Melting Polar Icecap - METHANE
May 16, 2009 by Ambassador of Green
Most People do not realize the true physics of the Arctic. Summer months there are constantly bathed in sunlight… From now through September the heat is ‘Always on’. This is the normal seasonal situation.
E.g. : the same area is always getting heated, no on/off heat then cool like the rest of the planet. This heat load impacts the Arctic ice.
The animation made above by CTNgreen shows the 24hour sunlight summer month cycle ( a bit backwards since the earth turns and this shows the earth stationary for clarity ) notice the midnight sunlight covers the entire polar atmospheric region. The airspace above the ice is being heated continuously, which accumulates over time even with convective cycles.
Watch the video here in the magazine page, a segment from the middle of the HOME movie just released.
VIDEO: http://ctngreen.com/2009/jun/?page=34 - you get an excellent view from 1000-2000 feet altitude in a helicopter ride, of the current condition of icecaps in the Arctic.
MELTING, MELTING...According to a recent paper published by MBARI geologists and their colleagues, methane gas bubbling through seafloor sediments has created hundreds of low hills on the floor of the Arctic Ocean. These enigmatic features, which can grow up to 40 meters (130 feet) tall and several hundred meters across. This conceptual drawing (not to scale) shows Paull’s hypothesis that methane gas from deep hydrate deposits could push sediment up from below the ocean bottom to create a pingo-like feature.
TED: ( see below ) This would be one video to view all the way through, the Methane release is rather an unexpected sight - a frame from the Talk shown below, poking a hole in a shallow lake ice cover releases a burnable plume of gas.
It is bubbling up from shallow lakes. How much is down there?
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, more than 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so lots of it with added time in summer month sunlight, at high altitude, means a new situation of significance is presenting itself.
Point that Al Gore does not speak of here…
Methane has a higher latent Heat Capacity than C02 - and it resides higher in altitude than C02 since it is lighter than std air, and therefore holds higher thermal mass in constant sunlight than does C02 which is heavier than air.
For the first time this century, there is a viable northern route though the usually ice-bound northern passage at the pole for shipping from east-west, avoiding the Panama canal and southern tip of South America. For this reason far more traffic through the area will take place and we will get better surface reporting.
Here is the 2008 NASA reported thermal delta from norms:
Gathered from Jan thru Dec 2008 , it indicates nothern hemispheric anomaly nearing 3 deg C.
Does anyone really know the Methane Impact here? The scale of it? When People mention Cow Farts as a climate change problem ( methane again ) it seems both stupid and funny… but this trapped and now escaping methane at the pole… that doesn’t feel right. We need Some hard numbers.
Some recent studies to contribute to the validity of this concern:
The rapid release of methane into the earth’s atmosphere 635 million years ago caused runaway global warming, and may happen again in the near future, a new study reports. The study, which appears in this week’s edition of Nature, provides an insight into what may happen to the earth’s atmosphere if today’s frozen methane deposits in Canada, Siberia and Alaska begin to thaw.
During the Cryogenian period (850-630 million years), earth was completely frozen over, with glaciers that crept down into the tropics and possibly even reached the equator. Also known as the ’snowball earth’ era, the planet’s chill was self-sustaining. The ice covering the planet forms a brilliant white shell that reflected the sun’s rays, preventing the surface from warming.
But after 155 million years of being in a deep freeze the earth warmed dramatically. How this happened has been fiercely disputed, although all agree that the event changed the planet’s climate system and ocean chemistry forever. Scientists now point the finger at methane clathrates. These methane-rich ice deposits form under ice sheets at specific temperatures and pressures.
The study’s authors, who included Australian geologist Emeritus Professor Chris von der Borch from Flinders University, believe that at the end of the Cryogeian period, the ice sheets covering the earth became unstable, which released pressure on the clathrates.
As the clathrates began to evaporate, they released methane, which helped trap more solar heat and warmed the planet. This thawed more clathrates, fuelling further warming and so on, creating a vicious circle. Methane is considered a prodigious greenhouse gas, being 30 times more efficient than CO2 in trapping solar heat.
Martin Kennedy, a geologist at the University of California Riverside who led the study, says evidence of rapid thawing comes from hundreds of marine sediment samples taken in South Australia.
Analysis of the oxygen isotopes in the sediments gave a signature of melting waters in ice sheets and destabilisation of clathrates by the meltwater. Kennedy says the findings have a bearing on a much-feared positive feedback today. “One way to look at the present human influence on global warming is that we are conducting a global-scale experiment with earth’s climate system,” says Kennedy.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented rate of warming, with little or no knowledge of what instabilities lurk in the climate system and how they can influence life on earth.”
The thawing of clathrates frozen in the Arctic polar region could release billions of tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. The concern is that it could take a relative small rise in temperature to start unleashing the gas, which would then trigger an unstoppable warming cycle. If the end of snowball earth is a guide, positive feedbacks, “once initiated, change the climate to a wholly different state,” he says.