A mysterious flame sitting behind a small waterfall located in the Shale Creek Preserve in Western New York, USA. A small alcove at the waterfall's base emits natural gas, which can be lit to produce a small flame, although it can be extinguished and must occasionally be re-lit. It is one of a few hundred "natural" eternal flames around the world, fed by gas seeping to the Earth's surface from underground, said Arndt Schimmelmann, a researcher at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.
Typically, this type of gas is thought to come from deeply submerged, ancient and extremely hot deposits of shale, a kind of rock. Temperatures have to be near the boiling point of water or hotter to break down the large carbon molecules in shale and create smaller molecules of natural gas, Schimmelmann explained.
Etiope guided the researchers to the aforementioned eternal flame in Chestnut Ridge Park in western New York, calling it "the most beautiful in the world," Schimmelmann said. They also looked at a "permanently burning pit" in Cook Forest State Park in northwestern Pennsylvania, although this eternal flame is not as special because it’s supplied by an old gas well, Schimmelmann said. The team reported their findings on the New York eternal flame in a study published in the May issue of the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology.
Their results were consistent with estimates that about 30 percent of all methane emitted worldwide comes from natural sources such as these gas seeps. When possible, it can actually be beneficial to set fire to these gas seeps to create "eternal flames." Fire converts methane to carbon dioxide, which traps about 20 times less heat than methane in the atmosphere, Mastalerz told OurAmazingPlanet.