Volatile Ice Frozen Deep in Russian Lake: Today's Pic

Photographer: Science Source/Photo Researchers

Q: When isn't ice ice? A: When it's made of methane, not water.

This photo shows white towers of methane, frozen in water-ice and under Russia's Lake Baikal.

Microorganisms at the bottom of the lake produce methane, which cold temperature and high-pressure freeze into methane hydrates, or clathrates. It's ice that burns.

Scientists and governments are studying methane hydrates in the ocean as a possible fuel source. They could be a boon for energy-poor nations, like Japan. However, mining them would bring significant risk. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. Destabilized frozen methane sheets could be a dangerous source of future warming.

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