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Melting Ice Sheet Releases Tons Of Methane

According to the new study, the Greenland ice sheet emits tone of Methane, showing that sub glacier biological activity impacts the atmosphere far more than previously thought.

International team of researchers which is led by the University of Bristol camped for three months next to the Greenland Ice Sheet, sampling the melt water rubs off large catchments of the ice sheet in the summer months.

As reported in Nature, by using the novel sensors to measure the methane in meltwater that runs off in real time, they observed that methane was continuously exported from beneath the ice.

They calculated that six tons of methane was transported to their measuring site form the portion of the ice sheet alone, roughly the equivalent of the methane release by up to 100 cows.

Jemma Wadham, Director of Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment, who let the investigation, said “A key finding is that much of the methane produced beneath the ice likely escape the Greenland Ice Sheet in large fast flowing rivers before it can be oxidized to CO2.

Methane Gas [CH4] is the third most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere after the water vapour and carbon dioxide [CO2].

Although, present in lower concentration that carbon dioxide, methane is about approximately 20-28 times more potent. Smaller quantities have the potential to cause disproportionate impact on the atmospheric temperature. Most of the earth methane is produced by the microorganisms that convert organic matter to methane in the absence of oxygen, mostly in wetlands and on agriculture land, for instance in the stomach of cow and rice paddle. The reminder comes from fossil fuels like natural gas.

Guillaume Lamarche-Gagnon, lead author from Bristol school of Geographical Science said “What is also striking is the fact that we've found unequivocal evidence of a widespread sub glacial microbial system”. Now we clearly see that active microorganisms living under the kilometer of ice, are not only surviving but also has an impact in the Earth System. This sub glacier methane is essentially a biomarker for life in these isolated habitats.”

Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw co researcher from Cardiff University added “New sensor technologies that we used gives us a window into this previously unseen part of the glacial environment continues measurement of meltwater enables us to improve our understanding of how these fascinating systems work and how it impacts the rest of the planet.   


By: Lakshender S Angras