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Methane seeps rise from Siberian sea shelves

climate changeglobal warmingmethane


Carbon dioxide (C02) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas that is trapping heat in the atmosphere, warming the planet to what most climate scientists consider dangerous levels. But methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more powerful than CO2, has also been growing at an alarming rate, with concentrations more than doubling since pre-industrial times.

A paper published Thursday in the journal Science reveals that parts of the East Siberian continental shelf, which extends up to 1000 miles out into Arctic waters, show concentrations of methane in surface waters that are 100 times higher than expected. And in the air, more than 5,000 measurements taken by scientists on Russian icebreakers and on helicopters document methane levels more than four times higher than elsewhere in the Arctic basin.

The researchers, led by Natalia Shakhova of the University of Alaska, along with Swedish and Russian colleagues, found that the amount of methane seeping into the atmosphere from below the Arctic Ocean is comparable to previous emissions estimates for all the world's oceans. The Arctic is warming faster than any other part of the planet, and scientists fear that methane emissions could rise even more dramatically in a feedback loop: As the atmosphere warms, the permafrost that has locked in methane gas in wetlands and beneath continental shelves melts, releasing more methane, which then warms the planet more.

"Wetlands and permafrost soils, including the subsea permafrost under the Arctic Ocean, contain at least twice the amount of carbon that is currently in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide," Martin Heimann wrote in an article accompanying the paper. "Release of a sizeable fraction of this carbon as carbon dioxide and/or methane would lead to warmer atmospheric temperatures, causing yet more methane to be released." The researchers recommend that their data be immediately incorporated into current assessments of how fast the Arctic is likely to warm in the near future.

The Science paper comes as other researchers have documented rising methane emissions from Alaskan and Siberian lakes. In a report from the Seward Peninsula last year, the Los Angeles Times followed University of Alaska limnologist Katey Walter and her team as they measured methane seeps from thawing permafrost. In a video and audio slide show, the scientists can be seen lighting up the normally invisible gas.

More than half the world's methane results from human activities. It wafts from natural gas wells, from garbage dumps, from cattle manure and from rice farming. California and other jurisdictions are struggling to bring man-made methane sources under control, but only a dramatic reduction in overall greenhouse gases would be likely to reduce the feedback loop from natural methane sources in the Arctic.

-- Margot Roosevelt

Image: Positions of oceanographic stations in the eastern Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea; bathymetry (depth contour) lines for 10-, 20-, and 50-meter depths are shown in blue. Credit: Science/AAAS

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Must respond but must call some of you "idiots" as a reward for my taking the time, but if you were to listen and open your minds - it would be worth it - I will try - I am in a category of a climate scientist, have been studying since mid 80s with 35 years in meteorology. I know my subject matter very well.

I can take on anyone, but really choose not to. It is really tiresome to argue a "round world" - beyond frustrating.

Here's the deal - Co2 levels are the highest right now at 388.63 ppm end of February in over 650,000 years. This is significant chemistry. does not sound like a lot to an average person but this is what we call part of the "forcing mechanism having to to with insolation - watt's in and longer wave watts out and the difference is trapped (greenhouse effect) which warms the planet. We have the evidence.

On a planetary scale, the last decade 2000-2009 was the hottest in documented history, and that’s going back using paleoclimotology, not just intrumental record.

The last year 2009 (tied 2005) the hottest documented ever, and February turns out to be the hottest February documented ever, all scientifically undisputed, but remember, this is planetary scale and not where your little universe centroid is on the planet santa monica, Vermont, Chile - OK so far?

What to do about it is up for open debate by our political leaders, but the data "is not debatable", not cooked and is as real as your porch thermometer reads right now. You connect the dots. It's all Basic Physics.

Again this is "after" so called called Climate-gate" emails which did not mean anything except sloppiness, and transcriber errors etc. - all bad kind of like ones quick attempt at taxes.

What is so significant here published by the Journal Science and picked up by this reporter in the LA times for the layman - is this:

We may have crossed the Rubicon with the natural storage of Methane now escaping, this will should set the stage for a positive feedback or run-away of warming temperatures. This is known as the TIPPING POINT, everyone concerned should become familiar with this over the next year or two.

Once crossed - there is no return - sort of like Apollo 13, where we are pretty much screwed unless, we figure out through technology a way mitigate and adapt to the coming mass extinction. With Apollo 13 we did, but it will be herculean and with nimrods constantly denying Apollo 13 exists for political reasons - truly insane!

It appears that we have to seriously educate the different phases of the coming catastrophe. I really hate to be so negative and dooms day here, but if you have children or grand children, they will be the ones suffering the most.

If your life expectancy is more than 15 years. You will likely be seeing previews of coming attractions in this B rate Sci-Fi.

Read James Lovelock's Gaia although his time line as I can see is probably too fast but maybe not with most significant of developments about methane release which surely is world wide (Antarctica as well, peat bogs of Canada which we knew about) and have much faster ramifications. Thgose reading these words will get to see on a meteorological scale some crazy stuff front and center through your daily weather - mega-storms due to higher water content and terrible drought with less in between and as Thomas Freidman's term "Global Weirding".

We are trending toward the "Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum" - google it, become familiar with it -- not good!

One of the good things about this , is that sooner than you think , this should begin to be validated - I'm guessing before 2025 (water vapor increase, mass evaporation increase) should be hitting you in the face, your taxes for infrastructure repair and something that we are not as familiar with - food supply.

This is also definite National Security Threat and you can bet the planners in the Pentagon have validation by this new study, and there will be plenty of migration and war.

I leave you with this if you are interested to educate without spin...10 min. segments start here.

I'm done and to the folks of the LA Times, you could do well to start educating on the catastrophe , starting with the food chain and most importantly water - Oh and if you need to sample the future please focus on Australia right now, they are definitely ahead of schedule.

If you are a world traveler and I encourage people to see the planet as it is now and not as it will be in the relatively near future - ask anyone in the local population that you might be visiting "if there weather has been a little whacky of late" A Southern California Native, ex-National Weather Service who lives in Vermont

With all of the madness and greed going on on our planet, it may destroy life on earth.


not a scientific journal, but just google and you'll many similar links, and i would assume they all derive from a particular few scientific studies that are published in the scientific journals....looks like methane stopped increasing for 8 years and now(Oct. 2008) has begun increasing again, which leads one to suspect(obviously) that man isn't responsible for the increases because man didn't do anything differently in those 8 years.... that would seem to debunk the "50% of methane is produced by man, per rice, cattle etc" - more likely its these types of deposits....of course no mention by the writer of this article, as she's fully on board the AGW bandwagon....follow the $$$$....

Jeff, can you provide evidence to your claims in a credible scientific journal or major newspaper?

This is a HUGE problem, at this point it doesn't matter if climate change is a result of humans or not, this is a threat to life on earth. We all need to get behind the fact that a) methane released from the arctic has the power to superheat the earth, and b) this may be starting to happen so we better find out the rate and whether or not we can do anything. I'm sure if humanity worked together, we could figure something out, though getting people to cooperate is probably the most challenging part of the equation.

"But methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more powerful than CO2, has also been growing at an alarming rate, with concentrations more than doubling since pre-industrial times."

hmm, what the ill-informed(of just plain dishonest?) Margot leaves out here is that the concentration of methane in the atmosphere stopped increasing over10 years ago and the scientists have no idea if, as she claims "more than half the (earth's) methane is man-made", and man has done nothing to curtail its production, then either man's part in global methane is actually insignificant or huge quantities of methane are somehow disappearing from the earth's atmosphere... so which is it??

then Margot claims "The Arctic is warming faster than any other part of the planet" - that's nice, since the latest data shows the planet hasn't been warming for a few decades either....

what's likely going on is that the climate scientists are terrified that their CO2 - AGW gravy train is over, so they have to stir the pot with more of their "sky is falling" bullsh#t to keep the money coming in...

Well that's typical from some of the comments here - you guys - not that you really would understand - this is called albedo - CO2 warms the planet which then goes into positive feedback. Mor warming means more methane much stronger green house gasses means "rapid warming" = Rapid ice loss = more rapid warming and eco system on the planet start to go into mass extinction.

A positive feedback pretty much means we are "super screwed" -- Way to go humans, good job. the earth will load shed us like a bad virus for we are vomit and a rejection.

this comes at a time when "the retardation" of scinece is at an all level high thanks to political conservatism. And somebody tell me what is "conservative" about political conservatives sucking out the natural resources of our planet into the atmosphere as "their open sewer" without heeding the ramifications of this large scale experiment. I know I'm talking to knuckle draggers here. Congrat's You Idiots!

It always amazes and appalls me that there are some shockingly stupid people out there who can't seem to hold complex thoughts in their minds.

Global warming is happening. That can't be denied. All you have to do is look at all the glaciers that have disappeared and see how the environment has changed within the past century or so.

The real argument is whether or not this global warming (or climate change, which is really the better term because, while average global temperatures are on the rise, this affects regional climates differently, and some places actually see net cooling) is anthropogenic or natural. There is plenty of evidence to support either side, including some very intriguing evidence that Earth was actually headed toward another cooling period (we're actually in an interstitial between ice ages and that interstitial may be ending), but that human activity has ameliorated that somewhat by warming the planet. Or it could be the case that this warming period is primarily driven by natural causes, but that human activity is exacerbating the effect. We just don't know for sure, and I agree that doomsaying and fearmongering doesn't help at all, but any claims that there isn't any warming at all is preposterous and anyone who holds that position is about as smart as someone proclaiming that, of course the world is flat and the center of the universe!

Now, on to this issue of the methane. This is a cause for real concern. Panic, no, concern, yes. Methane is a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2 or water vapor, and is the mechanism behind the Venusian runaway greenhouse effect. Granted, even the worst possible case scenario will never make Earth as hot as Venus, nor is it likely to lead to some kind of mass extinction event (although it could happen under certain conditions), but methane warming can lead to some unpleasant effects that could, theoretically, kill off billions of humans and the majority of land-dwelling species...or just make for really muggy summers. The problem is that we won't know until the worst happens, and that might not occur for centuries, so none of us will be around (barring some major medical miracles) to be proved right or wrong.

Anyway, back to the methane--since climate change is happening, whatever the cause (sunspots, human activity, something else...that's irrelevant), the natural frozen methane deposits buried in the ocean floor are starting to thaw and the gas is bubbling up and out into the atmosphere. Some theories say that if all the frozen methane is released, we could see average temperatures around the world increase by as much as 5 degrees. If, on top of this, comes another average increase of 5 degrees from other methods, we could see a mass extinction event unfold. This is because the last time the world saw such an increase, due to methane release and the CO2 released by the Deccan Traps, most of life on Earth was wiped out. And humans didn't exist yet, so clearly these kinds of things can happen naturally, and if it happened before, it can happen again.

Are any of the commenters here climate scientists? Probably not. Are any of the deniers here scientists of any type? I seriously doubt it. I will take the expert's opinion on this issue, just as I would be apt to believe a doctor if he or she told me that I might have cancer.

no more fart guys

J.D. is typical of people who did not pay attention in science class. No one ever said that water vapor was NOT a greenhouse gas. The news is that since the Industrial Revolution began, large new amounts of carbon ( in the forms of both methane and carbon dioxide) have been emitted into our atmosphere, increasing the natural levels. These are new amounts that weren't part of the equation before. The earth's natural balance is becoming destabilized as a result ( ie., the last decade was the warmest on record; the icecaps in the arctic have visibly and significantly shrunk, meaning more sun energy is captured as heat and less sun energy is reflected back to outer space).
These are facts that deniers have little time for.

CO2 is NOT the most prevalent greenhouse gas trapping heat in the atmosphere. Water vapor is the most prevalent green house gas by far.
Man made global warming is the most overhyped non story out there.

so what is the option. the removal of people and animals to counter the natural emission of Co2? come one. you don't scare me. if you are so worried about this stuff(we can't control it), then remove yourself and let the rest of us live our lives.
When will this crap stop!

- NASA - Mars methane discovery (Telegraph, 15 Jan 2009)... The Warming Process on Earth and on the Other Planets in Our Solar System... The Neptune’s moon, Triton is warming (BBC Science & Technology News, July 25, 1999)... Pluto experiences an extraordinary heating (Massachusetts Institute of Technology News, October 9, 2002...
- Carbon emissions creating acidic oceans not seen since dinosaurs (Guardian, 10 March 2009)...
- THE LOGICAL EXPLANATION of the warming process on Earth and on the other planets in our solar system proves to be the one provided by I. Velikovsky, in his book - Worlds in Collision - from 1950: 3600 years ago - “Two celestial bodies (The Earth and Planet X - A/N) have been attracted one to each other. The inner masses of the Earth were pushed to the periphery. The Earth, with its rotation movement disturbed, started to warm“:

How is this methane a problem? Another renewable energy source has been just been discovered!

Thank you Steve.

I was just wondering what the source of the assertion was. Usually something like that starts out with, "According to..."

However, natural gas and plant material is not man-made. I'm not saying that there isn't a problem and I think we need to do something about our contribution of CO2. I'm just against labeling things incorrectly. If we all understand and agree on what the problem is then we might be able to do something about it.

Ed.C, get a grip. "Another ice age" is not the worst thing that results from global warming. Brain freeze maybe.

The article reports, "methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more powerful than CO2, has . . . been growing." Somehow "growing" might not be the correct verb.

Oh God...not again...the sky is falling. No it's not bird it's not's...Global Warming again! When will this BS stop??

The methane is form thawing permafrost which contains rotting plant material and frozen methane hydrate - see: "The Arctic Thaw Could Make Global Warming Worse" in the June/09 issue of Scientific American. There is enough of it under the the arctic ocean sea shelf off the coast of Siberia that if it is all released it will heat the Earth by 18 Deg C by the middle of the next century and that's if we stop emitting CO2 RIGHT NOW. Move along, nothing to look at here. Thankfully the deniers have everything firmly under control. Next up - attack on evolution and the nation-wide adoption of intelligent design in all school curriculum. What a glorious day that will bring.

Ummm to Just Wondering, read the last paragraph again and you will get your answer. moron

Mathane is the primary component in natural gas. It comes from geological formations that are usually associated with petroleum products. It is frequently flared off from oil wells. Another source is biogas, made from food and plant waste, or removed from land fills.

This will all freeze over. The worst that can happen is another ice age.

"More than half the world's methane is man-made". According to whom? And how is it man-made? Is it a by-product of some industrial refining process or something?


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