Original Article

Environmental Geology

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 997-1002

First online:

A new estimate of global methane flux from onshore and shallow submarine mud volcanoes to the atmosphere

  • Giuseppe EtiopeAffiliated withINGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia Email author 
  • , Alexei V. MilkovAffiliated withExploration and Production Technology, BP America

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A new estimate of global methane emission into the atmosphere from mud volcanoes (MVs) on land and shallow seafloor is presented. The estimate, considered a lower limit, is based on 1) new direct measurements of flux, including both venting of methane and diffuse microseepage around craters and vents, and 2) a classification of MV sizes in terms of area (km2) based on a compilation of data from 120 MVs. The methane flux to the atmosphere is conservatively estimated between 6 and 9 Mt y−1. This emission from MVs is 3–6% of the natural methane sources and is comparable with ocean and hydrate sources, officially considered in the atmospheric methane budget. The total geologic source, including MVs, seepage from seafloor, microseepage in hydrocarbon-prone areas and geothermal sources, would amount to 35–45 Mt y−1. The authors believe it is time to add this parameter in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change official tables of atmospheric methane sources.


Methane Mud volcanoes Greenhouse gas Climate change