Did Planetary "Belch" Cause Prehistoric Warming?

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Most of the methane frozen under the seafloor occurs along the continental margins; "the water can't be too deep or too shallow—a lot of methane hydrate deposits are under water 1,000 to 2,000 meters deep, where the water exerts an incredible amount of pressure," said Schmidt.

Could global climate change warm the oceans enough to change the methane from the crystalline form back to a gas that erupts from the belly of the ocean? Is there a threshold effect, where in waters below 4 degrees Celsius the deposits remain stable and above 4 degrees Celsius they become unstable? What would be the effect of a slow leak of frozen methane? Understanding the role methane plays in current greenhouse warming could have broad policy implications.

"We can't get too fixated on just one gas like carbon dioxide when we think about global warming. It's complicated and surprises happen—they happened in the past and they can happen now. We need to look at climate change from a much broader perspective," said Schmidt.

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