In an example of how little is actually known about what goes on in the world’s oceans, researchers recently discovered 500 “new” (newly discovered, that is) methane vents off the west coast of the US.
“It appears that the entire coast off Washington, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep,” commented RMS Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard, who found the new-to-science vents on summer expeditions with his ship Nautilus.
The discoveries roughly double the number of such vents known to lie along the continental margins of the US. Considering that methane is a very potent greenhouse gas the discoveries are notable.
Not much is known about the vents yet, though, making it hard to tell what sort of an effect they could be having on the climate, or how long the seeps have been active. Has oceanic warming played a part in their activity?
“This is an area ripe for discovery,” stated Dr Nicole Raineault, Director of Science Operations with Dr Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust. “We do not know how many seeps exist, even in US waters, how long they have been active, how persistent they are, what activated them or how much methane, if any, makes it into the atmosphere.”
Those vent discoveries were discussed at the recent 2016 National Ocean Exploration Forum hosted in New York. In addition to the methane seep discoveries, a great many other things were discussed at the forum, including recent deep sea animal discoveries. Here’s a collection of some interesting videos and images related to that: