Sunday, September 9, 2012

High September 2012 methane levels

An earlier post reported average hourly methane measurements as high as 2500 ppb recorded at Barrow, Alaska. Sadly, hardly any further in situ measurements have been publicly released from Barrow since, as illustrated by the image below.

Flask measurements continue to be available and the five most recent measurements show levels well over 2000 ppb.

The image below shows methane levels over a period of three years, from August 1, 2008, to August 1, 2011.

The image below shows methane levels over a period of a more recent year, from August 1, 2011, to August 1, 2012. There is a marked increase of methane at higher latitudes, compared to the earlier three years.

The image below shows methane levels in August 2012, with high levels showing up at many places. 

The image below shows the most recent methane level measurements available, from September 1, 2012, to September 7, 2012. High levels of methane show up at even more places, such as in the Arctic to the north of North America.

Around this time of year, there will typically be a lot of methane at many locations on the Northern Hemisphere. The image below allows a comparison of the 2012 period with the same period last year. In early September 2011, there was not quite as much methane as there now is north of Alaska, in Greenland and along the Siberian coast. There was a lot of methane in China last year in this period in 2011, though, and the situation appears to have improved somewhat this year.

To compare things further, an image is added below showing methane levels during the same period in 2010.

Below are added images produced by Dr. Leonid Yurganov from IASA data. Note that the scales are slightly different. The images confirm the presence of high levels of methane in the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia. Further below a combination picture showing the significant rise of methane levels in that area between October 2008 and October 2011.

[click to enlarge]

The images highlight a number of concerns:
  1. Methane levels are rising over the years; 
  2. Methane levels are particularly high in the Arctic;  
  3. Very high levels of methane are recorded in the Arctic in the months September and October, the very period when Arctic sea ice is at its lowest; 
  4. Incidental measurements, such as at Barrow, add to concerns that levels can rise abruptly with significant amounts. 
Methane is more than 100 times as potent as a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide over 20 years, and even more potent over shorter periods. This makes methane a very powerful warming factor in the Arctic. While the Arctic is already warming more than three times as fast as the rest of the world, the sea ice still acts as a buffer to prevent even more acceleration of warming in the Arctic, but this situation will deteriorate dramatically as the sea ice disappears, as Professor Peter Wadhams recently described.

The big danger is that ferocious warming in the Arctic will trigger methane releases from hydrates and from free gas in sediments, which will further accelerate warming in the Arctic and further trigger methane releases, in a vicious circle set to spiral into runaway global warming unless action is taken to reduce the danger.


  1. CH4, methane concentration at N pt of Alaska may be being withheld from public release either due to an impending finding being worked on slowly by scientists for release who have by rights first crack at info before release.
    - or -
    That this, obviously is what's considered necessary for strategic national security interests of the United States to protect insatiable use of oil and surrounding financial pyramid scheme from data warning of runway CH4.
    It may very likely have something to do with drilling of oil opening up in the Arctic Sea..
    Barack and the Asian Pacific Nations including Russia and China are in agreement to prop up development and expansion of world prosperity come Hell or High Water and nothing can get in the way.. -Certainly not the allowing of public outcry a few air samples from Barrow may foster.

  2. Interesting post Sam. We've had 5 readings now from Barrow all above 2000 ppb. If this data is erroneous it sure is a long running error.

    Since you are so handy with Giovanni charts, if possible could you do a side by side comparison of global methane from Sept. 2008 versus Sept. 2012? Would be most interested in seeing such.

    1. Done, R., good idea to add further images. As I said at the post, the big danger is that accelerated warming in the Arctic will trigger ever more methane releases.

  3. Is the gridded data available? It would be most informative to create a baseline average of as many years as are available and then look at the anomalies as a function of time. That would make your case most strongly.

    1. There's no doubt that levels of both carbon dioxide and methane have been rising over the years, with the highest levels occurring in the Arctic. This was described in the post also linked to at the start of above post. Conclusion: these high levels are alarming and increase the danger that large amounts of methane will be released from hydrates and from free gas in sediments under the water. This danger is further increased by the many feedbacks, as depicted in the Diagram of Doom.

  4. Sam,

    Here a graphic produced by Yurganov that tells an interesting story of the acceleration in the growth of methane in the atmosphere beginning with the low sea ice year of 2007:


    Really quite startling.

    1. I've added a clickable link to that image. For a look at the many excellent images produced by Dr. Leonid Yurganov, go to this archive with methane images.

    2. Sam it looks for all intents and purpose a break over or break out of CH4 release began in approx 2007 (per link to 'that image'). This info would have been available to intelligence analysis and to US Cabinet member for Science chosen by Barack when he became President in 2009.
      The year he made somewhat conflicting delivery of speech to UN on global warming extreme danger of runaway and then showed up at Copenhagen Climate Summit late to put together final touches on non binding agreement to sort of get the Brick to nod along along with Wall Street gang and those of Shadow baking system including likely the Arab banking system of off book dealings..
      What about the little guys who had been working, working to try and get the financial world to recognize the need to connect business dealings into a mutually sustainable path forward within restriction of keeping Earth alive.. Who garnished the power monger with right of glossing over the peril the Earth is in.. What about the little guys who feel they could and still can get it done - that is keep Earth alive if given the chance to make changes at this critical time.. What hope do we have without the help of our President who we elected to make change.. What hope at all Mr President as you don't even mention the environment or allude to them, the little guys of Nature who made this world through open system and fight outs in nature all these years.. What future do the children have without change that redirects human enterprise worldwide to take on the task of Earth now.
      And to images of TV and illusion as of comment of Lem's work from 71.. Where Earth would be 4C cooler and brainwashed masses live in delusion.. The acceleration of heat increase is going to make time of crisis impossible to bear, even through paint of rose color glasses..
      -Who gave the rulers the intelligence services and global financial insiders the right to consult psychologists to see how to manipulate us.. Who gave the right of our future away for a few pennies in purse.

  5. Sam,

    "... vicious circle set to spiral into runaway global warming" you talk about is true, but two points are unclear about it:

    - speed of the process. Will it take few years, or decades, or centuries for methane "gun" to make the "shot"? Obviously, much depends on what answer is. I know it is difficult to qualitatively estimate it, but if you can do it at least approximatly, i'd be glad to see you writing about it;
    - assuming that Arctic methane releases would trigger _global_ runaway warming via spreading of athmospheric methane (powerful GHG) through/around whole Earth troposphere, - it's much desired to know how long it takes any given release of methane in Arctic to spread around the world significantly. Say, how long it takes for 50% of methane released somewhere within polar circle to be transported (by winds) to outside of polar circle (on average, of course)? It'd be great if you'd post in a bit of detail about this (and possibly about other mechanisms which make "local Arctic warming" being "direct driver of global warming", so to say).

    Sidenote. Data on methane in north polar region in 2012 is scarce at best... In several places i tried to get it, great detailed (sometimes daily!) measurements are available u pto ~2008, give or take, but not after. I got an impression that sources of this kind of data are intentionally stopped. I can imagine only one reason to stop updating sources about methane in Arctic: measurements went sky high, so high that it's both scary and completely obviously a disaster. In such a situation, scarce data which is being made available may well be fake, lowered to values which still look like "possible", but are far lower than real ones. Thus, may be one should be extra careful with methane data, Sam. While local peaks of 2.5k+ ppb CH4 is already big news no joke, it may well be that real big news - which we are kept from learning - is something like up to 4...10k ppb CH4 in some locations. Eh?

    F. Tnioli

    1. Once methane gets released in large quantities, it will be rather late to decide that action should be taken. The images should therefore constitute warnings that action now is imperative, not only given the rises of methane levels and the locations where they occur, but also because of the many feedbacks in the Arctic that can accelerate the increase in methane levels.

      The 'mixing' of methane in the atmosphere is an important point. Abrupt releases in the Arctic are highly concentrated and will take a long time to spread around the globe. Years after release, much of the methane can remain concentrated in the Arctic, with an extremely high local warming potential exacerbated by low levels of hydroxyl in the Arctic, triggering ever further methane releases from sediments that are covered by only very shallow waters.

      And yes, more measurements and analyses are desperately needed, from satellites, ground stations, aircraft, buoys, ships, submarines, wave gliders, etc.

  6. More measurements made - or more made public? Not the same thing, you know. I agree with the former (make more and more precise and systematic measurements, indeed!), but not nesessarily with the latter. Too long to explain why, but here's a hint: Stanislav Lem's "Futurological congress", the last parts of the book where Lem describes how and why chemicals were used to show people things which do not exist. Urge you to read whole book to get proper context though. Lem was the mind of epic proportions... May well be he foresaw decades ahead, and only now we start to learn the true meaning of this book of his.

    As for methane, here's today's temperature anomalies' map for Eurasia continent: . Check ESAS, it's lots of red there, and no ice for weeks in most of it, now. How much methane is going out there - i simply am shocked to assume. But logic is merciless thing... ><

    F. Tnioli