( – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)
While our feeble President had already diddled away a year with a “healthcare reform” before he even proposed a healthcare bill, and achieved absolutely nothing at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the real problems of Planet Earth have suddenly gotten much worse, and “unexpectedly huge quantities of Siberian methane are being released into the atmosphere” in the shallow waters of east Siberia.
Joe Romm at Climate Progress describes this methane release as “the most dangerous amplifying feedback in the entire carbon cycle.” According to the NSF, “the Earth’s geologic record indicates that atmospheric concentrations of methane have varied from about 0.3 to 0.4 parts per million during cold periods to about 0.6 to 0.7 parts per million during warm periods.” Today’s study pegs methane levels in the Arctic at 2.85 parts per million, the highest concentration in 400,000 years, so the methane feedback loop is already well under way.
Corporate media immediately quoted anybody with a Ph.D. who doubted the seriousness of this news, but at the top of the climate-science pyramid James Hansen has been ringing alarms about methane released from permafrost since forever.
If both the slowdown in CO2 emissions and reductions in non-CO2 emissions called for by the alternative scenario are achieved, release of “frozen methane” should be moderate, judging from prior interglacial periods that were warmer than today by one or two degrees Fahrenheit. But if CO2 emissions are not limited and further warming reaches three or four degrees Fahrenheit, all bets are off. Indeed, there is evidence that greater warming could release substantial amounts of methane in the Arctic. Much of the ten-degree Fahrenheit global warming that caused mass extinctions, such as the one at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary, appears to have been caused by release of “frozen methane.” Those releases of methane may have taken place over centuries or millennia, but release of even a significant fraction of the methane during this century could accelerate global warming, preventing achievement of the alternative scenario and possibly causing ice sheet disintegration and further long-term methane release that are out of our control.
The particular form of methane bubbling out of Siberian permafrost is methane hydrate, aka methane clathrate, and last year the American Geophysical Union devoted a full session of their annual meeting to discussing scary scenarios like the Clathrate Gun Hypothesis.
The clathrate gun hypothesis is the popular name given to the hypothesis that rises in sea temperatures (and/or falls in sea level) can trigger the sudden release of methane from methane clathrate compounds buried in seabeds and permafrost which, because the methane itself is a powerful greenhouse gas, leads to further temperature rise and further methane clathrate destabilization – in effect initiating a runaway process, as irreversible once started as the firing of a gun.
And methane clathrate bubbling out of permafrost isn’t just very bad news, it may be very bad news beyond your wildest dreams of what very bad news can be, because…
Methane clathrate breakdown may have caused drastic alteration of the ocean environment and the atmosphere of earth on a number of occasions in the past, over timescales of tens of thousands of years; most notably in connection with the Permian extinction event, when 96% of all marine species (and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrate species) became extinct 251 million years ago.
But there’s still a chance that methane clathrate won’t really erupt from the seabed and Siberian permafrost, and snuff out almost all life on Earth!
So shop ’til you drop, because you may drop a lot sooner than you think, and in general live your life as if there’s no tomorrow…
Because there probably isn’t.