Thursday, October 31, 2013

Causes of high methane levels over Arctic Ocean

Methane levels in the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean are very high, as illustrated by the image below, by Leonid Yurganov, showing IASI methane readings for October 11-20, 2013.

Previous posts have discussed these high levels of methane, pointing at links between high methane levels over Arctic Ocean and earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Malcolm Light points at another factor that is contributing to the high methane levels observed over the Arctic Ocean in October 2013.

Malcolm says: The massive methane release in the Arctic this October is partly because the Gulf Stream waters got massive heating in the Atlantic off the North American coast in July. It takes the Gulf Stream currents almost 4 months to reach the emission sites along the southern side and end of the Eurasian Basin. This combined with the earthquake activity along the Gakkel Ridge and deep pyroclastic eruptions is escalating the rate of methane release by destabilizing the submarine Arctic methane hydrates at increasing rates.

The NOAA image below shows temperature anomalies for July 2013. NOAA adds that in July 2013 many regions were much warmer than average, with part of the northeastern Atlantic off the coast of North America observing record warmth.

The image below shows how water traveling along the Gulf Stream ends up in the Arctic Ocean. Water in the Gulf Stream travels at 4 miles per hour, but slows down to less than 1 mile per hour in the North-Atlantic Current. This means that water warmed up off Florida in July will start reaching waters beyond Svalbard in October.

The image below, from Malcolm Light's September 2012 post Further Confirmation of a Probable Arctic Sea Ice Loss by Late 2015, shows how warm water flows into the Arctic Ocean and warms up methane hydrates and free gas held in sediments under the Arctic Ocean.
 The image below shows the methane readings over the past few days on the Northern Hemisphere.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Greenland Sea hit by M5.3 Earthquake

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 on the Richter scale hit the Greenland Sea near Svalbard on October 28, 2013.

[ Earthquake indicated by orange dot - click on image to enlarge ]

For a long time, huge sea surface temperature anomalies have shown up in the area where the earthquake hit. The image below compares the situation before and after the earthquake hit.

[ click on image to enlarge ]

These huge sea surface temperature anomalies were discussed before, in the September 19, 2013, post Is the North Pole now ice-free?

This post mentions that sea surface temperatures in some spots close to Svalbard are far higher than even in the waters closer to the Atlantic Ocean. In some of these spots, sea surface temperatures are well over 10°C (50°F).

The post continues: Where does this heat come from? These hot spots could be caused by undersea volcanic activity; this is the more dangerous as this area has seen methane bubbling up from destabilized hydrates before; the dangers of this situation have been discussed repeatedly, e.g. in the April 2011 post Runaway Global Warming.

Indeed, the big danger is large abrupt release of methane from destabilized hydrates. At the moment, the amount of methane entering the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean is already huge, as illustrated by the image below that shows high methane readings over the past few days.

[ click on image to enlarge ]

We'll keep monitoring the situation.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Methane over Arctic Ocean is increasing

[ click on image to enlarge ]

Above image shows the Northern Hemisphere on October 26 - 27, 2013, a period of just over one day. Methane readings of 1950 ppb and higher show up in yellow. Peak reading on October 27, 2013, was 2369 ppb.

The image below, created by Harold Hensel with methanetracker, shows methane over the Arctic Ocean in three ranges, with the highest readings (1950 ppb and higher) in red.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
Harold adds: "Methane increased again in the Arctic Circle yesterday, 10/27/2013. So what were the headlines in the news? It wasn't this which is more important than anything the media has to report. This is surreal to me." - at Facebook


- The Unfolding Methane Catastrophe

- Methane hydrates

- Myths about methane hydrates

- High Methane Readings continue over Depth of Arctic Ocean

- Abrupt Climate Change

- Just do NOT tell them the monster exists

How Do We Act in the Face of Climate Chaos?

Guy McPherson

Guy R. McPherson is Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at University of Arizona.
Below are some (slighly edited) extracts from a post at Guy
McPherson's website: 
summary and update on climate change.

The Warning

As described by the United Nations Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases in 1990, temperature rise “beyond 1 degree C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage”.

We’ve clearly triggered the types of positive feedbacks the United Nations warned about in 1990. Yet my colleagues and acquaintances think we can and will work our way out of this horrific mess with permaculture (which is not to denigrate permaculture, the principles of which are implemented at the mud hut). Reforestation doesn’t come close to overcoming combustion of fossil fuels, as pointed out in the 30 May 2013 issue of Nature Climate Change. Furthermore, forested ecosystems do not sequester additional carbon dioxide as it increases in the atmosphere, as disappointingly explained in the 6 August 2013 issue of New Phytologist.

Here’s the bottom line: On a planet 4 C hotter than baseline, all we can prepare for is human extinction (from Oliver Tickell’s 2008 synthesis in the Guardian).

John Davies concludes: “The world is probably at the start of a runaway Greenhouse Event which will end most human life on Earth before 2040.” He considers only atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, not the many self-reinforcing feedback loops described below. 

Positive feedbacks
Positive feedbacks
Methane hydrates are bubbling out the Arctic Ocean (Science, March 2010). According to NASA’s CARVE project, these plumes were up to 150 kilometers across as of mid-July 2013. Whereas Malcolm Light’s 9 February 2012 forecast of extinction of all life on Earth by the middle of this century appears premature because his conclusion of exponential methane release during summer 2011 was based on data subsequently revised and smoothed by U.S. government agencies, subsequent information — most notably from NASA’s CARVE project — indicates the grave potential for catastrophic release of methane. Catastrophically rapid release of methane in the Arctic is further supported by Nafeez Ahmed’s thorough analysis in the 5 August 2013 issue of the Guardian as well as Natalia Shakhova’s 29 July 2013 interview with Nick Breeze (note the look of abject despair at the eight-minute mark).
Warm Atlantic water is defrosting the Arctic as it shoots through the Fram Strait (Science, January 2011).
Siberian methane vents have increased in size from less than a meter across in the summer of 2010 to about a kilometer across in 2011 (Tellus, February 2011)
Drought in the Amazon triggered the release of more carbon than the United States in 2010 (Science, February 2011). In addition, ongoing deforestation in the region is driving declines in precipitation at a rate much faster than long thought, as reported in the 19 July 2013 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
Peat in the world’s boreal forests is decomposing at an astonishing rate (Nature Communications, November 2011)
Invasion of tall shrubs warms the soil, hence destabilizes the permafrost (Environmental Research Letters, March 2012)
Methane is being released from the Antarctic, too (Nature, August 2012). According to a paper in the 24 July 2013 issue of Scientific Reports, melt rate in the Antarctic has caught up to the Arctic.
Russian forest and bog fires are growing (NASA, August 2012), a phenomenon consequently apparent throughout the northern hemisphere (Nature Communications, July 2013). The New York Times reports hotter, drier conditions leading to huge fires in western North America as the “new normal” in their 1 July 2013 issue. A paper in the 22 July 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates boreal forests are burning at a rate exceeding that of the last 10,000 years.
Cracking of glaciers accelerates in the presence of increased carbon dioxide(Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, October 2012)
The microbes have joined the party, too, according to a paper in the 23 February 2013 issue of New Scientist
Summer ice melt in Antarctica is at its highest level in a thousand years: Summer ice in the Antarctic is melting 10 times quicker than it was 600 years ago, with the most rapid melt occurring in the last 50 years (Nature Geoscience, April 2013). Although scientists have long expressed concern about the instability of the West Atlantic Ice Sheet (WAIS), a research paper published in the 28 August 2013 of Nature indicates the East Atlantic Ice Sheet (EAIS) has undergone rapid changes in the past five decades. The latter is the world’s largest ice sheet and was previously thought to be at little risk from climate change. But it has undergone rapid changes in the past five decades, signaling a potential threat to global sea levels. The EAIS holds enough water to raise sea levels more than 50 meters.
Surface meltwater draining through cracks in an ice sheet can warm the sheet from the inside, softening the ice and letting it flow faster, according to a study accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface (July 2013). It appears a Heinrich Event has been triggered in Greenland. Consider the description of such an event as provided by Robert Scribbler on 8 August 2013:
In a Heinrich Event, the melt forces eventually reach a tipping point. The warmer water has greatly softened the ice sheet. Floods of water flow out beneath the ice. Ice ponds grow into great lakes that may spill out both over top of the ice and underneath it. Large ice damns (sic) may or may not start to form. All through this time ice motion and melt is accelerating. Finally, a major tipping point is reached and in a single large event or ongoing series of such events, a massive surge of water and ice flush outward as the ice sheet enters an entirely chaotic state. Tsunamis of melt water rush out bearing their vast floatillas (sic) of ice burgs (sic), greatly contributing to sea level rise. And that’s when the weather really starts to get nasty. In the case of Greenland, the firing line for such events is the entire North Atlantic and, ultimately the Northern Hemisphere.
Breakdown of the thermohaline conveyor belt is happening in the Antarctic as well as the Arctic, thus leading to melting of Antarctic permafrost (Scientific Reports, July 2013)
Loss of Arctic sea ice is reducing the temperature gradient between the poles and the equator, thus causing the jet stream to slow and meander. One result is the creation of weather blocks such as the recent very high temperatures in Alaska. As aresultboreal peat dries and catches fire like a coal seam. The resulting soot enters the atmosphere to fall again, coating the ice surface elsewhere, thus reducing albedo and hastening the melting of ice. Each of these individual phenomena has been reported, albeit rarely, but to my knowledge the dots have not been connected beyond this space. The inability or unwillingness of the media to connect two dots is not surprising, and has been routinely reported (recently including here with respect to climate change and wildfires) (July 2013)
Earthquakes trigger methane release, and consequent warming of the planet triggers earthquakes, as reported by Sam Carana at Arctic-news (October 2013)
Arctic drilling was fast-tracked by the Obama administration during the summer of 2012
Supertankers are taking advantage of the slushy Arctic, demonstrating that every catastrophe represents a business opportunity, as pointed out by Professor of journalism Michael I. Niman and picked up by Truthout (ArtVoice, September 2013)
As nearly as I can distinguish, only the latter feedback process is reversible at a temporal scale relevant to our species. Once you pull the tab on the can of beer, there’s no keeping the carbon dioxide from bubbling up and out. These feedbacks are not additive, they are multiplicative. Now that we’ve entered the era of expensive oil, I can’t imagine we’ll voluntarily terminate the process of drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic (or anywhere else). Nor will we willingly forgo a few dollars by failing to take advantage of the long-sought Northwest Passage.

Robin Westenra provides an assessment of these positive feedbacks at Seemorerocks on 14 July 2013. It’s worth a look.

Earth-system scientist Clive Hamilton concludes in his April 2013 book Earthmasters that “without [atmospheric sulphates associated with industrial activity] … Earth would be an extra 1.1 C warmer.” In other words, collapse takes us directly to 2 C within a matter of weeks. 

Several other academic scientists have concluded, in the refereed journal literature no less, that the 2 C mark is essentially impossible (for example, see the review paper by Mark New and colleagues published in the 29 November 2010 issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A). 

The German Institute for International and Security Affairs concluded 2 June 2013 that a 2 C rise in global-average temperature is no longer feasible (and Spiegel agrees, finally, in their 7 June 2013 issue), while the ultra-conservative International Energy Agency concludes that, “coal will nearly overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017 … without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.” 

Image from: The two epochs of Marcott, by Jos Hagelaars

At the 11:20 mark of this video, climate scientist Paul Beckwith indicates Earth could warm by 6 C within a decade. 

If you think his view is extreme, consider: 
  1. the 5 C rise in global-average temperature 55 million years ago during a span of 13 years (reported in the 1 October 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences); and also 
  2. the reconstruction of regional and global temperature for the past 11,300 years published in Science in March 2013. One result is shown in the above figure.

How Do We Act in the Face of Climate Chaos?

Below is a video of a recent presentation by Guy McPherson. 

Presentation by Guy McPherson in Boulder, Colorado on October 16, 2013.

Below are some extracts from the video, again slightly edited.

Malcolm Light in 2012 concluded, based on data from NOAA and NASA, that methane release had gone exponential and was leading to the demise of all life on Earth, not just human extinction, by the middle of the century.

So 3.5 C to 4 C is almost certainly a death sentence for all human beings on the planet, not because it'll be a warmer planet, but because the warming of the planet will remove all habitat for human beings. Ultimately we're human animals like other animals, we need habitat to survive.

Changes we see in three or four decades happen as a result of what we do today. There's a huge lag between our actions today in the consequences down the road in terms of the Earth's planetary systems.

Without plankton in the ocean, there goes roughly half the global food supply. The ability to lose land plants is growing rapidly and there goes the other half for the food supply for human beings. If we have up to 5 C by 2050, that'll certainly do the trick.

Why is this happening? It's civilization that drove us into population overshoot. We cannot go back anymore since 1939, since we invented nuclear armageddon. There's no going back. If we ceased the set of living arrangements at this point, the world's 400 or so nuclear power plants melt down catastrophically and we're all dead in a month. We cannot terminate industrial civilization until we decommission all nuclear power plants. It takes at least 20 years to decommission a nuclear power plant.

The bad news is that means that the world's four hundred or so nuclear power plants meltdown catastrophically in a short period of time. Fukushima represent a major threat to humanity. If they fail in moving the spent fuel rods next month, according to nuclear researcher Christina Consola, if one of those MOX fuel rods is exposed to the air, one of the 1565, it will kill 2.89 billion people on the planet in a matter of weeks, so nuclear catastrophe is right there on the horizon. 

People ask me: Why are you presenting this horrible information?

Action is the antidote to despair even if the action is hopeless. When a medical doctor knows that somebody has cancer, it's malpractice if they don't tell that. So I'm doing that. I think Bill McKibben and James Hansen and a whole bunch of climate scientists are guilty of malpractice. Because they know what I know. Almost every politician in the country knows what I know. All the leaders of the big banks know what I know. And they're lying to us.

I'm just presenting the information from other scientists here. I'm trying to the widest extent possible not to infuse my opinion in the situation. It's John Davies who on September 20, 2013, taking into account only carbon dioxide, says there will be few people left on the planet by 2040. It's Malcolm Light, writing in February 2012, who assesses the methane situation. And so on.

Yes, I agree with them, and that agreement is illustrated by me showing you that information.

I promote resistance against this omnicidal culture, not in the hope that it will save our species, but in the hope that it will save other species. Because as E.O. Wilson, biologist at Harvard, points out, it only takes 10 million years after a great extinction event, before you have a blossoming full rich planet again. That's what we're working toward. We're saving habitat for other species at this point.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Earthquake hits waters off Japan

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale hit the waters 231 miles (371 kilometers) east of Japan on October 25, 2013, reports, adding that the quake prompted an evacuation at the devastated Fukushima Daiichi plant and that strong tremors could be felt on Japan’s main Honshu Island, as well as on the northern island of Hokkaido. reported the quake as having a magnitude of 7.1 followed up by several smaller quakes, as indicated on the image below, which also indicates the location of Fukushima.

[ click to enlarge ]

The image below shows that methane readings of 1950+ were recorded on and around the location where the earthquake hit. The image merely shows methane that did enter the atmosphere. More methane will have escaped from the seabed, but much of it will have oxidized in the water.

The occurence of this earthquake is very worrying, due to the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It is also relevant to the situation in the Laptev Sea, north of Siberia, for a number of reasons, including: 
  1. As the above image clearly shows, earthquakes can trigger methane releases from the seabed, as previously discussed in the post Methane Release caused by Earthquakes.
  2. Global warming is contributing to the occurance of earthquakes. For years, geophysical hazard specialist Bill McGuire has studied this impact of global warming, in particular the Earth's crust bouncing and bending in response to the melting of the great ice sheets and the filling of the ocean basins—dramatic geophysical events that triggered earthquakes, spawned tsunamis, and provoked a series of eruptions from the world's volcanoes. Bill McGuire warns that staggering volumes of melt water poured into the ocean basins, warping and bending the crust around their margins. The resulting tossing and turning provoked a huge resurgence in volcanic activity, seismic shocks, and monstrous landslides—the last both above the waves and below.

    According to calculations posted by Doyle Doss in January 2012, the increase in weight of the Pacific Ocean over the last 50 years due to freshly introduced water from land ice melt is 10 Trillion 331 Billion 125 Million 200 Thousand TONS. In conclusion, global warming is making methane releases triggered by seismic activity worse. 
  3. The fault lines around Japan are interconnected with other fault lines, as illustrated by the image below, from the post High Methane Levels over Laptev Sea, showing methane readings on October 20, 2013 pm. Earthquakes can trigger further earthquakes, especially along the same or interconnected fault lines. 

The image below shows methane readings on October 25, 2013 pm, indicating that high methane readings continue to be recorded over the Laptev Sea.

[ click to enlarge ]
The above image also shows that the Laptev Sea was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.6 on the Richter scale on September 28, 2013. Earlier, on August 7 and on September 9, earthquakes with similar magnitudes had hit the Laptev Sea closer to land, as described in the post Earthquake hits Laptev Sea.

For more than a month, large amounts of methane have been present over the Arctic Ocean, in particular over the Gakkel Ridge and, more recently, also over the Laptev Rift.

Sediments under the Arctic Ocean contain huge amounts of methane in the form of hydrates and free gas. Some areas, such as the Gakkel Ridge and the Laptev Rift are prone to earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides, as they are part of a tectonic fault line that crosses the Arctic Ocean.

The danger is that, as the permafrost retreats and the snow and ice cover declines rapidly, methane in the Arctic is on the brink of being released abruptly and in large quantities from the seabed. A single earthquake, perhaps even outside of the Arctic Ocean could set this off. There are many more factors that influence seismic activity, such as the position of sun, moon and stars, and the depth at which seismic activity occurs, as tremors can be felt far away from earthquakes that occur at greater depth. Anyway, the danger is that earthquakes will trigger abrupt release of methane from the seabed of the Arctic Ocean, and since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, such a release could further accelerate local warming, triggering further destabilization of methane in the seabed, escalating into abrupt climate change across the globe.

The depth of the seabed is also important in this regard, since shallow seas can warm up rapidly, while methane that escapes from the seabed has less chance to get oxidized in shallow seas. Large parts of the Arctic Ocean are very shallow, in particular the Laptev Sea, as further descibed in the post methane hydrates.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Epic Methane Releases from East Siberian Arctic Shelf

By Harold Hensel

[ click to enlarge ]

This is epic! Keep watching the Laptev and East Siberian Sea. This is a very dangerous place for methane to come up. Huge amounts of methane hydrates are stored below. They have been frozen there safely for over 10,000 years.

We are witnessing the thawing and large release of methane from this area for the first time in over 10,000 years. The fear is that at a critical point there may be a catastrophic sudden burst of methane from this area. This would more than likely trigger runaway global warming.

We could be watching the beginnings of this. If the red on the 1750 ppb and the yellow on the 1950 ppb setting on the keeps spreading and intensifies, we are watching it happen. I hope this is an anomaly and these areas return to little or no activity.

Harold Hensel is at Facebook as

Are Alberta’s Tar Sands prepared for a torrential rain event?

by Paul Beckwith

In recent months we have endured incredible tropical-equatorial-like torrential rain events occurring at mid-latitudes across the planet. For example, in North America we experienced intense rainfall in the Banff region of the Rockies from June 19th to 24th and the enormous volume of water moved downhill through the river systems taking out small towns and running into the heart of Calgary where it caused $5.3 billion dollars of infrastructure damage; the largest in Canadian history.

Next, it was Toronto’s turn, with 75 mm of rain falling from 5 to 6pm on July 8 (with up to 150 mm overall in some regions) leading to widespread flooding and $1.45 billion dollars in damages. As bad as these events were, they were dwarfed by the intense rainfalls hitting the state of Colorado from Sept 9th to 15th.

Rainfall amounts that would normally fall over 6 months to a year were experienced in less than a week. Widespread flash floods, landslides, and torrents of water ripped apart roads, fracking equipment and pipelines on (at least) hundreds of fossil fuel sites (mostly ignored by mainstream media) ( The level of destruction was simply horrifying, as captured by a man with a plane and a camera. But we have no grounds for complaint, since the widespread flooding in central Europe from May 30th to June 6th caused a much larger $22 billion in damages.

So what is happening? Why are we experiencing so many of these severe weather flooding events that are supposed to only occur every 1000 years or so? Will they keep occurring? What city will be hit next? Can the Alberta tar sands be hit by such an event? What would be the implications?

Abrupt Climate Change In Real-Time

Humans have benefited greatly from a stable climate for the last 11,000 years - roughly 400 generations. Not anymore. We now face an angry climate. One that we have poked in the eye with our fossil fuel stick and awakened. Now we must deal with the consequences. We must set aside our differences and prepare for what we can no longer avoid. And that is massive disruption to our civilizations.

In a nutshell, the logical chain of events occurring is as follows:
  1. Greenhouse gases that humans are putting into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels are trappingextra heat in the earth system (distributed between the oceans (93%), the cryosphere (glaciers, ice sheets, sea ice for 3%), the earth surface (rocks, vegetation, etc. for 3%) and the atmosphere (only an amazingly low 1%). The oceans clearly get the lions share of the energy, and if that 1% heating the atmosphere varies there can be decades of higher or lower warming, as we have seen recently. This water vapor rises and cools condensing into clouds and releasing its stored latent heat which is increasing storm intensity.
  2. (i)Rapidly declining Arctic sea ice (losing about 12% of volume per decade) and (ii)snow cover (losing about 22% of coverage in June per decade) and (iii)darkening of Greenland all cause more solar absorption on the surface and thus amplified Arctic warming (global temperatures have increased (on average) about 0.17oC per decade, the Arctic has increased > 1oC per decade, or about 6x faster)
  3. Equator-to-Arctic temperature difference is thus decreasing rapidly
  4. Less heat transfer occurs from equator to pole (via atmosphere, and thus jet streams become streakier and wavier and slower in west-to-east direction, and via ocean currents (like Gulf Stream, which slows and overruns continental shelf on Eastern seaboard of U.S.)
  5. Storms (guided by jet streams) are slower and sticking and with more water content are dumping huge torrential rain quantities on cities and widespread regions at higher latitudes than is “normal”.
  6. A relatively rare meteorological event called an “atmospheric river” is now much more common, and injects huge quantities of water over several days to specific regions, such as Banff (with water running downhill to Calgary) and Toronto and Colorado events.
It is well past the time that politicians and governments need to act to address these issues. This breakdown of the global atmospheric circulation pattern is well underway now, with a global average temperature only 0.8oC above the pre-industrial revolution levels. With extreme weather events this terrible now, it is highly irrational, in fact reckless, to continue to have global meetings and discussions about whether or not 2oC is safe. Only 0.8oC is wreaking havoc on global infrastructure today. As climate change proceeds and accelerates and we move further from the stable state that we are familiar with (“old climate”) to a much warmer world (“new climate”) we will experience worsening weather extremes and a huge “whiplashing” of events (throughout our present “transition period”).

For a notion of whiplashing, consider the Mississippi River. There were record river flow rates from high river basin rainfall in 2011, followed by record drought and record low river water levels in December, 2012 making it necessary for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to hydraulically break apart rock on the riverbed to keep the countries vital economic transportation link open to barge traffic. Then, 6 months later, the river was back up to record levels. Incredible swings of fortune.

Mitigation at a global level is dysfunctional and inadequate

Adaption has not worked out too well for Calgary, or Toronto, or Colorado, or numerous other places. Let us not be surprised when a similar torrential rain event hits Ottawa, or Vancouver, or even the Alberta tar sand tailing ponds. In Alberta, tailings ponds would be breached and the toxic waters would overflow the Athabasca River and carry the pollutants up into the north to exit into the Arctic Ocean. Such an event would be catastrophic to the environment and economy of Canada.

How can this risk be ignored? Will the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report AR5 released on September 27th once again be ignored by society?

Paul Beckwith is a part-time professor with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology, department of geography, University of Ottawa. He teaches second year climatology/meteorology. His PhD research topic is “Abrupt climate change in the past and present.” He holds an M.Sc. in laser physics and a B.Eng. in engineering physics and reached the rank of chess master in a previous life.

Monday, October 21, 2013

High Methane Levels over Laptev Sea

A major fault line crosses the Arctic Ocean, forming the boundery between two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. These plates slowly diverge, creating seismic tension along the fault line.

From where the Mid-Atlantic ridge enters the Arctic Ocean, it is called the Gakkel Ridge. The fault continues as the Laptev Sea Rift, on to a transitional deformation zone in the Chersky Range in Siberia, then the Ulakhan Fault between the North American Plate and the Okhotsk Plate, and then continues as the Aleutian Trench to the end of the Queen Charlotte Fault system.

Above map shows the location of some of the main points of interest, i.e. the Laptev Sea Rift and the Gakkel Ridge, where high methane readings have been recorded recently, as shown in the image below. Indicated in yellow are all methane readings of 1950 ppb and over, for a period of just over one day, October 19 - 20, 2013.  

To pointpoint more closely where methane is venting along the Laptev Sea Rift, the image below gives readings for October 20, 2013, pm, at just three altitudes (607 - 650 mb). 

This is a very dangerous situation, since high levels of methane have been recorded over the Arctic Ocean for more than a month now. Furthermore, large amounts of methane have vented in the Laptev Sea area in previous years. Added below is an edited part of a previous post, Unfolding Climate Catastrophe

In September 2005, extremely high concentrations of methane (over 8000 ppb, see image on the right) were measured in the atmospheric layer above the sea surface of the East Siberian Shelf, along with anomalously high concentrations of dissolved methane in the water column (up to 560 nM, or 12000% of super saturation).

The authors conclude: "Since the area of geological disjunctives (fault zones, tectonically and seismically active areas) within the Siberian Arctic shelf composes not less than 1-2% of the total area and area of open taliks (area of melt through permafrost), acting as a pathway for methane escape within the Siberian Arctic shelf reaches up to 5-10% of the total area, we consider release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time".

In 2007, concentrations of dissolved methane in the water column reached a level of over 5141 nM at a location in the Laptev Sea. For more background, see the previous post, Unfolding Climate Catastrophe

Satellite measurements show methane readings of up to 2411 ppb on October 20, 2013. Sadly, no current data are available from measurements in the Laptev Sea, neither methane levels in the water, nor atmospheric methane levels just above sea level. Perhaps in time, some data will become available from expeditions.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Methane presence over Arctic Ocean continues

The image on the right, created with IPCC data, shows that methane levels have risen even stronger than levels of two other greenhouse gases, i.e. carbon doxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

Methane levels have risen strongly over the past few years, especially over the Arctic.

Previous posts at this blog have illustrated that, from early October 2013, high methane readings have shown up persistently over the depths of the Arctic Ocean.

The persistence of these readings indicates that this methane wasn't blown there from elsewhere. Furthermore, the presence of methane appears to line up closely with the fault line that crosses the Arctic Ocean and extends into Siberia and further into the Sea of Okhotsk.

The latest data show a continuation of this worrying methane presence over the Arctic Ocean.

On October 18, 2013, readings of up to 2426 ppb were recorded. As the above image shows, high peak readings have occurred over the past few months. Currently, however, high readings can be more clearly attributed to methane venting from the depths of the Arctic Ocean. On the image below, methane shows up very prominently over the Arctic Ocean.

For more background, see posts below.


- The Unfolding Methane Catastrophe

- Methane hydrates

- Myths about methane hydrates

Friday, October 18, 2013

Unfolding Methane Catastrophe

The above image shows that, over a period of less than two days, huge amounts of methane show up over the depth of the Arctic Ocean, especially along the fault line that crosses the Arctic Ocean and extends into Siberia and further into the Sea of Okhotsk. On October 17, 2013, readings of up to 2351 ppb were recorded.

The above image shows that such high readings have occurred before over the past few months. This time, however, this high reading can be more clearly attributed to methane escaping from the depth of the Arctic Ocean, as also indicated by the image below that shows that at 469 mb (i.e. the altitude at which this high reading was recorded on the afternoon of October 17) methane was predominantly present at higher northern latitudes.

The methane that appears over the depth of the Arctic Ocean is likely have traveled a long path through the vertical water column before entering the atmosphere. Clearly, some of the methane must have oxidized in the ocean. Therefore, methane must be escaping from the seabed in amounts far higher than what is visible in the air.

Below follows some history regarding this unfolding methane catastrophe. Note that methane concentrations in the water are measured in nM, while methane concentrations in the atmosphere are typically measured in parts per billion (ppb).

There are vast amounts of methane in sediments underneath the Arctic Ocean.  Natalia Shakhova et al. (2010) estimate the accumulated potential for the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) region alone (image on the right) as follows:
  • organic carbon in permafrost of about 500 Gt
  • about 1000 Gt in hydrate deposits
  • about 700 Gt in free gas beneath the gas hydrate stability zone.8
Natalia Shakhova et al. (2008) consider release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time. By comparison, the total amount of methane currently in the atmosphere is about 5 Gt.3

The danger that volcanic and earthquake activity along the Gakkel Ridge could lead to destabilization and abrupt methane release into the atmosphere was highlighted by Light and Sorana back in 2002.1

Measurements taken in September 2003 and September 2004 show that the surface layer of shelf water in the East-Siberian Sea and Laptev Sea was supersaturated up to 2500% relative to the present average atmospheric methane content of 1.85 ppm. Anomalously high concentrations (up to 154 nM or 4400% supersaturation) of dissolved methane in the bottom layer of shelf water suggest that the bottom layer is somehow affected by near-bottom sources. Considering the possible formation mechanisms of such plumes, we favor thermo-abrasion and the effects of shallow gas or gas hydrates release, conclude the authors of this study, published in 2005.2

In September 2005, extremely high concentrations of methane (up to 8 ppm) were measured in the atmospheric layer above the sea surface of the East Siberian Shelf, along with anomalously high concentrations of dissolved methane in the water column (up to 560 nM, or 12000% of super saturation).3

The authors conclude: "Since the area of geological disjunctives (fault zones, tectonically and seismically active areas) within the Siberian Arctic shelf composes not less than 1-2% of the total area and area of open taliks (area of melt through permafrost), acting as a pathway for methane escape within the Siberian Arctic shelf reaches up to 5-10% of the total area, we consider release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time. That may cause ∼12-times increase of modern atmospheric methane burden with consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming".3

In 2007, concentrations of dissolved methane in the water column reached a level of over 5141 nM at a location in the Laptev Sea.4

A study published in 2008 found volcanoes up to 2,000 m in diameter and a few hundred metres high at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, at Gakkel Ridge.5

End September 2011, a cluster of methane plumes, over one km in diameter, appeared in the Laptev Sea, as shown on the image below, from a paper on the unfolding "Methane Catastrophe".6

In early October 2013, high atmospheric levels of methane started to appear over the depth of the Arctic Ocean.9  See image at top for most recent readings.


1. Arctic Methane Hydrates: A Potential Greenhouse Gas Hazard. - Light, M.P.R. and Solana, C. (2002)
For more details, see also

2. The distribution of methane on the Siberian Arctic shelves: Implications for the marine methane cycle. - Natalia Shakhova, Igor Semiletov and Gleb Panteleev (2005)

3. Anomalies of methane in the atmosphere over the East Siberian shelf: Is there any sign of methane leakage from shallow shelf hydrates? - N. Shakhova, I. Semiletov, A. Salyuk and D. Kosmach (2008)

4. Siberian Sea Shelf Study, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks

5. Explosive volcanism on the ultraslow-spreading Gakkel ridge, Arctic Ocean. - Sohn RA et al. (2008)

6. The Degradation of Submarine Permafrost and the Destruction of Hydrates on the Shelf of East Arctic Seas as a Potential Cause of the “Methane Catastrophe”: Some Results of Integrated Studies in 2011. - V. I. Sergienko et al., in Oceanology (Sept. 2012)

7. On carbon transport and fate in the East Siberian Arctic land–shelf–atmosphere system. - Semiletov et al. (2012)

8. Methane release from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf and the Potential for Abrupt Climate Change. - Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov (2010), Presentation at Symposium, November 30, 2010

9. High Methane Readings continue over Depth of Arctic Ocean

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

High Methane Readings continue over Depth of Arctic Ocean

The image below contains 12 frames, with methane readings recorded over 12 days in the first half of October 2013.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
As discussed in earlier posts at this blog, high methane readings have been recorded recently over the depth of Arctic Ocean. Above image shows that these high readings are continuing. The image below shows that at 469 mb, the altitude at which the highest reading was recorded on the afternoon of October 13, methane shows up very prominently over the Arctic Ocean.

The fact that little methane shows up elsewhere indicates that methane is present at high levels, at times over 2200 ppb, over the depth of the Arctic Ocean, and that these high levels result from methane that originates from hydrates under the seabed.

The image below, with methane readings over the past few days (from October 12 10:00 pm to October 14 11:23 pm), shows high levels of methane over the depth of the Arctic Ocean.

The image below shows methane readings at 586 mb, the altitude at which the highest methane reading was recorded on the afternoon of October 14 (a reading of 2248 ppb). Again, methane is present very prominently over the depth of the Arctic Ocean.