Posts Tagged ‘methane’
[This is my first exclusive blog post - virtually everything else on this site are my published articles. Not sure if I'll have time to do more. Let me know what you think - Stephen ]
A new study released Feb 13 revealed that the volume of Arctic sea ice is declining rapidly. Ice volume in September 2012 had fallen 80 percent compared with the volume of ice in September 1980 according to the latest data from European Space Agency satellite, CryoSat-2. As the Arctic heats up Most of the ice loss has been in recent years. Between 2003 and 2012 the volume declined a whopping 36 percent. Summers with a sea ice-free Arctic are only a few years away, scientists now agree. This will have significant and permanent impacts on weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.
My previous article Ice-Free Arctic Is “Uncharted Territory” documented last September’s one year record area decline of 18 percent. Here’s what this means:
The impacts are already being felt across the entire northern hemisphere. The loss of sea ice in recent years has been affecting weather patterns, recent research has shown. The all-important jet stream – the west-to-east winds that are the boundary between the cold Arctic and the warm mid-latitudes – is slowing down, moving north and become more erratic.
When continent-sized areas of the Arctic Ocean flip from the all-white ice to dark blue, tremendous amounts of heat are absorbed from the 24-hour summer sun. When the bitter cold Arctic winter sets in over the next few weeks, all the heat in the ocean must be released into the atmosphere before ice can form again.
The Arctic will be ice-covered in winter for decades to come but what’s fundamentally changed is that every fall, unprecedented amounts of heat and water vapour will be released into the atmosphere.
“The polar meltdown shows we’re teetering on the brink of climate change catastrophe,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.
As the sea ice declines, Arctic temperatures increase, thawing more and more permafrost, which will release more climate-heating carbon and methane. Permafrost is frozen soil, sediment and rock spanning 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe. It has twice the carbon that the atmosphere currently holds.
A Swedish study released Feb 17 has found a link between sea ice declines and increases in methane emissions. Methane has 40x the warming of carbon. This is may lead to an even faster meltdown of the Arctic risking the release of huge amounts of permafrost carbon and methane.
UPDATE Jan 2013:
Yet another study reveals fracking has a huge problem of gas leaks. Up to 9% of the gas pumped out of the ground leaks into the atmosphere according to a study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published in Nature Jan 3, 2013. Natural gas (methane) is a powerful greenhouse gas. If these leaks are widespread, fracking is worse than burning coal accelerating global warming.
In Jan 2012 I detailed new research showing that replacing coal with natural gas from fracking does little to fight climate change (see below). Two studies published in the months after that made an even stronger case that fracking for natural gas is very likely a HUGE MISTAKE:
From Nature: Air sampling reveals high emissions from gas field. Methane leaks during production may offset climate benefits of natural gas.
From Environmental Research Letters: New study demonstrates switching to natural gas is the path to climate disaster. What’s needed is an aggressive deployment of zero-carbon technologies and conservation.
Shale Gas Worse Than Coal Study Finds
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 24, 2012 (IPS)
Hundreds of thousands of shale gas wells are being “fracked” in the United States and Canada, allowing large amounts of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, to escape into the atmosphere, new studies have shown.
Shale gas production results in 40 to 60 percent more global warming emissions than conventional gas, said Robert Howarth of Cornell University in New York State.
“Shale gas also has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than oil or coal over the short term,” said Howarth, co-author of a study called “Venting and Leaking of Methane from Shale Gas Development” to be published in the journal Climatic Change.
“The way we’re going right now, I’m not optimistic that we will avoid some kind of tipping point.“
– Mark Serreze, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre
[FYI: I'm an independent journalist who supports his family and the public interest writing articles about important environmental issues. ..]
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 5, 2010 (IPS)
The frozen cap trapping billions of tonnes of methane under the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean is leaking and venting the powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, new research shows.
It is not known if this may be one of the first indicators of a feedback loop accelerating global warming.
Researchers estimate that eight million tonnes in annual methane emissions are being released from the shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which is equivalent to all the methane released from the world’s oceans, covering 71 percent of the planet.
On a global scale of methane emissions from the land-based sources – animals, rice paddies, rotting vegetation – the newly measured emissions from the Siberian seabed are less than two percent.
“That’s still very significant,” Natalia Shakhova, a researcher at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, told IPS. “Before, it was assumed that this region had zero emissions.”
Methane concentrations measured over the oceans are currently about 0.6 to 0.7 parts per million (ppm), but they are now 1.85 in the Arctic Ocean generally, and between 2.6 and 8.2 ppm in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, an area roughly two million square kilometres in size, said Shakhova.
Shakhova, and her University of Alaska colleague Igor Semiletov, led eight international expeditions to one of the world’s most remote and desolate regions and published their results in the Mar. 5 edition of the journal Science. Read the rest of this entry »
GENEVA, Sep 2 (IPS)
The rapidly warming Arctic region is destabilising Earth’s climate in ways science is just beginning to comprehend.
The entire world is being affected, and without urgent action to cut emissions, a too-warm Arctic could trigger catastrophic, irreversible climate change, top scientists say in a report released Wednesday in Geneva.
“It is crucial to know the full consequences of the Arctic warming, and this is an unprecedented review of the latest science,” said Martin Sommerkorn, an Arctic researcher and senior climate change advisor to World Wildlife Fund International.
“Simply put, if we do not keep the Arctic cold enough, people across the world will suffer the effects,” Sommerkorn told IPS.
Sea level rise of more than one metre, flooding affecting one quarter of the world’s population, and extreme global weather changes are on the way at the current pace of unchecked carbon emissions, the “Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications” report warns.
A warming Arctic has far wider and more serious consequences than previously believed based on the latest science of the past three years, including the very recent research from International Polar Year 2008-2009.
“There is a large potential that a warming Arctic will make climate change far worse,” said Sommerkorn, who acted as editor of the report written by 10 of the world’s leading climate scientists. Read the rest of this entry »