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Earth Science

How Much Should You Worry About an Arctic Methane Bomb? 416

Posted by Soulskill
from the TSA-now-banning-all-carbon-based-gases-on-airplanes dept.
barlevg sends this excerpt from an article at MotherJones: "It was a stunning figure: $60 trillion. Such could be the cost, according to a recent commentary in Nature, of 'the release of methane from thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea, off northern Russia... a figure comparable to the size of the world economy in 2012.' More specifically, the paper described a scenario in which rapid Arctic warming and sea ice retreat lead to a pulse of undersea methane being released into the atmosphere. How much methane? The paper modeled a release of 50 gigatons of this hard-hitting greenhouse gas (a gigaton is equal to a billion metric tons) between 2015 and 2025. This, in turn, would trigger still more warming and gargantuan damage and adaptation costs. ... According to the Nature commentary, that methane 'is likely to be emitted as the seabed warms, either steadily over 50 years or suddenly.' Such are the scientific assumptions behind the paper's economic analysis. But are those assumptions realistic—and could that much methane really be released suddenly from the Arctic? A number of prominent scientists and methane experts interviewed for this article voiced strong skepticism about the Nature paper.'"
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How Much Should You Worry About an Arctic Methane Bomb?

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  • by Salgak1 (20136) <salgak&speakeasy,net> on Friday August 09, 2013 @01:09PM (#44522347) Homepage
    Mind you, not sure where this seabed warming is supposed to come from, with Global cooling (due to lower Solar output. . . .) And temperatures during the Medieval Optimum were even higher that the peak of the current warming, and no sudden volatilization of Methane Clathrates. . . Agreed: nothing to see here. . .
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday August 09, 2013 @01:22PM (#44522545) Homepage Journal

    Could you give a citation for that "lowered solar output?" Because wikipedia disagrees with you. [wikipedia.org] Do you work for an oil company or have you just succumbed to their propaganda?

    As to should we worry, no. Worrying never solved anything. Worry isn't needed, planning is.

    You can worry about global cooling in five or ten thousand years. [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Catastrophe? (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday August 09, 2013 @01:32PM (#44522671)

    I think we should actually understand the natural cycles and integrate ourselves so we are not fighting against it all the time.

    The whole point of climate change is that it is not natural that we put large quantities of CO2 into the air.

  • Re:Catastrophe? (Score:5, Informative)

    by riverat1 (1048260) on Friday August 09, 2013 @01:37PM (#44522725)

    The most likely candidate for the last seabed warming of this potential magnitude was about 55 million years ago during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. [wikipedia.org] That period did coincide with a lot of extinctions.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday August 09, 2013 @01:40PM (#44522767) Homepage Journal

    Mind you, not sure where this seabed warming is supposed to come from, with Global cooling (due to lower Solar output. . . .)

    And temperatures during the Medieval Optimum were even higher that the peak of the current warming, and no sudden volatilization of Methane Clathrates. . .

    Agreed: nothing to see here. . .

    An awful low UID for such a silly post... The current warming is indeed beyond the Medieval Optimum by a significant margin, and Solar output is at a pretty high level (we are at the middle of the current output cycle). Are you trying to troll, or are you literally drowning in Kool Aid and this is the best you could type as you choked for air?

  • by jbolden (176878) on Friday August 09, 2013 @01:54PM (#44522969) Homepage

    There is no 15 year pause in global warming.

  • Re:Control (Score:5, Informative)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Friday August 09, 2013 @02:00PM (#44523053) Homepage Journal

    "Some places will get hotter, some will actually get cooler, some will get more precipitation and others will get less, over time this will shape the world we live in and our own food sources."

    Isn't that the way it's always been?

    Yes, but generally these changes have been gradual. We're seeing significant changes in the start of seasons, insect life cycles, migration of birds, etc. over a short time span.

  • Irrelevant data (Score:4, Informative)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Friday August 09, 2013 @02:39PM (#44523611) Homepage

    Could you give a citation for that "lowered solar output?" Because wikipedia disagrees with you. [wikipedia.org]

    Nasa http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/SunspotCycle.shtml [nasa.gov]
    (And just so you dont have to read that long complicated article here is a link to a nice picture)
    http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/images/ssn_predict_l.gif [nasa.gov]

    That is a graph of sunspot number. The question was about "lowered solar output."

    This is amazingly typical of internet arguments, especially by the greenhouse-effect denying community. When asked to show data supporting their assertion, they show something else entirely, but since it's a graph with numbers and such, it looks scientific. It's a win-win argument for the deniers: readers who aren't familar with the field say "oh, they have data: they must be right." And for people who do understand that the data is irrelevant, in the worst case, it sidetracks the argument onto a completely irrelevant discussion of what the connection between sunspot number is to solar output.

    This data [kym-cdn.com] addresses your argument.

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Friday August 09, 2013 @02:56PM (#44523815)

    Efficiency improvements have never been able to compensate for growth. They aren't even today in the US. All reduction in energy consumption was due to the recession, as the recent record numbers for oil consumption show.

    Malthus was only delayed by the fossil fuel bonanza which is coming to an end.

  • Re:Control (Score:5, Informative)

    by tnk1 (899206) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:00PM (#44523865)

    To be fair, all he was trying to say is that "global warming" will have unpredictable local results due to the heterogeneous make-up of the atmosphere as well as other features. For instance, Great Britain is on the same latitude as Labrador and Newfoundland, but has considerably more temperate weather. That's because of the circulation of the air in the atmosphere. Things like the Gulf Stream (but not necessarily the Gulf Stream itself) could cause the extra heat to be distributed unevenly.

    We need to remember that heat in these cases is energy that powers the "engines" that produce our weather. Much like electricity can be used to heat and cool, if it is pumped through the right engine, there are natural processes that could cool the planet locally if they receive more energy.

    Of course, eventually steadily increasing heat in the system will simply overwhelm any cooling features, and you'll get Venus out of it. However, that's not going to happen overnight and not without some unusual effects. It may not even happen at all if there are some special cases of equilibrium for the Earth, but those points may still be at a very uncomfortable place for humans.

    So, the guy who is blaming the unusually hot weather this summer directly on global warming is just as misguided as the guy who is suggesting that since this is the coldest year on record, global warming is a joke. Determining cause and effect in weather in the long term is still not as much of a complete science as we'd like.

    None of this is meant to suggest that I know the truth of whether a global warming disaster is going to come to pass, but I know enough about climate and weather to know that changes to the former can have interesting, sometimes counter-intuitive effects on the latter.

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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