There’s been a lot of worry-buzz in the usual circles over methane plumes bubbling up in the Arctic related to this NSF press release:
Press Release 10-036
Methane Releases From Arctic Shelf May Be Much Larger and Faster Than Anticipated
Thawing by climate change of subsea layer of permafrost may release stores of underlying, seabed methane
The permafrost of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (an area of about 2 million kilometers squared) is more porous than previously thought. The ocean on top of it and the heat from the mantle below it warm it and make it perforated like Swiss cheese. This allows methane gas stored under it under pressure to burst into the atmosphere. The amount leaking from this locale is comparable to all the methane from the rest of the world’s oceans put together. Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation
To his credit, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times inquired with the field researchers on the methane bubbles. He writes:
Shakhova and Semiletov, whose earlier analysis of methane in the region was published in Science last year, had been unavailable for comment when I was preparing my piece, as they had gone on vacation shortly after their presentation. When they were back on the grid they got my e-mail inquiries and saw the post. Their response clarifies their differences with other research groups and emphasizes the importance of critically evaluating scientific findings before rushing to conclusions, either alarming or reassuring. One clear message, which I endorse, is the need to sustain the kind of fieldwork they’re doing.
The reply from Semiletov and Shakhova is enlightening and is the QOTW:
We would first note that we have never stated that the reason for the currently observed methane emissions were due to recent climate change.
In fact, we explained in detail the mechanism of subsea permafrost destabilization as a result of inundation with seawater thousands of years ago.
We have been working in this scientific field and this region for a decade. We understand its complexity more than anyone. And like most scientists in our field, we have to deal with slowly improving understanding of ongoing processes that often incorporates different points of views expressed by different groups of researchers.
Do you think Joltin Joe Romm, who agreed with the story by Gillis (but panned Revkin’s story then) before the clarification…
The NYT would seem to be schizophrenic on this crucial topic, but Gillis clearly has the story right and it isn’t reassuring at all.
…will carry now this clarification? It seems schizophrenic interpretations my not be NYT’s fault at all, especially since the field researchers have clarified on record that they don’t see “climate change” to be involved at all.
Don’t hold your breath.
Kudos to Andrew Revkin for doing actual journalism and going straight to the source.
Of course the bigger problem than Joltin Joe Romm are the non thinking serial media and blog regurgitators. Perhaps WUWT readers can advise them of the correction.
Update: In case you are wondering what CH4 concentration in the atmosphere looks like, here’s the latest data from NOAA:
Bill Illis in comments adds the Barrow, AK monitoring site in the “permafrost zone … and it is right next to the frozen permafrost/frozen methane beds of the high Arctic.” and notes it is “pretty well flat right now”.