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The recently-published monograph entitled World Atlas of Submarine Gas Hydrates on Continental Margins compiles findings about gas hydrates offshore all of Earth’s continents and also onshore in selected permafrost regions.  

Gas hydrate is a naturally-occurring ice-like combination of (usually) methane and water that forms in sediments at relatively low temperatures and high pressures. Such conditions are typically found within and beneath continuous permafrost and in the seafloor at water depths exceeding ~500 meters (~1640 feet). The USGS Gas Hydrates Project, which is jointly supported by the Coastal and Marine Hazards and Resources Program (CMHRP) and the Energy Resources Program, is a leader in investigating the energy resource potential of gas hydrate, the interaction of hydrates with the climate system, and the possible connection of gas hydrates to geohazards like submarine landslides.

Map of the North American Gas Hydrate Regions
Map showing the North American gas hydrate regions (shaded offshore and polygon onshore) that are the focus of USGS-associated chapters in the new monograph.  USGS scientists have also conducted gas hydrates research in the northern Gulf of Mexico for more than two decades. An additional USGS-led chapter in the new monograph describes gas hydrates offshore eastern India. 

The new monograph, whose lead editor is Jürgen Mienert of the University of Tromsø, includes six chapters written by USGS Scientists.  Timothy Collett and Carolyn Ruppel of the USGS Gas Hydrates Project each led two chapters. Their papers review the current state of knowledge about hydrates on the Alaskan North Slope and all of Alaska’s marine margins, offshore the eastern margin of India, and on the U.S. Atlantic margin. USGS coauthors for these chapters include William Waite, Margarita Zyrianova, and Patrick Hart, who are affiliated with the Gas Hydrates Project, and marine geophysicists Nathan Miller, Jared Kluesner, and Deborah Hutchinson, the Project’s close collaborators in CMHRP.  Collett has led gas hydrates research on the Alaskan North Slope for over 30 years and is the lead USGS scientist for the pressure coring and production test that is scheduled to commence in 2022. Collett was also chief onboard scientist for the Indian National Gas Hydrates Project 02, which is the focus of the Indian margin monograph chapter. Both chapters led by Collett had U.S. Department of Energy scientist, Ray Boswell, as coauthor.  Ruppel has studied U.S. Atlantic margin gas hydrates and seafloor methane emissions since the 1990s and undertook new analyses of existing seismic data for the focus chapter, which was also coauthored by colleagues Bill Shedd and Matt Frye from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.  Ruppel has also conducted hydrates-related research in the U.S. Beaufort Sea, one location analyzed in the Alaskan marine margins chapter.  

Map of composite results from Alaska marine margin monograph chapter
Composite results from the Alaska marine margin monograph chapter, modified from the figure by C. Ruppel and P. Hart. Red, yellow, and green lines indicate locations of seismic data lacking gas hydrate features, possibly having bottom simulating reflections (BSRs) indicative of gas hydrates, and definitely hosting BSRs, respectively. The white curve with teeth indicates the Aleutian subduction zone.


Collett and John Pohlman, a Gas Hydrates Project chemist, also co-authored a monograph chapter on gas hydrates offshore Northern Cascadia, which includes the area from the U.S.-Canada border northward past Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii. Collett was co-chief scientist and Pohlman served as a geochemist on Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 311, which explored gas hydrate targets on this part of the Cascadia margin in 2005.  In addition, Matt Arsenault, a technical information specialist with the USGS Director’s Office, contributed to a chapter about Hydrate Ridge, a well-studied area offshore Oregon where USGS scientists have collaborated on many studies.  Arsenault conducted research on Hydrate Ridge as a graduate student at Oregon State University starting in ~2000.


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