Methane vortex in the Baltic Sea

The world is puzzling over who destroyed three gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea - and why. Meanwhile, enormous amounts of methane are bubbling to the surface of the sea. A danger for ships and the climate.

Gas leak in the Baltic Sea

Aerial photos of the southern Baltic Sea near Bornholm show a huge patch of gas bubbling to the surface – it’s methane that has been leaking from a large leak in one of the Nord Stream pipelines since Monday. The exact cause is still unclear, but telltale seismic signals picked up by monitoring stations in the region point to powerful explosions near the pipelines.

Most experts and governments therefore assume sabotage, but by whom and why, so far there has only been speculation. But no matter who it was, it makes no difference to the result. Three of Nord Stream’s four pipelines are unusable and large amounts of gas are leaking – and this will probably continue for several days. At least the methane didn’t catch fire, as happened in a similar gas spill off Mexico in 2021 .

The gas spills are a significant hazard to watercraft in one of the busiest sea areas in the world. The gas bubbles reduce the density of the seawater and thus the buoyancy, so that a ship caught in the gas flow could sink to the seabed like an elevator. Not even life jackets could then save the crew – because their buoyancy would be gone too.

In addition, the immense amounts of methane that escape from the pipelines have significant consequences for the climate. Based on the technical data of the pipelines , Constantin Zerger from the German Environmental Aid calculated on Twitter that theoretically up to 28.5 million tons of CO 2 equivalent of the greenhouse gas could get into the atmosphere. That would be almost four percent of Germany’s annual emissions.

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