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Siberian Permafrost Melting 1023

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the hot-domino-effects dept.
TeknoHog writes "New Scientist Reports on a remarkable runaway process of global warming that has been going on in Siberia for the past few years. 'Western Siberia has warmed faster than almost anywhere else on the planet, with an increase in average temperatures of some 3C in the last 40 years.' As a result, a million square kilometers (the area of France and Germany) of frozen peat bog have been found to be melting, according to Russian and international scientists. This releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, which contributes to further global warming."
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Siberian Permafrost Melting

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday August 12, 2005 @12:40AM (#13300982) Homepage Journal
    Not real science! Not like important sciencetists in my administration tell me!

    La-la-la-la-la! MMMMM!!! I can't hear your!!! La-la-la-la-la!!

    The war is going well, we plan to fix Social Security if the stubborn opponents would just see reason! I have political capital to spend and I'm going to spend it!

    La-la-la-la-la! MMMMM!!! Hoo-Hah! Yellow rose of Texas .. HMMM MMM MMM MMM MMM MMMMMMM!!! La-la-la! (Dick see if we can round up some more troops and invade Siberberia, lookin' for weapons, setting up democracy sorta thing) La-la-la-la!!!

    • by Kaneda2112 (871795) on Friday August 12, 2005 @08:11AM (#13302605)
      I think this is really worth a look....I find that the truth about global warming has become harder to discern because of the various agendas out there - to quote Micheal Crichton from 'State Of Fear' - 'But as Alston Chase put it, "when the search for truth is confused with political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power." That is the danger we now face. And this is why the intermixing of science and politics is a bad combination, with a bad history. We must remember the history, and be certain that what we present to the world as knowledge is disinterested and honest.' Further interesting reading - http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches _quote04.html [crichton-official.com] To quote Micheal Crichton - " But it is impossible to ignore how closely the history of global warming fits on the previous template for nuclear winter. Just as the earliest studies of nuclear winter stated that the uncertainties were so great that probabilites could never be known, so, too the first pronouncements on global warming argued strong limits on what could be determined with certainty about climate change. The 1995 IPCC draft report said, "Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced." It also said, "No study to date has positively attributed all or part of observed climate changes to anthropogenic causes." Those statements were removed, and in their place appeared: "The balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on climate." What is clear, however, is that on this issue, science and policy have become inextricably mixed to the point where it will be difficult, if not impossible, to separate them out. It is possible for an outside observer to ask serious questions about the conduct of investigations into global warming, such as whether we are taking appropriate steps to improve the quality of our observational data records, whether we are systematically obtaining the information that will clarify existing uncertainties, whether we have any organized disinterested mechanism to direct research in this contentious area."
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Friday August 12, 2005 @12:42AM (#13300989) Homepage Journal
    This is a serious problem, but there are a few small benefits in this. A lot of previously inaccessible things will be popping up -- animals that have been frozen for a long time will be accessible. It's like nature (or I guess millions of motorists) is doing the heavy lifting for us.

    Again, from all the science it seems like global warming will be a catastrophe, but it would be nice to find a few more bog people.

    And yes, I have a degree in anthropology.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Friday August 12, 2005 @12:44AM (#13300994) Homepage Journal
    With all that methane being produced, you could surely turn that area into a methane farm. We've got engines that can run off methane, and those could be used as generators for power into the grid. This would be a good thing for Russia. Might as well take advantage of the energy that's about to come your way.
    • Burning methane (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mal-2 (675116) on Friday August 12, 2005 @01:02AM (#13301096) Homepage Journal
      Not only that, but the waste products would be water and carbon dioxide. CO2 is of course a greenhouse gas, but one far less potent than methane. IIRC, it's a factor of about 100 to 1, which means that if one molecule of methane produces one molecule of CO2 when burned, you're solving 99% of the problem.

      It is debatable whether 99% remediation is sufficient, but surely it's a good start. At the very least, it would be nice to use some of the energy produced in combustion to sequester the CO2 rather than dump it into the atmosphere.

      Mal-2
      • Re:Burning methane (Score:3, Informative)

        by eggstasy (458692)
        If I read this wikipedia article, it's more like 23 to 1:

        Global warming potential (GWP) is a measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming. It is a relative scale which compares the gas in question to that of the same mass of carbon dioxide whose GWP is one.
        (...)
        Examples:

        * carbon dioxide has a GWP of exactly 1 (since it is the baseline unit to which all other greenhouse gases are compared.)
        * methane h
  • by mikejz84 (771717) on Friday August 12, 2005 @12:48AM (#13301021)
    I'm will to bet you won't hear that many people in Siberia complaining.
    • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuelNO@SPAMbcgreen.com> on Friday August 12, 2005 @01:09AM (#13301140) Homepage Journal
      Something similar is happening in Northern canada, and they are complaining. Polar bears are starving, the permafrost is turning into a bog, the hunting is getting messed up, and thawing ground is messing up buildings and other infrastructure designed with (no longer permanent) permafrost in mind.

      And the polar ice cap is melting fast too... Most of us may live to see it all but disappear. Think of it as the mother of all ice cubes, and imagine what the melting is going to do --- dilute the 'drink' (which will change water density which will change ocean water flow, which will seriously mess with weather patterns) and once it finishes melting, it's function as a thermal buffer disappears and global warming will really start to hurt us.

      I'm thinking that people are underestimating that last point.

      • On the other hand when I say I have some nice seafront property in northern Canada to sell you, it reall means I have some nice seafront property for sale! And think - we'll finally have that Northern Passage so many Age of Exploration captains lost their shorts looking for....

        Max
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 12, 2005 @12:52AM (#13301035)
    American Left scientist: This is bald proof that Global Warming is occuring and causing climatic changes in our lifetime. The rise in greenhouse gasses since the advent of the Industrial Revolution matches the rise in global temperatures, giving further proof that humans are a key component in the climatic puzzle. By drastically reducing our fossil fuel emissions and other man-made greenhouse gasses, it should be possible to manage the expected warming trend. Acting now is absolutely necessary to keeping pristine environments like the Siberian taiga in their pristine state.

    American Right scientist: This is interesting data. However a few degrees change over a short span of only 40 years is not indicative of any long-term trend towards either a cooling cycle or a heating cycle. Nevertheless, as the historical temperature has fluctuated greatly in the past and it seems that we are actually coming out of a trough, it seems reasonable to assume that a warming trend would be on the horizon. At the least, it should indicate that we need more study of the phenomenon.

    European scientists: Ziss is clearly ze work of ze fat, stinking Americans and zer fat, stinking wives and cars.

    Siberian citizens: Ya, I am sinkink dat I like za balmy weather.
    • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Friday August 12, 2005 @01:24AM (#13301230)
      GOOFUS has a PhD.
      GALLANT has a PhD in a field unrelated to his research.

      GOOFUS gets little respect as a scientist outside the scientific community.
      GALLANT gets little respect as a scientist inside the scientific community.

      GOOFUS drives a beat-up old car.
      GALLANT drives a BMW unless his chauffeur is driving.

      GOOFUS wears street clothes to work, maybe a lab suit on occasion.
      GALLANT wears three piece suits at all times.

      GOOFUS is employed by a "university", a "hospital", or a "laboratory".
      GALLANT is employed by a "Coalition", an "Institute", an "Association", a "Foundation", a "Council", or a "White House".

      GOOFUS earns $30000 per year unless they cut his funding.
      GALLANT earns $200000 per year but makes his real money from speaking fees.

      GOOFUS lives anywhere in the country.
      GALLANT lives in a wealthy area near Washington DC, but may have additional homes elsewhere.

      GOOFUS may sometimes be filmed standing in front of big melting icebergs.
      GALLANT may be filmed sitting in front of a bookcase or standing behind a podium at a $2000 per plate fundraiser, although there may be ice melting in his drink.

      GOOFUS is a dues-paying member of several scientific grassroots organizations.
      GALLANT is on the payroll of several scientific astroturf organizations.

      GOOFUS gets summoned for jury duty but is never picked as a juror.
      GALLANT claims "the jury is still out" on evolution or global warming, since he considers himself to be on the jury.

      GOOFUS maintains the world is five billion years old.
      GALLANT isn't really saying, but creationists distribute his pamphlets all the time.

      GOOFUS claims the world is warming as a direct result of human activity.
      GALLANT either claims that climate change doesn't exist, or if it does, that humans have nothing to do with it.

      GOOFUS and his graduate students do the dirty work of collecting raw data and looking for conclusions to be drawn from it.
      GALLANT does the dirty work of discrediting GOOFUS by manipulating his data in Excel with statistically invalid techniques.

      GOOFUS writes scientific papers and grant proposals.
      GALLANT writes the nation's environmental legislation and a column for the Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

      GOOFUS draws scientific conclusions from the data he collects that usually come out in agreement with the scientific consensus.
      GALLANT paints the scientific consensus as being entirely political in nature and enjoys comparing himself to Galileo.

      GOOFUS is heavily trained to be a skeptic and to treat information from all sources with a skeptical mind.
      GALLANT is heavily marketed as a skeptic but reserves his skepticism for GOOFUS.

      GOOFUS isn't paid much attention by the press since his opinions are commonplace among scientists.
      GALLANT holds maverick opinions for a scientist which keeps him busy running from one balanced talk show to the next.

      GOOFUS has no PR skills.
      GALLANT leverages his PR experience all the time, although he has access to paid PR staff.

      GOOFUS claims the sky is falling and we have to take painful steps to reduce CO2 emissions now.
      GALLANT claims the free market will take care of it and recommends solving the problem by conning Zimbabwe out of their pollution credits.

      GOOFUS advises his kids not to go into science.
      GALLANT advises the president.
    • by Mr_Icon (124425) on Friday August 12, 2005 @09:45AM (#13303274) Homepage
      Siberian citizens: Ya, I am sinkink dat I like za balmy weather.

      No, are you crazy? Hot weather in Siberia is *AWFUL*. With half the land being swamps, the area is literally crawling with mosquitoes, black flies, and horse flies. I'm not exaggerating! Your clothes look gray because of all the blood-feeding insects crawling over them. It's tolerable if the weather is cool, since several layers of clothing is the only sure way to avoid bites (deet gets quickly rubbed off by bugs hitting your body). When it's hot, not only are you crawling with bugs, you're also sweating and developing a heat stroke.

      Believe me, late fall or early spring is the best time in Siberia, not summer, and everyone hates "za balmy weather."

      (Yes, I've lived there).
  • by ugmoe (776194) on Friday August 12, 2005 @12:58AM (#13301070)
    http://www.waverley.gov.uk/waste/peat.asp#What%20i s%20Peat? [waverley.gov.uk]

    David Bellamy said, "We criticise people from the third world countries for not conserving their rainforests, but when it comes to our peat bogs which are actually a rarer habitat than the tropical rainforest, we are doing a much worse job". (The Times, Saturday November 25, 2000).

    Exploitation by afforestation, conversion to agriculture and commercial peat extraction has destroyed much of our peat lands. In the last century we lost 75% of our blanket bogs and 94% of our raised bogs. Gardeners and horticulture used a staggering 2.55 million cubic metres of peat each year. In the UK there is less than 9,500 acres of near natural raised bog left.

  • The orgy must end (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nysus (162232) on Friday August 12, 2005 @01:11AM (#13301149)
    The last 100 years has been just one big huge orgy of mass consumption and it still continues, spreading to developing countries like China. But anyone who thinks we can just continue to rape the globe forever with no consquences is delusional.

    Question is, are we going to be stupid enough to continue down this wreckless path? Does humanity secretly have an unfulfilled death wish? Was World War II just a fluke or was it a flash of the selfish inhumanity really lies within each of us?

    Listen I'm willing to admit I'm part of the problem. I recognize things have to change. Each of needs to wake up, find a way to snap out of these unsustainable lifestyles we all lead and avoid the terrible consequences that surely await us if we don't.

    Let's quit being fucking idiots. What do we need to do?
    • Re:The orgy must end (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ChipMonk (711367)
      I agree. We need to stop improving our lot, return to the more sensible mores of the 16th century, and let the flu and the Black Death cull the human herd. That unfulfilled death wish needs to be granted!

      Give me a break.

      Henry Ford made millions, but he also made fire trucks more mobile. Too bad they didn't have that in 1871 Chicago [wikipedia.org].

      Franklin, Edison, Tesla, Shockley and Turing made research and information retrieval so much easier. Are you willing to give up your beloved Slashdot? I didn't think so.
    • Re:The orgy must end (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Port-0 (301613)
      A few ideas...

      - Abandon capitalism (though not freedom), it drives consumerism.

      - Raise taxes, if taxes are high enough, then no one will have enough money to be consumers... wait, this is kind of like getting rid of capitalism.

      - Teach people the value of community, and of living for something greater than trying to attain personal nirvana. We would probably have to ban advertising since the goal of advertising is to make us feel inadequate about our current status, and offers a solutions for $19.99.

      Dang,
  • by taj (32429) on Friday August 12, 2005 @01:42AM (#13301307) Homepage

    Just hits me strange.

    So what was this frozen peat bog before? How did peat grow in ice?
    • by Coryoth (254751) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:06AM (#13301645) Homepage Journal
      The earth fluctuates between being warmer and cooler. It has been much warmer in the past. It has been warm enough, in fact, for peat moss to grow there (though peat moss [wikipedia.org] can grow in relatively chilly conditions).

      Does this invalidate concerns about global warming? Not especially. Even if the warming were entiely natural it doesn't mean it's going to suit humans terribly well, particularly if the change is fairly abrupt. On the other hand the rate of warming (which is the main point for climatologists who are concerned about global warming) has increased very dramatically over the last 100 years. There is an increasing amount of data showing this rate of warming is unprecenedented over the last 1000 years. Interestingly the increasing rate of warming correlates very closely with increased CO2 (and other) emissions following the industrial revolution. There is enough data regarding how CO2 and methane can trap heat and produce warming to lend creedence to the claim that it may be a causal, rather than just correlated, relationship. If we really have provided a powerful enough new driver to significantly alter the behaviour of the system then that is definitely cause fr some concern. The global climate is a very complex system and we know little about its stability with new forces acting on it, nor do we understand the tipping points of the system which can result in sudden and complete changes in behaviour.

      So yes, the earth was warmer, and no, that's not especially meaningful to discussions about current global warming.

      Jedidiah.
      • by taj (32429) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:30AM (#13301744) Homepage
        This is all interesting but as I take a few min today to think about this, I'm both concerned and excited.

        On the one hand this is unknown territory for humans as you mention. It is the 'greenhouse effect' which could have dramatic consequences including an ice age if ocean currents flip.

        It is playing with fire. This is possibly the worst thing that can happen in the last several thousand years.

        But it is the greenhouse effect. If you have ever worked around greenhouses, you inject C02 to induce faster plant grow. Like plants like bogs..

        Why did dinosaurs tower 3 stories? The biomass could support them. Would we survive a transition to a CO2 rich atmosphere? I don't know.
  • Peat Bog? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:12AM (#13301437) Homepage
    As a result, a million square kilometers (the area of France and Germany) of frozen peat bog have been found to be melting

    So, wait....if it's not natural for this formerly "permafrost" peat bog to be melting, how is it that this peat moss was, at some point, able to grow in the first place?

    • Re:Peat Bog? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Coryoth (254751)
      So, wait....if it's not natural for this formerly "permafrost" peat bog to be melting, how is it that this peat moss was, at some point, able to grow in the first place?

      Oh it's natural for peat moss to be able to grow there, given the right gloal climate. The question is more whether it is natural for humans to continue populating the areas we do in a global climate in which peat moss grows there. The earth and the global climate are, historically, remarkably resilient; humans, and other fauna, are not.

      Jedi
    • How peat bogs grow (Score:5, Informative)

      by xilmaril (573709) on Friday August 12, 2005 @03:13AM (#13301679)
      it's simple. the ice melts in summer, exposing the previous years layer of dead moss. on top of that, a new layer grows. in the winter, that moss dies, and becomes the dead layer the next years layer grows on, and so on. this has been happening for thousands of years straight. sometimes much much longer.

      the bottom layers of moss (pete, decomposed moss) haven't defrosted in millenia, and they now are. and staying that way. I think that's the news.

      I haven't read the article, mind you, and this explanation is from memory of biology 10. so I may be waaaaay off. someone, feel free to confirm or deny this.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peat [wikipedia.org]
      hey, guess what. I didn't read the wikipedia article either, but I glanced at it, and I think it agrees. w00t!
  • by nysus (162232) on Friday August 12, 2005 @02:55AM (#13301597)
    There was a recent article in the New York Times about this and now there is this article: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1730079, 00.html [timesonline.co.uk]
    • by kisak (524062) on Friday August 12, 2005 @09:04AM (#13302963) Homepage Journal
      I visited Grenoble in the French Alps where they had the winter olympics in 1968. They still have some of the facilities there that they used in 1968, like the ski jump etc, but they don't have snow that low in the winter anymore to use any of them! The climate change has made what was a sure place to run the olympics 37 years ago into a place where you don't get any snow in the winter...
  • The boat parable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nysus (162232) on Friday August 12, 2005 @05:26AM (#13302068)
    10 men are sailing in a whaler on a whale hunt. The boat, being an older boat made of wood, it leaks a little. But after sailing about for a few hours, many men begin to notice that the amount of water in the boat seems to have increased quite significantly, much more than what is usual or expected. What should the men do?

    a) Take more measurements and get conclusive evidence that their boat is actually going to sink before they can make it back to shore.

    OR

    b) Start bailing.
    • Re:The boat parable (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Epistax (544591) <epistax@gmailUMLAUT.com minus punct> on Friday August 12, 2005 @09:29AM (#13303148) Journal
      Insightful? Juvenile. Where's that mod option.

      In (a), you're assuming that this is a do or die. Either they will make it to shore, or they won't. In reality, the question isn't "is the planet going to die" it's "how badly is the planet going to die, and how badly has it already died". So yes you are right, either we can (b) start bailing (fixing the problem) or (actually the proper word here is AND, but you'd rather we forget that) we can take measurements to see how bad the damage is, how permanent the damage is, and how quickly we need to fix things.

      We have what every reputable (non-political / lobby) scientist declares a problem or potential problem. If this is a true problem, we are constantly doing damage even now. You are advising that we double check previous findings before attempting to fix it, instead of attempting to fix it while double checking at the same time. Let me spell this out for you: If we try to fix it and it turns out not to be a problem, we lose billions or trillions of dollars (note: "lose" is of course not taking into account the reduced pollution which is a huge gain even if global warming doesn't exist). If we don't try to fix it while double checking, we lose the footing we need to combat the problem.

      Here's another analogy. There is a colored plastic cup upside-down on a table. Underneath is either a mini-cupcake or termite digging into the table. Scientists hear scratching noises through the cup, but can't lift it. Either we fix the problem (smash the cup) which might ruin a cupcake if that is under it, however if it's a termite, we stop an infestation before it enters the table. If we wait around and double check our readings to confirm a termite, it will burrow into the table and squishing it will no longer be possible.
    • Re:The boat parable (Score:5, Interesting)

      by foniksonik (573572) on Friday August 12, 2005 @09:47AM (#13303292) Homepage Journal
      or

      c) patch up the leaks and keep working, cause if they don't make a catch on this trip they'll be broke. If they make a catch they might be able to afford patch materials for the next trip AND have money to feed their families.

      I believe that's the current method being used.
  • by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <.sherwin. .at. .amiran.us.> on Friday August 12, 2005 @11:01AM (#13303963) Homepage Journal
    But the free market is happily 'solving' the problem of Co2 emissions.

    Anyone notice the price of oil (and other fossil fuels, which have gone up dramatically as well) today?

    Back when I was a debater, in college, virtually every proposal to counter Co2 emissions was dependant upon altering the prices of fossil fuels.

    Sure, the mechanisms were different; some utilized high levels of taxes, implemented globally. Some used means of artificially limiting supply; when we agree to burn only x exajoules of energy, the price per unit goes up.

    In any case, none of those proposals (all of which were directly from left leaning political panels on climate change) envisioned prices as high as they are now, or as high as they are projected to be in the near future. I do not believe there is anyway that political action will be able to unite all the major Co2 emitting countries under one policy. It's simply impossible.

    Significantly higher oil prices? We'll have conservation out the wazoo, now, and alternate energy technologies (yes, including Nuclear, which is probably the best way out of fossil fuels in the short run (you take what you can get, and there is the potential for a really wonderful powersource, if the only idiotic nuclear companies would step out of the way for the latest and greatest designs being used in research throughout the world)) are on the short-term horizon.

    Anyone notice the hybrid trend? Or walk into a honda dealership or a saturn dealership?

    See all the signs about conservation? Fuel Efficiency? Mark my words-- If oil prices collapse again, all of this green-wave will vanish. Keep oil prices high, and we'll move off the fossil fuel economy in the near future.

    Quite frankly, if you are really worried about emissions-related global warming, (which I'm not, there are many other factors which I believe account for warming better than industrial era emissions. Like humanities desire to clear forests, and the resulting desertification. Or conversion of various land types to ecologically useless farmland) your best bet is to vote for policies that keep oil prices high, and drive it up through the roof.

    If oil was $120-200 a barrel, electric cars would be a reality, even with their dinky 100 mile range. If oil was that high, nuclear plants would be built *right-now*, and the major auto companies would be building a hydrogen economy in conjunction with the oil companies *right-now*. Oh, and oil is projected to be at these levels if demand patterns continue to grow at their current rate.

    I never believed the supply-side problems presented by the dooms-dayers of the 70. Rather, I thought we would experience demand that slowly outstripped supply, allowing the market to adjust economic allocations to account for it. That's exactly what we are experiencing. These corporations already have their plans laid; they've been waiting for economic conditions to be right, so they can get the jump on their competitors.

    Basically, I'm asking for people to stop clamoring for lower gas prices. It's a blessing in disguise. If oil prices had only gone up from their high in the 70s, we'd live in a different world today. It's really too bad that the Shah's regime collapsed; as the architech of the first-wave price hikes, he would have unknowingly corrected the world dependence on fossil fuels.

    The next best step for concerned individuals to take (i.e. people who are not the dictators of statist regimes who can alter prices at whim ;-) ) is to be supportive of measures that fund alternative energy (yes, nuclear power, even if you hate bush, nuclear power is most likely the only short-term way out of fossil fuel dependence at almost *any* price), and to be supportive of measures that increase the price of fossil fuels (no Alaskan oil exploration. no excess U.S. refinery permits).

    That's the way out of fossil fuel emissions. You'll *never*, *ever* get a pure political solution. Attack the economics of the problem, and the free market
    • Except... The price of oil has gone up because demand has surpassed supply. Or rather, demand has surpassed supply at price point X. Raising the price to X+1 changes the demand curve to match the supply. But the last I checked, the Global Warming theory was not dependent on cash outlays for oil, but rather the gas byproducts from oil consumption. So if supply and consumption are unchanged, despite a rise in prices... that doesn't seem to bode well for your free market theory.

      Now I'm a believer in free m

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