Monday, 14 July 2014

Focus on Methane

by Malcolm Light

Methane formed by organisms in the water becomes trapped in the fabric of water ice crystals when it freezes and is stable below about 300 metres depth in the Arctic Ocean.

There are such massive methane reserves below the Arctic Ocean floor that they represent around 100 times the amount that is required to cause a Permian style major extinction event, should the methane be released into the atmosphere.

There are also giant reservoirs of mantle methane, originally sealed in by shallow methane hydrate plugs in fractures cutting the Arctic seafloor.

Unfortunately for us, global warming has heated up the oceanic currents fed by the Gulf Stream flowing into the Arctic, causing massive destabilization of the subsea methane hydrates and fault seals and releasing increasing volumes of methane directly into the atmosphere.

Screenshot from Perdue University's Vulcan animation, which
shows pollution from North America spreading over the North
Atlantic, from Warming of the Arctic Fueling Extreme Weather
The volume transport of the Gulf Stream has increased by three times since the 1940s due to the rising atmospheric pressure difference set up between the polluted, greenhouse gas rich air above North America and the marine Atlantic air.

The increasingly heated Gulf Stream, with its associated high winds and energy rich weather systems, flows NE to Europe where it recently pummelled Great Britain with catastrophic storms. Other branches of the Gulf Stream then enter the Arctic and heat up the Arctic methane hydrate seals on subsea and deep high - pressure mantle methane reservoirs below the Eurasian Basin- Laptev Sea transition.

This is releasing increasing amounts of methane into the atmosphere contributing to anomalous temperatures, greater than 20 degree C above average. Over very short time periods of a few days to a few months the atmospheric methane has a warming potential from 1000 to 100 times that of carbon dioxide.

The amount of carbon stored in hydrates globally
was in 1992 estimated to be 10,000 Gt (USGS),
while a later source gives a figure of 63,400 Gt C
for the Klauda & Sandler (2005) estimate of marine
hydrates. A warming Gulf Stream causes methane
 off the North American coast. Methane also
appears to be erupting from hydrates on Antarctica,
on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and on Greenland.
In just one part of the Arctic Ocean alone, the East
Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), up to 1700 Gt of
methane is contained in sediments in the form of
methane hydrates and free gas. A sudden release
of just 3% of this amount could add over 50 Gt of
methane to the atmosphere, i.e. some seven times
what is in the atmosphere now, and experts consider
such an amount to be ready for release at any time.
From: Will the Anthropocene last for only 100 years?
There are such massive reserves of methane in the subsea Arctic methane hydrates, that if only a few percent of them are released, they will lead to a jump in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere of 10 degrees C and produce a "Permian" style major extinction event which will kill us all.

The whole northern hemisphere is now covered by a thickening atmospheric methane veil that is spreading southwards at about 1 km a day and it already totally envelopes the United States.

A giant hole in the equatorial ozone layer has also been discovered in the west Pacific, which acts like an elevator transferring methane from lower altitudes to the stratosphere, where it already forms a dense equatorial global warming stratospheric band that is spreading into the Polar regions.

The spreading atmospheric methane global warming veil is raising the temperature of the lower atmosphere many times faster than carbon dioxide does, causing the extreme summer temperatures in Australia and the US.

During the last winter, the high Arctic winter temperatures and pressures displaced the normal freezing Arctic air south into Canada and the United States, producing never before seen, freezing winter storms and massive power failures.

When the Arctic ice cap finally melts towards the end of next year, the Arctic sea will be aggressively heated by the sun and the Gulf Stream. The cold Arctic air will then be confined to the Greenland Ice cap and the hot Arctic air with its methane will flow south to the United States to further heat up the Gulf Stream, setting up an anticlockwise circulation around Greenland.

Under these circumstances Great Britain and Europe must expect even more catastrophic storm systems, hurricane force winds and massive flooding after the end of next year, due to a further acceleration in the energy transport of the Gulf Stream. If this process continues unchecked the mean temperature of the atmosphere will rise a further 8 degrees centigrade and we will be facing global deglaciation, a more than 200 feet rise in sea level rise and a major terminal extinction event by the 2050s.

The US and Canada must cut their global emissions of carbon dioxide by 90% in the next 10 to 15 years, otherwise they will be become an instrument of mass destruction of the Earth and its entire human population. Recovery of the United States economy from the financial crisis has been very unsoundly based by the present administration on an extremely hazardous "all of the above" energy policy that has allowed continent wide gas fracking, coal and oil sand mining and the return of widespread drilling to the Gulf Coast. This large amount of fossil fuel has to be transported and sold which has caused extensive spills, explosions and confrontations with US citizens over fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline. Gas fracking is in the process of destroying the entire aquifer systems of the United States and causing widespread earthquakes. The oil spills are doing the same to the surface river run off.

We are now facing a devastating final show down with Mother Nature, which is being massively accelerated by the filthy extraction of fossil fuels by US and Canada by gas fracking, coal and tar sand mining and continent wide bitumen transport. The United States and other developed nations made a fatal mistake by refusing to sign the original Kyoto protocols. The United States and Canada must now cease all their fossil fuel extraction and go entirely onto renewable energy in the next 10 to 15 years otherwise they will be guilty of planetary ecocide - genocide by the 2050's. There must also be a world-wide effort to capture methane in the oceans and eradicate the quantities accumulating in the atmosphere.


Focus on Methane
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