New research suggests that large volumes of greenhouse gases, like methane, are locked beneath the ice-covered regions of the Antarctic.
The risk, scientists warn, is that as the ice melts and shrinks, as a factor of global warming, methane could be released into the atmosphere adding to the 'greenhouse effect' and thereby extenuate global warming and climate change.
Methane is the main component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. In the atmosphere, methane, along with other greenhouse gases, absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range leading to an increase to the temperature of the Earth's surface.
The reason for the high levels of gases, it is speculated, is due to special microorganisms, equipped to surviving in cold environments, converting organic carbon into methane. The worst predictions are that there may be hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon stored in methane reservoirs beneath the surface. According to The Guardian, the organic material dates back to a period 35 million years ago when the Antarctic was much warmer than it is today.
The findings have been reported in the journal Nature. The research was carried out at Bristol University, UK.
The melting of the polar ice caps is a major issue facing the planet. Recently the Digital Journal reported on a significant loss of ice in the Arctic.