Ocean Science

All Gassed Up

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Science  06 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6030, pp. 641
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6030.641-b

Ocean sediments contain an immense quantity of methane and thus play a key role in the global methane cycle. There are enormous fluxes of methane into and out of the sediments, even though most of the methane produced within the sediments is oxidized anaerobically before it can be released to the ocean water column. Estimates of sedimentary methane production vary between about 85 and 300 Tg per year, although analytical difficulties have made the supporting measurements too imprecise to tell where in that range the true value lies. Zhang et al. employed an in situ technique to measure methane concentrations in sediments, in order to avoid the sampling issues that have plagued other methods. They find concentrations as much as 10 to 20 times higher than those determined by shipboard measurements and conclude that production rates are near the high end of past estimates.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L08605 (2011).

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