There has a been a long standing paradox about the surface waters of the ocean. The very top of the worlds oceans are saturated with the greenhouse gas, methane. However, the species that would produce such gases could never survive in this underwater atmosphere, so where does it come from? The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute thinks that they may have figured it out. Methane is a pretty dangerous green house gas. To understand why we should care about its presence in our oceans, lets first look at some information. If produced underground, methane can last for hundreds of years. Once in the atmosphere, it can hang around for anywhere between 10-15 years. While the life of methane is impressive, it is also good at trapping heat. This – contributes largely to global warming, hence why we should pay attention to its levels. While in smaller amounts methane can be helpful to us, these large amounts are hurting our environment. According to scientists at the WHOI, the answer to where all of this greenhouse gas is coming from could be in the way that bacteria break down dissolved organic matter; basically, a combination of what substances are put back into the seawater by sea life. Recently, the WHOI discovered that “the ocean’s dissolved matter is made up of novel polysaccharides — long chains of sugar molecules created by photosynthetic bacteria in the upper ocean. Bacteria begin to slowly break down these polysaccharides, tearing out pairs of carbon and phosphorus atoms (called C-P bonds) from their molecular structure. In the process, methane, ethylene, and propylene gasses are created as a product. Most of the methane escapes back into the atmosphere, hence its’ presence on the surface water of most of our oceans.” (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “Mysterious source of greenhouse gas methane in ocean explained.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2016 <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161117145241.htm>.) Previous to the conclusions below, scientists were looking at where methane could have come from. They looked at fish and shrimp to see if the gas was hiding in their intestines, however there is too much oxygen present there to have the gas there as well. Once the scientists added a humanmade chemical to the water which contains many C-P bonds, the organisms began producing methane. Of course once they made this connection, the scientists needed to see where the C-P bonds were coming from naturally. What they narrowed it to down to was that the process has two parts. There are two different species, one that can make but not use these bonds, and one that can use but not make the same bonds. With these new developments, we can see where most of the methane gas is coming from in our oceans! For more information on this particular study, check out the article, here. For all of your water needs – call us at Culligan. We would love to help.