Undersea gas leaks detected off Israel’s coast

University of Haifa researchers say the natural gas springs could disturb the stability of the sea floor.

University of Haifa scientists recently discovered series of active gas springs on the Haifa Bay sea floor that are leaking gassy emission into the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers warned that because the springs were found at relatively shallow depths, only a few dozen meters below the surface, any disruption to this undersea reserve could harm the surrounding marine environment.

“We don’t know yet what kind of gas we’re talking about, but its role in undermining the stability of the seabed is clear,” said Dr. Michael Lazar, a member of the research team. “This means that any discussion of marine infrastructure development must seriously relate to this shallow gas stratum.”

The study, published in the journal Continental Shelf Research, describes the entire system, from its sources under the sea floor through the natural springs emerging from the seabed.

“This is a natural laboratory for researching gas emissions from the sea floor – natural springs and less natural ones. We are only beginning to understand their contribution to climate and ecological change,” said Dr. Uri Schattner of the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa, who led the research.

A joint effort between the University of Haifa and the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute revealed no less than 700 spots in the seabed that looked like possible gas springs.

However, what they found exceeded all expectations. A gas deposit of 72 square kilometers was found on the continental shelf, at depths of between 37 meters to 112 meters. While many of the gases remain in the reserve, some still manage to escape into the sea.

“Now we are beginning to understand that there is no substitute for thoroughly researching the stability of the sea floor to prevent an infrastructure failure, since any leak could cause an ecological disaster,” said Dr. Schattner.

During the coming months, the researchers will be making another expedition to the springs, this time with a team of biologists and geologists.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. She has jumped out of a plane, ducked rockets and been attacked by a baboon all in the name of a good story. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.