Large methane reservoirs suggested beneath Antarctic ice sheet

Aug 29, 2012
Credit: Ted Scambos, University of Colorado, NSIDC

The Antarctic Ice Sheet could be an overlooked but important source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, according to a report in the August 30 issue of Nature by an international team of scientists.

The new study demonstrates that old organic matter in sedimentary basins located beneath the Antarctic may have been converted to by micro-organisms living under oxygen-deprived conditions. The methane could be released to the atmosphere if the ice sheet shrinks and exposes these old sedimentary basins.

Coauthor Slawek Tulaczyk, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, said the project got its start five years ago in discussions with first author Jemma Wadham at the University of Bristol School of Geographical Sciences, where Tulaczyk was on sabbatical.

"It is easy to forget that before 35 million years ago, when the current period of Antarctic glaciations started, this continent was teeming with life," Tulaczyk said. "Some of the organic material produced by this life became trapped in sediments, which then were cut off from the rest of the world when the ice sheet grew. Our modeling shows that over millions of years, microbes may have turned this old into methane."

The science team estimated that 50 percent of the West Sheet (1 million square kilometers) and 25 percent of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (2.5 million square kilometers) overlies pre-glacial sedimentary basins containing about 21,000 billion metric tons of organic carbon.

"This is an immense amount of organic carbon, more than ten times the size of in northern permafrost regions," Wadham said. "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."

The researchers numerically simulated the accumulation of methane in Antarctic sedimentary basins using an established one-dimensional hydrate model. They found that sub-ice conditions favor the accumulation of methane hydrate (that is, methane trapped within a structure of water molecules, forming a solid similar to regular ice).

They also calculated that the potential amount of methane hydrate and free beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet could be up to 4 billion metric tons, a similar order of magnitude to some estimates made for Arctic permafrost. The predicted shallow depth of these potential reserves also makes them more susceptible to climate forcing than other methane hydrate reserves on Earth.

Coauthor Sandra Arndt, a NERC fellow at the University of Bristol, who conducted the numerical modeling, said, "It's not surprising that you might expect to find significant amounts of methane hydrate trapped beneath the ice sheet. Just like in sub-seafloor sediments, it is cold and pressures are high, which are important conditions for methane hydrate formation."

If substantial methane hydrate and gas are present beneath the , methane release during episodes of ice-sheet collapse could act as a positive feedback on global climate change during past and future ice-sheet retreat.

"Our study highlights the need for continued scientific exploration of remote sub-ice environments in Antarctica, because they may have far greater impact on Earth's climate system than we have appreciated in the past," Tulaczyk said.

Explore further: Canada to push Arctic claim in Europe

More information: Potential methane reservoirs beneath Antarctica, by J. L.Wadham, S. Arndt, S. Tulaczyk, M. Stibal, M. Tranter, J. Telling, G. P. Lis, E. Lawson, A. Ridgwell, A. Dubnick, M. J. Sharp, A. M. Anesio1 & C. Butler in Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature11392

Related Stories

China looks to 'combustible ice' as a fuel source

Mar 12, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Buried below the tundra of China’s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is a type of frozen natural gas containing methane and ice crystals that could supply energy to China for 90 years. China discovered ...

New structure found deep within West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Sep 23, 2004

Ice sheet more susceptible to change than previously thought Scientists have found a remarkable new structure deep within the West Antarctic Ice Sheet which suggests that the whole ice sheet is more susceptible to future ch ...

Causes of methane growth revealed

Sep 09, 2005

Following an international study into how methane levels in the atmosphere have evolved during the past 2000 years, atmospheric scientists have a new insight on methane, one of the world's most influential greenhouse gases.

A new acceleration additive for making 'ice that burns'

Oct 23, 2006

Japanese scientists are reporting discovery of an additive that can speed up the formation of methane hydrates. Those strange substances have sparked excitement about their potential as a new energy resource and a deep freeze ...

Recommended for you

Checking the first data from OCO-2

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —On July 2, NASA successfully launched its first satellite dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission—operated by NASA's ...

Canada to push Arctic claim in Europe

16 hours ago

Canada's top diplomat will discuss the Arctic with his Scandinavian counterparts in Denmark and Norway next week, it was announced Thursday, a trip that will raise suspicions in Russia.

Severe drought is causing the western US to rise

22 hours ago

The severe drought gripping the western United States in recent years is changing the landscape well beyond localized effects of water restrictions and browning lawns. Scientists at Scripps Institution of ...

User comments : 34

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

verkle
2.5 / 5 (15) Aug 29, 2012
When can we start mining these deposits? Maybe the next frontier in gas exploration will be Antarctica.
NotParker
2.6 / 5 (10) Aug 29, 2012
Convrsion:

1 million metric tons LNG = 1.38 billion cubic meters NG

4 billion metric tons = 5.6 trillion cm

World NG reserves = 300 trillion cm

Trivial amount then ...
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 29, 2012
@ NotParker:

Not trivial for the climate, since the NG reserves are ~ 300 years production IIRC.

And methane is rapidly released into the atmosphere, being a much more potent GW gas than CO2. That factor is ~ 150 IIRC.
NotParker
2.1 / 5 (15) Aug 29, 2012
@ NotParker:

Not trivial for the climate, since the NG reserves are ~ 300 years production IIRC.

And methane is rapidly released into the atmosphere, being a much more potent GW gas than CO2. That factor is ~ 150 IIRC.


Since the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is growing, and West is stable, this interglacial will end before there is any possibility of Antarctic melting a few hundred meters let alone enough to free the methane, we have nothing to worry about.

Methanes lifetime is very short.
rebelclause
2 / 5 (4) Aug 29, 2012
Kind of an off centre question here, but I was curious to know if Saturn's moon Titan had been as close to the Sun as Earth and had also sported life, what would the fate of the flowing rivers of methane there have been? I suppose at the heart of my question is both where do those significant methane reserves on Earth originate and is methane 'used' by life rather than as a bi-product of it or some other chemical exchange in sufficient quantity to balance it? Positive feedback here is suggestive of advancing rates of emission, but if a cycle is referenced does this mean positive feedback over quaternary scale (or other geologic length) cycles advances atmospheric warming beyond a previous geologic maximum or am I misreading this as meaning that only now is this appearing to happen?
robbor
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 29, 2012
oh good, more stuff to burn
eachus
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 29, 2012
Do you smell the cow farts in the air? You probably do if you work in a barn. But no one else does. The ridiculous concept that methane is a potent greenhouse gas assumes that methane stays in the atmosphere for 100 years or more. Riiight. Methane (CH4) is lighter than air, so it rises. As soon as it gets hit by ultraviolet light (or by lightning, but UV is more common) the methane turns into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water.

Each atom of methane produces one molecule of CO2. If you want to convert tons, or kilos or whatever, 16 units of methane produces 44 units of CO2. But if you work in tons of carbon, it is one for one.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.5 / 5 (11) Aug 30, 2012
And salt is heavier than water so salt sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

"Riiight. Methane (CH4) is lighter than air, so it rises." - EachusTard

Oh, wait... it doesn't. Salt stays in solution in the ocean.

Anti-science retards like the one calling itself "eachus" will go to their death bead never knowing why.

T2Nav
4.6 / 5 (10) Aug 30, 2012
If I may stray for the science at hand for a moment, is calling someone a retard supposed to increase his understanding of science? Is it supposed to make him more interested in your viewpoint?
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 30, 2012
When can we start mining these deposits?

There's international treaties against drilling for stuff in or near Antarctica.
Using methane on global scales for energy production is also not really an overly bright idea given the climate situation.

As soon as it gets hit by ultraviolet light (or by lightning, but UV is more common) the methane turns into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water.

And you are certainly aware that both the resultant gases are greenhouse gases?
Vendicar_Decarian
2.8 / 5 (11) Aug 30, 2012
Dishonorable Retards make idiotic pronouncements based on their scientific illiteracy.

"is calling someone a retard supposed to increase his understanding of science?" = T2Nav

Honorable men ask questions.

The path to the answer of the question not asked was provided.

If it is capable of rational thought then it will understand.

If it isn't then it has proven itself a tard.
mrtea
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 30, 2012
If I may stray for the science at hand for a moment, is calling someone a retard supposed to increase his understanding of science? Is it supposed to make him more interested in your viewpoint?


You are absolutely spot on. I have complained about this many times, but you and I are wasting time drawing attention to this. I have just about given up on physorg, because they don't moderate (ban) offenders like those above (one in particular). To NotParkers credit, he ignores the constant attacks on his character, and sticks to the topic.
rubberman
3.2 / 5 (11) Aug 30, 2012


You are absolutely spot on. I have complained about this many times, but you and I are wasting time drawing attention to this. I have just about given up on physorg, because they don't moderate (ban) offenders like those above (one in particular). To NotParkers credit, he ignores the constant attacks on his character, and sticks to the topic.


First of all, Notparker is never on topic, he is usually wandering around inside the topic with tunnel vision focused on what he feels is a relevant .5% of the topic. Secondly, despite your obvious dislike for him, has he ever referred to you as "T-Tard"? Not in any string I have seen. Therefore you mustn't have attempted to pass your opinion off as scientific fact or posted a cherry picked set of stats. to support a falsified theory. How long do you think you could debate a panel of 10 climate scientists using Notparkers tactics before one, if not all 10 were calling him some version of retard?
rubberman
3 / 5 (8) Aug 30, 2012
If I may stray for the science at hand for a moment, is calling someone a retard supposed to increase his understanding of science? Is it supposed to make him more interested in your viewpoint?


Welcome to Physorg. You have wandered into an environment that has been developing and mutating for several years (like climate change). If you attempt to make a point or statement that you can't scientifically validate with a link to peer reviewed subject matter that supports you, essentially try to pass your own personal opinion or theory off as fact, Vendi will attach the suffix tard to your handle. Although it isn't polite, it is less polite to assume you can do the things I mentioned above without consequence as doing these things essentially tells the other posters you think they are idiots. How do you treat someone who is trying to mislead you with information that is clearly false
or data that has been rediculously, blatantly manipulated?
mrtea
4.5 / 5 (8) Aug 30, 2012
If you can't conduct a discussion without resorting to childish taunts, you can't expect to be regarded with respect by mature and intelligent readers of these comments. I would have thought this wouldn't need explaining to grown-ups.

I agree that NotParker resorts to thin counter-arguments, but that's his right. You can ignore him, if you don't accept his style.

The level of debate here is pathetic, and you are simply trying to justify the unacceptable.
djr
3.7 / 5 (9) Aug 30, 2012
If you can't conduct a discussion without resorting to childish taunts, you can't expect to be regarded with respect

I totally agree with you mrtea. The problem is - that the alternative seems to be to engage in endless frustrating exchanges. Parker et al post rubbish - and when it is challenged - they move the goal, tie you up in knots with reams of cherry picked data - and it leaves you frustrated. I think that posters like Antialias probably hit the best compromise - stay on message, don't make it personal (it is so easy to get baited by personal attacks, and to retaliate), avoid the endless exchanges - but don't be afraid to make your case if you know what you are talking about.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (25) Aug 30, 2012
If you can't conduct a discussion without resorting to childish taunts, you can't expect to be regarded with respect
But valid info must be regarded with respect no matter the method of delivery. So sorry your sensibilities are so delicate. Religion has survived in part because the message is delivered all wrapped up in phony pomp and ceremony and authority. Its still a lie.

Scientists are learning to see through the politics and posturing of traditional science. If something is bullshit they will more often nowadays tend to say so. This is a good thing. Science is advancing faster than ever as a result.
rubberman
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 30, 2012
"The level of debate here is pathetic, and you are simply trying to justify the unacceptable."

Have you heard anyone ever drop the intellectual bomb "it is what it is"? Your statement above is too broad, the civility and intellectual stimulation depends on who you are engaging, not all of the poster's here resort to the taunts you refer to (admittedly I do, certain article headlines dictate who the posters are going to be and what they are going to say)

"You can ignore him, if you don't accept his style."

You can always take your own advice, or steer clear of the strings which you think may contain posts which offend you. I'll take the Jerry Springer style of debate with someone who knows what they are talking about, sticks to the topics covered in the article and can back their trash talk with scientific validity, over someone who politely fills a string with bullshit.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (4) Aug 30, 2012
I think that posters like Antialias probably hit the best compromise - stay on message, don't make it personal

I do occasionaly turn caustic. So not so saintly beahvior from me all the time ;-)
NotParker
2.1 / 5 (10) Aug 30, 2012
Parker et al post rubbish


It's because it isn't rubbish that it annoys you and makes you and your fellow cult members turn to foul mouthed rants.
djr
3.5 / 5 (8) Aug 30, 2012
"It's because it isn't rubbish that it annoys you" It often is rubbish - and I will point out uba's posting of an article that claims we are heading in to a new ice age. Your cherry picking of data is often rubbish - claiming that because it is cooler in Washington state this year - that you have proved some significant point on climate science. For me there is a pretty simple test to support my assertion that you are not interested in really discussing the science - but in spreading dissent for the sake of dissent. Yesterday - there were 3 or 4 articles on physorg that touched on the climate. You immediately jumped on every one of those articles - refuting their content. This was a typical day on physorg. For me - you now fail the test. Your position is that every article on climate change is wrong - and you know better than all of those scientists. Yes - I am advocating deferral to authority - just as I do when I go to the doctor. Those scientists know more than you and I.
rubberman
3.3 / 5 (7) Aug 30, 2012
Parker et al post rubbish


It's because it isn't rubbish that it annoys you and makes you and your fellow cult members turn to foul mouthed rants.


Would this be classified as:

A - A scientifically backed opinion/ polite debate

or

"B" - As in "bullshit"

Referring to a group of people who accept the volumes of peer reviewed work and terabytes of observational evidence as cult members is antagonisitic. So too is the behaviour djr noted above, or as some refer to it, is "mentally diseased". Actually, the above post is nothing but an argumentative ad hoc pile of...you guessed it, rubbish.

There are several physorg members employed in scientific fields, they rarely engage rubbishboy unless he says something unignorable, but for the most part he wouldn't get the time of day from them because they recognize the futility of the exchange. How long would you listen to someone tell you about how blindingly luminescent dark matter actually is?
DavidW
1 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2012
Calling someone a tard is a personal judgment. Saying someone behaves such a way is different. If he is, then we all are. None of us can change the past, therefore we are equal under the truth. A real problem cannot be corrected without the truth. Any comments that were labeled childish, etc., are only referring to the hard line of how any guidance not truthful will eventually fail. He can't be a tard and so the comments are not 100% truthful.

It is not about whether or not there is any truth in his words, it's about that he was wishing to exercise direction/path to others without complete honesty. That would hard for any of us. We are never to ignore any deviation of the truth in pursuit of the truth or we will fail. He did come clean he was busting chops, so let it go.
NotParker
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 02, 2012
claiming that because it is cooler in Washington state this year


For 5 years. And Oregon. And Alaska. And BC.

Your cult desperately wants to hide facts that do not support the cults claims.

A scientist would not throw a foul mouthed hissy fit rant because parts of the world are cooling and parts of the USA have been cooling since 1895.
kochevnik
3.9 / 5 (7) Sep 02, 2012
Wow you are right NoParker. The inside of my холодильник is zero degrees, and has been that way for years! I don't see that data at MET. Obviously THEY'RE the cherry pickers! How can they say something about the whole world when they deliberately deleted data about my kitchen?
NotParker
2 / 5 (8) Sep 02, 2012
Wow you are right NoParker. The inside of my холодильник is zero degrees, and has been that way for years! I don't see that data at MET. Obviously THEY'RE the cherry pickers! How can they say something about the whole world when they deliberately deleted data about my kitchen?


Does the Met tell you the last 15 years have flatlined?

That the last 5 years are colder than the previous 5 years and the previous 5 year period before that.

http://www.cru.ue...t3gl.txt

Globally, warming came to an end.

And the last 5 years are only .36C warmer than the 5 year period around 1940?

CO2 was supposed to cause .2C / decade warming.

And it hasn't.

A scientist would acknowledge that.

A scientists would consider that maybe when the whole west coast cools by around .8C that could help cause the global temperatures to flatline.

But cult members choose to go on foul mouthed rants or make dumb fridge analogies.
NotParker
2 / 5 (8) Sep 02, 2012

Globally, warming came to an end.


http://sunshineho...5-years/
Caliban
2.7 / 5 (7) Sep 02, 2012

Globally, warming came to an end.


http://sunshineho...5-years/


And so you just go on to prove your asinine nincompoopery, NutPecker?

This is the reason why you and your partner in stupidiosity, ubavontuba, are continually ridiculed. You wish to be able to make the claim of being NeoCopernicans with regard to AGW, by advancing Flat Earth arguments.

News flash: you are most definitively NOT the belweathers of a New Epoch in Global Climate Understanding.

NotParker
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 02, 2012

Globally, warming came to an end.


http://sunshineho...5-years/


And so you just go on to prove your asinine nincompoopery, NutPecker?

This is the reason why you and your partner in stupidiosity, ubavontuba, are continually ridiculed. You wish to be able to make the claim of being NeoCopernicans with regard to AGW, by advancing Flat Earth arguments.

News flash: you are most definitively NOT the belweathers of a New Epoch in Global Climate Understanding.



Typical foul-mouthed cult member reply to inconvenient facts.

How sad.
Caliban
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 02, 2012
Typical foul-mouthed cult member reply to inconvenient facts.

How sad.


You can lead a Nutpecker to the orchard, but you can't stop it from cherrypicking.

ubavontuba
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 03, 2012
So what happened to the discussion here? Oh, I see ...Vendibot happened.

It's pretty sad when a conversation about science is interupted and corrupted by an incorrigible individual. It's even worse when that individual is a known chatbot. He never rests, he never sleeps, he never gets hungry, he never stops to go to the bathroom. I sure wish phys.org would pull the plug.

NotParker
1 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2012
Typical foul-mouthed cult member reply to inconvenient facts.

How sad.


You can lead a Nutpecker to the orchard, but you can't stop it from cherrypicking.



One of the big 3 Global Average Temperature sets is now cherry-picking?

Ha ha ha ha ha. The cult implodes!
Caliban
3 / 5 (4) Sep 04, 2012

One of the big 3 Global Average Temperature sets is now cherry-picking?

Ha ha ha ha ha. The cult implodes!


OOPS -my apologies. I meant to say cherry-Pecking!

And, let's see more of the usual bullshit from the Pecker...cherry-Pecked an arbitrary time interval from a data set to attempt proof of a cooling trend, and at the same time used a data set that was missing a couple big subsets of data -so much so that it had to be upgraded to include those datasets to be considered a truly global dataset...that's two--

do you want to try for the BIG LIE TRIFECTA, NutPecker?

Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 05, 2012
Don't hate me because I'm vastly smarter than you are, Tard Boy.

"So what happened to the discussion here? Oh, I see ...Vendibot happened." - UbVonTard

Hate yourself for being inferior.