Saturday, January 16, 2010

Record Methane Leaking in Arctic

Sadly, the environmental news remains bad.

permafrost_methane Scientists have recorded a massive spike in the amount of a powerful greenhouse gas seeping from Arctic permafrost, in a discovery that highlights the risks of a dangerous climate tipping point.

Experts say methane emissions from the Arctic have risen by almost one-third in just five years, and that sharply rising temperatures are to blame.

The discovery follows a string of reports from the region in recent years that previously frozen boggy soils are melting and releasing methane in greater quantities. Such Arctic soils currently lock away billions of tonnes of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, leading some scientists to describe melting permafrost as a ticking time bomb that could overwhelm efforts to tackle climate change.

They fear the warming caused by increased methane emissions will itself release yet more methane and lock the region into a destructive cycle that forces temperatures to rise faster than predicted.

Paul Palmer, a scientist at Edinburgh University who worked on the new study, said: "High latitude wetlands are currently only a small source of methane but for these emissions to increase by a third in just five years is very significant. It shows that even a relatively small amount of warming can cause a large increase in the amount of methane emissions."

Global warming is occuring [sic] twice as fast in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth. Some regions have already warmed by 2.5C, and temperatures there are projected to increase by more than 10C by 2100 if carbon emissions continue to rise at current rates.

Palmer said: "This study does not show the Arctic has passed a tipping point, but it should open people's eyes. It shows there is a positive feedback and that higher temperatures bring higher emissions and faster warming."

The change in the Arctic is enough to explain a recent increase in global methane levels in the atmosphere, he said. Global levels have risen steadily since 2007, after a decade or so holding steady…

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

I shudder to think that our grandchildren may not survive our complacency.

10 comments:

the walking man said...

Not all of us are complacent Tom, more are waking up every day to the fact that we have been played as fools by the powers that be.

This is one of those things where kilowatt saved has an effect. Every drop of oil not used is a benefit. Every voice speaking get's heard by someone.

I don't really want some dude in Alaska lighting up a cigarette and blowing up the world.

rjs said...

FYI: as a greenhouse gas, methane is 33 times as potent as CO2...

Lisa G. said...

This is so sad and if we continue our foolish ways, the Artic will become a thing of the past with detrimental consequences worldwide. When are we going to wake up?

Isn't there a way to harness all that methane for a power source? We have some of the greatest scientific minds on earth here in the US - get them on figuring out a way to use this to our benefit and stop or slow the warming of the Artic at the same time. They do it for garbage dumps - why not the Artic?

rjs said...

hmmm, for our next environmental project we will try to come up with a way to capture all the methane leaking from alaska, siberia, and canada's northwest territories...

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

I pray daily to and for Mother Earth. It's to cry...

TomCat said...

I know Mark. I meant we, the culture, not we as individuals. My carbon footprint is tiny.

Thanks, RJ. That's good info.

Lisa and RJ, I don't see how to collect it, as it is so diffuse, but there are folk more knowing than I.

Gwen, don't stop.

Stimpson said...

More and more people may be waking up to reality, but I fear it's far too late to stop (let alone reverse) the damage.

TomCat said...

Stimpson, that's how I see it too. However, the less we progress, the worse the outcome.

rjs said...

i typically have a dozen environmental links and article summaries in each of my weekly blog posts (note the shameless promotion); ill include a few from this week here:
Large changes in climate likely over next century, daily carbon dioxide measurements suggest - Researchers studying climate now have a new tool at their disposal: daily global measurements of carbon dioxide and water vapor in a key part of Earth's atmosphere. The data are courtesy of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA's Aqua spacecraft and confirm the mainstream scientific view that large changes in the climate are likely over the next century. AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced by carbon dioxide will be greatly exacerbated -- in fact, more than doubled -- by water vapor
Major Antarctic glacier is 'past its tipping point' - New Scientist - A major Antarctic glacier has passed its tipping point, according to a new modelling study. After losing increasing amounts of ice over the past decades, it is poised to collapse in a catastrophe that could raise global sea levels by 24 centimetres. Pine Island glacier (PIG) is one of many at the fringes of the West Antarctic ice sheet. In 2004, satellite observations showed that it had started to thin, and that ice was flowing into the Amundsen Sea 25 per cent faster than it had 30 years before.Now, the first study to model changes in the ice sheet in three dimensions shows that PIG has probably passed a critical "tipping point" and is irreversibly on track to lose 50 per cent of its ice in as little as 100 years, significantly raising global sea levels.The team that carried out the study admits their model can represent only a simplified version of the physics that govern changes in glaciers, but say that if anything, the model is optimistic and PIG will disappear faster than it projects

some scientists no longer consider it possible to reverse the change underway; & theres even talk about making plans to evacuate low lying islands and cities, as well as some nutty geoengineering proposals, such as atmospheric obstruction of sunlight reaching the earth, or introduction of iron to the upper ocean to cause a plankton bloom to absorb atmospheric CO2...

TomCat said...

Thanks, RJ. As long as you provide such good info, be as 'shameless' as you like. :-)