Monday, May 05, 2008

The Firestorm

The key forcing molecule in climate change science is generally considered to be carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is what happens when we oxidize or burn carbon. And in 2007, despite what goofyness you might hear from Russ Fatball and his dittoheads, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere went up by another 2.4 parts per million. Back in the eighties, it used to go up a little over 1 part per million per year.

Here's the story from Science Daily:

Greenhouse Gases, Carbon Dioxide And Methane,
Rise Sharply In 2007
Apr. 24, 2008

Last year alone global levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the primary driver of global climate change, increased by 0.6 percent, or 19 billion tons. Additionally methane rose by 27 million tons after nearly a decade with little or no increase. NOAA scientists released these and other preliminary findings today as part of an annual update to the agency’s greenhouse gas index, which tracks data from 60 sites around the world. clip

The rate of increase in carbon dioxide concentrations accelerated over recent decades along with fossil fuel emissions. Since 2000, annual increases of two ppm or more have been common, compared with 1.5 ppm per year in the 1980s and less than one ppm per year during the 1960s."

The next part of the story portends an even more dangerous trend.

Methane levels rose last year for the first time since 1998. Methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but there’s far less of it in the atmosphere—about 1,800 parts per billion. When related climate affects are taken into account, methane’s overall climate impact is nearly half that of carbon dioxide.

Rapidly growing industrialization in Asia and rising wetland emissions in the Arctic and tropics are the most likely causes of the recent methane increase, said scientist Ed Dlugokencky from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory.

”We’re on the lookout for the first sign of a methane release from thawing Arctic permafrost,” said Dlugokencky. “It’s too soon to tell whether last year’s spike in emissions includes the start of such a trend.”

Permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, contains vast stores of carbon. Scientists are concerned that as the Arctic continues to warm and permafrost thaws, carbon could seep into the atmosphere in the form of methane, possibly fueling a cycle of carbon release and temperature rise."

And here is a Russian scientist who is tracking that very thing.

Russian scientist discovers gassy permafrost
By Alex Rodriguez
Chicago Tribune

CHERSKY, Russia — Sergei Zimov waded through knee-deep snow to reach a frozen lake where so much methane belches out of the melting permafrost that it spews out from the ice like small geysers.

In the frigid twilight, the Russian scientist struck a match to make a jet of the greenhouse gas visible. The sudden plume of fire threw him backward. Zimov stood up, brushed the snow off his parka and beamed.

"Sometimes a big explosion happens, because the gas comes out like a bomb," Zimov said. "There are a million lakes like this in northern Siberia."

In a country where many scientists scoff at the existence of global warming, Zimov has been waging a lonely campaign to warn the world about Russia's melting permafrost and its nexus with climate change. His laboratory is the vast expanse of tundra and larch forest along the East Siberian Sea, an icy corner of the world that Zimov has scrutinized almost entirely on his own for 28 years. (clip)

Few places in the world can provide stark evidence of global warming like the peat bogs, lakes and woodlands that stretch eight time zones along Russia's north Siberian coastline.

Melting permafrost awakens dormant microbes that devour thousands of tons of organic carbon, creating methane as a byproduct if no oxygen is present. (clip)

The process feeds on itself. As the climate warms, permafrost on the banks of Siberian lakes collapses into the water, supplying bacteria with more organic material to consume and further raising the level of methane released into the air.

The melting of permafrost cannot be stopped, Zimov says, but it could be slowed. " more

I have been checking the concentrations of methane for the last several years watching for an indication that methane in the atmosphere is increasing. And for the last 10 years, methane concentrations have been pretty stable.

If the 2007 spike is repeated in 2008 and 2009, then we can pretty much deduce that Sergei knows why. If this feedback loop takes off, warming will spin out of control and for the first time old Russ and his ditto heads will be technically right about the cause of rampant climate change.

For the most powerful emissions that will spell out our demise are not going to come from our power plants and our tailpipes anymore, they will be coming from our good old mother.

And therefore Dear Brutus, it's not our fault.

It's like a child explaining that the house burned itself down after he lit the antique dining room table cloth on fire with the lighter that he stole from Dad.

Technically, I guess it did.

But Mom knows better.

She knows who started the Firestorm.

Cassius:"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
Firestorm courtesy of DC Comics



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adding still another source of methane to the atmoshpere, currently studied by scientists at Rice University are Gas Hydrates. Gas Hydrates are tiny ice crystals found on the ocean floor containing trapped methane gas. As the oceans warm, these ice crystals melt, releasing trapped methane.


10:48 AM  

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