Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Is the permafrost's integrity breaking down?

The chart below shows very high methane levels over Antarctica in April and May 2013. High levels of methane over Antarctica were recorded before in 2013, as described in an earlier post at the methane-hydrates blog.

Meanwhile, a methane reading of 2475 ppb was recorded on April 26, 2013, appearing to originate from the Himalayan Plateau, as illustrated by the image below.

Recurring high readings could indicate that methane is bubbling up through the permafrost, both in Antarctica and on the Himalayan Plateau.

Loss of the integrity of the permafrost is particularly threatening in the Arctic, where the sea ice looks set to disappear within years, resulting in huge albedo changes in summer. Decrease of surface reflectivity results in increases in absorption of energy from sunlight and decreases in shortwave radiation in the atmosphere. The latter results in lower photo-dissociation rates of tropospheric gases. Photo-dissociation of the ozone molecule is the major process that leads to the production of OH (hydroxyl radical), the main oxidizing (i.e., cleansing) gas species in the troposphere. A 2009 NASA study projects this to lead to a decrease in OH concentrations and a weakening of the oxidizing capacity of the Arctic troposphere, further increasing the vulnerability of the Arctic to warming in case of additional methane releases.

Levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are already very high in the Arctic atmosphere, while large quantities of black carbon get deposited on snow and ice, further contributing to the albedo changes. This threatens to result in rapid summer warming of many parts of the Arctic Ocean with very shallow waters. Additionally, rivers can bring increasingly warm water into those shallow seas in summer, adding to the threat that heat will penetrate the seabed that contains huge quantities of methane.

Above image, earlier included in an animation at the Arctic-news blog, shows methane concentrations on January 23, 2013, when a reading of 2241 ppb was recorded in the Arctic.

Analysis of sediment cores collected in 2009 from under ice-covered Lake El'gygytgyn in the northeast Russian Arctic suggest that, last time the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about as high as it is today (roughly 3.5 to 2 million years ago), regional precipitation was three times higher and summer temperatures were about 15 to 16 degrees Celsius (59 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit), or about 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than today.

As temperatures rose back in history, it is likely that a lot of methane will have vented from hydrates in the Arctic, yet without causing runaway warming. Why not? The rise in temperature then is likely to have taken place slowly over many years. While on occasion this may have caused large abrupt releases of methane, the additional methane from such releases could each time be broken down within decades, also because global methane levels in the atmosphere were much lower than today.

In conclusion, the situation today is much more threatening, particularly in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), as further described in the earlier post methane hydrates.

Above post is an extract of the full post at the methane-hydrates blog

Friday, May 10, 2013

1250 - New group calls for action on methane

A new group, named 1250, calls for governments around the world to take action on methane.

Just like 350 parts per million has become a popular target for carbon dioxide, the group similarly advocates a target for methane, aiming for a reduction of methane to 1250 parts per billion (ppb).

On several occasions in April, 2013, the hourly average carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere of Mouna Loa, Hawaii, surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm). On May 9, 2013, the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa also surpassed 400 ppm. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) comments that before the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, global average carbon dioxide was about 280 ppm. During the last 800,000 years, carbon dioxide fluctuated between about 180 ppm during ice ages and 280 ppm during interglacial warm periods. Today’s rate of increase is more than 100 times faster than the increase that occurred when the last ice age ended.

On May 9, 2013, at another place on Earth, another significant event took place. Methane levels above Antarctica reached a peak of 2249 ppb, highlighting the need for action on methane.

The group 1250 advocates a similar target for methane, i.e. a reduction of methane to 1250 parts per billion.

“Methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, making it important to reduce levels of methane in the atmosphere,” explains founder Nathan Currier; “1250 is not just an advocacy group for methane cuts, however. Rather, it is a group focusing on near-term climate as a whole, and on practical pathways to constructing a ‘climate bridge’ towards a stable and sustainable future.”

The launch of the group is accompanied by the release of the chart below showing the very high methane levels that have been recorded over Antarctica recently. The chart was prepared by Sam Carana, who also is a founding member of 1250.

These very high methane emissions occur on the heights of East Antarctica. Antarctica is covered in a thick layer of ice. It appears that these very high emissions are caused by methane from hydrates that is escaping in the form of free gas bubbling up through the ice sheet.

The danger is that such emissions will escalate, not only over Antarctica, but also on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and in the Arctic. For more on this, see the methane-hydrates blog.

The group 1250 was set up specifically to address to need for a comprehensive approach to the challenges posed by climate change. The group now invites other groups to a dialogue regarding the details.

The group has a website at and encourages people to join its mailing list and sign its petition.

Climate change: Solutions to a big problem

Dorsi Diaz
By Dorsi Diaz

As the Arctic continues its full melt down for the first time in thousands of years, creative forward thinkers like inventor Patrick McNulty are exploring ways to restore the balance to our climate system which is on the verge of some monumental changes.

With abrupt climate change perhaps just a heartbeat away, McNulty has invented a tunnel idea that would hopefully help turn a glaring problem into a solution to the climate Armageddon that is bearing down on us. There's only one hitch though, Patrick's idea needs to have some further testing done, and that testing does not come cheap. What's needed is a University that's willing to take on Patrick's project and do some computer modeling with his tunnel idea.

McNulty, who has worked in the fossil fuel industry for over 20 years, has a background in solving problems as a production leader. His impressive bio gives us a clue as to why his tunnel idea needs a better look at it:

McNulty spoke with me and said, "I have worked in the fossil fuel power plant industry for 20 years at Florida Power And Light/ Nextera Energy as a production leader and control room operator and know why the burning of fossil fuels is so important to climate change and why we monitor Nitrous oxide, Sulfur Dioxide and CO2 exiting the stacks. The steam water cycle of the power plant is very similar to happens in our atmosphere and very similar to what hurricanes do to cool our climate."

Youtube video - If placed in the Gulfstream there are two phases of operation. Cooling and Non-Cooling phase. In cooling phase it upwells cooler water to the surface to regulate Sea Surface temps anywhere between 70 and 90 degrees to the nearest 1/10 of a degree while generating enormous amounts of hydroelectrical power from the Ke in the gulfstream current. In non-cooling phase just the warm water flows through it but it still generates the electrical power. They actually regulate climate.

In an interview yesterday with McNulty, he expressed what needs to happen with his invention to take it to the next step: Patrick says he needs, "A university that studies global climate, severe weather, drought and hurricanes that can computer model my idea. Once they input what my idea can do to sea surface temperatures in the Gulfstream, they can compute how they can change the climate to a more cooler one with very accurate solutions depending on what set point they input to the temperature controller of each tunnel."

McNulty goes on to explain how he got interested in coming up with a solution to the climate change challenge we now find ourselves in: "I started to think about how to weaken a hurricane first after Hurricane Hugo hit the Carolina's. Then Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida where I lived and I started to think more about it and communicated with the hurricane center in Miami about my idea. It was a simple idea and has evolved to what it is now after reading about Blaise Pascal and Daniel Bernoulli. Dr. Hugh Willoughby, the director of the Hurricane Research Center and now currently a professor at Florida International University (FIU), seemed somewhat impressed with my idea worked out a backdoor solution that said the idea can weaken a category 5 hurricane to a category 3 hurricane prior to landfall that would work on Hurricane Andrew type storms. The current director of the hurricane research center in Miami Fla. Dr. Frank Marks has also told me my idea should be computer modeled."

And this is why McNultys idea needs a closer look at it and a University to pick up and run with the ball. With the Arctic possibly being ice-free as soon as this summer, the window is fast closing to address the growing climate threat our changing climate presents - meaning even more extreme weather events on the near horizon.

And just how does inventor McNultys tunnel idea work? He gives us some clues here where he talks more about the logistics of the system: "It took me about 5 years between the time of Hurricane Hugo and Hurricane Andrew to come up with the idea. Since then and by accident I have found out how my idea can also restore our climate back to pre-industrial revolution temperatures by adding turbine generators to them. The kinetic energy in the Gulfstream is enormous and enough to displace fossil fuel power generation. I study the idea almost daily and have found the idea can reverse many of the ill effects of climate change that fossil fuels are bringing us today such as higher sea levels, higher sea surface temperatures, red tide, lower PH levels in our oceans, coral bleaching, loss of Northern summertime arctic ice, loss of albedo, skin cancer, lung cancer, war, heart attacks, stroke, asthma, loss of polar bears, sea lions, narwhals, walrus, kril, shrimp, rain forest's, soil moisture and more desertification etc. etc. etc."

With the threat of large pockets of methane gas being released in the Arctic and tipping us into runaway climate change, McNultys idea addresses this growing problem. He shared with me that: "The methane/CO2 issue in the Tundra and the methane ice is a big issue since it has 20 times the warming effect that CO2 has once released to the atmosphere. My idea keeps it frozen in place since it can restore the Arctic Ice to pre-industrial revolution extent/mass."

So with an idea brought forth to slow down our death march to Climate Armageddon, McNulty proposes an idea that could solve many of our problems. The only thing we need now is a bright team to take on the project and run some computer modeling on the tunnel idea.

With all the brilliant minds out there, who is interested in helping solve a world problem? And more importantly, be a part of saving the human race?

Patrick McNulty can be contacted through his Facebook page.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

No Planet B

By Andrew Glikson
Earth and paleo-climate science, Australian National University
IPCC Reviewer

The global CO2cide 400 ppm milestone

Figure 1. Mouna Loa Month ending May 1, 2013, from:

Figure 2. CO2 levels over the past 800,000,000 years, from:

Figure 3. Mouna Loa CO2 level 29 April, 2013 
On the 29 April, 2013, NOAA recorded a CO2 level of 399.50 ppm, while some readings in April 2013 exceeded 400 ppm (Figures 1, 2 and 3, from:, signifying a return to atmosphere conditions of the Pliocene (5.2 – 2.6 million years ago).

This followed a rise from 394.45 ppm to 397.34 ppm (March 2012 – 2013) at a rate of 2.89 ppm per year, unprecedented in the recorded geological history of the last 65 million years (Figure 4).

Pliocene temperatures - about 2 – 3 degrees C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures, resulted in an intense hydrological cycle, ensuing in extensive rain forests, lush savannas (now occupied by deserts), small ice caps and sea levels about 25 meters higher than at present (Figure 5).

Figure 4. CO2 rise rates vs Temperature rise rates for the Cainozoic (65 Ma to the present). 

Figure 5. The Pliocene Earth compared to the modern Earth
Note (1) the lower albedo in the Pliocene poles signifying the smaller
size of the ice caps and (2) the high albedo of 
the modern Sahara and
Gobi deserts signifying the a larger extent of Holocene deserts.
Life abounded during the Pliocene. However, regular river flow conditions such as allowed cultivation and along river valleys since about 7000 years ago, and temperate Mediterraneantype climates allowing extensive farming, could hardly exist under the intense hydrological cycle and heat wave conditions of the Pliocene.

Gradual to intermittent advents of Pleistocene ice ages over the last 2 million years allowed many species to adapt to changing conditions. Abrupt warming events, such as the DansgaardOeschger cycles, occurred during glacial periods (Figure 4). Extreme shifts in state of the climate exceed the rate to which many species can adapt.

The basic laws of atmospheric physics and chemistry and the behavior of past atmospheres indicate changes in the level of atmospheric greenhouse gases constitute a key parameter determining the current trend of the terrestrial climate. Concomitant rates of SO2 release, mainly from coal burning, have regulated changes in temperature.

Increases in SO2 release about 1950 and 2001 are responsible for slow-down of temperature rise (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Comparison of the rate of warming and variations in SO2 levels.
Temperature from 
GISS/NASA (; SO2 levels after
          Note the overlap between slow-down of overall 
temperature rise rates and increase in SO2 emissions
( around 1950 and 2001. 
The current CO2 ppm/year rise rate of ~3 ppm/year surpasses any recorded since the last 65 million years of Earth history. High CO2 and temperature rises occurred about ~55 Ma ago. At that stage release of methane drove a CO2 rise of near-1800 ppm and a temperature rise of about 5 degrees C over 10,000 years, namely a rate of 0.18 ppm/year and 0.0005 degrees C/year (Zachos et al. 2008;

The K-T asteroid impact of 65 Ma-ago resulted in a rise of more than 2000 ppm CO2 within about 10,000 years, namely ~0.2 ppm /year. This triggered a temperature rise of about 7.5 degrees C, namely 0.00075 degrees C per year (Beerling et al. 2002 (Figure 4). Calculations by these authors suggest a release of approximately 4500 billion tons of carbon from impacted carbonates and shale, ignited bushfires and ocean warming.

The consequences of the current rise in greenhouse gases is manifested by enhancement of the hydrological cycle, with ensuing floods and of heat waves ( ;

Open-ended combustion of known fossil fuel reserves (Figure 7) would lead to atmospheric CO2 levels of ~800 to 1000 ppm CO2, high degree to total melting of the polar ice caps, sea level rise on the scale of tens of meters and disruption of the biosphere on a scale analogous to recorded mass extinctions (

Figure 7. CO2 emissions by fossil fuels (1 ppm CO2 ~ 2.12 GtC). 
Alternative estimates of reserves and potentially recoverable resources are from EIA (2011) and GAC (2011).
We are 
headed toward 800 to 1,000+ ppm, which represents the near-certain destruction of modern civilization
as we know it -- as the recent scientific literature makes chillingly clear. 

Carbon emissions may be self-limiting. It is likely that, before atmospheric CO2 reach 500 ppm, disruption of fossil fuel-combusting systems by extreme weather events would result in reduction of emissions. On the other hand the extent to which amplifying feedback processes (methane release from permafrost and Arctic sediments, bushfires, warming oceans) would continue to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is uncertain.

Preoccupied with short-term economic forecast, daily A$ exchange rates, share market fluctuations and, sports results, with some exceptions ( the accelerating rate of atmospheric CO2 seems to hardly rate a mention on the pages of the global media.

There are few signs the extreme danger the terrestrial biosphere and the oceans are driving the global community to undertake the urgent large-scale measures required to attempt to arrest current trends.

In Australia the language has changed, from “the greatest moral issue of our generation” ( to hit-pocket controversy over a “carbon tax”, a meningless 5 percent reduction in local emissions which overlook the export of hundreds of million tons of coal, ending up in the same atmosphere.

There is no evidence the recent IPA celebration (, attended by the likely next prime minister, the world’s media moguls and mining magnates, as well as an archbishop, was concerned with the future of the Earth’s climate.

In professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber’s words stated in Doha “overriding everything else the 1st Law of Humanity: Don’t kill your children!” (

There is no planet B.