A NASA Project report documents methane hydrate in the Antarctic region.


There are methane  hydrate deposits present in the continental shelf of the north-eastern extreme of the Antarctic Peninsula.


Methane hydrate deposits located at the  shallow part of the continental shelf of the north-eastern Antarctic Peninsula  were destabilized by the rise in temperature that resulted from the  post-glacial transgression of the Antarctic Ocean. The presence of methane hydrates in this area is suggested by the identification of methane escapes, mostly  detected in the Admiralty Sound area  Valle et al. 1997, 2002). High concentrations of hydrocarbons, from methane to iso-penthane were detected in sea-bottom sediments from this area (Data Base of the Instituto Antartico Argentino). Additionally, the Bottom Simulating  Reflector (BSR) at 680 m below the sea-bottom was shown by multichannel seismic  survey at the continental margin of the South Shetland Islands (Camerlenghi & Lodolo 1994, Camerlenghi et al. 1994), suggesting that methane hydrate deposits  are probably present in the sea-bottom sediments.

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A NASA report of April 2012 explains that the deep waters round Antarctica are warming up. Warm ocean currents attacking the underside of ice shelves are the dominant cause of recent ice loss from Antarctica, a new study using measurements from NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) revealed.


An international team of scientists used a combination of satellite measurements and models to differentiate between the two known causes of melting ice shelves: warm ocean currents thawing the underbelly of the floating extensions of ice sheets and warm air melting them from above. The finding, published today in the journal Nature, brings scientists a step closer to providing reliable projections of future sea level rise.


The researchers concluded 20 of the 54 ice shelves studied are being melted by warm ocean currents. Most of these are in West Antarctica, where inland glaciers flowing down to the coast and feeding into these thinning ice shelves have accelerated, draining more ice into the sea and contributing to sea-level rise. This ocean-driven thinning is responsible for the most widespread and rapid ice losses in West Antarctica and the majority of Antarctic ice sheet loss during the period studied.

Antarctic ice


The East Antarctic ice sheet is larger and much thicker than the West Antarctic ice seet, which site on bed rock that is largely below sea level unlike the East Antarctic ice sheet. This makes the West ice sheet unstable to ocean warming, while the East ice sheet has been considered to be stable.


The Antarctic Ice Sheet extends almost 14 million square kilometers  or 5.4 million square miles. larger than the United States.  If the ice sheet melted, sea level would rise by about 60 meters (200 feet).

The continent of Antarctica holds 90% of the world's ice (6,400,000 cubic miles). About 60 percent of all fresh water on the Earth is held in the Antarctic ice sheet,


Antarctic Warming


The Western Antarctic Peninsula has one of the world's highest increase in temperatures.


Antarctic ice loss and sea level rise


May 2015 Science Dynamic thinning of glaciers on the Southern Antarctic Peninsula Satellites have recorded  a sudden dramatic change in the behaviour of glaciers on the Antarctica Peninsula, according to a Bristol University-led study. The ice streams were broadly stable up until 2009, since when they have been losing on the order of 56 billion tonnes of ice a year to the ocean. A 21 May UK Mail article describes the dramatic finding.


Research in 2012 found the rate of West Antarctic warming is double the estimated rate which is 3X the global averager warming rate. Over winter time the warming is even faster at 10X the global average.


NASA: Rate of Antarctic ice loss triples in a decade  December 2014

The findings of the 21-year study by Nasa and the University of California, Irvine claim to provide the most accurate estimates yet of just how fast glaciers are melting in the Amundsen Sea Embayment.

They lost an average 83 gigatons per year (91.5 billion US tons), or the equivalent of losing the water weight of Mount Everest every two years.


Global warming caused the melt rate of glaciers in west Antarctica to triple in the past 10 years.


That surge means the glaciers lost a Mount Everest-sized amount of water every two years over the past 21 years, at roughly a mass of 91.5 billion tons per year, according to scientists at NASA and the University of California-Irvine.



Oct 2014 in Nature the Southern Ocean has been warming faster that previously estimated, as more heat has been added to the climate system than had been thought.


Mar 2015 Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating. Overall, average ice-shelf volume change accelerated from negligible loss at 25 ± 64 km3 per year for 1994-2003 to rapid loss of 310 ± 74 km3 per year for 2003-2012. West Antarctic losses increased by 70% in the last decade, and earlier volume gain by East Antarctic ice shelves ceased. In the Amundsen and Bellingshausen regions, some ice shelves have lost up to 18% of their thickness in less than two decades.


January 2015 Antarctica's huge Eastern Totten glacier melting from below- global consequences.


NASA research published December 2014 finds that West Antarctica ice sheet is losing a Mt. Everest of ice every two years and accelerating. Paper here.  


In  May 2014 research discovered that the Western Antarctic Peninsula is in a state of irreversible collapse. It should take a long time to go but after it does the rest of the Antarctic ice sheet is expected to go too.  Interview at AGU here


Antarctic Methane


The concern has been the Ice collapsing into the sea with warming, but Antarctica also has methane hydrate which should be a far greater and sooner concern.


Before the climate cooled 35 million years ago, large amounts of organic matter were produced by abundant Antarctic plant growth and accumulated in Antarctic basins now covered with ice. Low oxygen conditions under the ice have been favorable for biological processes to convert organic matter into methane and for the ice to trap it.


The melting peripheral ice is exposing methane emitting organic material

Antarctic atmospheric methane shows the post 2007 renewed increase in methane as other latitudes do.


Methane Tracker shows the presence of Antarctic methane emissions (ClimateState 2013 ).

Aug. 28, 2013 East Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Be More Vulnerable to climate change.

continent Antarctica West Antarctic W Antarctic warming 3X average

  Recent Research


14 Feb 2020 How close is the West Antarctic ice sheet to a ‘tipping point’?



2 April 2018 Antarctica retreating across the sea floor


28 March 2018 West Greenland Ice Sheet melting at the fastest rate in centuries


26 Oct 2017 Linking sea level rise socioeconomic indicators. Article Antarctica's Ice Sheets ... Tipping Point? 4ft 2100



25 Oct 2017 Evidence of marine ice-cliff instability in Pine Island Bay from iceberg-keel plough marks M. G. Wise (West Antarctic instability)


19 Oct 2017 Antarctic fish cannot adapt to ocean warming plus acidifcation


Oct 2017 Only 2 Adélie penguin chicks survived of a 40,000 bird colony


4 Sept 2017 More 'losers' than 'winners' predicted for Southern Ocean seafloor animals


June 2017 Emperor penguins doomed by climate change


Nature April 2017 Waking Giant E. Ant. ice sheet


19 April 2017 Widespread movement of meltwater onto and across Antarctic ice shelves


1 June 2017 Is the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet inevitable?


8 Sept 2016 Climate change could cause major decline in Antarctic krill habitat by 2100


30 Mar 2016 Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise R. DeConto. West Antarctic ice sheet could collapse over  a period of decades, not 100s or 1000s years


17 Nov 2015 Collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet after local destabilization of the Amundsen Basin


12 May 2014 Scientists say West Antarctic ice sheet “collapse is under way” as temperatures rise


April 2014

Ice plug prevents irreversible discharge from East Antarctica









Antarctic ice sheets

Oct 2017 media article Forces collapsing W. Ant. ice sheet

May 2017 NY Times Antarctic Dispatches