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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology


Turbulent plumes and chemical clouds: Oceanic methane releases



 Laboratory two-phase plume (left) and corresponding speed field (right). (See Cardoso, S. S. S., McHugh, S., 2010, Turbulent plumes with heterogeneous chemical reaction on the surface of small buoyant droplets, J. Fluid Mech. 642:  49-77, doi:10.1017/S0022112009991674)



Methane gas bubbles rise from the seafloor at a depth of approximately 1600 m. Credit: NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS (


A large number of methane plumes have been recently detected in the Arctic Sea, raising concerns about a possible run-away effect of global warming. Hydrate-formation reactions play an important role in the dynamics of methane plumes released in areas very close to the hydrate stability zone. Estimates indicate that 6000 Gt of methane exist accumulated in the sediment of the deep and cold ocean, and permafrost regions. An increase in the temperature of these regions may destabilize the hydrates and release methane into the atmosphere, either steadily or suddenly. Methane is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on a per mole basis, which can catastrophically cause a run-away effect in global warming. We are interested in understanding such releases.