Another IPCC modeling failure – so THAT’s where the atmospheric methane went

IPCC_AR5_draft_fig1-7_methane

IPCC models for each assessment report vs. reality.

From Oregon State University – Scientists discover carbonate rocks are unrecognized methane sink

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Since the first undersea methane seep was discovered 30 years ago, scientists have meticulously analyzed and measured how microbes in the seafloor sediments consume the greenhouse gas methane as part of understanding how the Earth works.

The sediment-based microbes form an important methane “sink,” preventing much of the chemical from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to greenhouse gas accumulation. As a byproduct of this process, the microbes create a type of rock known as authigenic carbonate, which while interesting to scientists was not thought to be involved in the processing of methane.

That is no longer the case. A team of scientists has discovered that these authigenic carbonate rocks also contain vast amounts of active microbes that take up methane. The results of their study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, were reported today in the journal Nature Communications.

“No one had really examined these rocks as living habitats before,” noted Andrew Thurber, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and co-author on the paper. “It was just assumed that they were inactive. In previous studies, we had seen remnants of microbes in the rocks – DNA and lipids – but we thought they were relics of past activity. We didn’t know they were active.

“This goes to show how the global methane process is still rather poorly understood,” Thurber added.

Lead author Jeffrey Marlow of the California Institute of Technology and his colleagues studied samples from authigenic compounds off the coasts of the Pacific Northwest (Hydrate Ridge), northern California (Eel River Basin) and central America (the Costa Rica margin). The rocks range in size and distribution from small pebbles to carbonate “pavement” stretching dozens of square miles.

“Methane-derived carbonates represent a large volume within many seep systems and finding active methane-consuming archaea and bacteria in the interior of these carbonate rocks extends the known habitat for methane-consuming microorganisms beyond the relatively thin layer of sediment that may overlay a carbonate mound,” said Marlow, a geobiology graduate student in the lab of Victoria Orphan of Caltech.

These assemblages are also found in the Gulf of Mexico as well as off Chile, New Zealand, Africa, Europe – “and pretty much every ocean basin in the world,” noted Thurber, an assistant professor (senior research) in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

The study is important, scientists say, because the rock-based microbes potentially may consume a huge amount of methane. The microbes were less active than those found in the sediment, but were more abundant – and the areas they inhabit are extensive, making their importance potential enormous. Studies have found that approximately 3-6 percent of the methane in the atmosphere is from marine sources – and this number is so low due to microbes in the ocean sediments consuming some 60-90 percent of the methane that would otherwise escape.

Now those ratios will have to be re-examined to determine how much of the methane sink can be attributed to microbes in rocks versus those in sediments. The distinction is important, the researchers say, because it is an unrecognized sink for a potentially very important greenhouse gas.

“We found that these carbonate rocks located in areas of active methane seeps are themselves more active,” Thurber said. “Rocks located in comparatively inactive regions had little microbial activity. However, they can quickly activate when methane becomes available.

“In some ways, these rocks are like armies waiting in the wings to be called upon when needed to absorb methane.”

The ocean contains vast amounts of methane, which has long been a concern to scientists. Marine reservoirs of methane are estimated to total more than 455 gigatons and may be as much as 10,000 gigatons carbon in methane. A gigaton is approximate 1.1 billion tons.

By contrast, all of the planet’s gas and oil deposits are thought to total about 200-300 gigatons of carbon.

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64 thoughts on “Another IPCC modeling failure – so THAT’s where the atmospheric methane went

    • I suspect that the models do not include mammoth farts yet. Not until after the gene manipulators recreate mammoths.

      • I’m sure I read somewhere that they were “adjusting” mammoth flatulence out of the ice core data sets. Well, that’s what they said they were doing when it was noted that they were reducing historic concentrations and increasing Industrial Era CH4 amounts. It just couldn’t be data manipulation to make mankind look evil

    • We don’t care much about the rocks which have carbon in them, but if models are estimating the oceanic methane releases without subtracting what is removed by these microbes then they’ll overestimate the ocean-to-atmosphere methane releases. This is also a new factor for any methane hydrate model studies — any hydrate release which is slow enough for these microbes to eat will be different than a rapid release.

  1. Why is it a continual surprise to these people that within a world where huge variations in natural phenomena exist, that there shouldnt be some species evolved to take advantage of a food source? These microbes/bacteria may be similar to the hydrocarbon consuming species that hang around any underwater natural oil seep and proliferated and cleaned up around that BP well in the gulf. This bacteria existed already on natural seeps near where the Exxon Valdez ran aground, but the greenies in their cleanup fervor scrubbed them all off the rocks and it took a while for them to reestablish.
    I’m glad they study particulars but the knowledge already existed and so I see this more of a rediscovery of existing concept – not some light bulb moment.

  2. but, but, but,,,, the science is settled! You can’t go about publishing such unsettling ideas as this!! What is the world coming to? First a plague of deniers and now a plague of heretics!

  3. It would be interesting to see the above chart presented as a spaghetti graph similar to Spencer’s well known spaghetti graph showing the modeled projected/predicted temperature profiles.

  4. Looks like Lockheed Martin is making major progress on fusion reactors. If their expectations are realized, it will make much of the AGW issue, as well as all AGW projections, even more irrelevant than they already are.

    • Do you feel the anti power people will change their agenda because fusion becomes available? I don’t.

      • Stan, the left wing/econuts will ALWAYS find something to be really miserable about. They’ll find something that humans are ruining/depleting/polluting, simply because that is an easy thing to do. You cannot walk a few metres on a small piece of grass without having an effect. You might kill a tiny insect, kill a small plant, or even cross-pollinate something. The left wing/econuts cannot comprehend that humans will ALWAYS have an effect, even a miniscule one, because we too, are part of the nature of Earth. Admittedly, we have the power to do it on a grand scale, but that’s how it is. Naomi Klein will never ‘get’ it.

      • Stan, they really aren’t anti-power, they are anti population. They would be steadfastly against this since it would support greater population, not less. They would like a population level under 800 million, so yes, they would fight this tooth and nail, until they educate us to sterilize 3 out of every 4 males born, and only allow artificial insemination so as to insure that the population can’t grow, and then welcome it with open arms.

  5. 10,000 gigatons carbon in methane … Methane, fuel of the future; but we already knew that, didn’t we?

  6. It would be nice if these scientists were working on commercially feasible ways to capture the methane instead of studying the microbes that consume it. That would be something worthwhile.

  7. I think your bolded pull quote says it all:

    “This goes to show how the global methane process is still rather poorly understood,” Thurber added.

    The simple fact is this big beautiful world is more complex than we can even comprehend and we may never understand all the working parts to the climate, much less calibrate any model to match their actual, chaotic workings.

    • “…this big beautiful world is more complex than we can even comprehend…”

      I’ve always said, “The less you know about something, the easier it seems”.
      Which also means, “if it seems easy, you just don’t know enough yet”.

    • Or, as the bard puts it:

      There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

  8. “In some ways, these rocks are like armies waiting in the wings to be called upon when needed to absorb methane.”

    Sounds like a negative feedback to me.

  9. And from one of the study’s co-authors, the four words that say more about the global warming belief system than anything else:

    It was just assumed…

  10. When too much methane perks up from below, some of it displaces methane hydrates which are pushed from their zone of stability, and the subject microbes feast.

  11. It’s almost as if the climate has many feedback mechanisms which make it several orders of magnitude more complicated than and not reducible to the glass box of high school greenhouse physics. Is it even possible that by adding greenhouse gasses, Man has caused the climb out of the LIA to stop?

    • I can’t recall the number of times I have seen headlines like “surprise, scientist discover….” [insert negative feedback]. The IPCC temperature projections fail. Methane projections fail. Antarctic sea ice extent fail. Arctic ice-free (I am still waiting despite those who attacked the IPCC for being conservative on this – Wadhams). It is failure all the way down. They need to stop all policies and take their time and actually take a critical look at the whole thing again – very slowly without panic.

      • I like the following analogy. Consider a rock guitarist with an amp in a stadium. He is about to strum his guitar. However, engineers have put 10,000 devices around the stadium. Some of these devices make noise. Some of them absorb noise. Some of them amplify any noise they detect. Some of them absorb noise whenever they detect increases in noise. Some of them absorb noise whenever they detect decreases in noise. Our guitar player is about to strum the guitar, and the ambient noise in the stadium is moderate and slowly fluctuating, due to the devices. He strums the guitar. Will the noise increase in the stadium as a result of his strumming the guitar? We have no idea. The complexity is too great.

  12. Methane rises when released into the atmosphere. Neither soil nor water absorbs methane from the atmosphere.

    When methane is released into the water, as in the BP well blowout, methane eating microbe bloom to the extent of available food, witness the swift disappearance of BP’s spilled methane.

    That released methane has no chance to sink to the ocean floor. The microbes on the ocean floor eat the methane released from dying biomass falling from the water above.

  13. They didn’t know everything? I’m shocked…
    (Imagine what else they don’t know about the climat, especially since their models don’t work!)

  14. This is what happens when plus-size delusional models try to fit into petite sized reality outfits.
    Or something like that?

  15. So we have our methane sink: rocks. And our CO2 sink: plants and trees.

    All we need now is a sink to soak up all of pollution spewing from the watermelons.

  16. A climate scientist is like a blind man who walks up to an elephant, feels it’s tail and then concludes that elephants are a type of snake.

  17. An endless supply of fuel for humans. This may be the real worry. Looking at all the models for whatever in climate science, it is clear that in the beginning there was a theory that needed support. I think that sensible scientific prudence is:

    1) to know with high certainty that an agenda driven worst case scenario will be 1 to 2 orders of magnitude greater than reality. Their first calculations discovered that CO2’s effect is mild and needed a multiplier of some kind – high +ve feedback, although its thermodynamically unrealistic in a complex coupled system of so many competing effects. Before objections are raised:
    a) consider that we have had at times many thousands of ppm CO2 in the atmosphere and the temperature has only fluctuated a few percent K either side of ~ 278K for the entire history of the past 3B years.
    b) An unbroken chain of macroscopic life extends back uninterrupted for at least 1B years.
    c) We have been hit by large asteroids that probably boiled the ocean at least locally and dusted, smoked up and clouded the atmosphere for decades (a lot of water vapour) causing widespread cooling to follow.

    Tipping points are just not part of the picture. The chances of reaching a tipping point is zero if we are using the 3B record for “error bars”.

    2) The most hopeful case from agenda driven science (the lower limit of catastrophe) is 2-5 times reality’s trend. Anything less, makes for much less to be worried about. IPCC’s projections are all the evidence we need for this. Despite having pushed the “observations” up (the main forcing we have to deal with) as high as they have, their best model result is still significantly above their “forced” reality.

    I think going on about chaotic systems only prolongs the agony of CAGW promotion. The chaos has more control on it than we are admitting. Yes we don’t know what is going on in detail inside the system and a variety of outcomes may arise from the same starting conditions, but the outside envelope of the system is a STRONGLY REGULATED ONE with, perforce, dominantly negative feedbacks that permit only 2-3% excursions in temperature either side of 278K.

    Engineers have to deal with far worse in design of man-made systems. We don’t have the 1.4 × 10^21 metric ton ocean control knob to modulate variations in our designs. Engineering designs can fail. The earth’s system, not so much. So please, carry on with the fun exercise of trying to evaluate the chaos, but know that everything’s under control.

  18. IPCC has obviously overstated the amount of methane freed to the atmosphere or overstated the length of time that it takes methane to degrade in the atmosphere.

    The US EPA methane budget is erroneously listing US upland soil as a 30TG sink. Soil is not a sink for atmospheric methane.

  19. ..one of these days they are going to discover that life on this planet needs carbon
    until then it’s just rocks

  20. From the headline post;

    “The ocean contains vast amounts of methane, which has long been a concern to scientists”

    “has long been of a “concern” to scientists.

    The “messiah” complex is so blatantly obvious in this comment.
    The “scientists”, the :”saviors of the planet” have been “concerned” about a gas that has been around in vast quantities in the oceans for the 3.5 billion years of the Earth’s existence.

    If as scientists they were extremely “interested” as to the role and effects of methane and any thing associated with methane in the ocean, that makes complete sense.
    But to be “concerned” puts a completely different construct on the statement.
    It suggests that those scientists believe they have the ability to change the Earth’s methane levels if they could figure out how to do it.
    And it indicates the highly elevated opinion these scientists must have of their own importance and their ability to change the levels of global methane and therefore supposedly the climate.

    The “catastrophism” that is the defining characteristic of most CAGW research and the Climate Catastrophe ideology is also highly evident here.
    There is little rejoicing in finding a new niche that is swarming with formerly unknown bacterial life not previously known to science and all due entirely to a very prolific deep ocean food source, that of methane.

    Instead there is a wiping of the brows that maybe this methane consuming bacterial life might stop the earth from suffering still another form of melt down, a melt down due of course entirely to mankind’s sinfulness against the planet by using fossil fuels and even his considering of exploiting the ocean methane for that fuel source.

    Seems mankind was beaten to it yet again by the bacteria.

    There appears to be no attempt here to look at methane as a highly beneficial product instead of a dangerous gas which in the overheated imagination of some climate scientists will spell the end of planetary life.
    This usual catastrophic climate science meme is presented in this paper instead of regarding copious deep ocean methane as a highly beneficial food source for untold numbers of bacterial life with quite possibly still to be discovered, highly beneficial effects on the rest of the planet’s life systems.
    _______________

    I have been a science supporter all my life but regretfully and sadly, something that climate catastrophe science has instilled in me, is my unfortunate and increasing tendency to look at the statements of science and scientists today in a way that sees them increasingly as smug, self satisfied elites who are now constantly preaching down to us mere lesser mortals on how we should each be running our lives along the increasingly implausible and nonsensical principles they are proposing and demanding for rest of society.
    All the while excluding themselves from any of their proposed societal and personal strictures of course.

    My disillusionment with large sectors of so called science, science which is becoming more and more authoritarian in it’s pronunciations is becoming something I deeply regret.

    • ROM: These are the “Ban Ki Moon and Naomi Klein approved scientists” who are obviously superior beings to those other scientists that are sceptical of CAGW. Although sceptical scientists (like myself) are very large in number, there is a weighting factor that consigns them to 3%. The worthiness quotient applied to the “Ban Ki Moon and Naomi Klein approved scientists” inflates them to 97%.

      Have you got that? /sarc.

    • ROM-> I’m right there with you. The sheen has come off the armour that science once held for me.

  21. The case of the Exxon Valdez is interesting. A study was conducted a few years afterward and the result came back that the area had NOT returned to “normal”. That was proclaimed far and wide by the Watermelons.

    The reason was that there was “too much” life measured. The spilled hydrocarbons had provided a free meal for the consuming bacteria bloomed; providing lots of food for the plants and animals up the next step of the food chain. In turn they fed the next step up the food chain, etc.

    Proving that these clowns have an agenda to want to rule, no matter the result.

      • Possibly this: Criteria for Oil Spill Recovery: A Case Study of the Intertidal Community of Prince William Sound, Alaska, Following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

        Intertidal Epibiota
        The abundance of motile invertebrates exhibited a statistically significant departure from parallelism in
        the first six-year window at both categories 2 and 3 (Figure 6). Recovery of the middle-transect intertidal
        organisms was largely complete by 1991 as indicated by the high P values (P . 0.10) found in tests of parallelism.
        Inspection of the middle transect for intertidal invertebrates suggested a strong signature of recovery
        following by parallelism beginning in 1991. For the category 3 sites, recovery occurs at an abundance level
        above that of the controls, while for category 2 sites, recovery levels are nearly the same as at the controls
        (Figure 6). The null hypothesis of parallelism could not be rejected for any time window at the upper transects
        of categories 2 and 3 (figures not shown).

  22. In summary, where there is more methane, there is biologic activity. Who would have thought? /sarc

  23. Oh – and when there is more CO2, there is more biologic activity (plants)… and we need to kill off the plant food, because plants are a sign of too much… oh wait… forget it.

  24. Readers who are supposing that the methane in these rocks will satisfy human needs for fuel in our lifetimes should ask “How much methane can be extracted per ton of rocks and how much it would cost to transport the rocks to a extraction facility.” I suspect the yield is rather low. The atmosphere contains about 1.75 parts per million. What’s the concentration of methane in the ocean? The bacteria are apparently able to concentrate the methane from a rather dilute solution. The oceans are big, they contain a lot of Gold too, but it’s too dilute to recover at a profit. Also consider the political ramifications–for instance “Google” manganese nodules. Despite the nodules being a rather concentrated “metallic ore” readily available on the ocean floor, Kennecott decided they were not worth their cost. The Google article suggested that any commercialization of the manganese nodules was at least two decades away.
    Now the bacteria may be more valuable.

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