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Researchers Warn Of Catastrophic Methane Release From The Thawing Arctic


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"The event, which scientists are calling a "methane burp" could advance global warming by 15 to 35 years at any moment. Arctic researcher Natalia Shakohova of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, told New Scientist that this release is "highly possible at any time."

More than a trillion tonnes of methane are trapped under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, and much more could be under the entire Arctic. A decade of ice melt and warming seas will trigger a climate catastrophe, the researchers said, releasing up to 50 billion tonnes of the potent greenhouse gas."

Is it just me or does this seem like REALLY BIG NEWS?

REALLY big news. Geez.

And here I thought the methane problem was from cows...

RIGHT?!?!  I'm not an alarmist but this seems like an honest-to-goodness reason to worry.

Yikes:

Large vents are already spewing methane, researchers report. Research cruises in 2012 found huge plumes of methane up to a kilometer wide bubbling to the surface, according to New Scientist.

This release of methane wouldraise global temperatures by 1.3 degrees Celsius, contributing to increased melt. The Arctic ice minimum in 2012 was less than 40% of the average ice cover during the 1970s.

To figure out the economic cost of a decade of extreme methane release — say from 2015 to 2025 — the researchers added the extra methane and temperature increases to the climate models through to 2200 — that's how they got the $60 trillion cost globally from just the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

These financial impacts will mostly be felt in the poorest parts of Africa, Asia, and South America — causing loss of crops, droughts and other extreme weather, and increasing sea level rise. This continued methane release could completely undermine the global financial system, the researchers said in commentary published today, July 24, in the journal Nature.

This is in contrast to other, sunnier reports on Arctic melt, which detail the possible "good" this melt will have — opening up shipping lanes, increasing fishing, and even allowing us to access minerals, natural gas, and oil in the ocean bed.

The unknown unknown's are the problem. I hope we have enough time to educate people and change human behavior before there's a massive change in our climate.

What can be done to prevent a methane burp?

I'm not sure.

I mean, we haven't even figured out how to stop cow farts from accelerating global warming:

http://blog.nature.org/conservancy/2011/04/01/no-fooling-cow-burps-and-farts-contribute-to-climate-change/

One thing is clear: We can't just set all that methane on fire.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=694404

Why not collect it, liquefy it and use it ?

The funniest thing.  The prevailing theory of the Bermuda Triangle is that boats and ships were "taken out" by great, huge methane burps.  It turns out the whole area underneath the triangle is methane rich shale.

As for lighting it on fire, maybe we can transport it to the Northeast US so that the mayor that wanted to use the flamethrower on all the snows can use Methane instead. 

http://alum.mit.edu/pages/sliceofmit/2011/02/02/1948-mayor-to-mit-use-flamethrowers-to-melt-snow/

I do like the idea of collecting it. Is methane easily collectible?

Looks like Japan is breaking new ground with methane extraction. 

"With specialized equipment, the team drilled into and then lowered the pressure in the undersea methane hydrate reserve, causing the methane and ice to separate. It then piped the natural gas to the surface, the ministry said in a statement."

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/business/global/japan-says-it-is-first-to-tap-methane-hydrate-deposit.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

"It is unclear how much the tapping of methane hydrate would affect Japan’s emissions or global warming. On one hand, natural gas would provide a cleaner alternative to coal, which still provides Japan with a fifth of its primary energy needs. But new energy sources could also prompt Japan to slow its development of renewable energies or green technologies, hurting its emissions in the long run.

Any accidental release of large amounts of methane during the extraction process would also be harmful."

Yes, we know!!!!

Methane collection is being accomplished; it is likely impossible once released, but if known methane deposits exist (as is implied above), drilling can easily address the collection.  Subsequent compression and liquefaction to LNG would allow it to be readily transported to an end-user. I strongly suspect that the calorific value (lb for lb) is much higher than most coals being used for power generation.

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