Methane Releases May Be Accelerating

Methane Release (Washington Post photo by Jonathan Newton

Greenhouse Gas, Methane, Release May be Accelerating

Methane (CH4) released from warming permafrost is one of the scariest of the possible climate-change feedbacks. Goes like this: Arctic warms > permafrost melts > methane escapes > this increases solar heat trapping in Earth’s atmosphere > this accelerates Arctic warming > permafrost melting accelerates > methane release accelerates > solar heat trapping accelerates > . . . . As Earth warms, its radiant heat will gradually overcome the barrier imposed by greenhouse gasses. Eventually, the atmosphere will find a new balance between incoming solar energy and outgoing heat. Reaching the new balance will take hundreds, probably thousands, of years. Earth will probably be uninhabitable by large-bodied organisms long before that.

Don’t you wish your politicians and fellow citizens would realize that this issue is way more important than whether or not some college student waved his penis in a girl’s face? Of course, that crap needs to stop, but let’s just stop it and let it assume the minor position among today’s concern that it merits, and turn our attention to scarier events.

News of methane releases is accelerating. If researchers begin finding lots of lakes like this one, we could have passed the point at which we can slow global warming.

Sea-Level Rise: Bubble, Bubble, GigaTons of Methane Trouble | Paul Beckwith

Methane and Sea-Level Rise

GR: Climate Scientist, Professor Paul Beckwith, who you may know from his frequent YouTube posts, believes that current climate-change model predictions of sea-level rise make incorrect assumptions and dramatically underestimate rise.

Beckwith has convincingly argued that all the positive feedbacks, especially from exponential increase in methane released by warming sea floors and melting permafrost will increase sea level by seventy feet by 2070. This is about 68 feet more than the model predictions that motivated the Paris Accord.

Let me repeat my warning that if we don’t act immediately, the climate-change equivalent of an approaching fire storm will reach us soon. We are approaching (and might have passed) that point on our roller coaster ride when we inch over the crest and begin our unstoppable acceleration toward the bottom–a bottom where the rails end. Talk, petition, write, call, march, and vote.

Beckwith provides clear discussions of global warming. I recommend you subscribe to his YouTube channel. Here are some of Dr. Beckwith’s recent videos and discussions.

“Vast amounts of methane exists within ocean floor sediments on the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf, in the form of methane hydrates & free methane gas.

“Up to recently, gas release to the shallow water column (50 meters deep) and atmosphere has been slow, with the subsea permafrost acting as a million corks on a million champagne bottles to contain the methane.

“Now, rapid thawing of the permafrost has released 10% of the corks, allowing rapid ongoing increases in methane release.

–Paul Beckwith (Bubble, Bubble, GigaTons of Methane Trouble | Paul Beckwith, Climate System Scientist)

Second Biggest Jump in Annual CO2 Levels Reported as Trump Leaves Paris Climate Agreement

GR: CO2 emissions really increased last year. As pointed out in this article, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for many years. The CO2 we are emitting is adding to what is already up there. For our safety, emissions need to fall rapidly, not increase or remain constant. According to Steve Montzka, a NOAA scientist, we have to cut our emissions by 80 percent to get the concentration to stop rising and level off.

Last year’s increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration was nearly double the average pace since detailed measurements started in 1979. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

“As President Donald Trump prepared to pull the United States out of the global Paris climate agreement this week, scientists at NOAA reported that 2016 had recorded the second-biggest jump in atmospheric carbon dioxide on record.

“Last year’s increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration was nearly double the average pace since detailed measurements started in 1979.

“Once CO2 is in the atmosphere, the heat-trapping gas persists there for decades as new emissions pile in, which means that even if global emissions level off—as they have started to do—the planet is on a path toward more warming, rising sea levels and increased heat waves and droughts in the decades ahead.

“Concentrations of other greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, also increased last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest update to its greenhouse gas index. The heating effect of all combined greenhouses gases in the atmosphere increased by 2.5 percent in 2016, according to the index.

“The warming effect of these chemicals we’re tracking has increased by 40 percent since 1990,” said Steve Montzka, a NOAA scientist who co-authored the update. “Even though emissions are leveling off, CO2 is so long-lived that the concentration is still increasing.”

“Getting the atmospheric concentration to also level off would require reducing emissions by 80 percent, he said.

“That 80 percent cut is exactly what is targeted under the Paris climate agreement, but the goal is in doubt as the Trump administration rolls back climate and energy policies meant to lower emissions in the United States, historically the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution.”

“All the indicators are going in the wrong direction, and warning bells are ringing so loud as to be deafening,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist in the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Without the Paris agreement, the acceleration will likely continue and we will exceed 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial by the 2050s or earlier.” –Bob Berwyn (Continue reading: Second Biggest Jump in Annual CO2 Levels Reported as Trump Leaves Paris Climate Agreement | InsideClimate News.)

Look at the methane increases in the NOAA chart below. Though methane concentrations are still quite low, the rapid increase since about 2008 is probably from thawing permafrost. If the acceleration continues, global warming may exceed all the model predictions. [Reading and commenting on stories such as this one feels a bit like reading a science fiction story presented as news reports as in World War Z by Max Brooks.]

Global Warming Could Thaw Far More Permafrost Than Expected

GR: Here’s your daily dose of bad news for climate change. This study doesn’t consider the effect of the increased permafrost thaw. However, we know that thawed permafrost releases methane and other gasses. Expect new global-warming projections soon. (Link to recent post concerned with extent of permafrost thaw.)

Thawing permafrost has communities like Newtok, Alaska literally losing the ground under their feet. Credit: Getty Images

“More than 40 percent of the world’s permafrost—landscape covered in frozen soil—is at risk of thawing even if the world succeeds in limiting global warming to the international goal of 2 degrees Celsius, according to a new study.

“Currently, permafrost covers about nearly 5.8 million square miles, and scientists found as much as 2.5 million square miles of that could thaw—about twice the area of Alaska, California and Texas combined—in a 2 degree Celsius scenario. Thawing would be more limited if warming can be held to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but could still affect 1.8 million square miles.

“The new research was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Permafrost contains vast amounts of carbon in the form of plants that died since the last ice age and have remained frozen rather than decomposing. When permafrost thaws, this long-trapped carbon is released into the atmosphere, further propelling future warming. A 2015 study estimated that the thawing permafrost could release up to 92 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by the century’s end.

“This new study did not estimate the greenhouse gas emissions that would be released from the thawing, or how those emissions could then spur greater rates of permafrost loss in a vicious cycle. Instead, the international team of scientists focused on how warming air temperatures would affect the extent of permafrost. They said their calculations suggest a much more extensive loss than previously thought.” –Zahra Hirji (Continue: Global Warming Could Thaw Far More Permafrost Than Expected, Study Says | InsideClimate News.)