The Giant Methane Monster Lurking...

There’s something lurking deep under the frozen Arctic Ocean, and if it gets released, it could spell disaster for our planet. That something is methane. Methane is one of the strongest of the natural greenhouse gases, about 80 times more potent than CO2, and while it may not get as much attention as its cousin CO2, it certainly can do as much, if not more, damage to our planet.

That’s because methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and there are trillions of tons of it embedded in a kind of ice slurry called methane hydrate or methane clathrate crystals in the Arctic and in the seas around the continental shelves all around the world. If enough of this methane is released quickly enough, it won’t just produce the same old global warming.

It could produce an extinction of species on a wide scale, an extinction that could even include the human race. If there is a “ticking time bomb” on our planet that could lead to a global warming so rapid and sudden that we would have no way of dealing with it, it’s methane.

Right now, estimates suggest that there’s over 1,000 gigatons - that's a thousand billion tons - of carbon in methane form trapped just under the Arctic ice. And if stays trapped under the ice, we might have a chance. But, thanks to the global warming that’s already occurring, Arctic sea ice is melting at unprecedented rates.

In fact, as Gaius Publius points out over at America Blog, just about every reputable projection on the loss of Arctic sea ice has been wrong in a very, very bad way. The lack of sea ice cover in the Arctic that we’re seeing today wasn’t supposed to happen for 20+ more years according to 13 of the most accurate models.

As all that sea ice melts, the Arctic ice which once reflected sunlight and prevented global warming, becomes a very blue ocean that absorbs heat and causes even more melting. And this all means that more and more methane is being released into the atmosphere much faster than expected, speeding up the process of global warming and climate change.

It’s all one big and vicious cycle, called a "positive feedback loop," something that can spiral out of balance and control very quickly. But here’s where it gets really scary.

Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center have found that Arctic methane is leaking out from the ocean floor nearly twice as fast as was previously thought. The researchers found that the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is releasing at least 17 million tons of methane into the atmosphere each year.

Natalia Shakhova, one of the lead researchers on the study, said methane releases from the Arctic seafloor are, “now on par with the methane being released from the arctic tundra, which is considered to be one of the major sources of methane in the Northern Hemisphere.” To put this in perspective, just seven years ago, estimates suggested that only 500,000 tons of methane were being released into Earth’s atmosphere each year. Now we're measuring 17 million tons of it. Just in the Arctic.

Now, we can’t directly stop Arctic sea ice from melting and releasing methane into the atmosphere, but we can help stop what’s contributing to that melting in the first place: fossil fuel extraction.

Every day, the fossil fuel industry extracts more and more fossil fuels from the ground, releasing tons and tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That carbon dioxide warms our atmosphere, which hastens the melting of Arctic sea ice, and the release of even more dangerous methane into our atmosphere.

We need to be keeping the remaining methane right where it is, buried deep under a thick sheet of ice.And a great way to accomplish that goal is by introducing a carbon tax. Putting a price on the amount of carbon that the fossil fuel industry takes out of the ground would encourage less fossil fuel extraction, and more reliance on clean and green energy.

With a carbon tax, fossil fuels would become more expensive than renewables. For every day that America’s fossil fuel industry pumps carbon pollution into our skies, our environment is deteriorating quicker, more and more Arctic sea ice is melting, and climate change and global warming are speeding up.

We have a chance right now to keep the giant methane monster that’s lurking under the Arctic Ocean right where it is, and save our planet in the process. The time for a carbon tax in America is now!


Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 20 weeks ago

Up yours, smart ass. I must have told you at least four times that I am not a bloody scientist, yet you persist in mocking me for not stating my case with “scientific precision”. Whatever, Mr. Mills. I hide behind no false pretense. Therefore you are grasping at nothing, seemingly out of some desperate need to win arguments.

I believe I explained myself more than adequately. The basis of my argument is that I listen to those experts who I judge to be most credible AND the least beholden to corporate interests. That’s a far cry from basing an argument on “typos in other conversations”.

I know your game. You can’t get folks here to climb onboard, to accept your point of view, so then comes the sarcasm! Fire away, asshole, if it makes you feel better. But you’ve failed to convince us of anything, and no amount of bullying and sophomoric mud slinging is going to change that. I suggest you step back, chill out awhile, get a grip and accept the fact that some folks just aren’t going to agree with you.

Can’t handle that? Too bad for you. It will simply have to be your problem. So have a lovely summer, and tah-tah. This conversation is over now. - Aliceinwonderland

Sven Mills's picture
Sven Mills 8 years 20 weeks ago
#2 would have found all the info you request, but okay:

No need to read the full report. A keyword search finds notable points easily enough.

This should be read in the context of additional info garnered from multiple locations confirming no inc in average global temps, extreme weather events, wild fires, droughts, etc, etc....

WG1AR5 - Chapter 2, pp213-220

You would no doubt suggest I was cherry picking, however the majority of this section seems to be "... there seems to be.... but there is no clear trend. In summary, there is low confidence...."

A critical reading reveals huge uncertainties and low confidence in trends.

For example, but not exclusively:

Pg 214, Floods:- "In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale."

Pg 215, Droughts: "In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century, owing to lack of direct observations, geo-graphical inconsistencies in the trends, and dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. Based on updated studies, AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated. However, it is likely that the frequency and inten- sity of drought has increased in the Mediterranean and West Africa and decreased in central North America and north-west Australia since 1950."

Pg 216 Severe Local Weather Events: "In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems."

Pg 217 2.6.3 Tropical Storms: "In summary, this assessment does not revise the SREX conclusion of low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial) increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities. More recent assessments indicate that it is unlikely that annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have increased over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin. Evidence, however, is for a virtually certain increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s in that region."

Pg 220 2.6.4 Extratropical Storms: "In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low. There is also low confidence for a clear trend in storminess proxies over the last century due to inconsistencies between studies or lack of long-term data in some parts of the world (particularly in the SH). Likewise, confidence in trends in extreme winds is low, owing to quality and consistency issues with analysed data."

Pg 219 "FAQ 2.2, Figure 2 summarizes some of the observed changes in climate extremes. Overall, the most robust global changes in climate extremes are seen in measures of daily temperature, including to some extent, heat waves. Precipitation extremes also appear to be increasing, but there is large spatial variability, and observed trends in droughts are still uncertain except in a few regions. While robust increases have been seen in tropical cyclone fre- quency and activity in the North Atlantic since the 1970s, the reasons for this are still being debated. There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century."

Pg 217 -"In most cases, therefore wind speed or storminess proxies are derived from in situ pressure measurements or reanalyses data, the quality and consistency of which vary. In situ observations indicate no clear trends over the past century or longer....."


Compare with NOAA data that shows greater numbers of cat 3 and above Hurricanes 1950-1970.

Named Cyclones By Year -


I have no need to try and convince, evidence (and the lack thereof), data, critical thinking and common sense all point to major issues with the alleged consensus on AGW.

Sven Mills's picture
Sven Mills 8 years 20 weeks ago

While you're at it, checkout the USCRN data set that shows not only no warming of the contiguous US states in the last decade, but a net cooling.

Take a look at the Hadley Centre's Central UK HADCET dataset that shows a cooling trend in UK winters over the last 20 or so years.

Take a look at for current solar activity then look at solar cycles and their effect on climate.

Take a look at work on the thermohaline cycle, Pacific and Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, cloud cover, deforestation and regreening, and effect on climate.

Take a look at the Urban Heat Island Effect and how thermometers have been affected, throwing doubt on the datasets themselves (although the USCRN network has been set up to minimise such issues)

Then take a look at global CO2 emissions year by year and match against global temp variance since 2000 and see if you still believe that CO2 emissions are the main driver of temperature.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 20 weeks ago

I think farting cows and melting ice caps are the cause of a lot of the CO2 in our atmosphere. Methane, so I'm told, turns into water and CO2. Maybe if people ate more vegetables and cut out meat in their diets we could save the earth. ;-}

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 20 weeks ago

How about brain farts, Palin? Are those soiling the atmosphere? Or maybe just contaminating the public airwaves...

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 20 weeks ago

Oh, you mean Fox Farts? Definitely contaminating the airwaves!

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 20 weeks ago

Sven -- I thought I already replied but I can't find it. In any case, thanks for the links. It seems we can have a lot of interesting discussions based on these 5 pages out of 1500.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 20 weeks ago


chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 20 weeks ago

Sven -- I am still looking at the pages; however, I thought it was interesting how much keyword search sounds like cherry picking.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 20 weeks ago


Sven Mills's picture
Sven Mills 8 years 19 weeks ago

Which is why I said "You would no doubt suggest I was cherry picking......"

Searching through such a huge document without using search terms would mean reading the entire document and making notes.

I must admit I have not read the whole report only certain sections - in this case those that reference extreme weather and the low confidence in a link with AGW.

Would you now accept after reading the section (and possibly checking out that NOAA link) that the IPCC report states no confidence in a link between AGW and extreme weather events, and that there has been no increase in the number or severity of storms in the Atlantic (and elsewhere should we care to look)?

Perhaps another cherry-picking keyword search for 'hiatus' is in order.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 19 weeks ago

Sven -- I had a cololnoscopy today, bought a washer on Tuesday, and preparing for videoing a memorial ceremony for a friend on Saturday. Please stay tuned.

I am going to be using keyword search to determine if the uncertainty mentioned in those paragraphs is in the system, the measurements or the estimates, but not until July 27.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 18 weeks ago

Yep! The facts are the facts, Mr. Mills. And just today I learned from Thom Hartmann that the NIPCC, or “Nongovernmental International Panel On Climate Change”, is funded by the Heartland Institute! And according to Thom, the Heartland Institute is all about climate change denial. They are even looney enough to compare people like us (those who believe the scientific consensus among real climate experts) to the Unabomber.

I just knew something smelled fishy about your argument and repeated references to the NIPCC! So much for all that sanctimonious drivel about how “intellectually lazy” you think we are, and how people are “entitled to their own opinions, not their own facts” ad nauseam.

Mr. Mills, you can just kiss my royal ass. - Aliceindunderland

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 18 weeks ago

AIW -- Sven was referring to the IPCC not the NIPCC. The IPCC is the report put out by the UN. The IPCC warns us how bad climate change is. Sven is referring to 5 or 6 pages in the 1400+ pages of the IPCC. Those 5 or 6 pages are why your course of action (97% of scientists agree) is appropriate. I am still anlayzing those 5 or 6 pages. It seems the contributors to that section do not understand detecting a signal in a very noisy sample.

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