A team of California researchers is trying to unlock the secrets of this substance by fabricating methane hydrates
in a natural setting.
Large deposits of methane hydrates
, frozen mixtures of hydrocarbon gas (mostly methane) and water, occur over large areas of the ocean floor.
In fact, they say, the warming triggered by one large slide could have destabilized methane hydrates
in other locations.
As ocean temperatures warm in the next century, shallow deposits of methane hydrates
could melt and destabilize sediments on the continental slopes.
There are also methane hydrates
, a solid that forms when methane and water mix in cold temperatures.
are a potential new source of natural gas, and are renowned as the "ice that burns."
will remain stable as long as the external pressure remains high and the temperature low.
As it sank and flooded the deep ocean, this water would have warmed the seafloor and melted solid deposits of methane hydrates
. Once the methane bubbled up into the air, it would act as a greenhouse gas, warming the world (SN: 3/22/97, p.
With so little known about methane hydrates
, energy experts say that it is hard to predict whether society will ever tap into these deposits as a fuel source.
These locations, at a depth of 4,300 feet, were selected after an evaluation of seafloor geologic features and an estimation of the presence of methane hydrates