EcoAlert: “Could the Gulf Oil Spill Trigger a Cataclysmic Global Methane Bubble?”

S04_23845889 Current analysis of methane levels in water collected from seven miles to 500 meters from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead show concentrations at some points to be a million times higher than normal John Kessler, a renowned chemical oceanographer in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University

"Methane levels ranged from 10,000 to nearly 1 million times higher in some spots than normal concentration," Kessler said.The 10-day reserach cruise, which was funded by a National Science Foundation Rapid Response grant, returned June 21 with nearly 1 million data points gathered. 

Ramifications are multifold, Kessler said. He called the site a natural laboratory in which to better assess the effect of methane on global climate change. Naturally occurring methane seeps have been linked to rapid climate change. For instance, an event occurring 55 million years ago may have caused one of these spikes, scientists believe. This event, the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum (LPTM), lasted about 100,000 years. Large undersea methane caused explosions and mass extinctions. So the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster may, at least, help scientists better understand and perhaps predict methane effects on global temperatures.

Concurrently, a huge ragged gash on the ocean floor hundreds of feet long has been reported by the NOAA research ship, Thomas Jefferson. Before the curtain of the government enforced news blackout again descended abruptly, scientists aboard the ship voiced their concerns that the widening rift may go down miles into the earth. 

That gash too is hemorrhaging oil and methane. It’s 10 miles away from the BP epicenter. Other, new fissures, have been spotted as far as 30 miles distant.

Measurements of the multiple oil plumes now appearing miles from the wellhead indicate that as much as a total  of 124,000 barrels of oil are erupting into the Gulf waters daily-that’s about 5,208,000 gallons of oil per day. 

Northwestern University's Gregory Ryskin, a bio-chemical engineer, has a methane extinction theory: The oceans periodically produce massive eruptions of explosive methane gas. He has documented the scientific evidence that such an event was directly responsible for the mass extinctions that occurred 55 million years ago, when masive combustible clouds produced by methane gas trapped under the seas and explosively released could have killed off the majority of marine life, land animals, and plants at the end of the Permian era—long before the dinosaurs arrived.

If the methane bubble—a bubble that could be as big as 20 miles wide—erupts with titanic force from the seabed into the Gulf, reports, "every ship, drilling rig and structure within the region of the bubble will immediately sink. All the workers, engineers, Coast Guard personnel and marine biologists participating in the salvage operation will die instantly. An ocean bottom collapse would follow, instantaneously displacing up to a trillion cubic feet of water or more and creating a towering supersonic tsunami annihilating everything along the coast and well inland. Like a thermonuclear blast, a high pressure atmospheric wave could precede the tidal wave flattening everything in its path before the water arrives."

Is knowledge of the potential methane threat why the U.S. gov't and BP is trying prevent with the reporting blackout?

Let's hope otherwise.

Casey Kazan

Image credit: Smoke billows from a controlled burn of spilled oil off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico coast line June 13, 2010. (REUTERS/Sean Gardner) 



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