Jemma Wadham

Post image for Should We Fear the Methane Time Bomb (Part Deux)?

Climate alarmists have long warned that warming of the Arctic could melt frozen marine and permafrost sediments, releasing methane trapped in peat bogs and ice crystals (clathrate hydrates, see photo above). Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that packs 21 times the global warming punch as CO2 over a 100-year time span and more than 100 times the CO2-warming effect over a 20-year period.

So the fear is that methane emissions from the thawing Arctic will accelerate global warming, which in turn will melt more clathrates and methane-bearing sediments, which will produce still more warming, in a vicious circle of climate destabilization. In a previous post, I offered a skeptical perspective on this doomsday scenario.

This week the journal Nature published a study raising similar concerns about the potential for significant releases of methane from the Antarctic ice sheets. The study’s 14 authors, led by Jemma Wadham of the University of Bristol in the UK, estimate that about 21,000 petagrams (gigatons) of organic carbon (OC) are buried in sedimentary basins under the East and West Antarctic ice sheets — more than 10 times the estimated magnitude of OC stocks in northern permafrost regions. Microbial production of methane from OC (a process known as methanogenesis) is common across many cold subsurface environments, and may have been at work for millions of years beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheets.  [click to continue…]