Showing posts with label permafrost. Show all posts
Showing posts with label permafrost. Show all posts

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The breach of the Paris Agreement

By Andrew Glikson
Earth and climate scientist
Australian National University

Since its inception the Paris Agreement has been in question due to, among other:
  • its broad definition, specifically holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels;
  • its non-binding nature; and 
  • accounting tricks by vested interests.
The goal assumes pre-determined limits can be placed on greenhouse gas levels and temperatures beyond which they would not continue to rise. Unfortunately these targets do not appear to take account of the amplifying positive feedback effects from land and oceans under the high cumulative greenhouse gas levels and their warming effects. Thus unfortunately the current high CO₂ levels of about 408 ppm and near-500ppm CO₂-equivalent (CO₂+methane+nitrous oxide) would likely continue to push temperatures upwards.

Significant climate science evidence appears to have been left out of the equation. The accord hinges on the need to reduce emissions, which is essential, but it does not indicate how further temperature rise can be avoided under the conditions of a high-CO₂ atmosphere, which triggers carbon release, unless massive efforts at sequestration (drawdown) of greenhouse gases are undertaken. Inherent in global warming are amplifying positive feedbacks, including albedo (reflection) decline due to the melting of ice and the opening of dark water surfaces, increased water vapor contents of the atmosphere in tropical regions which enhances the greenhouse effect, reduced sequestration of CO₂ by the warming oceans, desiccation of vegetation, fires, release of methane from permafrost and other processes. This means that even abrupt reductions in emissions may not be sufficient to stem global warming, unless accompanied by sequestration of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to a lower level, recommended as below 350 ppm CO₂ by James Hansen, the leading climate scientist.

The world is on track to produce 50% more fossil fuels than can be burned before reaching the limit prescribed by the Paris Agreement, with currently planned coal, oil and gas outputs making the Paris Agreement goal impossible. Projected fossil fuel production in 2030 being more than is consistent with 2°C, and 120% more than that for 1.5°C.

Unbelievably, according to the International Monetary Fund, “In 2017 the world subsidized fossil fuels by $5.2 trillion, equal to roughly 6.5% of global GDP”, which is more than the total the world spends on human health. Such subsidies cannot possibly be consistent with the Paris Agreement. The pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 by the G7 nations, with exceptions by the UK and Japan, may come too late as global CO₂ concentrations, already intersecting the stability limits of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, are rising at a rate of 2 to 3 ppm per year, the highest in many millions of years.

Despite the scientific consensus regarding the anthropogenic origin of global warming, the world’s biggest fossil fuel corporations are taking a defiant stance against warnings that reserves of coal, oil and gas are already several times larger than can be burned if the world’s governments are to meet their pledge to tackle climate change. ExxonMobil said new reserves in the Arctic and Canadian tar sands must be exploited. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, said global warming was “an environmental crisis predicted by flawed computer models”. Glencore Xstrata said that governments would fail to implement measures to cut carbon emissions. The World Bank and Bank of England have already warned of the “serious risk” climate action poses to trillions of dollars of fossil fuel assets.

Not to mention the risks to the living Earth and its billions of inhabitants!

The apparent neglect of scientific advice is not an isolated instance. It is not uncommon that climate reports are dominated by the views of economists, lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians, often overlooking the evidence presented by some of the world’s highest climate science authorities. Whereas the IPCC reports include excellent and comprehensive summaries of the peer-reviewed literature, the summaries for policy makers only partly represent the evidence and views of scientific authorities in the field, including those who have identified global warming in the first place.
Figure 2. from: James Hansen, data through June 2019

There exists a tendency in the media to report averages, such as average global temperature values, rather than the increasingly-common high zonal, regional and local anomalies.

For example, the annual mean global temperature rise of for 2018 is about one third the Arctic mean temperature rise (Fig. 2). Given that developments in the Arctic bear major consequences for climate change, the global mean  does not represent the seriousness of the climate crisis.

Another example is the way extremes weather events are reported as isolated instances, neglecting the rising frequency and intensity of hurricanes, storms, fires and droughts, indicated in frequency plots (Fig 3.).

Figure 3. Rise in geophysical, meteorological, hydrologocal and climatological events. Munich RE
It is not until international and national institutions take full account of what climate science is indicating that a true picture of the climate crisis will be communicated to the public.

Andrew Glikson
Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and climate scientist
Australian National University

- The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
- The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
- Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia
- Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
- The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
- Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
- From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence

Monday, September 10, 2018

Blue Ocean Event

Blue Ocean Event as part of four Arctic tipping points

What will be the consequences of a Blue Ocean Event, i.e. the disappearance of virtually all sea ice from the Arctic Ocean, as a result of the warming caused by people?

Paul Beckwith discusses some of the consequences in the video below. As long as the Arctic Ocean has sea ice, most sunlight gets reflected back into space and the 'Center-of-Coldness' remains near the North Pole, says Paul. With the decline of the sea ice, however, the 'Center-of-Coldness' will shift to the middle of Greenland. Accordingly, we can expect the jet streams to shift their center of rotation 17° southward, i.e. away from the North Pole towards Greenland, with profound consequences for our global weather patterns and climate system, for plants and animals, and for human civilization, e.g. our ability to grow food.

Also see Paul's video below, The Arctic Blue-Ocean-Event (BOE). When? Then What?

Changing Winds

As global warming continues, the additional energy in the atmosphere causes stronger winds and higher waves.

As the Arctic warms up faster than the rest of the world, the jet streams are getting more out of shape, exacerbating extreme weather events.

The image on the right shows the jet stream crisscrossing the Arctic Ocean on September 10, 2018, with cyclonic wind patterns all over the place.

On the image below, Typhoon Mangkhut is forecast to cause waves as high as 21.39 m or 70.2 ft on September 14, 2018.

The inset on above image shows Typhoon Mangkhut forecast to cause winds to reach speeds as high as 329 km/h or 205 mph at 700 hPa (green circle), while Hurricane Florence is forecast to hit the coast of North Carolina, and is followed by Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Helene in the Atlantic Ocean.

At 850 hPa, Typhoon Mangkhut reaches Instant Wind Power Density as high as 196.9 kW/m² on September 13, 2018, as illustrated by above image.

The situation is likely to get worse over the next few months, as this is only the start of the hurricane season and El Niño is strengthening, as illustrated by the image on the right.

The image below shows how the occurrence and strength of El Niño has increased over the decades.

Four Arctic Tipping Points

There are numerous feedbacks that speed up warming in the Arctic. In some cases, there are critical points beyond which huge changes will take place rather abruptly. In such cases, it makes sense to talk about tipping points.

1. The albedo tipping point

As Arctic sea ice gets thinner and thinner, a Blue Ocean Event looks more imminent every year. A Blue Ocean Event means that huge amounts of sunlight won't get reflected back into space anymore, as they previously were. Instead, the heat will have to be absorbed by the Arctic. 

At the other hemisphere, the sea ice around Antarctica is at its lowest extent for the time of the year, as illustrated by above image. Global sea ice extent is also at its lowest for the time of the year, as illustrated by the image below.

A Blue Ocean Event will not only mean that additional heat will have to be absorbed in the Arctic, but also that wind patterns will change radically and even more dramatically than they are already changing now, which will also make that other tipping points will be reached earlier. This is why a Blue Ocean Event is an important tipping point and it will likely be reached abruptly and disruptively.

2. The latent heat tipping point

Disappearance of the sea ice north of Greenland is important in this regard. The image on the right shows that most sea ice at the end of August 2018 was less than 1 meter thick.

The image below shows how the sea ice has been thinning recently north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island, an area once covered with the thickest multi-year sea ice. Disappearance of sea ice from this area indicates that we're close to or beyond the latent heat tipping point, i.e. the point where further ocean heat can no longer be consumed by the process of melting the sea ice.

[ The once-thickest sea ice has gone - click on images to enlarge ]
The amount of energy absorbed by melting ice is as much as it takes to heat an equivalent mass of water from zero to 80°C. Without sea ice, additional ocean heat will have to go somewhere else.

Above image shows how much sea surface temperatures in the Arctic have warmed, compared to 1961-1990. The image also shows the extent of the sea ice (white). In the image below, a large area has changed from sea ice to water twelve days later, showing how thin and fragile the sea ice is and how easily it can disappear as the water continues to warm.

As the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world, changes have been taking place to the jet streams on the Northern Hemisphere that make it easier for warm air and water to move into the Arctic. This means that warm water is increasingly entering the Arctic Ocean that can no longer be consumed by melting the sea ice from below.

Arctic sea ice extent has remained relatively large this year, since air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean have been relatively low in June and July 2018. At the same time, ocean heat keeps increasing, so a lot of heat is now accumulating underneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
3. Seafloor Methane Tipping Point

As said above, Arctic sea ice has been getting thinner dramatically over the years, and we are now near or beyond the latent heat tipping point.

[ The Buffer has gone, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page ]
This year, air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean were relatively low in June and July 2018, and this has kept Arctic sea ice extent larger than it would otherwise have been. As a result, a lot of heat has been accumulating underneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean and this heat cannot escape to the atmosphere and it can no longer be consumed by melting. Where will the heat go?

As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, more heat threatens to reach sediments at its seafloor that have until now remained frozen. Contained in these sediments are huge amounts of methane in the form of hydrates and free gas.

Melting of the ice in these sediments then threatens to unleash huge eruptions of seafloor methane that has been kept locked up in the permafrost for perhaps millions of years. Seafloor methane constitutes a third tipping point.

The image on the right features a trend based on WMO data. The trend shows that mean global methane levels could cross 1900 ppb in 2019.

Ominously, methane recently reached unprecedented levels. Peak levels as high as 3369 ppb on August 31, 2018, as shown by the image below on the right.

The next image on the right below shows that mean global levels were as high as 1905 ppb on September 3, 2018.

The third image below on the right may give a clue regarding the origin of these unprecedented levels.

More methane will further accelerate warming, especially in the Arctic, making that each of the tipping points will be reached earlier.

Less sea ice will on the one hand make that more heat can escape from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere, but on the other hand the albedo loss and the additional water vapor will at the same time cause the Arctic Ocean to absorb more heat, with the likely net effect being greater warming of the Arctic Ocean.

Additionally, more heat is radiated from sea ice into space than from open water (feedback #23).

How much warming could result from the decline of snow and ice cover in the Arctic?

As discussed, there will be albedo changes, there will be changes to the jet streams, and there will be further feedbacks, adding up to 1.6°C of additional global warming that could eventuate due to snow and ice decline and associated changes in the Arctic.

A further 1.1°C of warming or more could result from releases of seafloor methane over the next few years.

4. Terrestrial Permafrost Tipping Point

Additional warming of the Arctic will also result in further warming due to numerous feedbacks such as more water vapor getting into the atmosphere. Furthermore, more intense heatwaves can occur easier in the Arctic due to changes to jet streams. All this will further accelerate melting of the ice in lakes and in soils on land that was previously known as permafrost. This constitutes a fourth tipping point that threatens to add huge amounts of additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Until now, the permafrost was held together by ice. As the ice melts, organic material in the soil and at the bottom of lakes starts to decompose. The land also becomes increasingly vulnerable to landslides, sinkholes and wildfires. All his can result in releases of CO₂, CH₄, N₂O, soot, etc., which in turn causes further warming, specifically over the Arctic.

In total, a temperature rise of 10°C threatens to occur in as little as a few years time.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.


• Jet Stream Center-of-Rotation to Shift 17 degrees Southward from North Pole to Greenland with Arctic Blue Ocean Event

• It could be unbearably hot in many places within a few years time

• Feedbacks

• Latent Heat

• Albedo and more

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade

• How much warming have humans caused?

• The Threat

• Extinction

• Climate Plan

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Methane Threat

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are accelerating. As illustrated by the image below, a linear trend hardly catches the acceleration, while a polynomial trend does make a better fit. The polynomial trend points at CO₂ levels of 437 ppm by 2026.

EPA animation: more extreme heat
This worrying acceleration is taking place while energy-related have been virtually flat over the past few years, according to figures by the EIA and by the Global Carbon Project. So, what makes growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere accelerate? As earlier discussed in this and this post, growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere is accelerating due to continued deforestation and soil degradation, due to ever more extreme weather events and due to accelerating warming that is making oceans unable to further take up carbon dioxide.

Ocean warming is accelerating on the Northern Hemisphere, as illustrated by above image, and a warmer Atlantic Ocean will push ever warmer water into the Arctic Ocean, further speeding up the decline of the sea ice and of permafrost.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Loss of Northern Hemisphere snow cover is alarming, especially in July, as depicted in above image. The panel on the left shows snow cover on the Northern Hemisphere in three areas, i.e. Greenland, North America and Eurasia. The center panel shows North America and the right panel shows Eurasia. While Greenland is losing huge amounts of ice from melting glaciers, a lot of snow cover still remains present on Greenland, unlike the permafrost in North America and especially Eurasia, which has all but disappeared in July.

[ for original image, see 2011 AGU poster ]
Worryingly, the linear trend in the right panel points at zero snow cover in 2017, which should act as a warning that climate change could strike a lot faster than many may expect.

A recently-published study warns that permafrost loss is likely to be 4 million km² (about 1.5 million mi²) for each 1°C (1.8°F) temperature rise, about 20% higher than previous studies. Temperatures may well rise even faster, due to numerous self-reinforcing feedback loops that speed up the changes and due to interaction between the individual warming elements behind the changes.

[ Arctic sea ice, gone by Sept. 2017? ]
One of the feedbacks is albedo loss that speeds up warming in the Arctic, in turn making permafrost release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane.

Higher temperatures on land will make warmer water from rivers enter the Arctic Ocean and trigger wildfires resulting in huge emissions including black carbon that can settle on sea ice.

Given the speed at which many feedbacks and the interaction between warming elements can occur, Arctic sea ice volume may decline even more rapidly than the image on the right may suggest.
[ Record sea ice volume anomalies since end 2016 ]

Ominously, sea ice volume anomalies have been at record levels for time of year since end 2016 (Wipneus graph right, PIOMAS data).

As the Gulf Stream pushes warmer water into the Arctic Ocean, there will no longer be a large buffer of sea ice there to consume the heat, as was common for the entire human history.

Moreover, forecasts are that temperatures will keep rising throughout 2017 and beyond.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reports that seven of eight models indicate that sea surface temperatures will exceed El Niño thresholds during the second half of 2017.

The image on the right, by the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts), indicates an El Niño that is gaining strength.

For more than half a year now, global sea ice extent has been way below what it used to be, meaning that a huge amount of sunlight that was previously reflected back into space, is now instead getting absorbed by Earth, as the graph below shows.
[ Graph by Wipneus ]
Where can all this extra heat go? Sea ice will start sealing off much of the surface of the Arctic Ocean by the end of September 2017, making it hard for more heat to escape from the Arctic Ocean by entering the atmosphere.

The Buffer has gone, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page
It looks like much of the extra heat will instead reach sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean that contain huge amounts of methane in currently still frozen hydrates.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The danger is that more and more heat will reach the seafloor and will destabilize methane hydrates contained in sediments at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, resulting in huge methane eruptions.

As the image on the right shows, a polynomial trend based on NOAA July 1983 to January 2017 global monthly mean methane data, points at twice as much methane by 2034. Stronger methane releases from the seafloor could make such a doubling occur much earlier.

Meanwhile, methane levels as high as 2592 ppb were recorded on April 17, 2017, as shown by the image below. The image doesn't specify the source of the high reading, but the magenta-colored area over the East Siberian Sea (top right) looks very threatening.

We already are in the Sixth Mass Extinction Event, given the rate at which species are currently disappearing from Earth. When taking into account the many elements that are contributing to warming, a potential warming of 10°C (18°F) could take place, leading to a rapid mass extinction of many species, including humans.

[ Graph from: Which Trend is Best? ]
How long could it take for such warming to eventuate? As above image illustrates, it could happen as fast as within the next four years time.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described at the Climate Plan.


• Climate Plan

• Extinction

• How much warming have humans caused?

• Accelerating growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere

• An observation-based constraint on permafrost loss as a function of global warming, by Chadburn et al. (2017)

• Reduction of forest soil respiration in response to nitrogen deposition, by Janssens et al. (2010)

• Methane Erupting From Arctic Ocean Seafloor

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sleeping Giant in the Arctic

Huge amounts of carbon are contained in sediments, soils and vegetation in the Arctic. Rising temperatures in the Arctic threaten to cause much of this carbon to be released to the atmosphere.

On May 23, 2015, temperatures in Alaska were as high as 91°F (32.78°C), as illustrated by the image below.

[ image credit: US National Weather Service Alaska ]
High temperatures were reached at the city of Eagle, located on the southern bank of the Yukon River, at an elevation of 853 ft (260 m). High temperatures at such a location will cause meltwater, aggravating the situation well beyond the local area.
A bank of permafrost thaws near the Kolyma
River in Siberia. Credit: University of Georgia

Carbon contained in soils will thus become increasingly exposed under the combined impact of rising temperatures and the associated growing amounts of meltwater. The meltwater can additionally cause erosion further downstream, thus making carbon at many locations become more prone to be consumed by microbes and released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide and methane.

A recent study found that, at a location where the Kolyma river in Siberia carved into the permafrost and exposed the carbon, microbes converted 60% of the carbon into carbon dioxide in two weeks time.

Gary Houser, who recently launched the movie Sleeping Giant in the Arctic, elaborates on the threat of emissions from thawing permafrost:
This immense release would likely feed on itself, raising temperatures that continue melting more and more permafrost in a vicious, frightening, and unstoppable cycle. A tipping point could well be crossed, at which time human intervention is no longer possible. Temperatures across the planet could soar, setting in motion catastrophic levels of drought and food shortage. All life support systems on earth and life forms themselves could be placed under severe stress.

The colossal scale of the danger - and the observation of those factors lining up that could trigger it - demand that humanity exercise the precautionary principle. All political decision-making related to carbon emissions must be based on the understanding that a catastrophic consequence is looming, and the window of time for prevention quickly diminishing.
Can Thawing Permafrost Cause Runaway Global Heating?
by Gary Houser


US National Weather Service Alaska

University of Georgia

Sleeping Giant in the Arctic

Sleeping Giant in the Arctic

Posted by Sam Carana on Monday, May 25, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

North Siberian Arctic Permafrost Methane Eruption Vents

Mantle Methane Leakage via Late Permian Deep Penetrating Fault and Shear Fracture Systems Rejuvenated by Carbon Dioxide and Methane Induced Global Warming

By Malcolm P.R. Light, Harold H. Hensel and Sam Carana


In North Siberia some 30 permafrost methane eruption vents occur along the trend of the inner (continental side) third of the Late Permian Taimyr Volcanic Arc where the crust and mantle were the weakest and the most fractured. Deep penetrating faults and shear systems allowed molten basaltic magmas charged with large volumes of carbon dioxide and methane free access to the surface where they formed giant pyroclastic eruptions. The large volume of carbon dioxide and methane added to the atmosphere by this Late Permian volcanic activity led to a massive atmospheric temperature pulse that caused a major worldwide extinction event (Wignall, 2009). These deep penetrating fractures form a major migration conduit system for the presently erupting methane vents in the North Siberian permafrost and the submarine Enrico PV Anomaly. During periods of lower atmospheric carbon dioxide and lower temperatures, the permafrost methane vents became sealed by the formation of methane hydrate (clathrate) plugs forming pingos. The surface methane clathrate plugs are now being destabilized by human pollution induced global warming and the mantle methane released into the atmosphere at the permafrost methane explosion vents. This has opened a giant, long standing (Permian to Recent) geopressured, mantle methane pressure-release safety valve. There is now no fast way to reseal this system because it will require extremely quick cooling of the atmosphere and the Arctic Ocean. The situation calls for comprehensive and effective action, including breaking down the methane in the water before it gets into the atmosphere using methane devouring symbiotic bacteria (Glass et al. 2013) and simultaneously breaking down the existing atmospheric methane using radio-laser systems which can also form methane consuming hydroxyl molecules (Alamo and Lucy Projects, Light and Carana, 2012, 2013).

Permafrost Methane Eruption Vents

During 2014 and 2015 at least 30 methane eruption vents, 7 of which are very large were identified in northern Siberia in the permafrost (Figures 1 to 3)(Zulinova in Liesowska 2015, Wales, 2015, Wignall 2009, Light 2014, Scribbler R., 2015). Of the seven major methane eruption vents (craters) in the Arctic area, 5 are on the Yamal Peninsula, one is in the Yamal Autonomous District and the seventh near Krasnoyarsk close to the Taimyr Peninsula (Figure 3, Liesowska, 2015). This permafrost methane eruption vent zone correlates with the inner third of the continental side of the Late Permian Age Taimyr Volcanic Arc where the top of the underlying Permian subduction zone lay at a depth between 200 km and 225 km (Figure 3, Light 2014). These methane eruption vents occur along fracture systems, transform faults, strike slip-slip faults oblique to the subduction direction and normal fault lines that also cut the Permian volcanic arc and the permafrost up to the continental edge of the arc (Figure 3).

Late Permian Extinction Event

In the Late Permian a massive eruption phase occured along the entire central and north eastern part of the "Taimyr Volcanic Arc" producing an extremely wide and thick sheet-like succession of flood trap lavas and tuffs (Siberian Traps Large Igneous Province) that spread south eastwards over the Siberian Craton (Figure 2, Light 2014). During the Late Permian there was a major global extinction event which resulted in a large loss of species caused by catastrophic methane eruptions from destabilization of subsea methane hydrates in the Paleo-Arctic (Figures 2, 3 and 4)(Wignall 2009, Light 2014, Scribbler 2015, Merali 2004, Goho 2004, Scott et al, PNAS, Dawson 1967, Kennedy and Kennedy, 1976). Extreme global warming was caused when vast volumes of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere from the widespread eruption of volcanics in northern Siberia (Figure 2; Wignall 2009) whose main source zone, the "Taimyr Volcanic Arc" on land in northern Siberia (Figure 3) is not a great distance from the present trend of the Arctic Ocean Gakkel Ridge and the Enrico Pv Anomaly extreme methane emission zone. Because the Arctic forms a graveyard for subducted plates, the mantle there is highly fractured and it is also a primary source zone for mantle methane formed from the reduction of oceanic carbonates by water in the presence of iron (II) oxides buried to depths of 100 km to 300 km in the Asthenosphere and at temperatures above 1200°C (Figure 4)(Gaina et al. 2013; Goho 2004; Merali 2004; Light 2014).

In addition to the widespread eruption of volcanics in Northern Siberia in the Late Permian (250 million years ago), swarms of pyroclastic kimberlites also erupted between 245 and 228 million years ago along a NNE trending shear system in the mantle which extends up the east flank of the Lena River delta and intersects the Gakkel Ridge slow spreading ridge on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (Figure 4). Cenozoic volcanics also occur to the north and north east of the Lena River delta marking the trend of the slow spreading Gakkel Ridge on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (Sekretov 1998). All this pyroclastic activity along the slow spreading Gakkel Ridge from the Late Permian to the present is evidence of deep pervasive vertical mantle fracturing and shearing which has formed conduits for the release of carbon dioxide and deeply sourced mantle methane out of Siberia and the Arctic sea floor into the atmosphere (Light 2014).

Thermodynamic Conditions Necessary to form Mantle Methane

On a vertical temperature - pressure/ depth cross section (Figure 4) the surface methane eruption vents are fed from vertical crustal and mantle fractures from more deeply sourced mantle methane below 225 km depth that has migrated up the fractured and sheared surface of the Late Permian subducting oceanic plate and then entered the vertical fractures allowing it to the surface where the methane is now erupting along the inner (continental side) third of the "Taimyr Volcanic Arc" (Dawson, 1967, Kennedy and Kennedy 1976. Merali 2004, Goho 2004, Scott et al, PNAS, Light 2014). What is remarkable is that the present surface methane eruption vent region corresponds exactly to the zone where the crust and mantle was the weakest in the Late Permian because the continental rock melt line (dry solidus) rises steeply to within a few km of the surface peaking exactly in the centre of zone defined by the methane eruption vents (Figure 4).

This implies that in the Late Permian, the inner continental side of the volcanic arc was a region of intense pyroclastic volcanic activity because the lavas were highly charged in carbon dioxide and methane. The eruption of these gases led to massive peak in global warming that culminated in the Major Late Permian Extinction Event when mean global atmospheric temperatures exceeded 26.6°C (Wignall. 2009).

This inner (continental side) third of the "Taimyr Volcanic Arc" was thus severly fractured by extreme pyroclastic volcanic activity and gas effusions in the Late Permian and has remained so up to the present day thus forming a major migration conduit system for the presently erupting methane vents in the Siberian permafrost. During periods of lower atmospheric carbon dioxide and lower temperatures the permafrost methane vents became sealed by the formation of methane hydrate (clathrate) plugs forming pingos (Figures 5, 6 and 7; Hovland et al. 2006; Paull et al., 2007; Carana, 2011, Liesowska, 2015). The surface methane clathrate plugs have now been destabilized by human pollution induced global warming and the methane is being released into the atmosphere at the permafrost methane explosion vents. Extreme methane concentrations, up to 1000 times above the mean atmospheric level has been found at the base of the methane eruption vents by Russian scientists (Holthaus, 2015) confirming that they are still linked to deeper methane sources which may be geopressujred. Before the Yamal B1 methane eruption vent developed, hillocks (pingoes) rose in the permafrost heralding the coming massive methane gas eruption (Figure 7; Liesowska, 2015). Other pingoes adjacent to the Yamal B1 methane eruption vent could also collapse at any moment emitting a large cloud of methane gas (Liesowska, 2015).
In the Last Ice age, the methane seal system (methane hydrate pingos) was maintained by the low temperatures and trapped the mantle methane below the ground. Now however human pollution which caused a massive carbon dioxide atmospheric buildup exceeding 400 ppm has started to break the seals on the mantle methane fractures in 2014 and 2015 allowing them to spew increasingly large quantities of deep mantle methane directly into the Arctic atmosphere. In the Late Permian, the massive volume of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere during these cataclysmic eruptions produced extreme global warming in the air and oceans which also dissasocciated the Paleo-Arctic permafrost and subsea methane hydrates and the methane hydrate seals above the Enrico Pv Anomaly generating a massive seafloor and mantle methane pulse into the atmosphere that caused the Major Late Permian Extinction Event (Figures 2 to 4) (Wignall. 2009).

A sequence of extreme pyroclastic basaltic eruptions occur along the Gakkel Ridge (85oE volcanoes) which has an ultra - slow rate of plate spreading of 15 to 20 mm a year (Sohn et al. 2007). These volcanoes formed from the explosive eruption of gas - rich basaltic magmatic foams as shown by recovered green - glass fragments and pillow lavas. Long intervals between eruptions during slow spreading produced a huge gas and volatile buildup at high storage pressures deep down in the crust (Sohn et al 2007). A volatile and carbon dioxide content of some 13.5% to 14% (Wt./Wt. - volume fraction 75%) is necessary at 5 km depth in the Arctic Ocean to fragment the erupting magma (Sohn et al. 2007). These extreme pyroclastic basaltic volcanic eruptions are probably a modern day equivalent of the types of eruptions that occured in the region of methane eruption vents along the "Taimyr Volcanic Arc" in the Late Permian and totally fractured the mantle and crust producing deep reaching conduits that allowed mantle methane below 225 km access to the surface (Figure 4). The more fluid Gakkel Ridge pillow lava basalts mirror the very fluid Siberian "Trapp" flows that covered a large part of Siberia in the Late Permian (Figure 2 and 3).


Our present extreme fossil fuel driven, carbon dioxide global warming is predicted to produce exactly the same mantle methane release from the permafrost methane eruption vents along the Late Permian "TaimyrVolcanic Arc", subsea Arctic methane hydrates and the Enrico Pv Anomaly "Extreme Methane Emission Zone" by the 2050's, leading to total deglaciation and the extinction of all life on Earth.

Mankind has, in his infinite stupidity, with his extreme hydrocarbon addiction and fossil fuel induced global warming, opened a giant, long standing (Permian to Recent), geopressured, mantle methane pressure-release safety valve for methane gas generated between 100 km and 300 km depth and at temperatures of above 1200°C in the asthenosphere (Figures 1 to 6). This is now a region of massive methane emissions (Carana, 2011-2015).

There seems to be no fast and easy way to reseal this system. To sufficiently cool the Atmosphere and Arctic Ocean cannot be achieved in the short time frame we have left to complete the job. In some cases, it may be possible to reseal conduits with concrete or other material, or to capture methane for storage in hydrates at safer locations, but the sheer number of vulnerable locations and the size of the work involved is daunting.

Figure 9. Climate Action Plan, from Climate Plan
Other ways to deal with the methane are to break it down in the water and in the atmosphere, as also depicted in Figure 9 (enhanced decomposition). Efforts to break down methane in the atmosphere using radio-laser systems have been described by Light and Carana (Figure 8, Alamo and Lucy Projects, Light and Carana, 2012, 2013, Ehret 2012; Sternowski 2012; Iopscience, 2013, Arctic-news, 2012). Scientists at Georgia Tech. University have found in the ocean that at very low temperatures two symbiotic methane eating organisms group together, consume methane in the presence of tungsten and excrete carbon dioxide which then reacts with minerals in the water to form carbonate mounds (Glass et al. 2013). This means that the United States must fund a major project at Georgia Tech. to quickly develop the means to grow these methane consuming bacteria in massive quantities with their tungsten enzyme and find the means to deliver them to the Polar oceans as soon as possible. More generally, the situation calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.


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Figure References

Figure 7. Enhanced Lucy Transmission System. Image from Light and Carana 2012. Lidar methane detecting laser from Ehret, 2012. Methane heating laser from Sternowski, 2012. Hydroxyl formation from, 2013.

North Siberian Arctic Permafrost Methane Eruption Vents | by Malcolm Light, Harold Hensel and Sam Carana

Posted by Sam Carana on Friday, April 10, 2015