Quote of the Week – the climbdown on methane and climate change

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

Illustration showing leakage of methane from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

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…

Carbon Time Bomb in the Arctic: New York Times Print Edition Gets the Story Right

Writing:

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.

‘Fountains’ of methane 1000m across erupt from Arctic ice – a greenhouse gas

Daily Mail – ‎Dec 13, 2011‎
The Russian research vessel Academician Lavrentiev conducted a survey of 10000 square miles of sea off the coast of eastern Siberia. They made a terrifying discovery – huge plumes of methane bubbles rising to the surface from the seabed.

Rapid rise in Arctic methane shocks scientists

New Zealand Herald – ‎Dec 13, 2011‎
By Steve Connor Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

Scientists Discover Giant Methane Plume in Arctic Ocean

Kozmedia News – ‎Dec 15, 2011‎
By Robert Williams on Dec 15, 2011 | Filed Under Science | 0 comments Russian scientists have discovered hundreds of plumes of methane gas, some 1000 meters in diameter, bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. Scientists are concerned that as the

Scientists worry about giant plumes of methane in Arctic Ocean

DigitalJournal.com – ‎Dec 14, 2011‎
By JohnThomas Didymus By JohnThomas Didymus. Scientists are worried about methane bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The thawing of the Arctic as temperatures rise is releasing methane in the seabed. Scientists say high levels of the gas in

Giant plumes of methane bubbling to surface of Arctic Ocean

Updated News – ‎Dec 14, 2011‎
Russian scientists have discovered hundreds of plumes of methane gas, some 1000 meters in diameter, bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. Scientists are concerned that as the Arctic Shelf recedes, the unprecedented levels of gas released could

Chilling discovery: Arctic ice releases deadly greenhouse gas

People’s World – ‎Dec 14, 2011‎
Methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, has been found by scientists in deadly, bubbling plumes on the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The scientists, who were undertaking an extensive survey of the area, were utterly

Where am I? > Home > Climate > Vast Stores of Methane Are Rel…

Environmental News Network – ‎Dec 14, 2011‎
Deep under the icy waters of the Arctic, Russian scientists have discovered vast stores of methane, the potent greenhouse gas, far worse than CO2. The scientists sampled the waters along the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, and discovered that the methane

Methane in the Arctic: The end of the world, or what?

Grist Magazine – ‎Dec 14, 2011‎
by Christopher Mims The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

Unprecedented Methane Plumes Bubbling in The Arctic

SustainableBusiness.com – ‎Dec 15, 2011‎
Dramatic, unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – are bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean near Russia, reports UK’s The Independent. Scientists who have been studying the area for nearly 20

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Update: In case you are wondering what CH4 concentration in the atmosphere looks like, here’s the latest data from NOAA:

The Y axis is Parts Per Billion (PPB) Plot visualizer here. Data here. I noted back in 2006 that CH4 had stabilized, now it is slightly rising again.

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”.

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Howard T. Lewis III

Al ‘D’ Gore.

*yawn*
It’s *yawn* worse than we thought *yawn*
*yawn* it’s clearly time to *yawn* panic
Please wake me up when we’re all dead.

Andrew

Can we capture the methane?
Joltin Joe Romm…I thought he was Joe EnRomm…I get so confused sometimes…
When I google “Joe Romm” I see him referred to by both names…so I guess as Bill Murray said in Meatballs…”It just doesn’t matter!”

Sorry to disappoint you, but certainly the Daily Mail is not interested in accuracy, only in playing to a public which thrives on bad news. Pointing out the clarification would be a waste of time. I suspect the same applies to most of the others listed, and as for the Guardian (The Moonbat column) or the BBC, well, forget it.

Al Gored

The Romman Scientific Method: Only agree with scientists or writers who say what you want them to say, and ignore, dismiss, and/or smear all others.
These scientists obviously work for Big Oil or perhaps Big Cow.

mkelly

Revkin says: “One clear message, which I endorse, is the need to sustain the kind of fieldwork they’re doing.”
Revkin says send more money.

mkelly
I’ll happily see my taxes spent on something that looks like genuine research giving us a clear picture of what can actually be attributed to global warming and what can’t.
Revkin is right and as Anthony says, kudos to him for going to the source and getting the right story rather than the headline-grabbing one.

IOW it’s the usual idiots

crosspatch

Andrew says:
December 27, 2011 at 12:01 pm
Can we capture the methane?

They are capturing natural methane seeps (and oil seeps, too) off the coast of California (Coal Oil Point, near Santa Barbara). It is some sort of contraption that looks something like an inverted funnel that is placed over the seep. Many seeps that are not economically viable are simply left alone. The irony is that if we allowed renewed drilling in that area, it would reduce the amount of oil and gas seeping into the environment.

Bryan A

Since CH4 is a stronger GHG than CO2, perhaps they should consider a method to Trap the CH4 and then Burn it like they do with Natural Gas to produce Electricity. This would provide electricity, remove the CH4 from the environment and produce CO2 for plants (and Carbonated Sodas)

charles nelson

I’ll bet the family farm that if you suggested that drilling Rigs be sent there immediately to harvest the methane there would be howls of aguished protest!

eyesonu

If the ‘bubbling methane’ is 30 times more potent than CO2 then think of how great it would be to capture the methane and burn it to reduce the greenhouse gas effect in the atmosphere by a factor of 30. That would be a factor of 3000% and while burning it maybe we could generate some electricity. But by all means it must be burned to save the world!
Could giant cucumbers be erupting causing this?

charles nelson

Also this story was carefully placed in Warmist publications like the UK Guardian, just after the ignominious failure of Durban – presumably to reassure the Faithful that despite everyone’s nonchalence about Global Warming we are in fact, DOOMED!

Charles.U.Farley

“We’re doomed i tell ya, doomed Captain Mainwaring!”

David A. Evans

crosspatch says:
I have heard some of those clever Nipponese have been seeing some success with recovering Methane from Clathrates too.
DaveE.

timg56

mkelly,
There is nothing wrong with funding research, including research that looks into human impacts to climate. The problem comes in when determination of who and what gets funded gets overly politicized.

RayG

Al Gored says:
December 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm “The Romman [sic]Scientific Method:”
AG, the correct spelling is “Rommann”

Rosco

I didn’t realize we had a “potentcy” rating for greenhouse gases – I’m guessing it must be related to specific heat. – so at 300k methane has a specific heat which is ~ 20% more than water vapour.
The kicker these alarmists never mention is that, no matter what, the effect greenhouse gases “impose” on climate must be proportional to their concentration.
Water vapour varies up to ~ 2% – 20,000 ppm volume
CO2 is approximately 0.04 % – less than 400 ppm
Methane is approximately 0.00018 % – 1870 ppb or 1.870 ppm.
The effect these things have is nothing more than trace. The IR from any of them couldn’t be measured compared to the IR coming from the rest of the atmosphere which IS emitting IR because it is heated and all heated things emit radiation characterized by the temperature.
So beware these “20 times more potent” little thingies.

Stephen Wilde

Naturally venting methane could be a big new energy source !!!
Might be less environmentally disruptive than fracking ( which itself doesn’t seem to be disruptive)
and very environmentally beneficial compared to allowing the methane to enter the atmosphere (if one accepts the AGW theory in the first place).
In fact, wouldn’t the harvesting and burning of naturally venting methane offset the imagined effects of human CO2 emissions ?

Pamela Gray

I am getting the hang of this. It is only worse when they say so. Otherwise it “could” be worse in the future…way in the future…under scenario d or maybe e..

Luther Wu

eyesonu says:
December 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm
Could giant cucumbers be erupting causing this?
_____________________________
Giant sea cucumbers… after having been featured on “The Food Channel”.

Magnus

“The permafrost of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (an area of about 2 million kilometers squared) is more porous than previously thought.”
Is this in a NEWSpaper? It was all worse than we thought as far back as 2007, ffs!

Phil Jones and his CRU syndrome-agents diligently preaching their religious chicken little horror stories.

Al Gore's Holy Hologram

Methane in the ground?
Put a tap on it and burn it for fuel. Problem solved.

Bill Illis

Methane levels are not increasing. CO2 is going up, but Methane is not.
This is just the latest for the pro-AGW set to get all emotional about – the apocalypse is coming after all.
I can say that because not one of the two dozen stories about this in the past few weeks has made note of the current flat trends in Methane concentrations.

jorgekafkazar

Rosco says: “I didn’t realize we had a “potentcy” rating for greenhouse gases – I’m guessing it must be related to specific heat….”
Why are you guessing? If you don’t know, use a search engine to find out the facts before you comment. It’s not hard.

Andrew

@ crosspatch and Stephen Wilde
I maybe wrong, but I seem to recall reading something about large amounts of methane, in the form of ice, just sitting at the bottom of the ocean. I mean if Howard Hughes can ‘extract Manganese nodules’ from the bottom of the sea in the 1970’s, I would think we could figure out away to pick up a few chunks of ice…
…and yes, I do know it was a bit more involved than that.
Also, it would only make economic ‘cents’ if the cost of capture is less than other sources of methane.

Bill Illis says: December 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm: Methane levels are not increasing. CO2 is going up, but Methane is not.
Mauna Loa and CSIRO say yes, just a little.
http://www.cmar.csiro.au/research/images/cg_CH4.png
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/aggi_2011.fig2.png

Julian Flood

Acid rain suppresses the evolution of methane from melting Arctic soil. We have reduced the fall out of acid rain. The rate of methane efflux can be expected to fall as the effects of acid rain wear off.
JF

DirkH

Rosco says:
December 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm
“I didn’t realize we had a “potentcy” rating for greenhouse gases – I’m guessing it must be related to specific heat. – so at 300k methane has a specific heat which is ~ 20% more than water vapour.”
Has to do with how saturated the absorption band of that gas already is, in the case of Methane, not saturated, and with how broad it is.
“The kicker these alarmists never mention is that, no matter what, the effect greenhouse gases “impose” on climate must be proportional to their concentration.”
It’s more harmless than that; it’s logarithmic.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/07/15/9373/

bkindseth

The statement, “methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide” is a real distortion of what is actually happened. Both gasses absorb infrared radiation over specific but different ranges of wave lengths, based on the vibratory frequencies of their molecular bonds. At 380 parts per million, CO2 absorbs most of the radiation in its frequency range, there is very little radiation for additonal CO2 to absorb. Methane, at 187 parts per billion absorbs a lot more radiation, 20 times more for each addional unit of methane, than does carbon dioxide simply because there is more radiation in that wave length range. It has nothing to do with methane’s potency. This has a lot to say about saturation of CO2’s radiation range and the impact of additonal CO2 in the atmosphere.

Roy Jones

If all this Methane is now driving Global Warming, is there any temperature rise left over to be caused by Carbon Dioxide???

Alan Bates

Hardly surprising people do not know too much about methane when the “New Scientist” (so called) refers to:

But methane is also a greenhouse gas, second in importance to carbon dioxide. Like carbon dioxide, it traps infrared radiation …

How about the most potent greenhouse gas of them all – gaseous water? Even Wiki understands this!
Methane is removed from the atmosphere by reaction with oxygen. Which is why it reaches a plateau the height of which depends on the rate of transport of methane into the atmosphere.

4 eyes

Perhaps this has been happening for a long time?

View from the Solent

Luther Wu says:
December 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm
eyesonu says:
December 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm
Could giant cucumbers be erupting causing this?
_____________________________
Giant sea cucumbers… after having been featured on “The Food Channel”.
——————————————————————————————————————–
Would that be these cucumbers?
http://urila.tripod.com/Gulliver.htm

Bill Illis

Barrow Alaska is a better measuring site for CH4/Methane because its trends are higher than anywhere else in the world (1900 ppb vs 1800 ppb at Mauna Loa), its trends lead the world (Barrow’s up and downs are ahead of the rest of the world), it has a greater seasonal cycle (indicating it has greater sinks and sources of Methane) …
… and it is right next to the frozen permafrost/frozen methane beds of the high Arctic.
It is pretty well flat right now.
http://img12.imageshack.us/img12/6004/ccggbrwch44nonedailyall.png

JFB

perhaps the weight of the arctic ice pressing the seabed, again:)

I am not up on all of the science stuff, but, it seems that much of this research misses some very vital clues.
Methane is most definitely underground!! It is present in a lot of coal mines. The combination of methane and coal dust can be very tragic.
Perhaps there is something missing in the research?

Werner Brozek

So let me try to quantify things. Over the last 15 years, the CO2 concentration went up about 25 ppm while that is CH4 went up about 0.05 ppm. So the CO2 increased by 500 times the amount of CH4. But since the CH4 has a potency that is 20 times stronger than CO2, its overall affect is about 4% as much as CO2. According to RSS, the last 14 years and 9 months give a negative slope and according to Hadcrut3, the last 14 years and 7 months give a negative slope. So the net effect of the added CO2 over the last 15 years according to these two data sets is about 0. And since the effect of the added CH4 is 4% of 0, it also gives 0.
REPLY: Don’t sugar coat it, we can take it – Anthony

Kevin Kilty

Being 30 times more potent than CO2 makes methane sound as though its absorption bands are in the middle of the H2O transmission windows. But in fact the CH4 absorption bands are pretty narrow and sit on the flank of H2O absorption bands. So, it isn’t as though CH4 is all that potent, but rather CO2 is remarkably impotent.

Kevin Kilty

I see that I said 30 times more potent, and should have said 20 times. Also bkindseth said somewhat the same thing I did back up-thread a ways.

So…is it a hot methane gas bottle better than a hot water bottle?
All the climate scam is based on people´s ignorance !

DirkH

Bill Illis says:
December 27, 2011 at 2:46 pm
“Barrow Alaska is a better measuring site for CH4/Methane because its trends are higher than anywhere else in the world (1900 ppb vs 1800 ppb at Mauna Loa), ”
When you’re of the Hansen School of taking measurements, yes.

Bryan A says:
December 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm
Since CH4 is a stronger GHG than CO2, perhaps they should consider a method to Trap the CH4 and then Burn it like they do with Natural Gas to produce Electricity. This would provide electricity, remove the CH4 from the environment and produce CO2 for plants (and Carbonated Sodas)

and eyesonu and bkindsmith;
The absorption spectrum of methane is actually very small. The ’20X’ figure is a fudge arrived at by extrapolating what the impact of the resultant 1xCO2 and 2xH2O molecules would be if the CH4 were burned. Which is not what happens to it chemically in the atmosphere.

OK, now look at Reed Coray’s article from a couple of days ago. I can believe that methane is 30 times as potent as CO2 on a per ppmv basis but there just isn’t much of it.
Now look at where its absorption bands are. It is overlapped by water vapor. Oxygen and ozone seems to be almost as good an absorber and you can see this in the transmission chart and this right in the maximum emission bands. Free oxygen is of course a continuing thing only because of biology. Damn those blue green algae for causing emissions of greenhouse gases!
It seems obvious to me that about the ONLY overwhelmingly important IR absorbing gas in the atmosphere is water vapor. Add in the effects of clouds and the convective heat pipe effect of tall clouds and I doubt that all the other greenhouse gases including CO2 and methane are any more than rounding errrors.

lurker

The original story showing support for climate apocalypse may be false, but it is too important to the believers to dismiss just because it is not true. AGW does not depend on accurate truthful stores to keep the public money flowing. It depends on selling fear.

Babsy

Two million kilometers squared is one incredibly GINORMOUS area!

Mooloo

The absorption spectrum of methane is actually very small. The ’20X’ figure is a fudge arrived at by extrapolating what the impact of the resultant 1xCO2 and 2xH2O molecules would be if the CH4 were burned. Which is not what happens to it chemically in the atmosphere.
What the hell does happen to it then? It exists in tiny quantities, suggesting that it has a pretty short dwell time. That suggests it burns pretty quickly. (“Burned” here being any reaction with oxygen, whether in a fire or not.) I really can’t see any other pathway for an otherwise relatively stable molecule like that, short of absorption by some plant or microbe.

jack morrow

Does the methane drown those polar bears when it bubbles up like some say is the cause of ship sinkings in the Bermuda triangle? If so, we better act fast to save them before they are all gone. ALAS, so many things to worry about.

Mooloo

Two million kilometers squared is one incredibly GINORMOUS area!
Yes it made me chuckle too. Scientific illiterates writing science reports: what could go wrong?
I presume mean 2,000,000 square kilometres is meant. About 0.4% of the earth’s surface.