Methane – is anyone listening?

Where it comes from– Two new articles out recently about newly discovered sources of methane venting into the atmosphere.   I’ve written on this topic in the past and I think it is one of the bigger Perfect Storm ‘sleeper’ issues out there. Where it ends up Very few people know about it, it has the strong potential to flip the climate suddenly, it’s been shown to have done this in the past, and it is happening right now (see below).

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Time for action

Arctic Ocean methane signals catastrophe

“We had a hectic finishing of the sampling program yesterday and this past night. An extensive area of intense methane release was found. At earlier sites we had found elevated levels of dissolved methane. Yesterday, for the first time, we documented a field where the release was so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve into the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface.”

Gustafsson’s preliminary report, published in The Independent of September 23, is a development far more frightening than the current financial crisis, although it will get only one-thousandth of the coverage. The worst that the financial crisis can bring is some years of recession. The worst that massive methane releases in the Arctic can bring us is runaway, irreversible global warming.

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How levels are rising

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Hundreds of methane ‘plumes’ discovered

British scientists find more evidence of climate threat

British scientists have discovered hundreds more methane “plumes” bubbling up from the Arctic seabed, in an area to the west of the Norwegian island of Svalbard. It is the second time in a week that scientists have reported methane emissions from the Arctic.

Methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and the latest findings from two separate teams of scientists suggest it is being released in significant amounts from within the Arctic Circle.

On Tuesday, The Independent revealed that scientists on board a Russian research ship had detected vast quantities of methane breaking through the melting permafrost under the seabed of the shallow continental shelf off the Siberian coast.

Yesterday, researchers on board the British research ship the James Clark Ross said they had counted about 250 methane plumes bubbling from the seabed in an area of about 30 square miles in water less than 400 metres (1,300 feet) deep off the west coast of Svalbard. They have also discovered a set of deeper plumes at depths of about 1,200 metres at a second site near by. Analysis of sediments and seawater has confirmed the rising gas is methane, said Professor Graham Westbrook of Birmingham University, the study’s principal investigator.

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