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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Don't worry. It's only record levels of climate-killing methane gas. We are God's chosen people. He will protect us. We don't have to lift a finger

by David Atkins, DigsbyBlog 12/13/11

It seems like every day brings more alarming news that would shock and alarm an intelligent species with the capacity for foresight. Sadly, humanity doesn't seem to be such a species.

Yesterday brings news of a shocking level of methane gas being released into the atmosphere via climate-change-induced permafrost melt--one of those positive feedback climate change loops we keep hearing about:

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

"Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," Dr Semiletov said. "I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them."


Why does this matter?

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.


And why is methane so bad? Adam Siegellinks to this piece at Thinkprogrss by Joe Romm to explain:

Scientists learned last year that the permafrost permamelt contains a staggering “1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere,” much of which would be released as methane. Methane is is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 times as potent over 20 years!

The carbon is locked in a freezer in the part of the planet warming up the fastest (see “Tundra 4: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss“). Half the land-based permafrost would vanish by mid-century on our current emissions path (see “Tundra, Part 2: The point of no return” and below). No climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra.


But what the heck do all these scientists know? Real Amurkans know it's time to get science out of politics, tackle the real threat to humanity posed by gay military service, and give the jaahb creators more tax breaks. And that's all that really matters, right?

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