Clathrate gun hypothesis

The clathrate gun hypothesis is the name given to the hypothesis that increases in sea temperatures can trigger the sudden release of methane from methane clathrate compounds buried in seabeds which, because the methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, leads to further temperature rise and further methane clathrate destabilization – initiating a runaway process as irreversible, once started, as the firing of a gun.

In its original form, the hypothesis proposed that the "clathrate gun" could cause abrupt runaway warming on a timescale less than a human lifetime, and was responsible for warming events in and at the end of the last glacial maximum. This is now thought to be unlikely. There is stronger evidence that runaway methane clathrate breakdown may have caused drastic alteration of the ocean environment and of the atmosphere of earth over timescales of tens of thousands of years.

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