General, Research, Technology

Antarctica detects methane leak that could accelerate global warming

Millions of years ago, in the days of the dinosaurs, now is the cold Antarctica was a warm placewhere big trees grew and dinosaurs lived. However, over time, the air temperature on the southernmost continent of our planet began to fall, which led to the death of local animals and plants. The decayed remains found themselves under a thick layer of ice, where for millions of years they were processed by bacteria, during which quite a lot of methane was formed - a gas that is one of the main causes of global warming. For a long time, the dangerous gas was kept under the ice thanks to the cold, but in 2011, the NASA space agency announced that someday this mass could break out and greatly affect the climate around the world. It seems that this terrible process has begun.

Scuba diver at the bottom of the Ross Sea

The fact that millions of years ago Antarctica was a warm place is scientifically proven fact... You can read about what the coldest continent of our time looked like in this article. Just please do it after reading the current material.

Greenhouse gases in Antarctica

First methane leak in Antarctica was noticedabout ten years ago, in the area of ​​the volcanic Ross Island. Scientists' fears were confirmed when scientists from the US state of Oregon installed instruments under the ice to detect greenhouse gases. A large leak was found at a depth of 10 meters, but because of what it happened, no one knew. It would be logical to say that the leak was provoked by the record heat in Antarctica, but the abnormally high temperatures have not yet had time to warm the Ross Sea to such an extent that the ice began to leak gases.

See also: How much snow has melted due to record high temperatures in Antarctica?

Beneficial bacteria

For leaks other than scientific evidenceinstrumentation, indicates the behavior of marine bacteria. On the bottom of the Ross Sea, you can see the presence of white areas - they are formed by microorganisms that feed on methane. Basically, we are talking about bacteria of the Methylococcaceae family, which have long been considered our protectors. The fact is that if there are places on our planet through which methane enters the air, these microorganisms prevent it from spreading in too large quantities. However, they clearly cannot cope with the leak formed at the bottom of Antarctica.

See the white areas of the bottom? These are methane-absorbing bacteria

According to researchers, bacteria are just latediscovered the source of methane. In order for these creatures to save us, they need to get used to new conditions, and this can take from 5 to 10 years. But during this time, methane can significantly affect the climate of our planet. Many people believe that the so-called greenhouse effect, which heats our planet above normal and prevents it from cooling, arises from the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is partly true, but methane also plays an important role in this process.

Did you know that scientists want to use carbon dioxide for good purposes? They are confident that it can be turned into fuel.

The danger of methane

And all because in terms of heating this gasmuch stronger than carbon dioxide. So that people can understand the difference between the harm of carbon dioxide and methane, scientists give the following example. Imagine that in one year a kilogram of methane and carbon dioxide got into the atmosphere of our planet. So, in 12 months, a kilogram of methane will heat our planet 80 times more than the same amount of carbon dioxide. Coping with the second greenhouse gas emissions is more difficult due to the fact that there is a lot of it. With methane, things are easier, because there is less of it, but it is more fueling the greenhouse effect and we need to act quickly.

The bottom of the Ross Sea with bacteria feeding on methane

How to reduce methane emissions into the atmosphere untilclear. This greenhouse gas also gets into the air through the fault of people - it is actively used as a fuel. It is also known that huge amounts of methane are produced in the digestive system of cows. According to some researchers, every cow living on our planet releases about 500 liters of methane into the air every day. Also, this gas enters the atmosphere during oil production.

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Recently researchers from GlobalThe Carbon Project reported that global methane production has increased dramatically. So, if in the early 2000s an average of 324 million tons of greenhouse gas was emitted into the air per year, then by 2017 mankind began to produce about 364 million tons of methane annually. You can read more about this study and the harmfulness of methane in this article.