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Climatically driven instability of marine methane hydrate along a canyon-incised continental margin

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Richard DaviesORCiD, Dr Miguel Morales MaquedaORCiD, Dr Mark IrelandORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Establishing how past climate change affected the stability of marine methane hydrate is important for our understanding of the impact of a future warmer world. As oceans shallow toward continental margins, the base of the hydrate stability zone also shallows, and this delineates the feather edge of marine methane hydrate. It is in these rarely documented settings that the base of the hydrate stability zone intersects the seabed and hydrate can crop out where it is close to being unstable and most susceptible to dissociation due to ocean warming. We show evidence for a seismically defined outcrop zone intersecting canyons on a canyon-incised margin offshore of Mauritania. We propose that climatic, and hence ocean, warming since the Last Glacial Maximum as well as lateral canyon migration, cutting, and filling caused multiple shifts of the hydrate stability field, and therefore hydrate instability and likely methane release into the ocean. This is particularly significant because the outcrop zone is longer on canyon-incised margins than on less bathymetrically complex submarine slopes. We propose considerably more hydrate will dissociate in these settings during future ocean warming, releasing methane into the world’s oceans.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Davies RJ, Morales Maqueda MA, Li A, Ireland M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geology

Year: 2021

Volume: 49

Issue: 8

Pages: 973-977

Online publication date: 28/04/2021

Acceptance date: 18/02/2021

Date deposited: 29/10/2021

ISSN (print): 0091-7613

ISSN (electronic): 1943-2682

Publisher: The Geological Society of America


DOI: 10.1130/G48638.1


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Funder referenceFunder name
The National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant 42006066)