The Other Methane Bomb: Undersea Hydrates

December 3, 2010

Last spring, a study published in Science and led by the University of Alaska’s International Arctic Research Centre and the Russian Academy of Sciences, found that the frozen cap that scientists previously assumed would keep undersea methane trapped for many decades, or centuries, has been perforated. In the video above, lead author, Natalia Shakhova explains some of the findings.  Methane Hydrates are huge potential sources of greenhouse feedback, and may have been the mechanism behind the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal maximum (PETM), a warming event of 55 million years ago which many scientists say is close parallel to our current situation in the paleo record.

Since we’ve had several posts on methane this week, it’s a good opportunity to learn more.  I found a useful lecture, from Miriam Kastner, speaking at the Scipps Institute – after the jump…

finally, here’s some great eye candy from the University of Bremen, that gives a little more background, and some spacy undersea music.


5 Responses to “The Other Methane Bomb: Undersea Hydrates”

  1. BlueRock Says:


    A suggestion for a future video: tipping points. I regularly see people claim “it’s too late to act, we’re past the tipping point!”

    Of course, when you quiz them it turns out they’re not too sure what the tipping point is and they’ve just found another mechanism to avoid responsibility. I usually respond with:

    – Runaway tipping points of no return.

    That’s 4 years old now. Has Arctic ice melt, outgassing clathrates, Siberian tundra melt, etc. changed things?

    I imagine (hope!) that the video could have a narrative of: there are dangerous tipping points, we’re committed to passing some (e.g. ice-free Arctic in summer), but there is still time to avoid the worst ones.



    • greenman3610 Says:

      I don’t think we know enough to say we are beyond any tipping points.
      I think we can say that the planet is going to take a hit in the next 100 years, but if
      we act we can mitigate how much of a hit that is.
      I intend to work hard to make people realize we are not
      powerless in this.

      • BlueRock Says:

        > I don’t think we know enough to say we are beyond any tipping points.

        My understanding is that disappearance of summer Arctic ice is one tipping point, and that’s going to happen no matter what we do.

        Similarly, methane release from Siberia could be considered another – but I don’t know if the current rate of release is significant enough to be classified as ‘past its tipping point’.

        I guess it’s a subject that’s full of shades of grey, so not easy to make definitive arguments on.

        > I intend to work hard to make people realize we are not
        powerless in this.

        Absolutely, but I agree strongly with Winning climate messages combine dire scientific threat with solutions for a just world. Unless people understand bad things are going to happen which cannot be reversed, they are not going to understand the urgency with which we need to act.

        But I’m teaching granny to suck eggs here! 🙂

        Anyway, just thinking out load. Best.

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