20 March 2016

Methane explosion craters off Norwegian coast linked to fringe Bermuda Triangle theory

Norwegian coast Bermuda Triangle theory

Scientists at the Arctic University of Norway have stirred things up this week by announcing that they’ve found giant underwater craters off their coast, which they believe were formed by exploding natural gas buried in the seafloor. This is not itself controversial. What’s controversial is that the scientists suggested the phenomenon could explain the Bermuda Triangle.

The researchers described craters in the Barents Sea that are up to half a mile wide and 150 feet deep. The craters appear to have been caused by the explosive release of methane hydrate, also known as methane clathrate or natural gas, that had been deposited long ago in the sediment below.

Norwegian coast Bermuda Triangle theory

The Bermuda Triangle. Image: Wikipedia

We don’t know yet whether these methane explosions even happen in the Bermuda Triangle region. If they did, though, the scientists suggest that the violent disturbances to the water and atmosphere could buffet a ship or a plane, capsizing it or causing some other sudden calamity. While the risk to passing ships has yet to be conclusively established, though, gas hydrates are very real. We used to think methane hydrates were only found on ice planets, but more recent exploration and research have determined that we do find these crystalline deposits of methane in Earth’s ocean floors.


Methane - four hydrogen atoms connected to a single carbon atom is one of the simplest organic compounds

Methane is a colorless, odorless gas, and it’s also nonpolar normally, it behaves like oil in water, stubbornly refusing to mix or blend. But a great deal of Earth’s methane was produced by the long-ago decomposition of vast, ancient beds of plankton buried in the seafloor under the crushing pressures of the deep ocean. The sheer pressure means that molecules of methane are physically forced to mingle with water molecules hence the name, hydrate. The resultant substance is kept stable in a solid, even crystalline form by the weight of all that water. This is also why we don’t find methane clathrates in shallow seas; the pressures there aren’t enough to keep the methane solid. But with the right kind of disturbance, parts of the deep-ocean crystalline hydrate deposits can break off and even explode violently as they transition from solid to gas. Oil workers call these gas explosions “burps of death.”

There have been a number of conspiracy theories about the Bermuda Triangle, some better substantiated than others, but many experts remain unconvinced the zone even exists as an anomaly. It’s a heavily trafficked region and has been for a long time. Comparing the data shows that ships and planes disappear from the Bermuda Triangle at about the same frequency as they disappear from anywhere else, raising questions about whether the Triangle is nothing more than a collective case of confirmation bias. And the waters might not even be deep enough for the methane hydrate deposits to form in the first place. If the scientists are right, though, as climate change warms the oceans (helped along by, poetically, methane as a potent greenhouse gas), more and more of these tumultuous releases of methane will occur, making them more easily studied.

(Top Image credit: NOAA/Hurricane Joaquin, 2015)

Source: Extremetech


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