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Methane Meltdown and Major Metamorphisis

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posted on Sep, 30 2005 @ 01:51 PM

There are alot of potential disasters looming all pointing to GW ( Global Warming ) as the root casue. From increased hurricane frequency and severity, to droughts, to flooding , to sea level rise and Glacial melting. I have posted on several of these very real and very serious enviromental consequences of a warming Earth. Decreased salinity and slowing of important oceanic currents to ice ages and a runaway greenhouse effect. All are real possibilities and the repurcussions of any one are dire indeed .

This is my first attempt to bring to the forefront a most troubling , very real, and indeed cataclysmic scenario...that of a huge Methane Meltdown.

There are enormous quantities of naturally occurring greenhouse gasses trapped in ice-like structures in the cold northern muds and at the bottom of the seas. These ices, called clathrates, contain 3,000 times as much methane as is in the atmosphere. Methane is more than 20 times as strong a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

Now here's the scary part. A temperature increase of merely a few degrees would cause these gases to volatilize and "burp" into the atmosphere, which would further raise temperatures, which would release yet more methane, heating the Earth and seas further, and so on. There's 400 gigatons of methane locked in the frozen arctic tundra alone ( A gigaton (or gigatonne) is a Metric Unit of mass, equal to 1,000,000,000 (1 billion) Metric tons, 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) kilograms, or 1 quadrillion grams )- enough to start this chain reaction - and the kind of warming the Arctic Council predicts is sufficient to melt the clathrates and release these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is estimated that worldwide
ocean sediments and permafrost contain between 5000 and 10, 000 billion tonnes of methane. It has been produced by organic matter over millions of years and become sealed up in ice structures known as clathrates.


Levels of atmospheric methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, have risen 145% in the last 100 years

Once triggered, this cycle could result in runaway global warming the likes of which even the most pessimistic doomsayers aren't talking about

An apocalyptic fantasy concocted by hysterical environmentalists? Unfortunately, no. Strong geologic evidence suggests something similar has happened at least twice before.

The most recent of these catastrophes occurred about 55 million years ago in what geologists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), when methane burps caused rapid warming and massive die-offs, disrupting the climate for more than 100,000 years.

The granddaddy of these catastrophes occurred 251 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, when a series of methane burps came close to wiping out all life on Earth.

More than 94 percent of the marine species present in the fossil record disappeared suddenly as oxygen levels plummeted and life teetered on the verge of extinction. Over the ensuing 500,000 years, a few species struggled to gain a foothold in the hostile environment. It took 20 million to 30 million years for even rudimentary coral reefs to re-establish themselves and for forests to regrow. In some areas, it took more than 100 million years for ecosystems to reach their former healthy diversity.

The cause of all this havoc?

In both cases, a temperature increase of about 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit, about the upper range for the average global increase today's models predict can be expected from burning fossil fuels by 2100. But these models could be the tail wagging the dog since they don't add in the effect of burps from warming gas hydrates. Worse, as the Arctic Council found, the highest temperature increases from human greenhouse gas emissions will occur in the arctic regions - an area rich in these unstable clathrates.

If we trigger this runaway release of methane, there's no turning back. No do-overs. Once it starts, it's likely to play out all the way.


Image above: Methane in the World's Atmosphere: These maps show the distribution of methane at the surface (top) and in the stratosphere (lower), calculated by a NASA computer model. Concentrations are shown in parts per million by volume. Methane is created near the surface, and it is carried into the stratosphere by rising air in the tropics. Credit: GMAO Chemical Forecasts and GEOS–CHEM NRT Simulations for ICARTT (top) and NASA GSFC Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch (lower)

Back with more soon

Alias Jones

[edit on 30-9-2005 by Alias Jones]

posted on Sep, 30 2005 @ 02:24 PM

A runaway greenhouse planet. This is Venus - considered to have a runaway greenhouse effect. This is what I am talking about. Earth is on its way to becoming inhospitable. The fragile biosphere that we take for granted in a thin skin of life, abuse it repeatedly and there is no turning back. No recourse, no solution, no hope. Only certain demise of all life - this is the fear and this is a fear that CAN happen.

posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 08:09 AM
With the melting of the ice sheets we have the methane emission problem. This will compound the effects of Carbon Dioxide and planet warming, exponentially. I thought I would ressurrect this thread in light of the current NASA scientist admission.

posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 08:52 AM

Originally posted by Alias Jones
The most recent of these catastrophes occurred about 55 million years ago in what geologists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), when methane burps caused rapid warming and massive die-offs, disrupting the climate for more than 100,000 years.

I confess that this is one that I read and went "Oh, bosh! That's silly." Fortunately for my record, I looked it up. There were, indeed, huge methane burps at that time but from the papers I looked at, there is not a direct cause-and-effect link. I do see papers that support the view that a warming cycle triggered the methane release, but I also see papers that support a geologic event/volcanic event causing it as well as some suggesting it's the result and not the cause.

When I checked up on your theme, I was surprised to find that Peter Ward, the author of Gorgon, also supports this theory. I read the book and the author is indeed a good one with a solid background and not the sort to espouse peculiar theories.

One of the other proposed causes for the Permian Extinction is the formation of the Siberian Traps which took place in the same time period: when a massive volcano poured out lava for a period of a million years or so. The total volume of lava (if it had been spread evenly) would have paved the entire surface of the Earth in a layer of lava 10 feet thick:

That constant volcanism would have caused huge environmental changes. I recall Ward's claiming that the balance turned as green plants started to flourish.

Interesting, though. Thanks for the well researched and thought-provoking information.

posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 12:51 PM
Not to mention that methane is flammable. Do you think methane concentrations in the atmosphere could reach levels such that the air itself might become flammable? If you want to see 'the heavens roll back in a cloud of smoke and flame', that would be one way to go about it. There wouldn't be much atmosphere left after such an event.

posted on Feb, 17 2006 @ 01:14 PM
I hadn't seen this thread before, but can see it was well thought of and researched.

You have voted Alias Jones for the Way Above Top Secret award. You have two more votes this month.

Good job, this is when ATS is at it's best.

posted on Feb, 18 2006 @ 08:47 AM

The theory is pretty sound, but we'll have to see how it plays out.

The above link has some good articles on the melting permafrost situation, especially Siberia which is a wonderful glimpse at the problem. There's a memorable picture, looking out on a vast expanse of tundra, once flat and uniform, frozen solid - but not anymore.

This link here is to an ATSNN story I did on the Siberia problem.

Thanks for reviving discussion of the subject. There may not be much we can do about it though, besides developing sustainable underground/underwater/space dome living.

posted on Feb, 18 2006 @ 09:37 AM
You have voted Alias Jones for the Way Above Top Secret award. You have two more votes this month.

Well done buddy very good read... and allso one of the best theorys i have read.

posted on Feb, 20 2006 @ 08:43 AM
Thank you fellow ATS ers for the votes and the interest.

Methane burps could be a problem much greater than anyone is presently considering. My fear is that the climate modelers have failed to take into account this accelerant in any of their warming trend models. The ramifications of such an ommission are worrisome at least and most dire and problematic in the extreme.

So basically we have an average temerature rise going on here on Earth. At least this much seems to be certain. Whether its a function of geodynamic / solar cycles, or influenced by man, or a combination it really doesnt matter. The fact remains our beloved Earth is without a doubt warming. We see evidence in the galcial meltown, we see it in the rising of sea levels, extreme weather, decreased oceanic salinity, and slowing of important currents. Any one of these symtoms are worrisome in there own right, but taken as a whole and looked at with an open mind, worrisome alone falls far short in my opinion.

Follow me for a moment , if you will. The Earth is warming, the examples above illustrate this fact. Now consider the Methane burps and factor there consequence into the equation. What can happen is that the Methane meltdown could be the TRIGGER for a runaway greenhouse Earth. Global weather scientists are in concurrence with Paleontologists at least on this point : Earth warming and cooling have happened in the past. The fossil record is undeniable on this point, and the scariest part ? that it happened much faster than previously thought. Not on the scale of centuries, but on decades. Within a single generation the Earth can " flip" into an unstoppable, unplanned, and unwelcome runaway greenhouse planet. Now picture a bright blue ball, just spinning , spinning free then look at the above photo of venus. This is what worries me.

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