Burp Not!

May 2, 2014

arctic-x-section-350Overcast with some ground fog this early Friday on California’s north coast, and still a bit on the warm side.
Yesterday was another gorgeous outing — bright sunshine and way-‘hot’ temperatures, like maybe in the 70s.
And the weekend is near-about on us!

Also falling fast upon us is the coming end of the planet — part two of The Great Dying of long ago just might be right around the corner.

(Illustration found here)

One of the most-mysterious horrors of climate change is what’s called “methane seeps/leaks.” Not from natural gas wells, either, or cow farts, but bubbling up from melting permafrost in the Arctic, especially from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.
Now, remember, methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere for very long, but is 25 times more heavy than CO2 — and shit will soon be bubbling bad.

And that Great Dying mentioned above — which supposedly occurred about 250 million years ago — was a blow-out episode: It is the Earth’s most severe known extinction event, with up to 96 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct.
Until recently, what caused this blast was unknown: Some perpetrator — or perpetrators — committed murder on a scale unequaled in the history of the world. They left few clues to their identity, and they buried all the evidence under layers and layers of earth.
A couple of new research studies, however, indicate the culprit was, yep, methane.
More from Truth-Out:

The perpetrators, this new work suggests, were not asteroids, volcanoes, or raging coal fires, all of which have been implicated previously.
Rather, they were a form of microbes — specifically, methane-producing archaea called Methanosarcina — that suddenly bloomed explosively in the oceans, spewing prodigious amounts of methane into the atmosphere and dramatically changing the climate and the chemistry of the oceans.
Volcanoes are not entirely off the hook, according to this new scenario; they have simply been demoted to accessories to the crime.
The reason for the sudden, explosive growth of the microbes, new evidence shows, may have been their novel ability to use a rich source of organic carbon, aided by a sudden influx of a nutrient required for their growth: the element nickel, emitted by massive volcanism at just that time.

The mass kill off, known as the Permian extinction, had its roots in the volcanoes of the Siberian Traps.
The lava flows were so large they would have covered a land area larger than the United States.
The atmosphere remained poisoned for over 100,000 years.
The earth did not regenerate diverse life for another 30,000,000 years.
The length of time the atmosphere remained poisoned was a clue to the researchers that the volcanoes alone could not have caused the killing catastrophe.

Atmospheric methane in sufficient quantity is a real problem, greenhouse-wise.
The combined effect of the methane bomb and the resulting CO2 is what the MIT researchers say accounts for both the scale of the Great Dying and the 30-million-year recovery period.

[Methane hydrates] have also been proposed as major agents of climate change.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, ten times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
But the volume of this gas now in the atmosphere pales next to that currently sequestered in hydrates, estimated at ten thousand billion tons (about 3,000 times the amount of methane as the atmosphere).
Let that sink in.
The methane in the permafrost is 3000 times the amount of methane already in the atmosphere.
And don’t let that “ten times as effective at trapping heat” fool you.
That’s the average over 100 years.
Methane only lasts about 12 years before it’s gone.
When it starts out, before it breaks down, it’s likely a hundred times more effective than CO2.

And that be way-ugly.

And to continue this horror scenario, from yesterday’s Climate Central post on the subject:

As climate change melts Arctic permafrost and releases large amounts of methane into the atmosphere, it is creating a feedback loop that is “certain to trigger additional warming,” according to the lead scientist of a new study investigating Arctic methane emissions.
The study released this week examined 71 wetlands across the globe and found that melting permafrost is creating wetlands known as fens, which are unexpectedly emitting large quantities of methane.
Over a 100-year timeframe, methane is about 35 times as potent as a climate change-driving greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and over 20 years, it’s 84 times more potent.

But a spike in global methane concentrations in the atmosphere seen since 2007 can be traced back to the formation of fens in areas where permafrost once existed, according to the study, led by University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) biology professor Merritt Turetsky.

“Methane emissions are one example of a positive feedback between ecosystems and the climate system,” Turetsky said.
“The permafrost carbon feedback is one of the important and likely consequences of climate change, and it is certain to trigger additional warming.”
Warming and thawing permafrost stimulate methane release, which enhances the greenhouse effect, creating a feedback loop, she said.
“Even if we ceased all human emissions, permafrost would continue to thaw and release carbon into the atmosphere,” Turetsky said.
“Instead of reducing emissions, we currently are on track with the most dire scenario considered by the IPCC.
“There is no way to capture emissions from thawing permafrost as this carbon is released from soils across large regions of land in very remote spaces.”

Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goodard Institute for Space Studies in New York and not part of the study, said it’s too soon to draw conclusions about how much wetland methane emissions will impact global warming, though scientists widely agree that the amplified feedback is generally going to increase.
The paleo record shows that the Arctic was several degrees warmer during the last interglacial period 120,000 years ago, and there is no evidence of increased levels of methane in the atmosphere during that period, he said.
“It’s not to say at some point it won’t become an issue,” Schmidt said, adding that there is evidence of many “methane burps” across the globe in the very distant past.
“The planet is very capable of surprising us,” he said.

One does wonder, though, all this climate shit is not coming unexpectedly — James Hansen has been screaming about climate change for nearly 30 years, and….IPCC, and maybe a trillion scientific research studies.
Not a burp, but a spewing of full-blown chunks.

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