Arctic Methane?

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.


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12 responses to “Arctic Methane?”

  1. forrestm0017 says :

    I think this post has very good and insightful information, and I especially like the picture of the arctic ice. It is well written and it has a good representation of everything we have talked about in class these past couple weeks, especially voice. Very good post overall, kmlewis1234567890

  2. benb0017 says :

    I must say, thank you for expanding my knowledge and giving me new information, which I can use to look at global warming from a different perspective. You also did a very great job showing proof of what you were claiming, and you just did a great job overall with this post.

  3. alexc0017 says :

    It seems like global warming is a chain reaction. The ice starts to melt and then the methane is released making the melting worse make more methane be released. I was reading about a once prominent ski resort, the one at the highest altitude. The ice is melting leaving sheets of dark rocks which increases the heat which melts more ice. If there were a way to stop one of the links I think the effects of global warming would lessen.

    • kmlewis1234567890 says :

      Interesting point Alex, I would have to agree. The problem is if there is even any way for us humans to make an impact on the chain reaction, because if we don’t then, like you said, it would just get worse and worse.

  4. davidc0017 says :

    This is a great post, but you failed to mention that this might have happened already because of the snowball earth many years ago.

  5. christinel0017 says :

    I really liked your post. I think that if the arctic ice is melting as fast as it is said to, the methane will escape and cause the ice to continue melting much faster like you said in your post. Good job!

  6. adamw0017 says :

    I really liked your most Miles! I also that if the arctic ice is melting as fast as it is said to, the methane can and probably will escape and cause the ice to continue melting much faster as you mentioned in your post.

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