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Earth Science

The Arctic Is Leaking Methane 303

registerShift and other readers sent in news that the Arctic Ocean seabed is leaking methane. "...climate experts familiar with the new research reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science that even though it does not suggest imminent climate catastrophe, it is important because of methane's role as a greenhouse gas. Although carbon dioxide is far more abundant and persistent in the atmosphere, ton for ton atmospheric methane traps at least 25 times as much heat. ... [One scientist] estimated that annual methane emissions from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf total about seven teragrams. (A teragram is 1.1 million tons.) By some estimates, global methane emissions total about 500 teragrams a year. ...about 40 percent is natural, including the decomposition of organic materials in wetlands and frozen wetlands like permafrost."
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The Arctic Is Leaking Methane

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  • by Xiph ( 723935 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:01AM (#31370342)

    That's what happens when you convert from metric to imperial, round up, then convert back to metric.
    It is shoddy journalism and very poor of the submitter not to catch it when copy pasting.

    Hi kDawson.

  • Let It Burn! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:05AM (#31370392)

    Methane being 25 times more hazardous to the climate than CO2 then surely even burning it in-situ would be ecologically sound byproduct is CO2 + 2H20

  • Old news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:05AM (#31370396)
    Researchers have measured methane in the region before. Of course, now you can't find those reports because they're buried by this press release.
  • by Khomar ( 529552 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:15AM (#31370506) Journal

    ...but can we do something about it?

    Sure. Give them millions of dollars of grant money to do more research while we pass legislation to make manufacturing even more difficult in America so we can export the rest of our jobs to China where they can ignore all environmental laws. Of course, at present rate, the world-wide economy will soon be completely shot, so after we kill off a couple billion people from the resulting unrest, diseases, and famines, our human contribution will be greatly reduced... to negligible effect.

    So no. Not really.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:15AM (#31370508) Journal
    Low concentrations over a substantial area, much of it dissolved in seawater.

    Unless Maxwell's demon would be willing to take the job, it'd probably take more energy to collect than it would produce when burned. It isn't even concentrated enough to just burn off on site(which, given the relative efficacy of methane and carbon dioxide as greenhouse gasses, would be desireable).

    If there were just a single hole in the ground somewhere, leaking methane, this would be an opportunity. Low but alarming concentrations over a substantial area of ocean are completely useless as an energy source; but still a potentially massive emitter.
  • by curmudgeon99 ( 1040054 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:19AM (#31370544)
    What a bunch of stupid humans we are. We're killing our planet and yet we have to fight these stupid, selfish, self-serving idiots who want to pollute a little longer, so they can buy that Hummer or McMansion. There is going to be hell to pay and all the Sen James Inhofe's of the world will suddenly disappear into the shadows.
  • "Natural" methane? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BetterSense ( 1398915 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:19AM (#31370556)
    I wonder what exactly "natural" methane is. When it comes from decomposing matter in permafrost, it's "natural" methane, when it comes from the digestion process of human-bred ungulates it's "unnatural" methane? I find it interesting how nothing humans do is considered "natural" despite that we are born here, eat here, shit here, and die here. I wonder just what is so "unnatural" about the human race, especially considering that we now supposedly reject magical thinking that he is divinely created and now believe he is an advanced ape. Yet his impact on his environment is always "unnatural" and impure and somehow different than that of any other species.
  • Re:Fuel? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:37AM (#31370704)

    Are you volunteering to plug in all the nozzles?

    The problem with this plan is two-fold:
    1) The gas isn't centralized. Where it is (say, sealed garbage dumps), methane is already harvested and used.
    2) Setting this up is far, far more expensive than just buying your gas from the local utility company. Why would anybody bother if it doesn't save them money and they have to attach balloons to cow asses for the rest of their lives?

  • by klingens ( 147173 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:53AM (#31370922)

    It is natural insofar as humanity didn't do anything to create it. While the cow herds are expressly bred and raised by humans. A wild cow or zebra or gnu are natural too, even when they produce exactly the same methane.
    In Nature, the amount of cattle raised by humans is not sustainable. It only works for us since we specially grow feedstock using fertilizer and pesticide to get a bigger crop than naturally possible.

  • Re:For clarity (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bartles ( 1198017 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:56AM (#31370954)

    Where does the methane that the animals fart out come from? I would think animal methane is carbon neutral.

  • Sustainable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by copponex ( 13876 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @10:58AM (#31370972) Homepage

    Nature seeks states of equilibrium. The question is not whether we are a part of nature. The question is whether we are hurtling the earth's climate toward a state of equilibrium that destroys our civilization.

    This does not require the entire earth to become inhospitable. But if there are enough strains on world resources, it will end up putting us through decades of misery which may result in catastrophic wars, food shortages, and the loss of all coastal communities.

    Famines have killed millions in the past, and are still killing millions in Africa. Right now we have easily exploitable resources that allow us to enjoy a certain quality of life, but we are dangerously close to depleting a number of those resources to new low states of equilibrium. Add in unpredictable droughts, rising sea levels, and the loss of many glaciers that supply freshwater through natural processes, and you can see why people are worried.

  • by Mikkeles ( 698461 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @11:18AM (#31371248)

    Firstly: unnatural doesn't mean supernatural. It's idiomatic.

    Secondly: humans capacity for technological development allows us to usurp common and typical natural feedback mechanisms that limit effects of any other species' activities. This allows us to regularly or contiually have potential effects typical only of relatively uncommon events such as major volcanic eruptions, meteor strikes or worse (for us and every other organism).

    Finally: we have the ability to comprehend that there are unintended consequences to our actions and deliberately choose to ignore even the consideration of these even when we can reasonably predict dire results.

  • Re:Old news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NewbieProgrammerMan ( 558327 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @11:20AM (#31371268)

    Releasing a press release causes earlier reports to become forgotten? I didn't know that the archive of all news stories ever written is solely stored in Homer Simpson's brain.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday March 05, 2010 @11:31AM (#31371406) Homepage Journal

    We have, as a nation, in the name of personal greed and the maximization of possessions, decided to purchase goods from China, which abstracts away slavery and abuse. We have ceased to reward labor and hard work, and now we are completely financially fucked.

    Our entire system is based on slavery; we depend on China to enslave people so that we don't have to have it in our country.

  • by Quirkz ( 1206400 ) <ross.quirkz@com> on Friday March 05, 2010 @11:47AM (#31371612) Homepage
    Because the word "natural" is a lot shorter and less awkward than using "non-human-caused-" every time? You can argue semantics all you want, but it's a useful distinction to make, and it's clear enough to most of us.
  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @11:49AM (#31371646) Homepage

    The world changed, has always changed, and will continue to change. Be it by our hand, or natures. One would argue it's one in the same. So would argue that extra CO2 and heat will *increase* vegetation and improve bio diversity that goes along with it. Meanwhile, Humans continue to become the most adaptable mammal on the planet. This did not happen over night.

    Sit back, take a chill-pill, and relax. Oh, and burn some oil. Life thrives on carbon and CO2, for you are the LIFE GIVER!

  • Better headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday March 05, 2010 @12:31PM (#31372196) Homepage Journal

    "The Arctic Is Leaking Methane, as predicted by Global Warming."

  • " Life thrives on carbon and CO2,"
    No. CO2 it important to the cycle, but too much has effects that make the planet less habitable for humans.

    While humans are adaptable, the Global warming changes are happening very fast compared to out evolution.

    Too much CO2 will kill humans.

  • right..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by malp ( 108885 ) on Friday March 05, 2010 @03:00PM (#31374052)

    Just like the United States could refer to the USA or to United States of Mexico, America can refer to the USA or to the two continents. Which is to say, only an idiot would use the latter meaning.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain