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Thread: Methane in the Arctic - large scale global warming threat

  1. #1 Methane in the Arctic - large scale global warming threat 
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    On September 16th the Arctic ice has hit its lowest extent since the Satelite era (3.41 million square) and while it may result in the usual talk about the sea level rise there is another threat I am aware of which is quite frightening.

    I am talking about the methane clathrates that reside in the Arctic seabed. It should be noted that these are stable in low temperatures and high pressure, however with the retreat of the ice the water heats up and there is a threat that the clathrates will become unstable and begin to degas releasing a large proportion of methane into the atmosphere. Another cause for the destabilisation of the clathrates is seismic activity as a result of thermal expansion.

    Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas far more potent than CO2. The result of the methane therefore is that it will act as a vicious positive feedback mechanism and accelerate global warming which could release much more methane and therefore our earth could suffer a faith very similar to Venus in the sense that runaway global warming will occur and earth will become a lifeless baking hell.

    Blog which contains a diagram of the warming situation in the Arctic:
    http://arctic-news.blogspot.ie/2012/...he-arctic.html

    What is your opinion on this?




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  3. #2  
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    our earth could suffer a faith very similar to Venus in the sense that runaway global warming will occur and earth will become a lifeless baking hell.
    Earth is not Venus. 'Runaway' warming here does not mean the same thing as on Venus. What is possible here is bad enough without going to that extreme. (Boiling Earth's oceans is theoretically possible, but much harder to achieve than on Venus.)

    My opinion is that it's not as bad as this item paints the picture, but the real picture is bad enough to lead to a major 'extinction event'. That event may not wipe out all life on earth or even all people. But it could certainly wipe out our agriculture based civilisation if we let it.

    This is a discussion on a recent paper on the topic. RealClimate: Methane game upgrade No reason to rejoice, but no reason to panic either.

    We can now see more clearly that most of the methane flux from the Arctic today are of types of emission that will respond to climate warming. But the general response time of the system is slow, decades to centuries, rather than potentially poised to release a huge pulse of methane within a few years.
    Though I think using the word "slow" here is a bit dicey. We talk about carbon emissions and concentrations in terms of how they compare on geological timescales. Decades is pretty quick in geological terms.


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    our earth could suffer a faith very similar to Venus in the sense that runaway global warming will occur and earth will become a lifeless baking hell.
    Earth is not Venus. 'Runaway' warming here does not mean the same thing as on Venus. What is possible here is bad enough without going to that extreme. (Boiling Earth's oceans is theoretically possible, but much harder to achieve than on Venus.)
    Would runawy warming not be like it was on Venus with the methane coupled with the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today?
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    The 2 planets are similar in some ways but significantly different in others. If you read that RealClimate item I referred to earlier you'll see that the final comment reads ....

    Arctic methane, and all that frozen soil carbon, could easily play a huge role, not so much in the near-term evolution of Earth’s climate, but in the long tail of the global warming climate event.
    The other big difference is that Earth has a large population of an extremely intelligent species - which also happens to be clumsy and short-sighted in its approach to its environment. I'm reasonably confident, not certain, but optimistic that we'll start deliberately reducing emissions soon - the USA's already reduced a bit, but that was totally unplanned. And then, in a decade or so, we'll have some scope to reduce concentrations as well as emissions.

    If we burnt every last molecule of coal, oil and gas on the planet, and released billions of years worth of sequestered carbon compounds in the process, it's just possible that we could boil the oceans. I don't think we can do it anyway, ..... because we'd be starving billions to death by loss of agricultural crops through droughts and floods long before we got to that further extreme. The loss of industrial and economic capacity to act would guarantee emissions reductions (if not concentration reduction processes).

    For a clear explanation of the differences between Earth and Venus, try this RC item. RealClimate: Lessons from Venus
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    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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  6. #5  
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    This is why I'm going to remove mention of Venus when I teach about climate....confuses too many people.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    ...
    The other big difference is that Earth has a large population of an extremely intelligent species - which also happens to be clumsy and short-sighted in its approach to its environment. I'm reasonably confident, not certain, but optimistic that we'll start deliberately reducing emissions soon - the USA's already reduced a bit, but that was totally unplanned. And then, in a decade or so, we'll have some scope to reduce concentrations as well as emissions.

    If we burnt every last molecule of coal, oil and gas on the planet, and released billions of years worth of sequestered carbon compounds in the process, it's just possible that we could boil the oceans. I don't think we can do it anyway, ..... because we'd be starving billions to death by loss of agricultural crops through droughts and floods long before we got to that further extreme. The loss of industrial and economic capacity to act would guarantee emissions reductions (if not concentration reduction processes).

    For a clear explanation of the differences between Earth and Venus, try this RC item. RealClimate: Lessons from Venus
    as/re "unplanned" not so, I've been paying a surcharge on my electricity to finance wind farms for several years now.

    boil the oceans----------nonsence and rubbish----that sort of lunatic hyperbole has distanced the climate lunatics from the rest of humanity, and cost the environmental movement dearly. chicken little and all that...
    We are still in an ice age--------we'll know it's over when we go 200000 years without the glaciation--------(should we all live so long?)

    within that,
    plant a tree and nurture it till it can survive on it's own... then plant 1000 more...
    then plant 1000 more...
    then plant 1000 more...
    then plant 1000 more...
    it warms later and frosts later under the canopy of my forest... and the birds and squirrels seem to love it
    reduce
    repair
    rebuild
    retask
    reuse
    recycle
    evrey damned item that comes into your posession
    "Garbage" is a garbage word for the ill willed and ignorant
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    You must have known something.

    Skeptical Science has just done a comprehensive overview of the most recent papers on permafrost carbon feedback. Modelling the permafrost carbon feedback
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  9. #8  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    seregate
    as/re
    "Blog which contains a diagram of the warming situation in the Arctic: http://arctic-news.blogspot.ie/2012/...he-arctic.html"

    "diagram of doom"
    silly madness
    preaching to the choir only

    I consider myself an environmentalist, and do not fear "global warming"
    I find climate change one of the most valuable learning tools to have come to our species.
    ..........
    Consider that during the eemian and holsteinian interglacials the world was much warmer and the ice was mostly(if not entirely) gone from the northen hemisphere, and much of antarctic ice was gone (with likely all of west antarctica ice free).
    The "permafrost" was most likely thawed.

    Is there any way to determine the age of the arctic methane clathrates? Has this been done?
    Are they products of the last glaciation? Or much more ancient?
    During the eemian, it seems that the norwegian sea was most likely colder that the arctic ocean.(I ain't got a succinct handle on where or how this fits into the balance...)

    Climate science without an understanding of paleo-climatology is a sham exercise in mindless drivel, punctuated by arm waving and hysteria.

    Let us leave the worrying to the weak minded, and focus on learning more and acting in accord with our gathering knowledge.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    ..........
    Consider that during the eemian and holsteinian interglacials the world was much warmer and the ice was mostly(if not entirely) gone from the northen hemisphere, and much of antarctic ice was gone (with likely all of west antarctica ice free).
    The "permafrost" was most likely thawed..
    But they weren't warmer than were we are almost certain to push climate to in the next century.(see below)

    Climate science has an extensive understanding of paleoclimate. Most of the concern isn't about the end state, as much as it's about the dramatic and quick transition to get there. (and the potential changes to biota in an acidic ocean)

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110118_MilankovicPaper.pdf


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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    If we don't have the common sense to limit our population size
    We are quickly reducing family sizes across most of the globe. That isn't the real issue.

    Population size isn't so much of the problem as much as the part of the population which is uses lots of energy and burns fossil fuels as the primary means to get that energy. If the Western nations and rapidly industrializing Eastern nations don't learn to either live on less energy, or learn to use less fossil fuels to support that high-energy life style--than we are in trouble.

    The arctic methane is a positive feedback loop towards increasing global temperature with no chance to boil the oceans or come anywhere close. Of course hundreds of millions of years from now (probably more like a billion) of years the sun will warm to the point that life can no long compesate and only than will we get run away greenhouse effect.
    Wasn't the sun's luminosity increasing the reason Venus became uninhabitable due to runaway water vapour warming?
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    Wasn't the sun's luminosity increasing the reason Venus became uninhabitable due to runaway water vapour warming?
    So far, I've given you three links to pretty good articles which deal with the Venus / Earth similarities and differences. And those links all refer to papers dealing with specific scientific issues. Lynx gave you another.

    Have you read (and re-read) the links? Do you have any questions arising from what you've read?

    Have you followed through on any papers? Are there any questions arising from those references?

    Are there any specific things in any of those items that you're having difficulty with - I'd be perfectly happy to deal with those sorts of questions.

    Have you read anything that tells you about the differences between the two planets that might explain why things that have happened on one are difficult or impossible to repeat on the other - say in atmospheric density or pressure?

    Simply put. I'm not willing to repeat my own or other people's explanations, nor will I seek out any more references for you until I'm sure you're following the points already made and reading the material already linked.

    EDIT: I especially recommend the Hansen paper that Lynx offered. If you're concerned about planetary imbalances, there's no need to wallow in sci fi fantasies about earth going the same way as Venus. The very real possibilities of uncontrolled FF use and its emissions can put us in a position where only a few of us might survive without getting anywhere near Venus conditions.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    if you want to know what a runaway greenhouse effect on earth would look like, warming through methane clathrates is thought to have been involved in the extinctions at the end of the permian, as well as the (sub)tropical conditions over most of the globe in the eocene

    i think the main difference between earth and venus is the presence of liquid water which acts as a thermal buffer - as far as i'm aware venus either always had most of its water as vapour in the atmosphere, or went that way within the first billion years of its existence
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    The other big difference is that Earth has a large population of an extremely intelligent species...
    So...the dolphins are going to save us?
    "Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati"
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  15. #14  
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    If only.
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