Methane Alarm (Please fund my Research)

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Scientific American reports a study of Methane bubbling up from the sea floor off the coast of Siberia.  The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the United States, Russia and Sweden, who published their findings in the Science journal on March 4 2010.  The study is titled Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf

This is the very first sentence of the abstract of the paper in Science:  “Remobilization to the atmosphere of only a small fraction of the methane held in East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) sediments could trigger abrupt climate warming.”

Not bad as an attention-getter.  They go on to say that the methane leaking into the atmosphere from the East Siberian Arctic shelf is on par with previous estimates of methane venting from the entire world ocean.  They estimate that the region is producing 8 to ten million tons of methane into the atmosphere every year, because warming ocean water is thawing permafrost, allowing methane trapped underneath to escape.

The Scientific American article notes that “Methane is regarded as 20 to 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”  It also points out that it’s “a relatively small slice of the 440 million metric tons of methane emitted worldwide each year from a combination of human activities and natural sources like rotting plants in wetlands, termites and wildfires.”

The lead author of the study, Natalia Shakhova of the University of Alaska, says that scientists had not thought subsea permafrost would begin to thaw and release the gas. She said more research is needed to figure out whether the methane leaking from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is an ongoing, steady phenomenon, or whether it suggests a new source of the gas is emerging as seafloor permafrost thaws.  It seems that every piece of climate related research carries a recommendation for more research.

Here’s what neither the article nor the study tell us about the atmospheric content of greenhouse gases:

  • Water Vapour, 40,000 parts per million.  Water vapour is the most powerful greenhouse gas.
  • CO2,  360 parts per million
  • Methane, 1.7 parts per million.

Yes, that’s right.  1.7 parts per million!

But then, why would they point that out?  They want to do more research, and for that they need funding.  The billions available from the IPCC and its affiliates can best be assured by showing that your work supports Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming.

References:

Scientific American Article:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=methane-siberia-climate-change

Science Publication: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/327/5970/1246

Table of Atmospheric Gases:  http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7a.html

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