By Becky Oskin
In an unexpected discovery, hundreds of gas plumes bubbling up from the seafloor were spotted during a sweeping survey of the U.S. Atlantic Coast.
Even though ocean explorers have yet to test the gas, the bubbles are almost certainlymethane, researchers report today (Aug. 24) in the journal Nature Geoscience.
“We don’t know of any explanation that fits as well as methane,” said lead study author Adam Skarke, a geologist at Mississippi State University in Mississippi State.
Between North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras and Massachusetts’ Georges Bank, 570 methane seeps cluster in about eight regions, according to sonar and video gathered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration ship Okeanos Explorer between 2011 and 2013. The vast majority of the seeps dot the continental slope break, where the seafloor topography swoops down toward the Atlantic Ocean basin.