A new factor in the climate equation

Source: Michael D Lemonick, Climate Spectator

Climate scientists have long fretted about the hundreds of billions of tonnes of methane frozen under the floor of the Arctic Ocean. If the water warms enough, some of that methane could escape. Nobody knows how soon or how quickly such a release might happen, but since methane is a far more potent heat-trapping gas than the more familiar carbon dioxide, it could add to the temperature increase already under way thanks largely to human emissions from fossil fuel burning.

But frozen Arctic methane turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. According to a paper released Wednesday in Nature, there could be just as much methane trapped on the opposite side of the planet, under Antarctica’s vast ice sheets.

“It’s very hard to say what the effect would be if it were released,” lead author Jemma Wadham, of the University of Bristol, said in an interview. “And it’s hard to say when it might happen, and where. But there is potential for a release, for sure.”

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