Sediments containing natural gas hydrates occur worldwide on continental and insular slopes and rises of active and passive margins, on continental shelves of polar regions, and in deep-water (> 300 m) environments of inland lakes and seas. The potential amount of methane in natural gas hydrates is enormous, with current estimates at about 1019 g of methane carbon. Subaquatic gas hydrates have been recovered in 14 different areas of the world, and geophysical and geochemical evidence for them has been found in 33 other areas. The worldwide distribution of natural gas hydrates is updated here; their global importance to the chemical and physical properties of near-surface subaquatic sediments is affirmed. ?? 1993 Springer-Verlag.