Scientists have discovered a new source of methane in the Antarctic Ocean,media reported. While so-called methane leakage — a gas bubble from an underground reservoir into the ocean — has been found in several parts of the world, it is the first time it has been found in Antarctica. Typically, methane leakage is accompanied by a layer of microbial blankets: a layer of bacteria that feeds on a type of methane-eating microbe.
Although the Antarctic osmosis does have a microbial blanket about 32 feet below the frozen surface of the ocean — about 230 feet long and 3 feet wide — it behaves differently from the others. The microbes above have developed later than models predicted, and have not consumed all of methane.
The researchers believe this means that at least some of the gas may be escaping into the atmosphere. This finding is worrying considering that methane is an important factor in atmospheric warming.
“Methane is the second most effective gas that causes atmospheric warming, and Antarctica has huge reservoirs that are likely to open as climate change shrinks the ice sheet,” said Andrew Thurber, one of the study’s authors. “
“What’s really interesting and exciting is that the microbiome is not developing as much as other methane leaks we’ve studied around the world,” said study co-author Sarah Seabrook.
To do this, the researchers hope that further study of methane leakage and the surrounding ecosystems will be able to find out whether this atypical development is unique to the Antarctic or is actually a sign of early leakage in their lives.
The amount of methane trapped under Antarctica is believed to be so high, which undoubtedly adds weight to scientists’ concerns. In fact, the region is thought to contain a quarter of the Earth’s ocean methane, and until now it was not clear how many were escaping into the Earth’s atmosphere.