Methane hydrate, or methane ice, is a form of water ice that contains a large amount of methane within its crystal structure (a clathrate hydrate). Originally thought to occur only in the outer regions of the solar system where temperatures are low and water ice is common, extremely large deposits of methane clathrate have been found under sediments on the ocean floors of Earth. This resource also may have important implications for climate change. When released to the air, methane is a greenhouse gas that traps 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide (another greenhouse gas). When burned, methane releases up to 25% less carbon dioxide than the combustion of the same mass of coal and does not emit the nitrogen and sulfur oxides known to damage the environment.
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