Siberian shelf methane emissions not tied to modern warming

English: Methane hydrate chunk with dissociati...

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Siberian shelf methane emissions not tied to modern warming

Colin Schultz

American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C., USA

Eight thousand years ago, a rising sea inundated the vast permafrost regions off the northern coast of Siberia. Comprising the modern east Siberian shelf, the region holds enormous quantities of methane hydrates bottled up in remnant subterranean permafrost zones that are, in turn, trapped beneath the ocean waters. Records of seafloor water temperature showing a 2.1°C rise since 1985, coupled with recent observations of methane emissions from the seabed, have led some scientists to speculate that the rising temperatures have thawed some of the subsurface permafrost, liberating the trapped methane. The connection is compelling, but an investigation by Dmitrenko et al. into the sensitivity of permafrost to rising temperatures suggests the two observations are not connected. Using a permafrost model forced with paleoclimate data to analyze changes in the depth of frozen bottom sediments, the authors found that roughly 1 meter of the subsurface permafrost thawed in the past 25 years, adding to the 25 meters of already thawed soil. Forecasting the expected future permafrost thaw, the authors found that even under the most extreme climatic scenario tested this thawed soil growth will not exceed 10 meters by 2100 or 50 meters by the turn of the next millennium. The authors note that the bulk of the methane stores in the east Siberian shelf are trapped roughly 200 meters below the seafloor, indicating that the recent methane emissions observations were likely not connected to the modest modern permafrost thaw. Instead, they suggest that the current methane emissions are the result of the permafrost’s still adjusting to its new aquatic conditions, even after 8000 years. (Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, doi:10.1029/2011JC007218, 2011)

Published 6 December 2011.

Citation: Schultz, C. (2011), Siberian shelf methane emissions not tied to modern warming, Eos Trans. AGU, 92(49), 464, doi:10.1029/2011EO490014.

This work does not discount the work due to be presented by Drs Semiletov and Shakhova sometime mid-year next year (2012). While the article from December 6th, above, indicates that the current evolution of methane may be from the condition change 8,000 years ago, it does not mean that we aren’t seeing some speed up due to localized warming, similar to stirring or scraping the bottom of a pan on the stove.

Regardless, this problem and the apparent acceleration of methane release has to be added to the efforts to deal with carbon gas emissions. So an increase now is not helping.


A nice infographic about where all that energy comes from at 2GreenEnergy!

As a part of our ongoing quest to produce “infographics” that lay out the basics of energy, I invite you to check out the chart here, presenting the notion that all the energy we harness and use here on Earth came to us indirectly from the Big Bang. Whether we’re talking about nuclear, fossil fuels, or the many different forms of renewables, those forms of energy have been made available to us via one of four different pathways through time and space since that event 13.7 billion years ago.

Daily Kos: The way conservatives sound to liberals

Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 10:56 PM MST

The way conservatives sound to liberals

by sujigu

I had a good conversation with a right leaning friend of mine who is leaning libertarian.  He thinks government action always causes negative consequences, but he is FAR from a Rush-head right wing talking points person.  Bachmann and Cain are embarrassments to him and he would like to see Glass Steagal reinstated as well as setup the consumer finance bureau.  He liked the Tea Party at the beginning and I think he still likes their libertarian wing, but he doesn’t think I’m trying to burn down America and he will listen when I explain liberal viewpoints.  I’m not highly liberal myself, but much more liberal than what he has to deal with on a regular basis.  I often read comments left on websites for political articles and have heard a lot of right wing arguments and viewpoints.  He always lets me know how liberal stuff sounds to a conservative, so today, I thought I’d return the favor by listing some talking points/philosophical points and showing how my brain processes the same information.

1. Personal Responsibility

I put this in the category of right wing phrases that sound so obvious they don’t require saying.  It’s why when I hear it I give a blank look.  Everyone is responsible for their actions, both in a legal sense and in a cause and effect sense.  The legal sense being if I go out and shoot your parents, then the police will catch me, I will be brought before a judge, and then punished.  If I don’t study hard in school and get really poor grades, I might not make it into a first rate college and have to settle for something third rate.  Job prospects, marriage prospects, where I live, etc. will hinge on these decisions as a natural course.  I know many Teabaggers immediately bring up affirmative action, but in most cases, schools only give a few extra points on the basis of race if you happen to list it on your application, and you still have to get through school and graduate.  Even if you were surrounded with liberal professors who don’t fail minorities (which is a total myth) if you go to a job that requires a GPA then they still may/may not bump you up even in that regard.   Even without equalizing factors my future would look pretty bleak, and I might leave college and find myself flipping burgers or working 80 hours at 30k a year job.  Conservatives in many ways, I think, relish the thought of someone they deem to be incompetent being punished by this imaginary meritocracy in their bid for pure social efficiency.  Herman Cain is a living example that we do not live in a meritocracy.

Personal responsibility is not something you have to go out of your way to say; it’s a part of everyone’s existence.  You cannot be a slave to efficiency to the point where you are willing to sacrifice people who are able and willing, but need a leg up, to get your revenge on a person you deem a failure.  Government intervention can cause inefficiency, but so what?  Removing hurdles is not a bad thing.  Hurdles aren’t necessarily holy, and to be honest, if a person is of the mind to jump over them, no one is going to stop them.

I know, you are dreaming of the welfare queen with her 3 children she had to get more money for child credits, who gets her heat bill, gas, and lights paid at the local welfare office and figures she’ll never work a day in her life.  Well, guess what, that’s fine for several reasons.  #1 I don’t see churches helping people on a regular basis with their bills.  I understand they have budget restraints, but I have gone to a church before and they are not reliable, because of funding or many times because the church is about enriching itself.  If churches did a better job of doing their job, then there wouldn’t be a need for welfare, but since so much of their money is diverted to stopping gay people from being married or the next personhood bill, it looks like a lot of those funds won’t make it to feeding, clothing, and keeping people warm.  #2 Telling her to get married to her father is not going to work.  You can’t force people to marry.  You can minister to them to let them know how to make better choices.  The Catherine Ferguson academy in Detroit does an excellent job of this, and does it without arrogant Christian admonishment!  #3 She might decide to work later.  Heck, it’s happened right before my very eyes.  I’ve seen people who used welfare later decide that they needed a profession, because they knew the money wouldn’t last forever, and because they had their own dreams and ideas.  They had a basis to do this because of the help they received.  Besides, a lot of people use federal programs to help them, just ask Michele Bachmann!

2. Liberals want to punish success.

We must have completely different definitions of success.  I don’t judge people by how much money they make.  That would be absurd.  That would make Rupert Murdoch better than the Dalai Lama.  Elizabeth Warren put it best when she said no one ever made it in this country on their own.  I think most conservatives have an atomized view of the individual with Ayn Randian libertarians at the furthest extreme.  You have a hard time seeing success, even in monetary terms, in context.  Again, we come to a crossroads where you argue something liberals don’t even think about saying out loud: people are individuals.  No duh.  Even in highly collectivist cultures like S. Korea or Japan, people have lots of individuality and their experiences in life are defined by their characteristics.  I’m not trying to change that because I know there is no changing that as long as humans are humans.  However we also exist as groups within groups, each interconnected.  Liberals think in context.  It’s the way we’re made.  We know that in order to be rich you had to have a society of people willing to buy your product and could afford it.  I write books.  I need a literate populace filled with intellectually curious people who have the time to read books!  You have parents, a neighborhood, a school, the media, books written by other people, a vast interconnected world of human beings both living and dead in a constant conversation.  The atomized individual becomes blurred in this context, so when conservatives set themselves up as better based on the amount of money they make, it comes out as you thinking of yourselves as autocrats with the peasants below, and even more arrogant, thinking that those roles could never change!  

3. The government has invaded our lives

Sorry Mr. Tin Foil hat, but this one doesn’t scare me.  I don’t think in religious terms about the government.  I find many conservatives believe things as articles of faith.  I prefer reason.  The government as an institution can do a great deal of good, has done a great deal of good, and will do a great deal of good in the future.  Is it running smoothly and perfectly?  HA!  However, I think your attitude towards it and your confusion about it is the reason why we’re having a hard time having a conversation.  When a Tea Bagger is afraid the Democrats want to destroy Social Security, we have a serious messaging problem on our hands.  When I hear you rail on the government I think to myself, “Does this person just want revenge on people he/she doesn’t like, or are they really concerned with how this country is run?”  If you’re concerned that student loans are inflating the price of education and flood the market with too many college grads with majors that aren’t easily monetized, well, why don’t you put forth a means of making sure we can have a college educated populace without the six figure fees?  When you take government out, you’re not doing it so that you can make sure that degrees are available to anyone that wants them, you just want to satisfy some puritan fantasy.  Paul Ryan is a great example of this. He falls into the trap of seeing people as only atomized individuals.  “I did it so why can’t you?”  We live in different times, come from different areas of the country, and have different options available to us.  Does he realize most college kids work and that many of them don’t have enough money left over to pay down their college bills?  Does he realize the market requires a college education nowadays to even do 30-40k work?  Does he realize that those loans help people who are dirt poor get into a college, and is an important step on the rung of making sure intelligent people aren’t working at McDonalds?  Your answer cannot be “well some people don’t make it regardless.”  I want a world where if you want to make it, you can try.  

4. Liberals solve things with the government, they don’t rely on God

Oh this one steams me.  I’m Christian, recently converted from being an atheist.  I find it strange that self professed Christians who are supposed to give 10% of their income to charity, which is a handout, would hate that someone was getting assistance from the government.  Especially with the amount of graft in churches!  Maybe it’s a reminder that your charity is insufficient or misguided?  You can feed kids in Africa and help to cure AIDS without lecturing their parents on working, but turn around and refuse to do the same in your own country?  Geographical location does not link directly to how much opportunity exists.  Besides, whenever I say why someone can’t do something, you have some logical quip about how person X could do Y and Z to clear whatever hurdle is in their path.  Why don’t you do that when you give to charities in other countries?  If you hate welfare so much, recognize that people are still hungry and start finding new ways to make sure people get food, clothing, and shelter and don’t have to fear for it.  You’d be giving it away of your own free will, right, and that’s really the only part of this matter that makes you angry, since taxation in all forms is somehow a crime.  You don’t want taxation to pay for welfare, then do a better job yourself.  Oh wait, that’s right, your pastor is busy buying snakeskin shoes and building a new juice bar in his megachurch so people can chat about who they’re having adultery with.  My bad.

In the end, I don’t think everyone is going to be a millionaire and financial inequality between people is not bad per se; again, natural consequences.  There are plenty of people who work at Wal-Mart for 20k a year and that’s pretty much their speed.  The future is not set though!  Maybe they work there for 5 years, find out nursing is a much better field, and then try that out to raise the amount of money they make.  I want people to have lots of options and markets shut people out after a certain point because they busy themselves servicing smaller and smaller parts of the population.  It’s not their job to include people, so why not open the window?  I don’t want to take everything you have and give it to someone you hate (although I do relish the idea of putting O’Reilly in a 100% tax bracket of 1), but even if you do hate them, because it helps the group, because I know it gives someone else a chance or helps them have a platform to be what they want to be, your hatred or dislike is largely irrelevant.  Efficiency or adhering to your Puritan views is irrelevant.  

Originally posted to sujigu on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 10:56 PM MST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

I’ve seen many many screeds pushed by the various conservative blogs about what liberals say, and what they “really” mean when they say it.

It seems that “liberals” as defined in the overheated minds of some commentators are incapable of speaking plainly. Everything is code for the opposite of what it said. A sort of DoubleSpeak that these individuals have created. Demonizing your opponents is a great way to overturn said opponents, but it leaves no room for discussion or negotiation.

I think it’s useful to provide a calm, clear view of how things sound on the other side. Perhaps it will reach out to the vast middle ground of people who aren’t on either extreme and spend more of the day worrying about how to get through the week without catastrophe.

Thanks Sujigu for putting this post up!

U.S. should lead the way to halt climate change

The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Friday, Dec. 2:

The U.N. Climate Summit opened over the weekend in Durban, South Africa, amid still more evidence of dangerous changes in extreme weather patterns. The drought in Texas and across the southern United States, along with record flooding in parts of Africa and Asia, are signs of an ominous trend supported by recent reports based on scientific data:

-Thirteen of the world’s hottest years on record have all occurred in the last 15 years. As if to put an exclamation point on this alarming pattern, this year was also the hottest ever to coincide with the cooling effect of La Nina, the weather system in the Pacific that is supposed to reduce global temperatures.

-This year was the 10th hottest year since 1850, when accurate measurements began. This phenomenon brought higher temperatures all over the globe. In northern Russia, October temperatures were 7 degrees above average. Next-door Finland had the hottest summer in 200 years.

-Closer to home, sea ice in the Arctic shrank to its second lowest surface area after 2007, with measurements at record levels of thin ice. In the coming weeks, another scientific report is expected to declare that the risk posed by undeniably increasing levels in the ocean raises the prospect of destroying low-lying coastal areas of the Northern Hemisphere – including parts of Florida.

These findings were disclosed by credible, science-based groups, including the World Meteorological Organization and Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in separate but complementary reports that support what most climate experts have been saying for decades: The world is warming, and the warming is due to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that can be attributed to human activity and exploding carbon levels.

Climate skeptics will doubtless brush this aside as the work of forces that want to impose government controls on carbon emissions and every conceivable human activity that affects the air we breathe, but it’s harder to brush aside the conversion of one of the most prominent skeptics in academia, Richard Muller, a respected physicist at UC-Berkeley.

“Global warming is real,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal last October. Mr. Muller said the findings of his own research team confirmed the accepted conventional wisdom that he and others once scorned as the product of “activist frenzy” within the scientific community.

All of this lends a new level of urgency to the meeting in Durban, where politics and ideology threaten to obstruct progress toward concerted action by the world community to halt, or even reverse, the global warming trend. Organizations like the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists say the Obama administration has failed to live up to the president’s promise as a candidate to lead the way to decisive action on climate change.

Specifically, the administration has been dragging its feet on the issue of what to do with the Kyoto Treaty – which focuses on emission reductions – when it expires next year. Instead of holding off until 2020 before any new treaty can take effect, as the administration has proposed, it should work to achieve consensus to strengthen the treaty before any more damage is done.

The point is rapidly approaching, scientists say, when global warming becomes irreversible. Action should be taken today to save the world of a devastating tomorrow.

These short summaries are showing up everywhere. Is anyone reading them?

I can’t tell.

MinnPost – Don Shelby: A video of Rep. Don Young every American should see

A video of Rep. Don Young every American should see

By Don Shelby | Published Tue, Nov 22 2011 10:55 am

On Nov. 18 the celebrated historian, Dr. Douglas Brinkley, testified before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. The committee was taking testimony on another congressional effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploration and drilling.

Brinkley was there to suggest that the ANWR be designated a national monument, preserved and protected. Brinkley knows about conservation. Among his award-winning publications and best-selling books is “Wilderness Warrior” about Theodore Roosevelt’s environmental policies. His most recent book, “The Quiet World,” traces the history of Alaska’s wilderness. He’s currently writing a new history on the conservation movement in America.

After Brinkley delivered his testimony, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, walked into the hearing late. Please watch this short clip of what happened:

By way of full disclosure, Dr. Brinkley is a friend of mine, but had Dr. Brinkley been a stranger to me, I would still be mortified that a United States congressman would treat a guest of the House in such a fashion. I hope this piece of video is seen by as many Americans as possible. I shouldn’t like people in other countries to see it. We still have an image to uphold in the world. Young makes it look like the most powerful nation on earth is run by the inmates of the asylum.

You may also notice that Dr. Brinkley doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I talked to him about the confrontation. He told me: “I felt like I needed to hold my own against them. I feel good about it.”

He continued: “I’m a historian and I read a lot of testimony. It is important to me to have an accurate record. I thought I needed to set the record straight for CongressmanYoung. My name is not Dr. Rice, it is Dr. Brinkley.”

That is certainly part of it. It is likely, as well, that Brinkley had studied the history of Congressman Young before he arrived at the hearing. Brinkley told me he knew that Congressman Young, at another hearing, had waved a walrus penis bone at Mollie Beattie, the incoming chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Brinkley may have read the Rolling Stone article about Young that quotes the congressman as saying, “Environmentalists are a self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots.” The quote continues, “[They] are not Americans, never have been Americans and never will be Americans.”

I don’t think Congressman Young would have dared say such a thing to Teddy Roosevelt’s face.

Missed votes
Brinkley should not have been surprised that Congressman Young showed up late and missed the bulk of the historian’s testimony. Young is often cited as the congressman missing more votes than any other member of the House. Brinkley would have known that Young was the co-sponsor, with discredited Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, of the bill to pay for the infamous “bridge to nowhere.”

Brinkley told me: “Everyone knows that Young is just a menacing blowhard. He has a history of being rude, he browbeats and he’s snotty toward anyone who cares about the environment.”

I asked Brinkley if he was surprised that Committee Chair Doc Hastings took Young’s side and continued lecturing the historian. “No,” said Brinkley. “They are tied together at the hip. They are both oil company factotums. They are a tag team.”

Had Young been in the room for Brinkley’s testimony, he would have heard an interesting history lesson. Brinkley told those present that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had set aside the ANWR, and protected it the same way Ike had protected Antarctica. Brinkley is proposing that President Obama set aside the ANWR as a national monument using the 1906 Antiquities Act.

Dr. Douglas Brinkley

Dr. Douglas Brinkley

“Eisenhower created it as a refuge,” Brinkley said.

So Brinkley suggests a new name and new status for ANWR. “I think it should be called the Dwight Eisenhower National Monument,” he said.

But what about the oil?

According to the United States Geological Survey, there is a good deal of oil beneath the coastal plains of the ANWR. But there is, in relative terms, very little when compared to world demand. Pump it dry and it would be emptied in less than a year.

Another Republican congressman, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, always votes against drilling the ANWR. It makes him unpopular in the caucus room. But the old biology teacher-turned congressman doesn’t object to drilling on environmental grounds. Bartlett told me that he votes against draining it now. He thinks it is smarter to save it for future generations who might need it, and use it more efficiently.

Bartlett doesn’t think it is wise to pump the ANWR dry just to consume it in highly inefficient cars and trucks. Bartlett drives a Prius, which is another thing that drives the caucus a little crazy.

Same argument
Young chided Brinkley by saying that no one ever goes to the ANWR. Brinkley told me, “They used the same argument when considering whether to set aside the Grand Canyon. ‘Nobody ever goes there,’ they said.”

The Grand Canyon is back up for debate, by the same forces who wish to open the ANWR for oil drilling. Congress is considering bills to open up areas near the Grand Canyon for uranium mining. It was being rushed through until someone noticed that the company doing the mining was from Russia, and no one had checked whether there were any safeguards preventing Grand Canyon uranium from going into Iranian nukes.  

“Our park lands, our treasured areas are under attack,” Brinkley told me. “We fought hard to protect these wild places and that makes the United States unique. China is destroying its landscape. We have a history of preserving ours.”

Brinkley believes Young and his ilk have another reasons for going into the ANWR, and it has nothing to do with oil. “I think they believe,” he said, “if they can open up the ANWR, molest it piece by piece, they will demoralize the whole environmental movement.”

Brinkley believes, as Young has made clear, there are members of Congress who see people who would protect wild places as the enemy of the country. “The Coastal Plain of the ANWR has an unbelievably rich marine environment,” Brinkley said. “It is where the caribou calve. It is where the polar bear den.”

To Congressman Don Young’s ears, such talk borders on treason.

Brinkley has a ready response. “Congressman Don Young is a low-grade Joseph McCarthy.”

Rep Young, the old fool, keeps getting reelected by the money machine in Alaska. I suspect that Alaska is the only place he could keep getting re-elected, since he’d be dumped by any electorate that actually cared who represented them.

Alaska has the fortunate distinction of remaining a frontier, which means that moneyed interests have huge legislative influence, and for most folks, if the law leaves them alone, they’re happy.

I suspect most Alaskans (I only know a few) are pretty blase about politics until it gets in their way, like most frontier cultures. It’s a position I understand, and used to support.

However, a penchant for ignoring politicians also means that sometimes they’re in the chicken coop and are making plans to steal the barn before you know they’re even there. And since they’ll do it “all legal and proper”, the sheriff is on their side, when he’d rather be on yours.

Dirtbag Don continues to go after a teeny puddle of oil that will have no long term effect on oil prices, because he’s blinded by the dollar signs in his eyes, not because he’s out for the good of Alaskans. He remains stuck on oil, when there are tremendous opportunities for Alaska business and citizens in the future technologies, not the expiring one he’s so desperate to pursue.

Unfortunately, he’ll probably still be around long after petroleum is viable, doing everything in his power to hold Alaska back while claiming he’s looking out for the state and it’s people.

He can’t see what is in front of him, understand what the future holds, a task he was sent to DC to perform. So he will doom his state to long term poverty by sticking to a dying industry. The oil dividends to Alaska’s citizens won’t last forever. And “Get Rich Quick” Don Young just wants to please the Oil Lobby in his state, instead of figuring out how to make the future of its people viable.

“Such is the way of fools.”