Temperature changes in the Gulf Stream are "rapidly destabilizing methane hydrate along a broad swathe of the North American margin," the experts said in a study published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.
The team worries that other areas around the globe might be seeing a similar destabilization.
"It is unlikely that the western North Atlantic margin is the only area experiencing changing ocean currents," they noted. "Our estimate ... may therefore represent only a fraction of the methane hydrate currently destabilizing globally."
The wider destabilization evidence, co-author Ben Phrampus told NBC News, includes data from the Arctic and Alaska's northern slope in the Beaufort Sea.