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A Marine Focus
Causes: Methane Hydrates

The first scientist to realize the importance of methane hydrate release in explaining the end-Permian mass extinction was Doug Erwin (Erwin, 1993) who originally believed that a release of this material at the Permian-Triassic Boundary (PTB) was tied to sea level regression. However, more recent research links the release of methane hydrates at the PTB to an increase in ocean temperature.

Methane hydrates are solid compounds composed of methane molecules and water. They form whenever the constituent compounds come into contact and sufficiently low temperature and high pressure. The most notable physical properties of these hydrates are that they are non-flowing crystalline solids that are denser than the hydrocarbons they contain and that the molecules they contain are highly compressed. This compression is, on average, around the order of sixteen times. Methane hydrates are found in sea-floor sediments on continental margins or in permafrost. (Sloan, 2003)