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Methane-making microbes thrive under the ice

Antarctica's ice sheets could hide vast quantities of the greenhouse gas

By
1:37pm, March 16, 2010

BALTIMORE — Microbes living under ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland could be churning out large quantities of the greenhouse gas methane, a new study suggests.

In recent years scientists have learned that liquid water lurks under much of Antarctica’s massive ice sheet, and so, they say, the potential microbial habitat in this watery world is huge. If the methane produced by the bacteria gets trapped beneath the ice and builds up over long periods of time — a possibility that is far from certain — it could mean that as ice sheets melt under warmer temperatures, they would release large amounts of heat-trapping methane gas.

Jemma Wadham, a geochemist at the Universit

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