05 August 2014

We Are Unbelievably Screwed

If the report of massive plums of methane developing is both true, and a new phenomena driven by anthropogenic climate change, then we are already on the far side of of this disaster, and we have gone from prevention to mitigation:
This week, scientists made a disturbing discovery in the Arctic Ocean: They saw "vast methane plumes escaping from the seafloor," as the Stockholm University put it in a release disclosing the observations. The plume of methane—a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat more powerfully than carbon dioxide, the chief driver of climate change—was unsettling to the scientists.

But it was even more unnerving to Dr. Jason Box, a widely published climatologist who had been following the expedition. As I was digging into the new development, I stumbled upon his tweet, which, coming from a scientist, was downright chilling:

Box, who is currently a professor of glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, has been studying the Arctic for decades. His accolade-packed Wikipedia page notes that he's made some 20 expeditions to the Arctic since 1994, and served as the lead author on the Greenland section of NOAA's State of the Climate report from 2008-2012. He also runs the Dark Snow project and writes about the latest findings in the field at his blog, Meltfactor.


"We are 'sniffing' methane," Ulf Hedman, the science coordinator of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, wrote in a post highlighted by Climate Change SOS. "We see the bubbles on video from the camera mounted on the CTD or the Multicorer. All analysis tells the signs. We are in a Mega flare. We see it in the water column, we read it above the surface, and we follow it up high into the sky with radars and lasers. We see it mixed in the air and carried away with the winds. Methane in the air."

"Methane is more than 20 times more potent than CO2 in trapping infrared as part of the natural greenhouse effect," Box said. "Methane getting to the surface—that's potent stuff."

It's especially worrying because the Arctic is warming faster than nearly anywhere else on Earth. Now, along with melting sea ice and thawing permafrost, we have to add to our list of 'feedback loop' concerns that warming Arctic oceans may be releasing fonts of methane. That is, the warmer the ocean gets, the more methane gets spewed out of those stores on the continental shelf, and the warmer the ocean gets, ad infinitum.
We need to get beyond the denials being driven by people who hate Al Gore and people who are making too much money on fossil fuels to allow for meaningful action to be taken, and we need to do it now.

H/t Crooks and Liars.


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