Remember the panic over methane seeping out of the Arctic seabed in 2009? Never mind.

Remember this BBC story? Turns out it is another one for the Climate FAIL file.

All sorts of wailing came from that by climate alarmists. The New Scientist claimed there were megatonnes of methane bubbling out at that time. It was even billed under “Arctic Climate Emergency” All of this came from a single paper published in the AGU Geophysical Research Letters. In January 2012, perhaps sensing that it really was hyped up, an essay at RealClimate “Much ado about methane” said:

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, but it also has an awesome power to really get people worked up, compared to other equally frightening pieces of the climate story.

Yep. I can recall lots of terrified comments here at WUWT about this, plus some emails along the lines of “if you don’t pay attention to this you’re going to denialist hell”.

Well, a new more comprehensive on-site study has been done, and it has just been announced by the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel:

Gas Outlets off Spitsbergen Are No New Phenomenon

Expedition to the Greenland Sea with Surprising Results

Marine scientists from Kiel, together with colleagues from Bremen, Great Britain, Switzerland and Norway, spent four and a half weeks examining methane emanation from the sea bed off the coast of Spitsbergen with the German research vessel MARIA S. MERIAN. There they gained a very differentiated picture: Several of the gas outlets have been active for hundreds of years.

Frequent storms and sub-zero temperatures – nature drove the marine researchers that were assessing gas outlets on the sea bed off the coast of Spitsbergen for four and a half weeks to their limits. Nevertheless the participants were very pleased when they returned: “We were able to gather many samples and data in the affected area. With the submersible JAGO we even managed to form an impression of the sea bed and the gas vents” summarised the chief scientist Professor Dr. Christian Berndt from GEOMAR | Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel.

The reason for the expedition was the supposition that ice-like methane hydrates stored in the sea bed were dissolving due to rising water temperatures. “Methane hydrate is only stable at very low temperatures and under very high pressure. The gas outlets off Spitsbergen lie approximately at a depth which marks the border between stability and dissolution. Therefore we presumed that a measurable rise in water temperature in the Arctic could dissolve the hydrates from the top downwards” explained Professor Berndt. Methane could then be released into the water or even into the atmosphere, where it would act as a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2.

In fact, what the researchers found in the area offers a much more differentiated picture. Above all the fear that the gas emanation is a consequence of the current rising sea temperature does not seem to apply. At least some of the gas outlets have been active for longer. Carbonate deposits, which form when microorganisms convert the escaping methane, were found on the vents. “At numerous emergences we found deposits that might already be hundreds of years old. This estimation is indeed only based on the size of the samples and empirical values as to how fast such deposits grow. On any account, the methane sources must be older” says Professor Berndt. The exact age of the carbonates will be determined from samples in GEOMAR’s laboratories.

“Details will only be known in a few months when the data has been analysed; however the observed gas emanations are probably not caused by human influence” says Berndt. There are two other possible explanations instead: Either they are symptoms of a long term temperature rise or they show a seasonal process where gas hydrates continuously melt and reform.

Another interesting observation made on the expedition, was that a very active microbial community that consumes the methane has established itself on the sea bed. “We were able to detect high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, which is an indication of methane consuming microbes in the sea bed, and, with the help of JAGO, discovered typical biocoenoses that we recognised from other, older methane outlets” explained microbiologist Professor Dr. Tina Treude from GEOMAR, who also took part in the expedition. “Methane consuming microbes grow only slowly in the sea bed, thus their high activity indicates that the methane has not just recently begun effervescing.”

Colleagues from Bremen, Switzerland, Great Britain and Norway worked alongside marine scientists from GEOMAR and from the Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean”. “The study of the gas outlets in the Norwegian Sea is a good example for combined European research” stressed Professor Berndt. Hence German scientists recovered an ocean floor observatory, installed by the British research vessel James Clark Ross a year ago during a joint expedition of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton and the Institut français de recherche pour l’exploitation de la mer (Ifremer). “Understanding the ocean as a system is a challenge that only works in international co-operations” emphasized Berndt. The analysis of the gathered data will also be carried out internationally.

The expedition at a glance:

FS MARIA S. MERIAN journey: MSM21/4

Head of Expedition: Prof. Dr. Christian Berndt (GEOMAR)

Length of Expedition: 13th Aug. 2012-11th Sept. 2012

Place of Departure: Reykjavik

Research Area: West of Spitsbergen

Place of Arrival: Emden

Further Information on the GEOMAR expedition page

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Robin Barry
September 25, 2012 1:08 am

I can never get too worked up about methane. In an oxygen rich atmosphere and plenty of heat sources (lightning, fires etc.) it will burn into CO2 and water soon enough.

Mike Bromley the Kurd
September 25, 2012 1:12 am

Oh! I must feign surprise! /sarc

September 25, 2012 1:16 am

Later, really really softly: “Oh. We didn’t. Huh.”

September 25, 2012 1:24 am

One wonders if any of these sites can be developed as an energy source? And where do I buy stock?

September 25, 2012 1:28 am

The Arctic’s Russian continental shelf is very shallow (20-50 meters depth), most likely submerged tundra, very abounded with methane gas. Nothing unusual this, it happens all the time in the permafrost of Siberia which is much larger.

September 25, 2012 1:30 am

Let’s see… Water vapor is in concentrations of around 30,000ppm and absorbs almost the entire IR frequency range, CO2 absorbs a unique IR frequency of around 15 microns and is in concentrations of 390ppm and its GW effect logarithmic, CH4 absorbs a wide frequency range of IR, but is currently in concentrations of around…wait for it…. 1.7ppm….
Hmmm. I think 30,000ppm>1.7ppm…
Any scientist that starts talking CH4 tipping points should lose his tenure and have you on the floor laughing.
There ought to be a new rule that anyone can repeat any silly Warmageddon propaganda, but when doing so, you have to wear a clown suit, complete with makeup.

September 25, 2012 1:30 am

i will be patiently waiting for the full coverage this news will garner.
in the meantime, can i interest anyone in this bridge i have for sale? %-)

Alan the Brit
September 25, 2012 1:38 am

Oh, does that mean I can stop running around like a headless chicken now panicking that the end of the world is nigh? As I said long ago, which of the great “we’re all going to die” scenarios has actually happened in the last 2000 years?

September 25, 2012 1:43 am

Oh, heck. And I found that one m/o/r/e/ /c/r/e/d/i/b/l/e/ less incredible than some of the claims. [grin] At least methane seeps have been seen.

September 25, 2012 1:44 am

It’s already happening. A US/Japanese consortium carried out a successful 30-day trial a few months ago, recovering methane from hydrates – I think it was off Alaska.
The real beauty of the processs: they dispaced the methane with another gas…..none other than our old friend CO2. So the process sequesters CO2 while liberating methane. Looks like a carbon-neutral hydrocarbon resource!
Hard to see how the warmists will counter that one (though the economics may not work, of course…maybe it deserves huge subsidies??!!)

Steve R
September 25, 2012 2:02 am

It’s kind of ironic that people are relieved simply by discovering that it is a natural phenomena.

Tom Davidson
September 25, 2012 2:19 am

“Err in haste; repent at leisure.”
Only a true environmental scientist (specifically any bioecologist, or any other scientist with an IQ of over 120) could have anticipated that microbes would have established a habitat and a stable biome in an anaerobic environment righ in methane. These would not even qualify as ‘extremophiles’.

September 25, 2012 2:28 am

Pretty amazing these bacterial fellas. We have an oil spill in the Gulf and they multiply like mad to eat up the oil, then we have methane emissions on the seabed and they seem to multiply to eat that up as well. While I certainly believe we should always be on the lookout for weirdnesses that humans could introduce on a large scale (possibly such things as CFCs etc?) that could have wide ranging environmental effects, the Earth seems to be pretty good at handling stuff. I’ve heard some interesting stories about the recovery of the ecosystem around Mt. Helena for instance, though I haven’t been there myself.

jonny old boy
September 25, 2012 2:33 am

those who understand the basics of science have always assumed ( I assume ) that the Earth with its balance of chemistry necessary to sustain complex life on Earth for hundreds of Millions of years has always had a few “tricks up its sleeve” to deal with methane and similar gases. A relatively minor shift in the land Ice and/or permafrost etc etc would not cause any “catastrophic” “tipping points” blah blah blah just like it has not done before…Alarmists have latched on to one facet of Methane and extrapolated doom from that…

September 25, 2012 2:40 am

Samurai says:
September 25, 2012 at 1:30 am
“There ought to be a new rule that anyone can repeat any silly Warmageddon propaganda, but when doing so, you have to wear a clown suit, complete with makeup.”
Inadvertent Coffee/ monitor interaction right there !

September 25, 2012 2:42 am

Robin Barry says:
September 25, 2012 at 1:08 am
“I can never get too worked up about methane. In an oxygen rich atmosphere and plenty of heat sources (lightning, fires etc.) it will burn into CO2 and water soon enough.”
It also gets consumed by radicals in the atmosphere.
(Remember the wikipedia is alarmist when interpreting the text)

John Marshall
September 25, 2012 2:44 am

Geothermal heat is more likely to cause methane to come out of solution than rising(?) sea temperatures.
Typical BBC propaganda claptrap.

September 25, 2012 3:22 am

Robin Barry, where did you get that information? Methane can not burn in the atmosphere because a) the concentration is too low and b) the temperature is too low. Click on my name to get to a post on methane. Misinformation is spread by political greens and green paid scientists. Unfortunately, like the saying “some mud thrown sticks” many believe the misinformation because they do not bother to look at texts such as the “Chemical Engineering Handbook” (which has information on properties of many substances, heat and mass transfer theory, chemical reactions and theory, processes such as combustion and evaporation, and equipment used in processes.such as boilers and heat exchangers)

Brian Johnson uk
September 25, 2012 3:26 am

The BBC having ‘lost’ Richard Black is now using total incompetents [Who is Judith Burns?] to convey the myth that is Global Warming.

September 25, 2012 3:57 am

Amazing how much of the earth we know little about. Another crisis of the day explained. Is anyone keeping a list of impending climate crises and tipping points? It seems like we had a couple per day a while back. Its hard to give each one the proper worry without a list with rankings.

September 25, 2012 4:03 am

Samurai on September 25, 2012 at 1:30 am
Let’s see… Water vapor is in concentrations of around 30,000ppm and absorbs almost the entire IR frequency range, CO2 absorbs a unique IR frequency of around 15 microns and is in concentrations of 390ppm and its GW effect logarithmic, CH4 absorbs a wide frequency range of IR, but is currently in concentrations of around…wait for it…. 1.7ppm….
Hmmm. I think 30,000ppm>1.7ppm…
Any scientist that starts talking CH4 tipping points should lose his tenure and have you on the floor laughing.
Anyone who makes such a simplistic argument and expects it to have a semblance of truth is going to be the real centre of amusement.
Evidently samurai is yet another climate skeptic who finds it impossible to understand the simple fact that water vapor concentrations go down the higher you go.
Amazing but true. Apparently it’s an effect due to a little known property of water vapour; it condenses at low temperatures. Apparently it’s also little known that the atmosphere gets colder at height.
Isn’t nature wonderful?

September 25, 2012 4:04 am

So let me get this straight……
The Arctic seabed is Earth’s arse-end and it’s been farting for hundreds of years?

September 25, 2012 4:08 am

If we’re talking about relative quantities, it’s hard to envision a limited area of the Arctic adding even one percent to the quantities already produced by ants, termites, E coli in mammals, decomposing organic matter, septic tanks, etc, etc, etc, covering every inch of the world’s land mass.

September 25, 2012 4:30 am

@ Centafriend
Firstly, methane can and does burn in the atmosphere – naturally: the phenomena is variously known as will o’ the wisp, Jack o’ lantern, corpse candles and ignis fatuus – note that even the Romans knew that! Indeed, that’s why methane was among the first gasses discovered.
Secondly, Robin wasn’t describing a self-sustaining flame, he was describing molecular oxidation. Methane is a fuel: if you mix a single molecule of it with an oxydizing agent (say oxygen or ozone) and irradiate it (with UV from the Sun, or heat from lightning), it will oxidize: no if’s or but’s.

September 25, 2012 4:36 am

Don’t expect this story to appear on the BBC

September 25, 2012 4:44 am

New word (for me) dept:
> with the help of JAGO, discovered typical biocoenoses that we recognised from other, older methane outlets”
Hmm. sounds like a biome. says

A biocoenosis (biocoenose, biocenose, biotic community, biological community, ecological community), coined by Karl Möbius in 1877, describes the interacting organisms living together in a habitat (biotope). This term is rarely used in English, as this concept has not been popularized in Anglophone countries. Instead, English-speaking scientists normally use the terms ecosystems or communities.

Hmm, from fuzzy high school recollection and decades of use, an ecosystem can be large enough to contain multiple types of biomes. says

Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms,[1] and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a large area, creating a typical ecosystem over that area. Such major ecosystems are termed as biomes. Biomes are defined by factors such as plant structures (such as trees, shrubs, and grasses), leaf types (such as broadleaf and needleleaf), plant spacing (forest, woodland, savanna), and climate. Unlike ecozones, biomes are not defined by genetic, taxonomic, or historical similarities. Biomes are often identified with particular patterns of ecological succession and climax vegetation (quasiequilibrium state of the local ecosystem). An ecosystem has many biotopes and a biome is a major habitat type. A major habitat type, however, is a compromise, as it has an intrinsic inhomogeneity. Some examples of habitats are ponds, trees, streams, creeks, and burrows in the sand or soil.

Biomes are often known in English by local names. For example, a temperate grassland or shrubland biome is known commonly as steppe in central Asia, prairie in North America, and pampas in South America. Tropical grasslands are known as savanna in Australia, whereas in southern Africa it is known as certain kinds of veld (from Afrikaans).

Never heard of biotope either. says

Although the term “biotope” is considered to be a technical word with respect to ecology, in recent years the term is more generally used in administratitive and civic activities. Since the 1970s the term “biotope” has received great attention as a keyword throughout Europe (mainly Germany) for the preservation, regeneration, and creation of natural environmental settings.[3] Used in such a context, the word biotope often refers to a smaller and more specific ecology and is very familiar to human life. In Germany especially, activities related to regenerating biotopes are enthusiastically received.

Okay, so we could describe a methane hydrate biome as an area with CH4 release and bacteria soak it up. Then perhaps a particular patch of that biome would be a biocenose. And if the alarm bells are ringing and people rushing around to fix or offset the damage, it’s a biotope.

September 25, 2012 4:57 am

CH4 as a much ballyhooed “powerful greenhouse gas” that has no prominent place in the IR spectrum to brag about:

September 25, 2012 5:28 am

LazyTeenager – original (and current as far as I know) forecasts were that the amplification was due to increased H2O vapor and certain types of clouds (also made of H2O) that trap heat and that these were positive feedbacks.
Now you are telling us that the amount of H2O in the air will go down as temperatures go up? Actually I think that is a point skeptics make to show the amplification is less than predicted. You really are a lazy teenager, aren’t you?
Samurai – all transmission of light is logarithmic, not just for CO2.

September 25, 2012 5:33 am

Lazy – forgot one point. Water condenses at night you say. Samurai’s point was that water is at high conc. in the air, during the DAY, when the sun is shining, which is when/where the IR absorbance takes place. Do you think the sun shines at night and the water condensation would affect IR absorbance at night?
I’ve heard Ben Santer say that there is still room for absorbance in the side bands or wavelengths near lambda max. so that the additional CO2 will still have its full effect so I will trust that this is largely true, but that says nothing about feedbacks.

September 25, 2012 5:39 am

I was very interested to read in several of Hansen’s papers that for some UNKNOWN reason the rate of CH4 increase in the atmosphere took a dive and became much flatter (in the 80’s and since I believe).
Could be some unknown natural process using it up, or less being produced naturally, or something due to man that we don’t know about/understand yet (less produced or more used up) OR it could be a change in the way it is measured (if so I think Hansen would have mentioned it) now as opposed to the 50’s. Either way, with just this single simple measurement there is something completely unknown going on [or not going on 🙂 ]. Just serves to highlight was a complex, uncertainty riddled science with which we are dealing.

Claude Harvey
September 25, 2012 5:40 am

These rogues can forget about future research funding. Were they born yesterday? This is NOT the stuff of news headlines and grand money!

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
September 25, 2012 5:42 am

Sounds like Matt Ridley needs to update Acapolypse Not to include this latest failed prediction.
Actually what we need is a whole page full of “countup” clocks — one for each disaster that was predicted and didn’t happen. How long has it been since we were all supposed to starve in the 70’s, or be wearing gas masks, or die of AIDS? So many dire predictions, and yet we’re all still here.
It’s like that line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

When I saw you stop the world from, you know, ending, I just assumed that was a big week for you. It turns out I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.


Claude Harvey
September 25, 2012 5:50 am

Re: Claude Harvey
Make that “grant”” money.

jonny old boy
September 25, 2012 6:13 am

phosphine [PH3] and diphosphane [P2H4] I believe self combust when exposed to oxygen and are abundant along with methane in many boggy, marsh areas etc etc. So this is one vehicle whereby methane in small concentrations will ignite I assume….. I am not an expert, far from it in this field so I am sure someone will(may) correct me if I have made an elementary error on this one !

Don Mattox
September 25, 2012 6:18 am

There are natural gas seeps all over the world. One in Muktinath, Nepal is sacred to the Buddist.

more soylent green!
September 25, 2012 6:20 am

Instead of panicking over this, why didn’t somebody try to harvest it as a clean energy source?

September 25, 2012 6:41 am

Methane is seeping through vents all over the ocean floor, feeding the microbial base of the food chain. Somewhere in Thomas Gold’s book “The Deep Hot Biosphere” it is mentioned that methane seepage on land is also enormous, that seepage rates through the ground have been measured near gas deposits and it was calculated the rate of seepage would have emptied those deposits in a small fraction of the time they are supposed to have been there. A lot of the methane coming up from the deep gets oxidized to CO2 and water before it reaches the surface, and the methane that does make it to the atmosphere is fairly quickly oxidized in the same way.
Beautiful pictures of ocean floor seepage and comments here:
Hydrocarbons in the deep Earth? (Carnegie Institution experiment)
A theory that refuses to die – abiotic oil and gas
Thomas Gold’s Deep Hot Biosphere and the Deep-Earth theories of the Origin of Petroleum
Freeman Dyson on Thomas Gold
The evolution of multicomponent systems at high pressures: VI. The thermodynamic stability of the hydrogen–carbon system: The genesis of hydrocarbons and the origin of petroleum
J. F. Kenney†‡§, Vladimir A. Kutcherov, Nikolai A. Bendeliani∥, and Vladimir A. Alekseev∥
The spontaneous genesis of hydrocarbons that comprise natural petroleum have been analyzed by chemical thermodynamic-stability theory. The constraints imposed on chemical evolution by the second law of thermodynamics are briefly reviewed, and the effective prohibition of transformation, in the regime of temperatures and pressures characteristic of the near-surface crust of the Earth, of biological molecules into hydrocarbon molecules heavier than methane is recognized.
The H–C system does not spontaneously evolve heavy hydrocarbons at pressures less than ≈30 kbar, even in the most favorable thermodynamic environment. The H–C system evolves hydrocarbons under pressures found in the mantle of the Earth and at temperatures consistent with that environment.

September 25, 2012 6:45 am

The link I’ve just sent with pictures of life feeding on methane vents seems messed up. Here it is again:

September 25, 2012 6:47 am

“One in Muktinath, Nepal is sacred to the Buddist.”
It’s thought by some that the Oracle at Delphi sat over another. Apparently even the ancients knew about “huffing”.

Pamela Gray
September 25, 2012 6:49 am

Lazyteen says the atmosphere gets colder at height. This armchair weather nut knows that is a load of horse apples. How lazy can you get? It took me three mouse clicks to find:
Temperatures decrease with altitude in the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere, from an average of about 20° C to below -50° C. In the next layer, the stratosphere, temperatures warm only slightly up to the ozone layer at the top of the stratosphere, where they increase rapidly with altitude until becoming about the same as on the earth’s surface. Temperatures in the next layer, the mesosphere, cool rapidly with altitude to below -80° C. Temperatures rise rapidly with increases in altitude in the next layer, the thermosphere, but temperatures there can vary widely. Depending on the activity of ionized particles within this region, they reach a high of over 1,200° C in the daytime and become extremely cold at night. The next layer is the exosphere, which cools with altitude to where it ends about 1,000 km above the earth’s surface.

September 25, 2012 6:58 am

There is something called the Louisiana Sinkhole that has been on the news lately
And there is this place in Turkmenistan, a big sinkhole that seems to have been burning nonstop since 1971. The locals call it The Gate to Hell.

September 25, 2012 6:59 am

Bill says: “all light transmission is logarithmic.”
Yes, but for CO2, any additional atmospheric CO2 concentration past 540ppm contributes very little to the overall CO2 GHE.

September 25, 2012 7:03 am

Yet another “face palm” for the “We must act now” bunch??

R Taylor
September 25, 2012 7:13 am

Furthermore, the Priests of Leviathan have been allowed to measure methane and temperature-related isotopes in several of those wonderful ice-cores: Temperature leads methane, with no indication of positive feedback at any stage of the glacial cycle. No wonder the Priests have not been allowed to interpret the results quantitatively.

September 25, 2012 7:17 am

michaeljmcfadden says:
September 25, 2012 at 2:28 am
Pretty amazing these bacterial fellas. We have an oil spill in the Gulf and they multiply like mad to eat up the oil,
Just about everyone that has owned a diesel learns this. Unless you treat the fuel with some methyl or similar, bacteria from contaminated fuel will grow on the layer between the fuel and the water that accumulates at the bottom of the tanks. It turns the diesel into a black green goo that clogs all your filters and stops the engine. Jet fuel reportedly has a similar problem.
Life exists just about everywhere there is an energy source. Over time nature learns how to take advantage of the energy source. The end product of this process is waste, which in turn another form of life will evolve to consume. Carbon based energy sources produce CO2 and H2O as waste, which plants have evolved to consume as their food.
There is only one sure way to eliminate waste. Eliminate life. Because every living thing produces waste. Even plants, which produce oxygen as waste, which is highly corrosive and deadly to life without specialized, evolved structures to deal with it. It is this oxygen that is responsible for forest fires, because without this waste product from plants, there would be no forest fires. Not one.

September 25, 2012 7:35 am

Bill says:
September 25, 2012 at 5:39 am
I was very interested to read in several of Hansen’s papers that for some UNKNOWN reason the rate of CH4 increase in the atmosphere took a dive
start measuring temperature in the morning and by noon you will be convinced the world is headed for a fiery end. but by morning you will be convinced the world is headed for an ice age. by noon, you will be again be convinced the earth is doomed to the fires of hell.

September 25, 2012 8:02 am

@sleepalot, I had thought that people with no technical qualifications and no experience in chemistry and chemical processes (which includes combustion) would not comment and expose their lack of knowledge. That fact that the level in the atmosphere has been fairly constant at about 1.7ppm since about 2000 is an indicator that it does not oxidise by contact with oxygen. Otherwise given that the atmosphere has roughly 20.9% oxygen there would then be no methane. Also, it was possible to measure the increase from around 1985 (about 1.58ppm) to around 2000 (about 1.72pmm) and to identify that as leakage from pipelines in Russia and East bloc countries. With tightening of supply to Europe and higher prices the Russians have largely fixed the leakage and that is why the level has been relatively constant. Maybe with the upsurge in shale gas in USA and other countries the level will rise again.The only oxidation of CH4 which you will see in my post comes from the occasional reaction with ozone. The -OH radical has been detected in the atmosphere. The methanol formed is very soluble in water (rain & clouds) and of course the sea but the quantities are too small to be measured.
As will see in my post and the note from Sunsettommy above, methane is an insignificant absorber of IR and together with its insignificant presence (1.7ppm) it has zero affect on anything.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
September 25, 2012 8:33 am

Note to the youngsters:
You know that ancient heirloom top-loading “clathrate gun” that’s been laying around for centuries, that you were warned was put away loaded and could possible explode and kill everyone if the trigger was bumped? Turns out it’s only a cap gun, and somewhat common. Feel free to play with it if you want.

Tim Ball
September 25, 2012 8:36 am

As I have said many times, but apparently not often enough, they take natural events and present them as unnatural so they have an unending supply.
They are then amplified into hysteria by the media, the gossipmongers in the global village.
The public is unlikely to learn everything about the way the earth works so we have to continue to educate them to the game being played. The methane issue is just one more example.
They seem close to that point as the polls show. The Pew centre poll shows environment and global warming very low and declining faster than all issues except illegal immigration.
It has something to do with the economy, but mostly because it forces people to examine and rethink priorities. It allows them and politicians to offset the environmentalists claims to moral high ground and the pressure of ‘shouldn’t we act anyway’ of the precautionary principle.
Of course, there is also the more traditional sequence laid out by Aesop and his fable about the boy who cried wolf. The modern equivalent is Chicken Little crying wolf.

Kelvin Vaughan
September 25, 2012 8:47 am

Robin Barry says:
September 25, 2012 at 1:08 am
I can never get too worked up about methane. In an oxygen rich atmosphere and plenty of heat sources (lightning, fires etc.) it will burn into CO2 and water soon enough.
Oh no not dreaded CO2!

Kelvin Vaughan
September 25, 2012 8:57 am

Oooops I just added hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane combined with hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, to the atmosphere. Sorry!

September 25, 2012 9:38 am

“There ought to be a new rule that anyone can repeat any silly Warmageddon propaganda, but when doing so, you have to wear a clown suit, complete with makeup.”
The public is weary of “Warmageddonisms” continuous volumes of crying wolf.
The real threat is the “dissolution of principles and manners” that result in the surrendering of liberties (Samuel Adams letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779) that steadily expand the mindset of civil society. Climate politics are just one obvious example of a total disregard to such despicable morals.

September 25, 2012 9:43 am

More junk science from the MSM and their science of convenience. If it doesn’t fit the meme, spin it until it does. Give me a science blog any day where corrections to ignorance are immediately available. Unless it is a “Cooked” blog.
Methane has been a factor there for a very long time.
And that area has a very dynamic and not so ancient past:

Peter Miller
September 25, 2012 9:48 am
September 25, 2012 9:54 am

I didn’t say it was oxydized directly by atmospheric O2. Methane reacting with tropospheric OH radicals instead of O2 is still an oxydation process that turns methane into CO2 and water vapor, is it not? And it is supposed to be the main sink of methane in the atmosphere.
Also, the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere is supposed to be about 10 years according to most estimates I’ve seen, and the oxydation rate increases with temperature, acting as a negative feedback on its accumulation, so its lifetime in the atmosphere has supposedly decreased over the 20th century, at least according to some studies I’ve seen.
It seems to me that naturally occuring methane seepage from underground channels into the atmosphere may be its most underestimated source in the methane cycle models, some of which don’t even consider it, and it may in fact be have been a major contributor to atmospheric CO2 renewal through geological time.
It also seems to me that, of all hydrocarbons, the formation of methane from purely geological (abiotic) processes deep underground is by far the simplest and best understood, and it happens in many bodies in the solar system in great quantities. Why it is assumed that it cannot be a significant ongoing process on Earth is beyond my understanding.

george e smith
September 25, 2012 10:42 am

So the ocean bottom has warmed by how much, in the last 150 years ?? That ocean bottom heating is a really powerful climate driver; even rising to the level of an observable positive feedback loop.
Lemme sea now, that ocean bottom warming, means how much ocean surface warming, which will put how much extra sun blocking H2O and CO2 into the atmosphere ??
So why don’t they simply drop a funnel over those CH4 plumes and gather the stuff up; we can use all the natural gas we can find.
Now we actually have our own local Methane belching river and lake (Nacimiento) right here in California. It’s a favorite fishing hole, and everytime we run up that river, the fish finder draws those exact same pictures of rising methane plumes.

September 25, 2012 10:42 am

{Another interesting observation made on the expedition, was that a very active microbial community that consumes the methane has established itself on the sea bed. “We were able to detect high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, which is an indication of methane consuming microbes in the sea bed,…”}
Interesting, indeed. Where does the sulphur come from that becomes H2S? Could it be emanating from those undersea vents? Isn’t there lots of sulphur contained in the magma and stuff that often escapes from undersea vents and sometimes mini volcanic seabed eruptions? Could this magma also be resopnsible for what appears to be a cyclyc warming of the North-Polar oceans?

September 25, 2012 10:58 am

Methane belching river? My GAWD! Does Moonbeam know about this?

September 25, 2012 11:02 am

Sorry– I should have included this reference:

September 25, 2012 11:53 am

Lots of natural seepage everywhere:
Giuseppe Etiope
Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Roma

September 25, 2012 12:22 pm

Methane is leaking because it is being pushed up under pressure, and there is a huge amount of methane deep down. Drilling and producing lower level gas might reduce the pressure and the resulting leaks, but there is no guarantee. There is just a huge amount of methane under ground and it has to ultimately go somewhere. This stuff leaks out naturally all over the world, so stop wringing your hands about something you cannot stop. We might as well produce it and use it – it’s a great fuel and feed-stock for the chemical industry.

September 25, 2012 12:53 pm

It always amazes me that so many people think that even though the earth is 4 billion years old whatever “problem” they’re looking to find just happened to start being a problem in the last 20 years. Just because you’ve noticed something that you’ve never looked for before and have no knowledge of, doesn’t mean it’s brand new when you find it. But that’s the anthropocentrism that seems to fill too many people up to their eyebrows.

Jenn Oates
September 25, 2012 1:16 pm

Pyeatte said “We might as well produce it and use it – it’s a great fuel and feed-stock for the chemical industry.”
Exactly. Sell it all off so that my Norwegian grandchildren will continue to live in a rich country. 🙂

September 25, 2012 1:39 pm

“Several of the gas outlets have been active for hundreds of years”
So in that case we can then assume the Arctic is in a self-inflicted death spiral of DOOM. OH the irony.. 😉
Besides. I thought Gas is a “Green” energy according the the EU.

September 25, 2012 1:42 pm

Gaia’s breath—global methane exhalations
Keith A. Kvenvolden, Bruce W. Rogers
Marine and Petroleum Geology 22 (2005) 579–590
US Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, MS 999, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA
4.1. Natural macro-seeps
Natural seepages of petroleum (crude oil and natural gas) are globally widespread (Fig. 2) in both terrestrial and marine environments (Wilson et al., 1973, 1974). Their occurrences have been documented since the beginning of recorded history. For example, there are biblical references to very heavy crude oil (asphalt) seeps around the Dead Sea, and burning gas (methane) seeps in the Baku region of Azerbaijan were sites of fire-worship by early Zoroastrian religious groups (Levorsen, 1956).
Oil seeps commonly entrain gas, and gas seepages are often accompanied by some crude oil. Because of the close association between oil and gas seeps, it is possible to estimate the amount of gas escaping from the surface of the Earth based on estimates of the global seepage of crude oil and a global gas/oil ratio.
A study from the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS, 2003) concludes that, as a best estimate, ~6×10^5 ton (1 ton = 10^6 g)/yr of crude oil seep into the marine environment. Details leading to this estimated global crude oil seepage rate are given in Kvenvolden and Cooper (2003). A summary of gas/oil ratios (GOR) for 141 petroleum systems of the world shows that 126 of these systems have both oil and gas, assumed to be mainly CH4, whereas 12 of them produce only gas, and three produce only crude oil (Peters et al., 2005, p. 756). The average GOR of the 126 petroleum systems is 2.3×10^5. Assuming that the 6×10^5 ton of crude oil seeping into the marine environment each year has this average GOR, then the amount of CH4 seepage into the oceans is ~20 Tg/yr. This estimate is conservative in that no contribution from the 12 gas-only petroleum systems is considered here, and no loss factor in the water column is included. Assuming further that submarine gas seeps are restricted to continental margins and that terrestrial gas seeps found in areas of comparable extent, gas seeps on land may emit directly to the atmosphere an equivalent amount of CH4, or 20 Tg. Thus, the total global flux from natural seeps is estimated to be ~40 Tg CH4/yr.
Of interest is a comparison of this estimate of 40 Tg CH4/yr with previously published estimates by various authors. For example, Ehhalt and Schmidt (1978) calculated the global oceanic flux of CH4 to the atmosphere based on the rate of molecular diffusion of CH4 through the air–sea boundary. Trotsyuk and Avilov (1988) measured the disseminated flux of CH4 in the Black Sea and extrapolated these results worldwide to obtain a global estimate of seafloor CH4 emissions. Hovland et al. (1993) used published estimates of seafloor flux and seepage distributions to determine a global seafloor flux for CH4. Cranston (1994) considered CH4 release from coastal and marine sediments to estimate the amount of CH4 entering the atmosphere from these sources. Observations of the ‘world’s most spectacular marine hydrocarbon seeps’ offshore from Coal Oil Point, California, by Hornafius et al. (1999) were extrapolated to obtain a CH4 flux to the atmosphere. These and other estimations have been compiled by Judd (2000) and Judd et al. (2002). Table 1 summarizes the estimates of CH4 emissions from natural seeps in the oceans. As might be expected, these estimates vary, but the results suggest that w50 Tg CH4/yr seeps naturally from the seafloor, based mainly on the estimates of Hovland et al. (1993). About 30 Tg CH4/yr reaches the atmosphere, and 20 Tg CH4/yr is dissolved or converted to CO2 by oxidation in the water column […]
The total reservoir of CH4 was estimated to be between 10^4 and 10^8 Tg and the half-life of this reservoir was set at 10^8 yr. If the length of time for reservoir depletion is assumed to be 10^8–10^12 yr—a range broad enough to include all eventualities—then the flux of CH4 is estimated to be ~30 Tg CH4/yr from the seafloor and ~10 Tg CH4/yr into the atmosphere. Therefore, estimates of the global CH4 flux, based on gas/oil ratios, literature surveys, and theoretical considerations, average ~25 Tg CH4/yr to the atmosphere and ~35 Tg CH4/yr to the seafloor.

September 25, 2012 1:47 pm

Exactly. Sell it all off so that my Norwegian grandchildren will continue to live in a rich country. 🙂
Don’t think of it as drilling. Think of it as tidying up the Arctic.

Tom Monroe
September 25, 2012 3:27 pm

Exceedingly Lazy Teenager:
Amazing but true. Apparently it’s an effect due to a little known property of water vapour; it condenses at low temperatures. Apparently it’s also little known that the atmosphere gets colder at height.
But pressure also decreases with altitude – which means it condenses at… drumroll please… even lower temperatures.
Try again.
I’ve never heard anybody reputable say that the ratio of water vapor was signifcantly lower higher up in the atmosphere than say Methane or CO2. We’re talking on the order of 15,000 times more water vapor than CO2.
Is this the best you can do?

September 25, 2012 4:44 pm

I have been unable to find measurements of the 14C age of the methane.
Does anyone know if this has been estimated?

September 25, 2012 5:36 pm

Fragile Earth is an oxymoron.

September 25, 2012 7:07 pm

@ Cementafriend
You shouldn’t handwave so much – you could hurt yourself.

September 25, 2012 7:27 pm

DocMartyn says:
September 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm
> I have been unable to find measurements of the 14C age of the methane.
> Does anyone know if this has been estimated?
The half life of 14 C is only 5,730 years and hence carbon dating only works back some 60,000 years, a blink of the eye in geologic time.

george e smith
September 26, 2012 10:19 am

60,000 years is about 10.5 half lives which would be a residual of about 0.07% of the original. amount. I don’t know what the detection limits of mass spec analysis is, but I believe you can count individual atoms routinely. 60k is certainly a believable range. I know I have some wooden objects, that are made from a tree that was reliably carbon dated to 45,000 years old, and I have seen examples of the same wood that is 55,000 years old. (New Zealand “Swamp” Kauri)

September 26, 2012 2:59 pm

Ferdberple, excellent points! I actually don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone raise a concern about that dangerous plant waste product pollution before! LOL! Dangerous stuff that oxygen! Just think of all the people who die in fires every year!

Brian H
September 26, 2012 5:58 pm

Interestingly, the entire website (the host of the referenced paper) is currently unavailable, unfindable.

Brian H
September 26, 2012 6:01 pm

From an astrophysical POV, detecting methane traces in an atmosphere is an indicator of ongoing life processes, as it breaks down in a few years, so must be continuously refreshed.

September 26, 2012 6:26 pm

The bottom of the ocean leaks oil, methane, heck, even tar / asphalt all over the globe. They are such natural materials that specific forms of life have evolved to live off of such seeps over millions of years.
It has probably been part of the planet since before life existed:
we also have liquid CO2 plumes on the ocean bottom…
somehow I think that matters…

September 26, 2012 6:51 pm

Yes. Japan and Canada:
First production expected about 2018.

Now, fortune and technology may be smiling on the energy-poor country, with the discovery of an unconventional energy source that could possibly provide it with enough gas to meet its demand for 14 years. Japan, at least, has been working with that hope ever since it confirmed 40 trillion cubic feat of methane hydrates in the southern Sea of Kumano in 2007.
Next month Japan takes another step toward that goal, with the start of a four-month-long site survey for a four-well drilling project that runs from October 2011 to March 2012. If all goes well, a year later the survey and the wells will result in what Japan says will be the world’s first offshore production test of methane hydrates, with commercial output to start by 2018.

How much?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010 10:41 Takeo Kumagai, Platts
Global estimates “range from merely jaw-dropping to the truly staggering,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Canada is believed to have enough hydrates along its coasts to meet the country’s energy needs for a couple of hundred years.

About 2 x ALL other fossil fuels:
So the ocean bottom is just covered in the stuff. It bubbles up in amounts we can’t even measure (as does CO2 from the ocean bottom). We have no clue if it has any pattern of growth, reduction, or cycles. But just assume all methane and CO2 changes are due to people…

September 27, 2012 8:59 am
September 27, 2012 11:46 am

Malcolm, actually, it’s even WORSE than “the end of the world as we know it!” When you get down to the tail end of that article you find this: “even if it is released into the ocean rather than into the air (it will still equilibrate with the atmosphere, after a few centuries, converging to the same “long tail” CO2 trajectory ” ) And then the first two commenters lead off their observations with: “Sorry to say that it appears Katey Anthony is being a bit too conservative.” and “this is what has me up nights!”
The hype and the fear. Check out the first 15 seconds of this video and you’ll learn that we are in the middle of public health crisis bigger than the Black Plague! :
Can’t anyone just accept the idea that things might just possibly be NORMAL anymore?

Crispin in Johannesburg
September 29, 2012 3:39 pm

I really appreciate that link to the Russian paper on the abiotic origin of oil. The lab experiment shows that the theory was correct, that the hydrocarbons formed in the predicted ratios and at the temperature and pressure theoretically required.
My buddy Philip The Chemist said, “Yup! And, as usual, the formal thermodynamics of the Russians stands them in excellent stead.”
Oil is not a fossil fuel. Neither is almost all methane. The pressure at which the ratios of CxHy are found in oil from the ground corresponds to 100 km deep, well into the mantle.

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