Scientists have discovered hundreds of craters in the Arctic Ocean and other locations that they think came from explosions of pent-up methane beneath the Earth’s surface.
Some of the craters are up to half a mile wide with huge mounds next to them and have been observable for many years, according to The Atlantic.
Although they are not sure exactly how the craters are forming, scientists have come up with a theory that as ice sheets melt, previously frozen methane turned back into a gas and created pressure underneath the surface, The Atlantic reported. When the pressure reached a high enough level, it could blow through the surface and create a crater.
Similar mounds and craters have been found in Siberia as the permafrost melted in the recent warmer-than-normal years, suggesting that the same thing could have happened. Craters have also been found in the Barents Sea, in the North Sea west of Norway, and in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, the Atlantic reported.
Scientists worry that ice sheets will continue to retreat in Greenland and Antarctica, leaving those areas vulnerable to a release of long-pent-up reservoirs of methane that could have the potential to make the Earth even warmer. Before the ice began to melt, methane would be released below the surface and would freeze and become inactive before it could reach the surface.
"It is a process we must take into account when we discuss future methane releases," said Arctic University of Norway’s Karin Andreassen to Newsweek. "The point is methane is being released very slowly, but it can be released very fast and abruptly."
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