Scientists are certain that a massive melting of Antarctica would spell disaster globally. If all of the ice in Antarctica were to melt, the sea levels would increase by an estimated 200 feet. Needless to say this level would destroy life as we know on this planet. Despite the potential impacts of glacial melting in Antarctica, scientists are still attempting to grasp the workings of region, including what is driving melting there.
Methane is a strong greenhouse gas, which is between 20 and 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. The release of methane, along with the carbon dioxide, due to global warming will simply compound the issue of climate change. According to recent studies, permafrost could contribute 300 or more billion metric tons of carbon emissions by the year 2100.
Traditionally scientists pinpoint the world’s main methane resources as being located in the Arctic. Warming in the region has caused considerable concern about methane stores being released in the atmosphere. Methane stores being released would and do further warming by being a potent greenhouse gas itself. Now a recent study indicates that methane stores may be a significant issue if the Antarctic continues to warm as well.
Published in the journal Nature, researchers indicated that major stores of methane are likely in Antarctic ice. The researchers also concluded that methane stores are likely not far below the surface, meaning limited further warming may be required to begin releasing significant stores. The researchers estimated that there could be hundreds of billions of tons in Antarctic ice, a figure which would easily rival the aforementioned estimate of 300 billion tons of carbon from permafrost by 2100.
Jemima Wadham, head of the study, stated: “This is an immense amount of organic carbon, more than ten times the size of carbon stocks in northern permafrost regions. […] Our laboratory experiments tell us that these sub-ice environments are also biologically active, meaning that this organic carbon is probably being metabolized to carbon dioxide and methane gas by microbes.”