If We Release a Small Fraction of Arctic Carbon, ‘We’re Fucked’: Climatologist

Below the opening paragraphs of an article by  BRIAN MERCHANT from motherboard. You can read the full piece here.

This week, scientists made a disturbing discovery in the Arctic Ocean: They saw “vast methane plumes escaping from the seafloor,” as the Stockholm University put it in a release disclosing the observations. The plume of methane—a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat more powerfully than carbon dioxide, the chief driver of climate change—was unsettling to the scientists.

But it was even more unnerving to Dr. Jason Box, a widely published climatologist who had been following the expedition. As I was digging into the new development, I stumbled upon his tweet, which, coming from a scientist, was downright chilling:


Box, who is currently a professor of glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, has been studying the Arctic for decades. His accolade-packed Wikipedia page notes that he’s made some 20 expeditions to the Arctic since 1994, and served as the lead author on the Greenland section of NOAA’s State of the Climate report from 2008-2012. He also runs the Dark Snow project and writes about the latest findings in the field at his blog, Meltfactor.

In other words, Box knows the Arctic, and he knows climate change—and the methane plumes had him blitzed enough to bring out the F bombs.

Now, the scientists in the Arctic didn’t fully understand why the plumes were occurring. But they speculated that a warmer “tongue” of ocean current was destabilizing methane hydrates on the Arctic slope.

I called the scientist at his office in Copenhagen, and he talked frankly and emphatically about the new threat, and about the specter of climate change in general. He also swore like a sailor, which I’ve often wondered how climatologists refrain from doing, given the urgency of the problem—it’s certainly an entirely accurate way to communicate the climate plight.

First of all, I asked Box if he stood by that tweet. He did. He’d revise it a bit, to include surface carbon—methane locked in the permafrost that’s also beginning to leak out—because if we loose enough of either, we’re in trouble.

“Even if a small fraction of the Arctic carbon were released to the atmosphere, we’re fucked,” he told me. What alarmed him was that “the methane bubbles were reaching the surface. That was something new in my survey of methane bubbles,” he said.

The scientists’ video of methane bubbles in the Arctic Ocean.

“The conventional thought is that the bubbles would be dissolved before they reached the surface and that microorganisms would consume that methane, and that’s normal,” Box went on. But if the plumes are making it to the surface, that’s a brand new source of heat-trapping gases that we need to worry about.

…. [ctd. here].

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1 Response

  1. Poo says:

    In typical full panic mode (where the research money is), Dr. Box forgets to mention two simple truths: 1 – Methane gas is produced naturally in wetlands and plant rot for example and released every day, below ground and under the sea floor. 2. It often finds its way to the surface and into the earth’s atmosphere where it is known as atmospheric methane. It has a lifetime of 10 years there.

    After a cold winter, a warm May and June; we are now deep in the throes of a cold summer. Global Warming is a tough act to follow as is Extreme Weather, the new fund-raising buzz word for rain, snow, heat, cold as well as any and all natural weather patterns. The hurricanes are not the worst nor are the droughts. Everything costs more to replace and repair but what’s new or record breaking about that? We still have a climate and weather happens. Surprise, surprise.

    The same gang whose CO2 models failed to kill the world are now ramping up about yet another natural phenomenon, Methane gas. You know you’re in trouble when you’ve got the White House on your side. Just ask….oh hell, just ask anybody. Who trusts them anymore? We don’t and we’re their best friends.

    The Earth’s cooling cycle that began around 1997, continues to this day. It sort of puts the damper on the whole CO2 model thing. Cycles of warming and cooling weather are natural events and are tied to Sun activity or the lack of it. Human’s impact on the climate rises only marginally above enjoying it or not.

    The Environmental Defense Fund, Dr. ‘Fruit Fly’ Suzuki, Al Gore, Tides, the Sierra Club and countless other Green advocacy groups have focused exclusively on CO2 for decades and the Earth is cooling, not warming. How did that happen?

    Now it’s Methane! All those failed predictions and models about the increase of carbon dioxide emissions and how, in ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred years, the Earth would heat up? Now it’s Methane?

    Christian Berndt and his colleagues discovered streams of methane gas erupting from ice-like material called gas hydrates off the coast of Norway’s Svalbard Islands in the high Arctic in 2008. In 2012, they explored the area with a two-person mini-sub. It was during those dives that they discovered some mineral deposits on the sea floor. Samples taken revealed that they had been formed by previous bursts of escaping methane, including releases of 8,000 years ago, 3,000 years ago and 500 years ago. Climate is cyclical. The methane bubble plumes have most probably been forming for a few thousand years. They are not, therefore, the result of any alleged human-induced climate change. Oops!

    The biggest climate change worry amongst the failed modellers is some natural system that reaches a tipping point. So how about methane locked up in an ice-like material on the seafloor suddenly becoming unstable? That’s a good one now that the CO2 thing is waning. Unfortunately for the modellers, outside of foul language and general attention getting stridency, there is no sign of a runaway meltdown as most of the methane dissolves in the seawater long before it can bubble up to the surface. Very little of that methane actually makes it to the atmosphere. Or, as Dr. Box would say, “Fuck!”

    A natural component of the Earth, Methane has a number of sources, but one that has also caught the eye of White House regulators involves cow flatulence and belching. Yessiree, cow farts and burps!

    Happily, the White House has proposed cutting methane emissions from the dairy industry by 25% by 2020. The Environmental Protection Agency has been tracking cow farts since 2012 and now the dairy industry has to worry along with the oil and gas industry who release methane by fracking. The Bureau of Land Management will be announcing “new standards this fall to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands.” Lord knows what they have in mind for the befouling bottoms of the oceans! Can anyone say, ‘Good Grief’? And you wonder how the White House allowed the world to deteriorate into such a deplorable mess on their watch? Easy. They have been too busy with the farting and burping cows.

    No doubt the Greens and the rudderless White House have found a new target for attack, study, grants and more regulation. No doubt they can all afford to heat and cool their homes, keep their lights on and fuel their cars and trucks. Lucky them. After keeping the fuels in the ground can the oceans be far away?

    I guess my only question is what can possibly be next?

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