This news is very disturbing:Vast methane plumes spotted bubbling up from the Arctic Ocean floor
An international team of scientists, who are studying the vast deposits of methane trapped on the floor of the Arctic Ocean, have captured their first look at plumes of this powerful greenhouse gas bubbling up through water. This discovery could lead to better forecasting, but it also has serious implications for Earth's climate in the years to come.
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas Than carbon Dioxide:
Methane has a large effect for a brief period (a net lifetime of 8.4 years in the atmosphere), whereas carbon dioxide has a small effect for a long period (over 100 years). Because of this difference in effect and time period, the global warming potential of methane over a 20-year time period is 72. The Earth's atmospheric methane concentration has increased by about 150% since 1750, and it accounts for 20% of the total radiative forcing from all of the long-lived and globally mixed greenhouse gases (these gases don't include water vapor which is by far the largest component of the greenhouse effect). Usually, excess methane from landfills and other natural producers of methane is burned so CO2 is released into the atmosphere instead of methane, because methane is a more effective greenhouse gas.
Please read on below for more.
Bill Moyers alerted us to this on Facebook and in his Morning Reads he says:
Tipping point? –> Scientists have discovered plumes of methane gas rising from the seafloor under the Arctic, and believe it’s a result of global warming. The potential danger of large amounts of methane that had been locked up in the ice being released as it melts is enormous, as a pound of methane has approximately twenty times the warming power of a pound of carbon. Scott Sutherland has the details for The Weather Network.
(That's the link above)
The concept of "tipping point" is becoming more widely understood and that is good. The article goes on to say
Although there are natural sources of methane in the atmosphere, according to the US EPA, over 60 per cent comes from human activities - industry, agriculture and garbage. Scientists have also discovered large deposits of methane in the Arctic, where it has been locked away in a slushy frozen form on the sea floor called methane hydrates, which has also been called 'fire ice' due to the fact that it readily burns, even in its frozen form. These hydrates are kept frozen by the extreme low temperature and crushing pressure at the bottom of the ocean, but with our oceans accumulating more heat all the time now, these hydrates could 'melt' and release the methane in gas form. If that were to happen, all that methane bubbling up to the ocean surface and into the atmosphere would likely result in the accelerated rate of climate change we're seeing now turning into catastrophic abrupt climate change.
Since these methane hydrate deposits were discovered, scientists have been doing what they can to monitor and study them, and now a team from SWERUS-C3 - the Swedish–Russian–US Arctic Ocean Investigation of Climate-Cryosphere-Carbon Interactions program - have actually spotted methane bubbling up through the water, while measuring a concentration of methane dissolved in the water that's 10-50 times higher than background levels.
”This was somewhat of a surprise,” SWERUS-C3 chief scientist Örjan Gustafsson, from Stockholm University, wrote in his blog. “While there has been much speculation about the vulnerability of regular marine hydrates along the continental slopes of the Arctic rim, very few actual observations of methane releases due to collapsing marine hydrates on the Arctic slope have been made."
So we are being surprised more regularly it seems. Once again we learn that even though we have studied Global Warming and its effects in what we thought was great detail, there seems to be much more to learn.
None of this is comforting but realistic people should be well beyond the point where they expect any comfort from this kind of news. The most comforting scenario is a day without bad news surprises.