Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Where's The Gas?

Teeny Janitors Attack Gulf Spill, Then Vanish
Robert Krulwich, National Public Radio

Last June, oceanography professor John Kessler of Texas A&M University visited BP's Gulf of Mexico accident site and found methane concentrations below the surface that were, "on average about 100,000 times greater than background (usual)." He told Living On Earth, "We even saw a few locations that were starting to push the limits of a million times above background."

That's a lot of methane. Which is not a good thing. Because methane is a potent greenhouse gas, more potent than CO2. What's more, it's lurking everywhere, not just in the Gulf, but under the Arctic Ocean, the Black Sea. Should large quantities escape into the atmosphere, that would make our warming problems even worse.

Kessler's new paper, coauthored with David Valentine, points out that many methane eaters use oxygen to break down the gas, so says blogger Ed Yong:
Kessler reasoned that the microbes had done away with the methane. He even found the bacteria in question. In September, Kessler recovered several species of methane-eating bacteria from seven different sites. In some areas, these [methanotroph] specialists made up a third of the local bacteria. Back in June, the methane-eaters were nowhere to be found….

Read the complete story on NPR.

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