National Geographic wrote a story about antarctic methane being trapped underneath the ice and how it could possibly be bad for the environment:
Swamp gas trapped under miles of Antarctic ice, a chemical souvenir of that continent’s warmer days, may someday escape to warm the planet again.
What is this swamp gas? It is, in fact, arctic methane. Researchers in this Nat. Geo. article suggest that there are microbes isolated from the world since antarctic ice froze over the them. Now you’re probably like, “Wait, wait, back up, what are microbes?” Microbes are microscopic single cell organisms that are the oldest forms of life dating back to 3.5 billion years ago. The microbes that have been under the antarctic sea ice have been there for only 35 million years… but that’s still a very long time. In all of that time down there, they have been breaking down organic matter therefore making methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has a much bigger effect on global warming than carbon dioxide. Why is this important? Because if if the Antarctic ice were to partially melt and the ice sheets retreated, the researchers believe the methane gas could escape into the atmosphere, greatly worsening the warming.
But, what could the microbes possibly breakdown underneath over a mile of ice? Well, Antarctica has been at or near the south for more than 100 million years. Most of that time the planet was warmer than it is today. Because of this, plant fossils confirm Antarctica was covered in forests and tundra, not ice. Fjords and large bays cut into the interior as well. Stacks of sediment have piled up in the fjords from trees and leaves which eventually was covered by ice. This is what the microbes have been breaking down.
Before you freak out, which some of you will, the scientists haven’t actually detected any methane-producing microbes yet, but there some other smaller studies have shown traces of such. But what if this were true, and what if these scientist would’ve already done a study and found many trillions and trillions of microbes creating methane underneath the sea ice? Well if that were the case, we would have a real problem on our hands. As the ice melts and the layers thin, the ice will eventually get thin enough for the methane to get through being released into the atmosphere having a huge affect on global warming.