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back to article DON'T PANIC: Arctic methane emissions have been going on for ages

Scientists returning from a seaborne expedition to the Arctic say that the ongoing panic in some quarters regarding runaway emissions of methane from the chilly polar seas - and associated imminent global-warming disaster - appears to be unjustified. For those unacquainted with this particular panic, the idea is that rising …

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Bronze badge

One word.

Again.

Just how many times do we have to play the "No, you're talking rubbish" game in having to discredit poor science by using good science (i.e. get down there, see what's happening, see what explanation would be plausible or not, rather than just hypothesising doom on the back of zero evidence)?

I hereby posit the theory that man's addiction to bananas is causing the planet to warm up at a thousand degrees a day. By these standards, everyone will take me seriously for the next few years until someone can be bothered to come along and show what a crackpot suggestion it is.

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Bronze badge

It's not quite as black and white as that.

This survey shows that methane emissions have been occurring for a long time from "at least some" of these outlets.

That's not a complete refutation of Dr Euan Nisbet's suggestion that sea temperature rises might release large volumes of methane, it just means that most likely the methane that is being released right not is not a result of human activity and Nisbet's initial suggestion as to the timing of this effect was not correct.

As the press release says the outlets they looked are active either as a result of a longer term temperature rise or due to seasonal warming / cooling cycles in the area.

So they still tie methane release to sea temperatures and don't have any data yet on the acceleration (which may be zero or negative, of course) of methane release in the area.

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Also worth noting that contrary to suggestions that certain doom was prophesied Nisbet originally said "the danger of a thermal runaway caused by methane release from permafrost is minor, but real" - not the scariest ever.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One word.

Nope - I ate a banana yesterday, and its colder today than it was yesterday so you are wrong.

I now expect Lewis to write an article saying' Alarmist suggestion that bananas will fry earth disproved - no need to panic, it's not a melt down, or if it is it doesn't matter, much'

The fact is that a cursory reading of the literature would show that while concerns have been raised over oceanic methane, quantitatively permafrost melt associated releases have been considered more significant, and even these are quite small compared to releases from temperate and tropical agriculture.

Lewis' 'wack a mole' analogy works perfectly - as long as you remember its a game, and that the man who took your money controls which mole pops its head out.. Just rename ity to 'wack a straw man'.

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Re: One word.

You clearly don't understand science, Lee.

Science progresses through conjecture and refutation. You imply that simply because some conjectures have been refuted, we should stop coming up with ideas.

Have a little read up on Karl Popper's work: it's quite important.

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Trollface

Re: One word.

Wasn't he the one with the penguins?

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Every new discovery is a victim to Uestani type xenophobia.

Since Ice melt is considered 100% insolation and methane is lighter than air; methane relesed to the atmosphere over the north or south pole probably contributes to cooling processes.

Hint:

blankets = insulation.

It would certainly explain the ice caps when you realise that all stroms created at the tropics eventually find there way to the north or South pole where they tend to dissappear as Lows and get reincarnated as Highs.

Anyone know what fear of science is called?

Or fear of previously unknown geophenomena?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Every new discovery is a victim to Uestani type xenophobia.

"...methane relesed to the atmosphere over the north or south pole probably contributes to cooling processes...."

"...Anyone know what fear of science is called?"

No, but I also don't know what joining a debate which you obviously have absolutely no knowledge about is called...

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Unhappy

Re: Every new discovery is a victim to Uestani type xenophobia.

You're not a patch on amanfrommars

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Joke

Re: Every new discovery is a victim to Uestani type xenophobia.

"Anyone know what fear of science is called?"

Uh, organized Religion?

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"It's not quite as black and white as that."

Yes it is. Damn you farting penguins

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Stop

What about the permafrost?

I thought the concern over methane releases was from defrosting areas of the permafrost? Less snow cover meant lower albedo and thus more rapid warming and an (accelerating) release of methane?

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Thumb Up

Re: What about the permafrost?

"I thought the concern over methane releases was from defrosting areas of the permafrost."

So did I.

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Re: What about the permafrost?

"I thought the concern over methane releases was from defrosting areas of the permafrost?"

It is, mostly. The catastrophic events, such as pulse releases of methane, seemed to have been mainly talked about in a precautionary way in the responsible scientific community - at least as far as i've seen. There are the usual bits of nonsense bandied about by the usual suspects, especially (and _not_ IMO 'occasionally untrained activists or journalists' as Mr. Page would like one to believe) from the media and certain groups, e.g some members of AMEG.

Methane emissions seem to have been tracking wetland release quite closely, so the increase of wetland due to perma-frost melting in the sub-Arctic is worth keeping an eye on.

NOAA has been reported little rise in Arctic methane for quite some time now, and the effect of warming on hydrate emission is expected to be slight in the near future. There are also the suspected methane deposits in Antarctica but, as most of the ice loss is in the West and the pontential methane stores are in the East, this is not expected to have any significant effect just yet.

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Silver badge

Hold on...

This research is just saying that methane has been degassed from submarine sediments for hundreds of years and that it is probably not a result of warming.

It says nothing whether the warming we're seeing will result in more outgassing in the future.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hold on...

Mike wins one critical thinking point.

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The Life Of Brian

I'm reminded of the scene where Brian is followed around by believers and every time he does something, no matter what, they see it as a sign of great importance. Seems like the climate debate has gone the same way with the hard line greenies searching desperately for that first tipping point, that one major climate disaster that can be undeniably attributed to CO2.

I notice that, quietly, this years Arctic sea ice low has been partly attributed to a large and persistent storm that broke a lot of ice up and moved it into warmer water. No BBC news headlines saying that the record melt perhaps wasn't quite as ominous as we thought....

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Happy

Re: The Life Of Brian

But the BBC did report this a few days ago.....

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19702450

What i take from the picture is that the rises appear to be in areas of high geodynamic activity, ie; Indonesia and others. i wonder if they have measured the methane coming from these areas?

.

How can it be lower or higher in one place or the other? But then, given that its a huge cauldron influenced by natural phenomena that we have little control over, moon, gravity, earthquake, subterranean volcano etc etc....

It would appear to me to be just another piece of alarmist journalism.

And i thought we'd been using water to find a level for thousands of years

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@bill 36 Re: The Life Of Brian

"How can it be lower or higher in one place or the other? But then, given that its a huge cauldron influenced by natural phenomena that we have little control over, moon, gravity, earthquake, subterranean volcano etc etc...."

You've just (partly) answered that question yourself. Gravity, for example, has quite an effect - gee, gravity effecting a mass distribution, who'd have thought ?.. and heat - what are the chances of *that* effecting anything... There's nothing strange here, just physics.

"It would appear to me to be just another piece of alarmist journalism."

Not really - silly headlines aside, it seems to be a quite interesting article about instrumentation, with lots of explanation as to why it's really just a snap-shot, e.g.

"The trend map is really a way of looking at average field changes over the 20 years," explained Steven Nerem of the University of Colorado, US.

"The places where you see high trends probably won't have high trends in another 20 years.

"A lot of this is decadal variability that will average out over the longer time series, which is why we need more missions to understand where this variability is."

"And i thought we'd been using water to find a level for thousands of years"

On a small scale that can work fine. At the scale of a planet it's a tad more complex, and we've known that for quite a while too.

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Re: The Life Of Brian

So this storm, is it a new thing or do storms occur every year? If they occur every year it doesn't really affect the record. If it is a new thing is it one more thing to worry about that new storms increase sea ice melt?

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Re: The Life Of Brian

That, is the point I think. The last record minimum occurred under similar circumstances. It's likely that the storms are just weather. The problem is that the Arctic ice sheet has been thinning for decades and is more susceptible to this sort of thing and it's probably been thinning because of our activities, but this summers record low still doesn't like it's that "tipping point".

It was just the way in which it was presented that irked me. Like I said, there's a group of people who are desperate for that one killer event that will be so conclusive that 'deniers' like me will be forced to hang our heads in shame as we are rounded up and tried for crimes against humanity....

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FAIL

Re: The Life Of Brian

It was just the way in which it was presented that irked me.

Yes, there does seem to be an over-abundance of enthusiasm for disaster scenarios. A sort of "See! I told you so! We're all gonna die" said with a supercilious grin.

A bit like the weather girl on BBC local radio today getting all excited about how if the rain keeps up for another 12 hours it will be a new record, said with great excitement. Maybe she missed the news and travel bulletins about people being evacuated from their homes due to this record breaking rain or stuck on the A1 for many hours due to flooding.

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Silver badge

Re: The Life Of Brian (@ Steve Crook)

A few decades ago, most of the ice in the Arctic Sea had a thickness of 4/5 meters, and couldn't be affected much by storms. Cracks in the ice would be filled/welded in no time, due to the big amount of ice present (thermal inertia+lateral pressure+inertia). The thinner the ice gets, the bigger and more permanent the effects of a storm on said ice are. So nowadays, with most of the surviving sea ice being 1 meter thick...

It could also be argued that the strength of that storm has been caused -at least partially- by more availability of open water, which transfers energy to the atmosphere.

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FAIL

Oh dear.

Its now the fact the its been releasing for hundreds of years that's the problem, its the rate of release.

Now if you could prove that there is no more being released now than a couple of hundred years ago then that would be news.

The danger with this stuff is that we could reach a tipping point on temperature which leads to a massive release all at once as is believed to have happened during the Permian-Triassic change and participated in the kill off of up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct. It is the only known mass extinction of insects. Some 57% of all families and 83% of all genera became extinct.

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Thumb Down

Re: Oh dear.

Big Ted,

More alarmist nonesense caviated with in your words,"could" and "believed", with no cast iron evidence.

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Meh

Re: Oh dear.

I was going to make exactly that point about the rate of release. The question is, since it's such a blindingly obvious point, how did Lewis fail to note it himself? Seeing as he claims he's not a climate change denier, he couldn't possibly be intentionally ignoring the obvious to put a particular spin on the research, could he?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh dear.

Someone has to fulfil the weekly quota of climate-change-denial-pseudo-science-bollocks. Really, I wish The Reg would stick to tech news and not keep persisting on these embarrassing soapbox articles. The misappropriation of data, denial of scientific consensus and hysterical conclusions are about on par with creationists.

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Gold badge

Re: Oh dear.

Most, if not all, of the mass extinction events in Earth's history are correlated with significant changes in ocean circulation driven by continental drift. In particular, really hot periods seem to be associated with having an open water channel around the equator. Right now there is the little thing called Africa in the way. The only significant threat to Africa in the short term is the likelihood that it will rift (North-South) at some point in the next few million years.

To return to the whack-a-mole analogy, we may have several reasons to fear a mass exinction is coming (habitat loss, pollution, ...) but actually I don't think that climate change is one of them. I just wish the so-called environmentalist movement would stop crying wolf over climate (and let the climatologists learn their subject without mass media coverage of every publication) and concentrate on the major ecological problems that seem both beyond dispute and within our ability to fix (like habitat loss and pollution).

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Silver badge

Re: Oh dear.

"Big Ted,

More alarmist nonesense caviated with in your words,"could" and "believed", with no cast iron evidence."

Seeing there is no evidence that is 100% either way then your comment is pointless, at least accept that my point is fair and that there is a danger if as beleived this happened before it could happen again, ok its not likely to happen any time soon but it could be a conciquence of not doing anything and in fact the oceans heat up a couple of degrees and start a feedback with more methane causing even more warming....

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Re: Oh dear.

Big Ted,

This is rediculous, why would I entertain alarmist nonesense about what looks like might happen or possibly has happened with no actual evidence that it is going to happen? Its like you saying to me that that mutant chickens could take over the world because they mutate into 20 times their normal size and eat the rest of the world!! Rediculous drivel!!!

Also, you are making this up, with a statement like "not likely to happen any time soon", how the heck do you know???

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh dear.

Take your pills and calm down, speedjunky.

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Silver badge

Re: Oh dear.

"Big Ted,

This is rediculous, why would I entertain alarmist nonesense about what looks like might happen or possibly has happened with no actual evidence that it is going to happen? Its like you saying to me that that mutant chickens could take over the world because they mutate into 20 times their normal size and eat the rest of the world!! Rediculous drivel!!!

Also, you are making this up, with a statement like "not likely to happen any time soon", how the heck do you know???"

What ?????

Haven't you seen that documentary Food Of The Gods..... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074540/

Chickens are the least of our worries.

As to what might happen, we might get an ice age due to Greenland ice melting and stopping the Gulf Stream, or the Arctic could go ice free or...or...or... anything is possible including my post, its as likely as no change due to it being Sun Spot activity etc the deniers keep taking comfort in.

Just accept my point for what it is, an extreme consequence of global warming that happened several times in the past and "could" happen again.

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Re: Oh dear.

Food of the Gods, ha ha ha, why do you call it a documentary, I thought it was a film based on a H G Wells book?

As far as I am concerned, the earth has gone through cycles over the span of millions of years, I am not going to worry about it as there is nothing you or I can do about it.

Ok point taken then, if you insist, I accept that global warming "could" cause all sorts of issues in theory (but thats the problem with theories isn't it, they are just theories?) , BUT I wont accept that global warming is proven to be man made.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh dear.

"BUT I wont accept that global warming is proven to be man made."

Then you're either a bit simple, ignorant, in denial or a combination of those, since the overwhelming scientific consensus is that CO2 emissions are causing climate change, and there isn't a single piece of credible work that disputes it.

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Re: Oh dear.

I dont respond to COWARDS!!!

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Silver badge

Re: Oh dear.

what about trolls?

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Joke

Obviously...

Since methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas mole for mole than carbon dioxide or water (like, by more than an order of magnitude), converting a mole of methane to a mole of carbon dioxide and 2 moles of water is a net win.

So when will we see support for mining all that methane for motor fuel - it's good for the environment!

<voice character="Foghorn Leghorn">That's a I say that's a JOKE, son!</voice>

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I see what you did there to Lewis' whack a mole analogy

Chemistry, innit? As for mining all that goody methane hydrate, it won't be necessary for some time. There seems to be enough shale gas around to keep us going for a millennium without having to get our feet wet. But in a thousand years, it will be well worth their while, as there seems enough of the stuff to keep them going for oh probably 10,000 years.

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Re: I see what you did there to Lewis' whack a mole analogy

"There seems to be enough shale gas around to keep us going for a millennium without having to get our feet wet. But in a thousand years, it will be well worth their while, as there seems enough of the stuff to keep them going for oh probably 10,000 years."

Please tell me you just forgot to click to Joke icon when you sent that...

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Go

Under sea lab

Let me guess, it's placed a few hundred meters from the edge of an unexplored abyss? Has anybody sent some special forces deep sea, search and rescue people down to it in the last few weeks?

Has it been heard from again?

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Gold badge
Thumb Up

Interesting result *if* read with caution.

Not only have they established it's *not* a new thing, they look like they may also be able to put some *quantity* on it.

All good. And my usual hope they will update models accordingly.

*however* the question is of course if that *rate* is rising (or *has* risen) over say the last 100 yrs. A *flat* rate would suggest the Earth has already adjusted to the level of Methane release but I'd be *very* cautious about confirming that.

Thumbs up for going on site and doing an actual poke around.

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Coat

Of course

"Methane, as any fule kno, is a hugely more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2,"

Yet another reason not to be a vegetarian.

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Holmes

Author confirmed, article ignored

It's like super speed reading. All I need to do is check the name of the author and I already know the content.

Null.

Sounding like the broken record, but I'm responding to one:

It doesn't really matter how severe the climate change problem is or whether human stupidity (as typified by the author of the so-called article) is the primary cause. What mattered is that we had an opportunity for many countries to work together BEFORE it became a mad race to the lifeboats.

Thank you little Lewis: "Every man for himself, and to hell with the women and children."

Meanwhile, back in America, the RomneyBot says: "Vote for me so that government of the corporations, by the lawyers, for the richest 0.1% of American robots, shall rule the earth."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Author confirmed, article ignored

Isn't it strange how anyone you disagree with is stupid.

Did it not occur to you that you might be the stupid one.

Kindly keep your personal insults to yourself.

You do no one trying to have a debate (you do know what a debate is, do you) any good by trashing the person rather than the facts - as are thought to be known so far!

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Mining.

Has anyone looked at mining it?

Must be worth something and it's not that far north for the UK.

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Anonymous Coward

"Don't Panic"? Take a look at the data.

Levels of methane have increased and continue to increase globally - levels in the Arctic have specifically been seen to be on the increase.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-fW3Kcb0R9hI/UEyAdnrGTzI/AAAAAAAAEi0/ELNYZOWasbc/s1600/4635237745648.png

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-qbODSzVknSw/UE8ZyUGi25I/AAAAAAAAEnM/oKNIQxMtB0M/s1600/2857678495095.jpg

http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2012/09/high-september-2012-methane-levels.html

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Happy

Dad's Army or Hitchhiker's guide?

I'd go with Clive Dunn playing the role of Lewis.

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FAIL

is this an article or a troll post ?

Everyone is looking for the "correct" climate model. Why is it that any scientist studying a positive feedback mechanism is labeled an idiot while anyone studying a negative feedback loop is a genius ?

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