Showing posts with label activity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label activity. Show all posts

Saturday, September 21, 2013

High Methane Readings over Arctic Ocean

The image below shows a lot of methane over the Arctic Ocean on September 19, 2013 (pm).

Very worrying are the high methane readings close to Gakkel Ridge, the divergent fault line at the center of the Arctic Ocean, as earlier discussed in the post Methane Release caused by Earthquakes.

Furthermore very worrying are the high methane readings in between Greenland and Novaya Zemlya that coincide with high sea surface temperatures in that area. As discussed in the earlier post Is the North Pole no ice-free?, there are hot spots in the Arctic Ocean where sea surface temperatures are well over 10°C (50°F), which could be caused by undersea volcanic activity; this is the more dangerous as the area has seen methane bubbling up from destabilized hydrates.

For reference, images are added below of sea surface temperatures (top) and sea surface temperature anomalies (underneath) for September 19, 2013, showing sea surface temperatures recorded close to Svalbard that are far higher than even in the waters closer to the Atlantic Ocean.

Also for reference, highest mean and peak methane readings up to September 19, 2013, are added below.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Methane Release caused by Earthquakes

Methane hydrates can become destabilized due to changes in temperature or pressure, as a result of earthquakes and shockwaves accompanying them, severe storms, volcanic activity, coastal collapse and landslides. As an example, an earthquake followed by methane release was discussed in the post Sea of Okhotsk a few months back. Such events can be both primed and triggered by global warming, particularly in the Arctic, as follows:
  • As more ice melts away on Greenland and more water runs off into the sea, there is less weight on the Earth’s crust under Greenland. The crust and mantle can bounce back during a large melt, an effect that is called 'isostatic rebound'. This rebound can not only trigger earthquakes and landslides, it can also suck up the magma in the Earth’s crust to the surface and trigger volcanic eruptions.
  • The added weight of water from melting glaciers stresses the Earth’s crust underneath the sea, which can cause earthquakes. This is especially the case for coastal waters, where the impact of the water that flows into the sea is huge, not only in terms of weight, but also in terms of the currents they cause. 
  • As the permafrost melts, mountain ranges, soil and submarine sediments all become less robust. Where the permafrost previously held things together, we can now expect more coastal collapse, avalanches and landslides, which can send shockwaves through the sea that in turn trigger earthquakes and hydrate destabilization.
  • Methane hydrates that are on the edge of stabilization can be disturbed by global warming in two additional ways, temperature and pressure: Warming of the Earth's crust as heat penetrates sediments on the seafloor. Thermal expansion of the Earth's crust means that the crust will expand slightly in volume, resulting in expansion of the cavity that holds the hydrates. 
  • Finally, there's the additional impact of methane itself. Permafrost previously kept methane stable in sediments. Methane converting from hydrates into free gas will expand some 160 times in volume; this explosive process can trigger further destabilization. Once released into the atmosphere, the methane has a huge local warming potential, adding to the threat that further methane releases will occur locally.   

Back in 2006, Bill McGuire said: "A particular worry is that this in turn will contribute to large-scale releases of methane gas from the solid gas hydrate deposits that are trapped in marine sediments. Gas hydrates have been identified around the margins of all the ocean basins, and outbursts of gas may occur as sea temperatures climb or as rising sea levels trigger underwater quakes in the vicinity."

For more than a decade, Malcolm Light, contributor to the Arctic-news blog, has been warning about the danger of methane hydrate destabilization due to earthquakes (see the poster at the bottom of the page on seismic activity).

With this in mind, let's take a look at the most recent picture of Earth.

September 13, 2013, 3am - Sep 14, 2013 1am    [ click on image to enlarge ]

The large number of yellow spots in the top left corner are related to the flooding in the Basin of the Amur River (Heilong Jiang). Such extreme weather events are becoming ever more prominent, due to global warming and the feedbacks such as methane releases. Similarly, extreme weather events such as droughts and heatwaves lead to wildfires that also produce large amounts of methane.

The image only shows the Northern Hemisphere, but on the Southern Hemisphere, high levels of methane have been recorded for a long time on Antarctica. While huge amounts of snow fall on Antartica, the amount of snow and ice that melts each year is even larger, widening the difference between the weight the snow and ice exercize between periods. This difference in weight could similarly cause rebounds of the Earth's crust, sucking up the magma and causing methane hydrates to be destabilized, as described in the earlier post Antarctic methane peaks at 2249 ppb.

The image also shows fault lines. Several yellow spots are present on the fault line over the Arctic, including some that point at the coast of Norway; they appear to be caused by seismic activity along the fault line, as discussed in the recent post Methane reaches 2571 ppb.

Meanwhile, methane readings peaked at 2416 ppb on September 14, 2013. Very worrying are also the high methane readings close to the Gakkel Ridge, the fault line at the center of the Arctic Ocean, and the spots closer to the Laptev Sea.

Finally, there are high readings along the Aleutian Islands, Alaska. The islands, with their 57 volcanoes, are in the northern part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and they have experienced a lot of seismic activity lately, including an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale on August 30, 2013, and several more recent earthquakes with a higher magnitude than 6 on the Richter scale.

[Editor: The images below, added September 24 and 26, 2013, show high methane releases at a spot just north of Greenland that was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5 on the Richter scale on September 1, 2013, as also discussed in the post Methane reaches 2571 ppb. The two bottom images also show the magnitude 5 earthquake that hit Russia on September 24, 2013.]

September 20, 2013, 11am - Sep 22, 2013 3pm    [ click on image to enlarge ]

Sept. 25, 2013 am - the orange spot just north of Greenland indicates a recent earthquake [ click on image to enlarge ]

Map specifying details of two recent earthquakes. Size of spots indicating earthquakes on the map is relative. [ click image to enlarge ]

References and related posts

- Climate Change: Tearing the Earth Apart, by Bill McGuire (2006)

- Seismic activity, by Malcolm Light and Sam Carana (2011)

- Thermal expansion of the Earth's crust necessitates geoengineering (2011)

- Runaway Warming (2011)

- Methane reaches 2571 ppb (2013)

- Sea of Okhotsk (2013)

- Is Global Warming breaking up the Integrity of the Permafrost? (2013)

- Antarctic methane peaks at 2249 ppb (2013)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Methane reaches 2571 ppb

Methane as recorded by IASI* reached levels of up to 2571 parts per billion (ppb) on September 11, 2013.

The image below shows the peak levels that have been reached recently, as well as the highest mean methane level for each day.

Where did the methane come from?

IASI data do not identify locations, other than that all locations where methane is present in concentrations higher than 1950 ppb show up in yellow.

Yet, there are some ways to further examine where these high levels came from. To create the top image, only four layers were selected. The yellow spots on the image show locations where methane is present at the selected layers (695-766 mb) at concentrations of 1950 ppb and higher. At these relatively low altitudes, yellow spots will show up at fewer locations than at some of the higher altitudes, yet one can assume that the largest sources will be included among those showing up; and indeed, peak methane levels at these altitudes ranged from 2193 ppb to 2328 ppb, which are extremely high levels.

On the top image, there are several locations that look suspicious, including a large spot north of the New Siberian Islands, while the Kara Sea and the Barents Sea, and many locations around Greenland all feature suspicious yellow spots.

Most worrying are the numerous spots clustered off the coast of Norway, which show up quite prominently at many altitudes. The situation is reminiscent of the Storegga Slides, the underwater landslides that occurred at the edge of Norway's continental shelf thousands of years ago. The latest incident occurred some 8,000 years ago.

Seismic Activity

Earthquakes can cause tremors over long distances, especially along fault lines.

There has been some seismic activity close to Greenland that could have triggered one or more landslides off the cost of Norway, since the fault line points that way. An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5 on the Richter scale occurred occured on September 1, 2013, 08:49:19 UTC, at a location 214km NE of Nord, Greenland, as illustrated by above image and the image below.

* IASI (Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer) is a hyperspectral infrared sounder residing on the European Space Agencys (ESA) MetOp series of polar orbiting satellites.