the research, told Science Mag: “This is… totally unexpected.”
The methane bubbles are essentially “fertilising” phytoplankton blooms that soak up CO2.
Thornton wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “There are lots of nutrients in bottom water and bringing that to the surface could certainly [result in] draw down of CO2.”
The study concluded that nearly 1,900 times more CO2 is absorbed than the amount of methane emitted in the research zones.
Top pic: Rex