Image via WikipediaWake Up!
Russian scientists have released a report which, if proven true, is the absolute worst information about the climate yet. ALERT ALERT ALERT: THIS IS REALLY, AND I MEAN HORRIBLY BAD FOR ALL OF US.
Remember a few months ago Wordout reported that scientists had discovered evidence in ice cores which showed that in the past, drastic changes in climate have occurred in as little as one or two years? One of the tipping points appears to be the release of massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere.
This year is the 1st in the history of Man that the arctic sea ice has melted enough to open shipping routes through the Arctic ocean. Back in August, when the waterways first melted clear, that information worried me a bit. But when I found the information below, it almost floored me…
From The Independent(emphasis mine):
The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.
The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.
Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia’s northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane – sometimes at up to 100 times background levels – over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.
In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through “methane chimneys” rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a “lid” to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.
The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.(ed: more than 7 degrees F in the past several decades.)
Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University in Sweden, one of the leaders of the expedition, described the scale of the methane emissions in an email exchange sent from the Russian research ship Jacob Smirnitskyi.
“We had a hectic finishing of the sampling programme yesterday and this past night,” said Dr Gustafsson. “An extensive area of intense methane release was found. At earlier sites we had found elevated levels of dissolved methane. Yesterday, for the first time, we documented a field where the release was so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve into the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface. These ‘methane chimneys’ were documented on echo sounder and with seismic [instruments].”
At some locations, methane concentrations reached 100 times background levels. These anomalies have been seen in the East Siberian Sea and the Laptev Sea, covering several tens of thousands of square kilometres, amounting to millions of tons of methane, said Dr Gustafsson. “This may be of the same magnitude as presently estimated from the global ocean,” he said. “Nobody knows how many more such areas exist on the extensive East Siberian continental shelves.
“The conventional thought has been that the permafrost ‘lid’ on the sub-sea sediments on the Siberian shelf should cap and hold the massive reservoirs of shallow methane deposits in place. The growing evidence for release of methane in this inaccessible region may suggest that the permafrost lid is starting to get perforated and thus leak methane… The permafrost now has small holes. We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below. It is obvious that the source is the seabed.”
From a related story at The Independent site(emphasis again all mine):
The rapid rise in greenhouse gases over the past century is unprecedented in at least 800,000 years, according to a study of the oldest Antarctic ice core which highlights the reality of climate change.
Air bubbles trapped in ice for hundreds of thousands of years have revealed that humans are changing the composition of the atmosphere in a manner that has no known natural parallel.
Scientists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge have found there have been eight cycles of atmospheric change in the past 800,000 years when carbon dioxide and methane have risen to peak levels.
Each time, the world also experienced the relatively high temperatures associated with warm, inter-glacial periods, which were almost certainly linked with levels of carbon dioxide and possibly methane in the atmosphere.
However, existing levels of carbon dioxide and methane are far higher than anything seen during these earlier warm periods, said Eric Wolff of the BAS.
“Ice cores reveal the Earth’s natural climate rhythm over the last 800,000 years. When carbon dioxide changed there was always an accompanying climate change,” Dr Wolff said. “Over the past 200 years, human activity has increased carbon dioxide to well outside the natural range and we have no analogue for what will happen next.
Follow-up: Oh Crap – Arctic Methane Confirmed