Thursday, December 22, 2011

Justin Gillis on methyl hydrates

Justin Gillis' dead eyes will burn into you until he gets to the truth.

Man, I should buy a lottery ticket.

While we were working our way through the very excited British accounts of the methyl hydrate threat, and the very phlegmatic (but not entirely convincing) response of Andy Revkin, Justin Gillis came out with a fantastic article on permafrost that is already getting rave reviews. And I thought "I wish Justin Gillis would take on this methane thing."

And in less than a day, Justin Gillis took on the methane thing: "Arctic Methane: Is Catastrophe Imminent?" And Gills' sources, like Revkin's are not overly impressed with the threat of massive methane release:

While examples can already be found of warmer ocean currents that are apparently destabilizing such deposits—for example, at this site off Spitsbergen, an island in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic—the scientists explained that a pervasive ocean warming sufficient to destabilize a lot of methane hydrates would almost certainly take thousands of years.
And even if that happened, many scientists say that the methane released would largely be consumed in the sea (by bacteria that specialize in eating methane) and would not reach the atmosphere. That is what seems to be happening off Svalbard.
“I think it’s just dead wrong to talk about ‘Arctic Armageddon,’ ” said William S. Reeburgh, an emeritus scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who spent decades studying such matters and says the likely consumption of methane within the ocean should not be underestimated. “Most of this methane is never going to see the atmosphere.”
Nobody regards the case as closed, and more research is necessary, but most of the methane deposits lining the margins of continents would seem to be fairly low on the list of scientific concerns about global warming.
 But the Arctic is, perhaps, something of an exception:

The methane hydrate deposits in the Arctic Ocean may represent a somewhat greater hazard because the Arctic is warming so rapidly. Considerable attention was devoted to a paper published last year that found methane bubbling out across large areas of ocean above the East Siberian Shelf, which has some of the Arctic’s largest methane hydrate deposits.
But that paper did not prove that the methane release was new, much less that it was increasing. Subsequent work by others has in fact suggested that these particular deposits have probably been unstable and slowly breaking down since the end of the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago.
Moreover, the zone from which the methane is escaping appears to represent only a fraction of the total methane beneath the Arctic Ocean. Most methane hydrate is far enough below the sea floor that sediments serve as an insulating layer, limiting how fast heat can spread downward. Again, the most careful calculations seem to put any significant methane release at hundreds or even thousands of years in the future.
As I hope to describe in more detail later this week, methane measurements in the atmosphere are consistent with the picture I just outlined. They do not support the idea that any big new releases of methane are occurring in the Arctic yet, at least not on a sufficient scale to have an overall impact on the planet’s methane burden. So if a methane “time bomb” actually exists in the ocean, as some news stories would have you believe, it seems fairly clear that it hasn’t gone off yet.
Still, there’s no question that some scientists are worried about this issue — less by what we know than what we don’t. Carolyn Ruppel, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey, is leading some of the efforts to get better information and especially to map areas off northern Alaska that may contain deposits of methane hydrate. “We need a baseline” against which future changes can be judged, she said.
None of these reassurances are entirely satisfying as regards the recent observations, but until we have some clear numbers on those observations and preferably confirmation from another team at the Shelf, or detect a change in the atmospheric burden of methane, it's hard to judge how, if at all, the new observations are going to change how we see the situation under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

We await developments (I do feel somewhat better). Meanwhile, a couple of good sources:

Neven's post and thread are superb, as usual.
The Columbia Journalism Review went over the major articles in this mini-methane-stampede.


  1. The NYT story link is a duplicate of the CJR one.

  2. Did you know you can shorten your long urls with AdFly and get money from every visit to your short urls.

  3. شركة تنظيف راس الخيمة
    لا أحد يختلف على أنه يوجد عدد كبير من شركات التنظيف لكن لا يسعك بالطبع وضع ثقتك في جميعها لذلك ننصحك بضرورة التواصل مع شركة تنظيف بيوت راس الخيمة إذا وجدت صعوبة في تنظيف منزلك وستجد لدينا كل ما ترغب فيه وتسعى للوصول إليه من أهداف حيث أننا نعمل جاهدين على تحقيق أفضل النتائج التي من شأنها الحصول على استحسان جميع عملائنا الكرام في أقل وقت وبأقل تكلفة فلا داعي للتفكير طويلا في الأمر بل اتصل بنا الآن.
    شركة تنظيف فلل راس الخيمة
    شركات تنظيف المباني في راس الخيمة
    شركة تنظيف شقق راس الخيمة
    شركة تنظيف بيوت راس الخيمة
    إذا كان هناك بعض البقع الصعبة على المفروشات فنحن لدينا أقوى أنواع المواد المنظفة التي تساهم بشكل كبير في إزالة أصعب البقع مع الحفاظ على الألوان ورونقها.
    نعمل على تنظيف المطابخ بكل محتوياتها بأحدث التقنيات حيث يمكننا تنظيف البوتاجازات وإعادتها إلى هيئتها الأولى وكذلك تنظيف الثلاجات والشفاطات والمراوح وأجهزة التكييف والأفران بكل أنواعها وأحجامها.
    شركة تنظيف كنب راس الخيمة
    يمكننا تنظيف جميع المقتنيات المصنوعة من الزجاج ومن ثم تلميعها دون إحداث أي خدش بها أو تعريضها للكسر.
    بما أن المنازل لا تخلو من القطع المصنوعة من الرخام فنحن قادرون أيضا على جلي الرخام وتلميعه جيدا وإزالة الأوساخ المتراكمة عليه.
    إذا رغبت في التواصل مع شركة تنظيف بيوت راس الخيمة فيمكنك القيام بذلك في أي وقت ومن أي مكان حيث أن فريق خدمة العملاء التابع لشركتنا المتميزة متواجد على مدار اليوم لاستقبال جميع المكالمات الهاتفية التي تأتي من أي عميل كريم.
    شركة مكافحة حشرات راس الخيمة

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. It has been 8 years. Maybe an update might be in order. Kilometers sized areas have been observed (but strangely not investigated) in the ocean.


    The implementation of recent plans of deep sea mining may become a factor.

    You don't cite many/any peer reviewed science concerning land or permafrost releases of methane. I've seen pictures of vast areas pockmarked with sink holes spewing methane.

    Also, the fracking industry is unmonitored and faces no sanctions for methane "leaks" as well. A well was recently found to have leaked a massive amount, years worth.

    Of course these are just assertions by me, but are easily referenced by search engine (for now, I see censorship becoming a thing soon).

    Most critical, realize things don't die by one cause, look to death by a hundred cuts and look into the totality of the situation and critical reciprocal consideration.

    You know, insect apocalypse, ocean reef death, population out of all bounds and rising, human hubris and self absorbed thinking. Positive feedbacks (64 climate affecting now) and on and on.