Deepwater gas seeps discovered off Atlantic coast

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NOAA ocean explorers used an advanced multibeam sonar mapping system on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer last month to discover and map the first deepwater gas seeps found off the U.S. Atlantic Coast north of Cape Hatteras.

The seeps were found at water depths greater than 3,300 feet. Based on preliminary information, scientists believe the seeps are likely emitting methane gas.

“Finding and mapping deep ocean seeps is vitally important but has been limited by technology,” said Stephen Hammond, acting chief scientist in NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. “With advanced multibeam sonar, it may become routine to discover seeps while we systematically explore our poorly-known ocean.”

NOAA’s use of advanced technology to discover seeps will benefit other agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey.

“It’s important to find and understand such seeps because they have global significance for the transfer of methane carbon from long-term storage in ocean-floor sediments into the ocean and atmosphere,” said Carolyn Ruppel, chief of the USGS’ Gas Hydrates Project. “Methane released into the water column is often oxidized to carbon dioxide, leading to changes in ocean chemistry, such as ocean acidification.”

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