Methane Bomb in the Arctic: How Imminent the Threat?

January 28, 2019

I’ve weighed in on the “methane bomb” topic before – but for this video I was fortunate to catch up with some key experts at December’s American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.

Katey Walter Anthony is well known for the series of “flaming lake” videos that she and her students produced in past years, illustrating methane production in arctic lakes.

I understand U. of Alaska higher ups have some concerns about safety and have asked the kids to tone it down.

I also talked to Ben Abbott, who got his PhD studying permafrost at UA Fairbanks – and is now at Brigham Young. Ben is a terrific communicator that I’ve followed since he was a grad student years ago.

Ben told me about a young woman who contacted him with questions about the “Arctic Methane Bomb” – Juliana Musheyev had, like a number of folks, I suspect, gotten completely consumed with the conspiratorial disaster porn of the Methane bomb crowd (“imminent human extinction”).
To her credit, Musheyev actually did real research in the literature, including contacting experts like Ben.  Her questions lead her to research by Carolyn Ruppel – who has been leader of the USGS Gas Hydrates project, and is one of the foremost experts globally on the topic.  I’ve interviewed Dr. Ruppel by Skype before, and was delighted to meet her in person last month.

She has a lot to say, some of which is in the vid, and more of which I’ll be posting here very soon.



17 Responses to “Methane Bomb in the Arctic: How Imminent the Threat?”

  1. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27.

  2. Terry Donte Says:

    It has been much warmer in the not to distant past in the arctic. “The impact of Arctic sea ice loss on mid-Holocene climate? Hyo-Seok Park, Seong-Joong Kim, Kyong-Hwan Seo, Andrew L. Stewart, Seo-Yeon Kim & Seok-Woo Son
    Nature Communications volume 9, Article number: 4571 (2018) | /In our mid-Holocene simulation, Arctic sea ice concentration (SIC) in summer-autumn decreases by 30–35% over wide areas of the Arctic relative to the pre-industrial climate (Fig. 1), which is consistent with the multi-model averaged SIC anomalies in the mid-Holocene 11,12. Figure 2a shows the annual-mean response of mid-Holocene surface air temperature (SAT) to Arctic sea ice loss. The substantial warming over and around Greenland, which also appears in proxy data4, has previously been reported as a response to Arctic sea ice loss 24,2

    It would seem the arctic was warmer in the not to distant past so the estimates of methane seem over done and the warming effects of methane as well since after it got warmer from other causes it got colder. The real driver seems to be solar effects and changes in earths tilt and orbit.

    The word Bomb is simply theater applied to science to get attention.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Lord love a duck, but TD is back, showing his gross ignorance of science once again.

      First. Terry seems to be unaware of the fact that the study he cherry-picked a few sentences from is a computer model simulation of a time 5 or 6 thousand years ago.

      Second, it doesn’t really say what Terry, in his ignorance, implies that it does with “it would seem”.

      “It would seem the arctic was warmer in the not to distant past so the estimates of methane seem over done and the warming effects of methane as well since after it got warmer from other causes it got colder. The real driver seems to be solar effects and changes in earths tilt and orbit”.

      THAT is SO bad that it makes me again think that Terry is really a Poe and is putting us on. Maybe it would have been almost believable if he hadn’t added “solar effects and changes in earths tilt and orbit”, the old denier standbys—-they’re strikes two and three—–you’re OUT, Terry, go back to the bench—-if you’re a Poe, you swung too hard and missed, if you really believe your BS, you’re a moran!

    • Sir Charles Says:

      Terry also forgot to give us a link to that model study. But as he cites, “In our mid-Holocene simulation, Arctic sea ice concentration (SIC) in summer-autumn decreases by 30–35% over wide areas of the Arctic relative to the pre-industrial climate“, we can see at this chart that we already have overshot that warm period 5000-9000 years ago:

      (Don’t mention the pace)

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Holocene optimum of 8-10 thousand years ago resulted from the peak of the orbital forcing that brought the planet out of the last glacial.
      Current orbital forcing, last few thousand years, is in the direction of cooling, but has been overwhelmed by greenhouse gases.

    • redskylite Says:

      Difficult to argue with empirical evidence, field work and observations.

      Radiocarbon dating of the plants collected from these ice-free margins revealed it had been tens of thousands of years since they had last thawed.

      “You’d normally expect to see different plant ages in different topographical conditions,” explained Mr Pendleton.

      “A high elevation location might hold on to its ice longer, for example. But the magnitude of warming is so high that everything is melting everywhere now.”

      Arctic summers at hottest temperatures for 115,000 years, study reveals..

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Yep, those are the tipping point monsters that lurk under my bed. All except the “corals” one. which doesn’t much feed the others. (And my monsters have somewhat lower temps than those specified before they start growling and shaking my bed)

  3. rabiddoomsayer Says:

    Any one who says they know how much, or how fast, is lying. Certainly non zero, more and faster than the end of the last ice age, likely. Kill us all hopefully not, probably not, but very dangerous is still on the cards.

    However BAU for the next 20 years, then we are getting into probably kill us all territory.

    Panic is necessary. It is not time for “maybe we should veer left” it is time for “HARD A PORT”

  4. redskylite Says:

    The takeaway from the excellent video was that the methane danger is a call to action, and IF we stop burning fossils over the next 20 years or so then we can avoid the worst affects from the buried frozen reservoirs of methane. 20 years is not very long and stopping burning fossil fuels world-wide does not look very likely, so maybe a little panic would be understandable, if not desirable.

    Now, the once thought of a stable, Antarctic is warming, we must remember there is likely a huge methane supply at the Southern pole.

    ‘Terrifying’: Scientists dig deep for missing piece of climate puzzle

    The role of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, has been known for more than a century, including how it is eventually removed from the atmosphere by absorption into the oceans or by terrestrial plants.

    But what has actually happened to some 40 other gases, including methane, hydrofluorocarbons and ozone-depleting chemicals, over the decades since industrialisation turns out to be rather less well understood.

    “We know pretty well how [these gases] are produced. We need to know how quickly they are removed,” Etheridge says from the rather warmer confines of Melbourne this week.

    “Without that, we’ve only got part of the puzzle, part of the equation.”

  5. dumboldguy Says:

    I’ve got a problem with this whole piece, which has people talking out of both sides of their mouths and contradicting themselves. Is it because of a feeling that “the “imminent doom” scenarios seem to lead more to paralysis than action” and we’re trying to not get people discouraged?

    First, Juliana is nice to look at and well spoken, but she has a degree in sociology, does freaking internet research, and is a pro-Palestine and pro-LGBT activist. Look her up. I’m sure Ben enjoyed “helping” her (I would), but many of us here on Crock have way more “credentials” (even if we’re ugly).

    Ruppel has her name on many hundreds of papers, ALL of which seem to be on subsea clathrates. Melting permafrost is not her area of expertise, and she really can’t tell us much about if and when clathrates will “blow”.

    Katey Anthony makes contradictory statements in the two clips. And how can anyone look at the flaming methane bubbles and NOT be concerned?

    IMO, even though we don’t know all that much about subsea clathrates, they remain a HUGE ticking time bomb that will finish us off if they DO “bomb”. Melting permafrost is a much more imminent threat and easier for people to understand, and trying to minimize the danger there is like playing Russian roulette—when the loaded chamber comes up, it’s OVER!

    I understand that we need to walk the fine line between educating and motivating people and scaring them into inaction and despair, but the clock IS ticking. It would be a shame if we carefully eased and cajoled people into where we want them to be just as one or more tipping points were passed and it’s too late.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      The downthumb assholes are still at it, I see. GFYS, guys!

      Maybe it’s time to again trot out what Jason Box said—-he got more notice for his language than for the TRUTH of what he said. And we are still diddling around (and giving thumbs down to those who speak TRUTH to morans)

      “The Arctic is our most immediate carbon concern,” Box continued. There is an immense amount of carbon stored there. “It’s a giant number. But we should think in terms of, even if a small amount of that carbon comes out, that’s a problem.”

      “We’re on a trajectory to an unmanageable heating scenario, and we need to get off it,” he said. “We’re fucked at a certain point, right? It just becomes unmanageable. The climate dragon is being poked, and eventually the dragon becomes pissed off enough to trash the place.”

      Beware the Pissed Off Dragon!

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