Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is This the "Tipping Point" They Warned Us About?

I just stumbled across this in The Independent and, if it doesn't send a quiet chill through you, it probably should.

"The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.

In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age."

Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University in Sweden, one of the leaders of the expedition, described the scale of the methane emissions in an email exchange sent from the Russian research ship Jacob Smirnitskyi.

"We had a hectic finishing of the sampling programme yesterday and this past night," said Dr Gustafsson. "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. These 'methane chimneys' were documented on echo sounder and with seismic [instruments]."

Arctic seabed methane, as a greenhouse gas, is considered greater than the carbon locked up in the entire planet's coal reserves. Elevated levels of dissolved methane in Arctic waters have been detected since 2003. I wonder if this has any connection with the unexplained record ice melt last month despite our cooler summer temperatures?


Oldschool said...
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Anonymous said...

Where is Exxon Mobile when they are needed. Wouldn't they have the know how as to how to harness the methane and make a profit?