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Faster Global Warming From Permafrost Melt

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the not-just-siberia dept.

119

jc42 writes, "A recent study published in Nature documents the accelerating release of methane from melting permafrost. Methane is a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so this may signal more rapid warming in the near future. If you don't subscribe to Nature, the Guardian has a good summary of the piece." It's not just Siberian permafrost. One of the major concerns is bogs — they account for a relatively small percent of total surface space, but have a large amount of carbon locked up. No one is sure if the greenhouse effect will cause them to lock up more, or to release more carbon.

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Also in a country near you.... (1, Interesting)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080602)

You can bet your last dollar that, if it's happening in Siberia, then it's happening in Canada.

Re:Also in a country near you.... (-1, Flamebait)

CheeseburgerBrown (553703) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080640)

Maybe, maybe not.

Canada, if you'll recall, declined to contribute to the invasion of Iraq, so I can't see why Allah would punish Canada with catastrophic global warming.

The obvious solution for the poor Siberians? Prayer.

Living in a George W. Bush world is awesome.

Re:Also in a country near you.... (2, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080642)

I always knew blogs were full of methane. -- What? -- Oh, you said 'bogs'. Um, but it's still a lot of stinky vapor.

Oh nOOS (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080604)

Panic!

Re:Oh nOOS (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080713)

whats that, dogs and cats are sleeping together!?!

Re:Oh nOOS (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080739)

No I'm using my karmac horric +1 to post that ^^. Thats what Oh nOOS.

Re:Oh nOOS (1)

gx5000 (863863) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081722)

Step 1 - Create scenario for a disaster and discredit any witnesses Step 2 - Deny occurence and create global Panic Step 3 - Prof$t ! Cheers ! Ceci EST une Signature !

Chemistry (1)

Cybert4 (994278) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081547)

Let's see, Hydrogen monoxide and nitrous sulphur? I don't think any of those are even stable. Oh, and you must have expected this reply on /. .

Re:Chemistry (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081659)

Thank you for making me laugh today.

Not a problem. (1)

Cybert4 (994278) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081925)

The /. ideals must be upheld!

This is why people can't rely on science. (-1, Troll)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080609)

Stories like this show why people can't rely on science to show the way forward with so many rumours and mis-ideas about global warming.

We have large areas of land that might emit methane and warm the planet more. Or maybe large areas of land that might sink more carbon into them and offset the effects of industrial emissions on global warming. Whatever, it's something we didn't know about.

So what does that lead to in the end? basically "Something we didn't know about might cause cooling or warming".

How you can base an entire country's future of emissions on science like this, I don't know. Scientists should get their acts together and only release known facts, not speculation like this.

Re:This is why people can't rely on science. (2, Insightful)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080666)

The scientists release the facts - that the permafrost is changing. Then the people who pay the scientists say 'Why should we care, why should we pay for your expensive field trips?' and the scientist replies 'Because we need to know, we need to find out what's going on, so we might have a chance of surviving (and me keeping my job)'

So, to sum up, scienists have released some facts - there are significant changes in the permafrost which are yet another significant pointer to global climate change. Furthermore, the released the fact that we don't know what significance this change will take.

On Facts and Theories (2, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080980)

Furthermore, the released the fact that we don't know what significance this change will take.

Fact is a pretty strong word in science. Instead you'll generally see "consensus" or "strongly suggests" or "the theory supports". Facts tend to be only used when discussing measurable data, and even then they discuss margin of errors and possible problems in taking the readings.

If I jump off a building, a group of scientists would cheerfully predict when I'll hit the bottom and with how much force, though they'll admit that they can't account for confounding variables like wind speed and the possibility that Superman might wander by. There might be one chap who scoffs at the others and says it's worthless making a prediction as we can't tell if I has a parachute tucked away somewhere.

I see global climate change the same way. It's a complex issue and there's lots of details that still need to be sorted out. Still, if you ask a bunch of scientists their opinion on it, the consensus is that it's real, man-made, and will likely hit the bottom with a loud splat sooner rather than later.

Re:On Facts and Theories (1)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081074)

Indeed, good science has NO facts, just the latest hypothysis (sp?) which has yet to be proven wrong. However, the original poster was using 'fact' for 'data' so I continued his usage.

Re:On Facts and Theories (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081826)

Indeed, good science has NO facts, just the latest hypothysis (sp?) which has yet to be proven wrong.

Actually, typically we have both. Except that "fact" isn't a common technical term, perhaps because it's monosyllabic. Usually scientists talk about "observations" or "data". "Fact" is just the informal (layman's) term for observed data.

The release of methane from permafrost isn't a hypothesis. It's observed data, as described in the recent Nature article. The recent increase in the release rate is also observed data. Just what it means is up for hypothesizing. This is going to include the fact (verifiable in laboratories anywhere) that methane is a strong "greenhouse gas".

Predicting the effects of the methane really isn't hypthesizing, but rather calculating from the documented physical properties of methane. The main unknown here is the pending rate of methane release. Stay tuned to data from people making precise methane measurements in various parts of the world. Data from Canada and Alaska is probably in the pipeline.

There's also the lurking bogeyman of the huge deposits of methane-ice "clathrates" in the deep oceans. That one is currently in the "conjecture" phase, with researchers applying for grants for more field trips to make the needed measurements. Again, the physical properties of these ices are well known. What's not known is how big the deposits are and how close they are to a phase change.

Re:This is why people can't rely on science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080762)

Agreed.

And notice the /. title of the post.

Faster Global Warming From Permafrost Melt

Shouldn't it be more like "Faster Global Warming Possible From Permafrost Melt?" or "Major Climate changes could happen from Permafrost Melt".

But instead, they assume "Global Warming" and they assume the world is going to melt away. No bias here, just scientists at work.

Re:This is why people can't rely on science. (1)

malsdavis (542216) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081121)

It's almost as bad as those evolutionary biologists who don't bother examining if their are any effects from God's guiding hand when documenting a species' genetic make-up. How dare scientists base their research on extremely well researched facts and not on the views of American right-wing fundamentalists.

Re:This is why people can't rely on science. (1)

gx5000 (863863) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081753)

HUh, oh....argh..LOL...you are joking right..ah ? I have to slow down and read /. at a better pace... Ya almost had me going there.. Cheers

Re:This is why people can't rely on science. (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081860)

Shouldn't it be more like "Faster Global Warming Possible From Permafrost Melt?" or "Major Climate changes could happen from Permafrost Melt".

Well, I tried a few such headlines, but found that /. has a rather small limit to the length of an article's title. So I went with a shorter one that didn't get truncated.

(But /. does allow longer headlines than just about any newspaper. ;-)

 

Re:This is why people can't rely on science. (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#16082653)

I know an easy way to make sure it's the second- use the melting tundra to grow pine trees.

Can't we provide an artificial albedo ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080615)

Rearely a thing beats reflectiveness of the snow, but perhaps we could use a ...say..., fire extinguish foam or something? Or else, just sow dry ice (solid CO2 powder) over it, (provided we use atmospheric CO2 to make it).

Re:Can't we provide an artificial albedo ? (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080647)

why not just manufacture white shingles for houses/buildings, and require they be used. That would reduce AC costs in the summer as well.

The ice method would require so much energy production it would be counter productive.

Actually it's simpler (3, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080876)

Make energy expensive.

http://www.whynot.net/ideas/2195 [whynot.net]

People in hot areas will start adding insulation, whitewashing their houses, adding trees and ivy people in cold areas will start adding insulation, heat pumps etc.

 

Re:Actually it's simpler (2, Insightful)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081041)

> Make energy expensive.

1) Make energy expensive
2) Piss off businesses and consumers who want luxury and economic security now
3) Along comes a guy who promises to lower energy prices
4) Get voted out

Re:Actually it's simpler (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16081159)

5) Most of Florida ends up submerged.

Re:Actually it's simpler (1)

Burlap (615181) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081223)

6) go surfing in Hudsons Bay

Re:Actually it's simpler (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16081573)

7) contract yellow fever hiking through the Great Manitoba Rainforest

Re:Actually it's simpler (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#16083006)

You reduce income and sales taxes in concert. Businesses and individuals have more money to spend, how they do it is up to them, but there's all that energy to pay for, or they can invest in ways of reducing their energy usage.

 

Re:Actually it's simpler (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16085906)

1) Declare martial law
2) Make energy expensive
3) Execute the dissenters
4) Enjoy reduced population

Re:Actually it's simpler (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081821)

Good ideas, but I'd nix the ivy. In most regions it is considered an invasive species. Its roots pulverize house siding over time, the cuttings take root and grow in unpredictable places, the vines wrap around and choke the growth of trees, etc. Ivy, particularly English ivy, is a hellish plant that should be ripped up and burned when found, not encouraged. (Unless of course it's in its native environment where the other members of the ecosystem have found a balance with it.)

Re:Actually it's simpler (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16085329)

I have been writing to the Colorado Gov. candidates trying to get them to do a gas tax increase but in a gradual fashion. We have a .22 gas tax that the dem wants to increase it, but in a quick hit. I am trying to get him to go with the idea of raising the gax tax .25 every 6 months for 4 years (exepmtion for business and farming). If that is approved, then we push that fact with ALL the Coloradoans. They will have time to adjust their driving habits for those that care. And those that drive hummers really will not care.

BTW, the republican wants to remove the gas tax but replace it with a .01 sales tax. The republican would then tax all of us so that he can drive his hummer (and yes, he owns a hummer h2) on cheaper gas. Amazing. He has said that we tax too much, but wants to move what is basically a use tax into the general tax category. Considering that he was a republican congressman, I now understand why we are running huge federal deficits.

Coming up next (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080618)

Coming up next: american scientists denial of global warming. New device to dig head-sized hole in the ground now for sale at Wal-Mart.

Do not blame us, instead... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16084661)

Tell the world and washington that it is a terrorists attack and W. will fully fund halliburton and ch2mhill to do whatever it takes to stop it.

bogs (3, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080623)

One of the major concerns is bogs -- they account for a relatively small percent of total surface space, but have a large amount of carbon locked up.

They also have a fair number of bogmen in them. Thanks to the highly acidic and low oxygen environment of bogs, the softer parts of animals (skin, hair, organs) remain intact while the bones dissolve. What you end up with is essentially a nice "sack of meat." Totally offtopic, but pretty fascinating stuff, imho.

Re:bogs (2, Funny)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080644)

There's a new Uwe Boll film in there I'm sure. "Rise of the Global Warming Bog Men"

Re:bogs (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080721)

Now all we gotta do is find a videogame franchise to tie it to. I nominate Syberia.

A solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080624)

Open Passive Solar Project [energytower.org]

Re:A solution (0, Troll)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080696)

The problem with towers like this is they cause a fast rising column of air. air that was once dense and down on the ground. It is essentially a pump powered by the heat of the sun falling on the ground and heating the air down at sea level. Now once the air is thrown up into the air several miles where does it go?

What will happen is that you cause a bump in the atmosphere that extends higher into space that causes the air to be interacted with by more particles in space, and changes the composition of the atmosphere. Not to mention the atmosphere that is then lost to space.

What a good idea, pumping the very air we breathe into space so it is modified and lost. We only have so much oxygen on the planet it's not like losing it is a good idea

Re:A solution (2, Insightful)

phayes (202222) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080802)

Those "rising columns of hot air" barely reach the stratosphere even in major events like a major volcano eruption. Your fears of running out of atmosphere through global warming are unfounded. Look at Venus: Hot as hell (literally) yet it still has an atmosphere denser than Earth's.

Re:A solution (2, Insightful)

bwcbwc (601780) | more than 8 years ago | (#16083042)

It's not the rising columns of air, but increased kinetic energy and momentum in general. Earth's atmosphere is constantly losing particles that escape into space. This is compensated from particles that fall into our gravity well. It's more an effect of brownian motion and individual molecules achieving escape velocity than air currents, though.

There are several factors involved in determining the rate of exchange. Increased temperature implies increased average energy level in the atmosphere and increased volume (the atmosphere extends further away from the surface). Carbon dioxide is heavier than both H2O and O2, so increased levels of CO2 will tend to push those molecules away from the surface and into the upper atmosphere. Also a collision between a CO2 molecule and a water or oxygen molecule will impart greater velocity to the lighter molecule. Conversely, methane is lighter than O2 or H2O, so it will rise with/above them.

In general, though, I expect global warming to cause a measurable increase in the level of atmosphere lost to space (at least anything lighter than CO2). Given the amount of water in the environment, and the ability of plants to lock up CO2, I don't expect it to turn earth into a venusian hell-hole, let alone lose the entire atmosphere. We're talking millions of years, even if we humans manage to release all of the fossil CO2 from the pre-Cambrian era and kill off all vertebrate animal life in the process.

Re:A solution (1)

rohar (253766) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081710)

No, the tower is bi-directional in moderate climates and in no means tall enough to cause this problem.

What I'm really curious about is.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080656)

how geopolitics and economies will change as the planet warms.

Cananda will become one of the wealthiest countries in world because of their water. Water wars? Will the US have to liberate Canada so that the water will flow?

Re:What I'm really curious about is.... (1)

ZakuSage (874456) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080744)

This wonderful country of Cananda. Could you point it out on a map for me, I've never heard of it.

Re:What I'm really curious about is.... (1)

qeveren (318805) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081953)

It's kind of sad, how lately I've been viewing our neighbors to the south (rather, their military-industrial Administration), that this scenario seems frighteningly likely in the non-too-distant future. :(

Lemme be the first to say.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080661)

Arrr.. let's start reproducing, mateys!

In light of the article, (1)

afd8856 (700296) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080662)

I propose we figure a way to extract the methane from the athmosphere and burn it, thus creating less catastrophic gases :-)

Re:In light of the article, (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080955)

I propose we figure a way to extract the methane from the athmosphere and burn it, thus creating less catastrophic gases :-)
That's not entirely off base.

Who woulda thunk that swamp-gas flares would actually decrease the greenhouse effect? The only thing I'd be concerned about would be whether the heat released from "wasteful" burning would outweight the greenhouse effect energy trapping.

In addition, there have been several attempts to harness escaping methane for energy before it is dispersed into the atmosphere... from cow flatulence [quilcedapower.com] , for example. A little harder to do for dispersed release systems, like permafrost, but if it's going to melt anyway, maybe there's an energy-efficient way to harvest the trapped methane before it escapes?

Re:In light of the article, (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081590)

I propose we figure a way to extract the methane from the athmosphere and burn it, thus creating less catastrophic gases :-)

Seconded.

And I propose we put Maxwell's Demon in charge of the project.

It's your fault (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080664)

You know that, when the ozon is destroyed and the fish die, they will say "It was everybody's fault. We didn't do anything to stop it". They won't say it was George Bush's fault, or McDonalds fault.

And they will be right. The only way to stop it is to slow down the circulation of money.

Re:It's your fault (1)

The_Mr_Flibble (738358) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081347)

You've seen my bank balance ?

Re:It's your fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16081493)

The ozone isn't going to be destroyed. Global efforts have been sufficient to stop the degradation of the ozone layer, and possibly it is even recovering.

In terms of cause and effect (1)

justthinkit (954982) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080689)

It seems that pollution is the cause. Specifically, soot lands on snow, the snow becomes less reflective than it was, absorbing more sunlight energy and melting more. This is causing major environmental damage (i.e. to glaciers throughout the world). Methane release is a consequence of this, but will now have its own consequences as well.

The die is cast. Humans have majorly polluted the planet and the planet is fighting back, however gradually. I predict the final score will be planet 1 : humans 0.

Re:In terms of cause and effect (0)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080746)

Please do not anthropmorphize the Earth. It discredits actual environmental science. Thank you.

Re:In terms of cause and effect (4, Funny)

rk (6314) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080960)

Yes, plus the Earth doesn't really like being anthropomorphized all that much, so if you won't stop for environmental science, stop for the sake of Earth's feelings.

Re:In terms of cause and effect (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081346)

Spoken like someone who's a little uncomfortable about their college major, undoubtedly studied while living in their parents' basement.

Re:In terms of cause and effect (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#16083045)

Dammit, Jim, I'm an attorney, not an environmental scientist. But what I studied is irrelevant; anthropomorphization nearly always impedes clear thinking.

Yum! (1)

Pao|o (92817) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080699)

Hmmmmmmmm... permafrost melt.... :P~~

FP? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080706)

FP?

Vox? (1)

whoop (194) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080707)

If permafrost melts, what ever will become of Lady Vox? Long as she doesn't hook up with Nagafen, we'll be alright...

Congratulations. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16081005)

You win this Slashdot story.

The Gurdian lies (1, Informative)

lrohrer (147725) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080737)

The Guardian says "This means that a kilogram of methane warms the planet's atmosphere 23 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide."

A gas can not warm the planet. The sun is the main heat source for the planet. We have to assume that the planet's own heat is constant. Increase the sun's output by fractions of a percentage to produce very dramatic warming on the earth. Greenhouse effect only relates to how much (or how little) the earth cools after it's been heated by the sun. Even man's exhaust from all sources can not warm the first 500 feet of the ocean anywhere close to what the sun does. The oceans and its currents affect weather far more than anything man does or at present can do.

I note that the study was purposely trying to find locations on a lake and lakes that spew larger amounts of methane. So the intent was to find more gas. The intent was to collect it better than previous studies. With out satelite confirmation over the same areas, it is a biased study.

Re:The Gurdian lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080810)

Way to state the obvious. That doesn't mean that the human effect is not significant. Go back to kindergarten.

Re:The Gurdian lies (1, Troll)

fredrated (639554) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081016)

"A gas can not warm the planet." Hey dickhead, thanks for the update. I know plenty of wise asses like you. They get their knickers in a twist when people don't speak and write like mathematicians. Guess what, human language is ambiguous and people are not robots. Unless you are a complete idiot (for which admittedly there is evidence) you know damn well that they meant that methane traps 23 times the heat that co2 traps, fuck you.

Re:The Gurdian lies (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081299)

A gas can not warm the planet.
Slimy Defense Attorney: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution has told you that my client the defendant ran over the deceased several times. But my client has knee injury and cannot run, let alone run over a person. And the deceased was covered by tire tracks, not footprints. The prosecution is obviously lying!"

Weary District Attorney: "As the jury obviously understood, I meant that the ran over the deceased with his car."

Re:The Gurdian lies (1)

robertjw (728654) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081312)

A gas can not warm the planet.

Sure it can, just light a match.

Re:The Gurdian lies (1)

gx5000 (863863) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081820)

Anybody saying that a gas (or a plethora of gasses) cannot warm the planet (or the family bathroom) has not experienced their Forty-year-old Father using the facilities in the evening. I suggest leaving the family Canary firmly in it's cage in the Kitchen. Thank you.

Re:The Gurdian lies (3, Insightful)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081421)

The Guardian says "This means that a kilogram of methane warms the planet's atmosphere 23 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide."

A gas can not warm the planet.


So neither can a blanket warm you, then.
Any other sophistries you'd like to share?

Re:The Gurdian lies (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081861)

Actually, a blanket cannot warm you just as a gas cannot warm you.

What both can do, incidentally, is keep you warm. A blanket just keeps your metabolic waste energy trapped close to you as warmth. Various gases just keep solar energy trapped close to the planet longer.

Re:The Gurdian lies (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 8 years ago | (#16082222)

A blanket just keeps your metabolic waste energy trapped close to you as warmth.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

For your next trick, please explain that water is wet. This ought to keep you missing the point for another short while.

Re:The Gurdian lies (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 8 years ago | (#16082439)

This is not exactly true, as the ocean itself is influenced by Man. What we have here are multiple feedback loops, some are positive feedbacks, increasing the force, others are negative feedbacks, leading to a balance. One of those loops is closely connected to the sun's energy received by the earth. If the temperature of the earth is constant, it just means, that the earth itself radiates exactly as much energy as it receives from the sun (not necessarily in the same frequency range though). If the earth radiates less, the temperature of the earth increases (by absorbing the not reflected energy and thus turning it into warmth). If the earth radiates more, the earth cools down. The energy an object radiates is proportional to the forth power of its temperature, if the object itself doesn't change. So for a stable object we have a negative feedback loop, leading to a balance: As soon as the object gets warmer, it increases its energy radiation, until it reaches balance with the incoming energy. As soon as an object cools down, it's energy radiation is dropping until it reaches equilibrium with the incoming energy.

What we now have is not a stable object, we have the earth with an atmosphere and ocean currents and reflective surfaces at the poles and on the glaciers, and with chemical reactions using incoming energy to create compounds with higher chemical energy, or releasing chemical energy with was used to create those compounds before. Each of them has a different balance temperature than the others, so the average balance temperature of the whole earth depends on how much energy each of the different parts reflects or radiates. It gets more complicated as the earth's atmosphere reflects in both ways: Incoming sun rays and also warmth radiated by the earth's surface items (energy they absorbed from sunlight before, or they got from the cooling of the earth core, or from radioactive decay). Because the earth's atmosphere is much more reflective for warmth than for sunlight, the equilibrium temperature of the earth is higher than for an atmosphere-less object at the same orbit than the earth (it's estimated to be about 10-15 Celsius). This is called the Green House Effect. Everything that influences the difference in reflectivity for warmth and sunlight in the atmosphere directly affects the Green House Effect. Dust in the atmosphere for instance increases the reflectivity for sunlight, thus cooling the atmosphere (the Green House Effect gets smaller). Methan and Carbondioxide keep the reflectivity for sunlight about the same, but increase the reflectivity for warmth, thus increasing the Green House Effect.

Each square meter of the earth's surface gets about 1.5 kJoule of energy per second from the sun. With the reflectivity of the atmosphere only about 150 Joule per square meter and second are reaching the earth's surface. That means that nearly 90% of the sun's energy are reflected immediately and not even warming the earth's surface. If we would lower the reflectivity of the atmosphere around 10%, we suddenly got 300 Joule per square meter and second, in fact doubling the heating of the earth! So even a small change in the atmosphere can have huge impact on the earth's surface temperature.

We should keep that in mind when we start discussing the man made Green House Effect and its strength.

Re:The Gurdian lies (1)

derflattusmouse (982721) | more than 8 years ago | (#16082674)

"A gas cannot warm the planet." That giant orb of hydrogen in the sky seems to do a pretty good job of it.

Re:The Gurdian lies (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 8 years ago | (#16085644)

Technically the sun's heat isn't coming from its gasses; the heat comes from the part that's a plasma. The gaseous part is called its "atmosphere", and it doesn't really contribute to the heat. It just scatters the photons produced down in the plasma portion.

Yeah, I know; picky, picky, picky ...

Re:The Gurdian lies (1)

derflattusmouse (982721) | more than 8 years ago | (#16086080)

Yeah, I had that in the post before I posted it but I dropped it. I suppose I could counter that the hydrogen gas in the sun's atmosphere is glowing plenty hot enough that you could feel it from the earth. But then that would be petty. Or I could point out that the only reason you feel warm outside when the sun is down is that the warm gasses around you keep you warm. Instead I think that as I am Derflattusmouse I'll make jokes about lighting farts the next time this subject comes up.

Chicken-little titles... (4, Insightful)

phayes (202222) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080770)

The title to the story is "Faster Global Warming from Permafrost Melt" yet TFA & even the extract say
"No one is sure if the greenhouse effect will cause them to lock up more, or to release more carbon"...

Sensationalist titles like this are why I still have my doubts about global warning. Every time any climate data is released, the global warning crowd comes out with another sensationalist global warning blurb.

Re:Chicken-little titles... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16080878)

Try reading *real* scientific journals, such as Nature. You'll find there is no debate over global warming within the scientific community.

Re:Chicken-little titles... (1)

robertjw (728654) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081386)

Try reading *real* scientific journals, such as Nature. You'll find there is no debate over global warming within the scientific community.

OK, AC troll, I'll bite.

First, AFAIK, 'real' scientific journals can be very elitist and very narrow minded. What gets published in most journals must be acceptable to the community at large for the journal to remain a respected institution. On top of that, article submission is expensive, difficult and lengthy, even if you do have a nice safe acceptable paper to submit. Scientific journals may or may not provide evidence of cohesive thought on global warming.

Second, while there may be no debate over the occurance of global warming, there is great debate over the causes, impact, solutions, etc... Is it only greenhouse gasses? Are the other contributing factors? Are we in a feedback loop? Is there anything that can be done? Will the result be warmer temperatures, or another ice age? Will humanity survive? These are all questions highly debated everywhere - if you know of a scientist that can tell us definitevly of the causes, solutions and results I would love to hear it.

Re:Chicken-little titles... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16082000)

Even if global warming is false, pascals wager (specifically the choices under uncertaintaty) states that it is foolish to not attempt to stop it. For example, lets assume the following. Global Warming is or isnt, true or false etc etc. Now we look at what is at stake in this debate. If Global Warming is true and we do nothing about it, then we risk everything, if we do something about it, better world. Now, the second part is if global warming doesnt exist. In both cases, the status quo will be the same. So to sum it up

No Action Taken--
  • Global Warming Exists. Result = Bad
  • Global Warming Does Not Exist. Result = Status Quo

Action Taken--

  • Global Warming Exists. Result = Better World
  • Global Warming Does Not Exist. Result = Status Quo
By following this logic, it is foolhardy to not do something to prevent Global Warming whether it exists or not, as the consequences of being wrong and doing nothing far outweigh the concequences of being wrong and doing something.

Re:Chicken-little titles... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16082984)

Even if global warming is false, pascals wager (specifically the choices under uncertaintaty) states that it is foolish to not attempt to stop it.

Pascal's Wager is a logical fallacy. It applies equally under the opposite assumptions, and then grants the opposite conclusion. It is *not* a reliable way to make an intelligent decision.

Re:Chicken-little titles... (1)

ccmay (116316) | more than 8 years ago | (#16083424)

We might also precipitate a new Ice Age if we follow your recommendations. You can't prove that it wouldn't.

-ccm

Re:Chicken-little titles... (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 8 years ago | (#16085676)

Others have pointed out the logical problem with Pascal's Wager. I'll just mention a more relevant argument: No matter what the situation, we're better off understanding what's going on that we'll be if we don't understand.

If we act without understanding, the outcome is unpredictable, and is as likely to be worse as it is to be better. If we understand the system, and can thus predict the outcome of our actions with some accuracy, we stand a much better chance of fixing whatever problems actually exist.

Most of the anti-climate-change rhetoric has the goal of suppressing scientific research. This is most likely a losing wager, no matter what's happening.

Re:Chicken-little titles... (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#16082239)

First, AFAIK, 'real' scientific journals can be very elitist and very narrow minded. What gets published in most journals must be acceptable to the community at large for the journal to remain a respected institution. On top of that, article submission is expensive, difficult and lengthy, even if you do have a nice safe acceptable paper to submit. Scientific journals may or may not provide evidence of cohesive thought on global warming.

This is an ad hominem attack known as poisoning the well.

Plus most of what you assert here is untrue.

If what you said was true, then papers which call the scientific consensus into question would never get published. And thus the scientific consensus would never change. But contrarian papers get published all the time. And the consensus does change.

The problem is that the standards of proof are high, and the larger the claims, the greater the standards of proof. You may want the scientific consensus to change, and you may have evidence which supports your position, but you are not going to get published if you demand the that everybody change their mind. Your study is only a one study, after all, and you have to set your evidence against a body of evidence that is larger and more tested than yours. The way to get a contrarian paper published, and to change the scientific consensus, is to draw your conclusions narrowly, e.g. some particular carbon sink absorbs more carbon than we thought, or the effect of increased cloud formation on global temperatures is greater than we thought.

You can't take one study and push the opinion of science in a totally new direction. Science is a conservative business. You have to undermine the consensus in enough key places, then scientific opinion will change, almost overnight. There's no evidence this is happening on global warming, although I wish it were.

With respect to elitism, that is absolutely true, if by that you mean that most arguments are not considered worthy of publication in a peer reviewed journal. For one thing, you are required to give the devil his due, to make it possible for an independent reader to dispute your evidence or your reasoning from your evidence. Right off the bat, this makes it impossible formany kinds of articles to get published, viz., those that have no empirical basis or which draw wildly inflated conclusions from small bodies of evidence.

Second, while there may be no debate over the occurance of global warming, there is great debate over the causes, impact, solutions, etc... Is it only greenhouse gasses? Are the other contributing factors? Are we in a feedback loop? Is there anything that can be done? Will the result be warmer temperatures, or another ice age? Will humanity survive? These are all questions highly debated everywhere - if you know of a scientist that can tell us definitevly of the causes, solutions and results I would love to hear it.

First of all, if what you say here is true, and "These are all questions highly debated everywhere," then you have undermined your own assertion that the global warming consensus is the product of academic closed mindedness.

Now the answer to most of your questions are well known to anybody who reads the scientific press -- Scientific American, Science News, etc.

Q: Is it only greenhouse gasses? / Are the other contributing factors?
A: probably not and possibly so. For example in the last couple of decades, average Total Solar Irradiance has increased by a very small amount, 0.1%, which is about half of its daily variability. While this amounts to a vast amount of energy, it is not enough that, over the time scale, you would expect significant climate shifts.

Q: Are we in a feedback loop?
A: Yes. Climate models are, for practical purposes, collections of feedback loops that are tuned by experimental or theoretical results. This very story we are commenting on is about a positive feedback loop. The problem is that current data seems to point towards an equillibrium shift.

Q: Is there anything that can be done?
A: This is the real question. Whether or not global warming is primarily anthropogenic (as the consensus seems to be), the question is, what can we do about it? Because of the feedback loops in the system, it is very possible that we might not be able to do anything effective even presuming that the current climate shift is anthropogenic. There is no way to know with certainty other than to try.

So, since we can't know for sure, this question becomes should we try. There are arguments for not trying that are worth considering, for example the economic and political impact as weighed against the uncertainty of success. But this doesn't mean we should indulge in wishful thinking. If there is global climate change on the scale envsioned, especially at the upper range of possibilities, then change will be forced upon us. In that case we will be forced to take drastic action to adapt. The question is whether we will do it before or after.

So one argument for trying to do something about global warming is that even if we are doomed to failure, the effort may be justified by a marginal reduction in the rate of change. For example sea level has risen by 1.5mm/yr over the last century. At this rate, over the course of several thousand years, cities will graudally change. However, consensus predictions, which are of course not perfect, show annual sea level rise rates eventually reaching something between 100mm/year to 900mm/year. This means having to deal with sea level rise on the order of decades, which means massive engineering projects, to years, which means abandoning coastal cities altogether. There's a big difference between these scenarios.

Which does nothing to prove we can affect climate enough to achieve this difference. It only demonstrates is that we don't have to stipluate complete success at halting climate change in order to justify the attempt.

Q: Will the result be warmer temperatures, or another ice age?
A: Over the long term, both. Over the short term (next 100 years), it looks like we're in for warmer.

Q: Will humanity survive?
A: This is my opinion here, but there is no danger that humanity will become extinct from any form of climate change. The question is how much fun survival will be -- one way or the other. A better question would be, will civilization as we know it surivie. My opinion is that probably it will. But if the rate of climate change is what we expect it to be, and it is not constrainable for physical or political reasons, it will be a disaster on a par with the European Black Death in the 1300s. Not bad enough to destroy civilization, but bad enough to alter it in fundamental ways.

Q: If you know of a scientist that can tell us definitevly of the causes, solutions and results I would love to hear it.
A: This should be easy, for some given value of "definitive". If your standard of "definitive" is being able to convince everyone in the world, regardless of how much they wish to believe the contrary, then the answer is there is nobody who fits your criteria.

Re:Chicken-little titles... (4, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081335)

Ignore the headlines. Read the articles and look at the data. Once you do, you'll start writing alarmed headlines as well.

Re:Chicken-little titles... (4, Interesting)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081558)

Sensationalist titles like this are why I still have my doubts about global warning.

Ok, ignore the JOURNALIST'S READER-BAIT title, and think for a moment about the fact at hand:

The permafrost is melting.
The layer of soil named after the fact that it is permanently frozen is melting.

Think about it.

It's not the titles, it's the editors (1)

Eevee (535658) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081609)

The title deals only with permafrost, while the comment from the editor deals with bogs, something that has nothing to do with permafrost aside from being another kind of terrain common in more nordic regions. If the editor had stayed on track, there wouldn't be any confusion.

As for the articles, the only thing remotely close to disagreement is the comment that if if it gets hot enough for all the permafrost underneath the lakes to melt then the water will be able to sink into the ground and you won't have a permafrost lake anymore. (Although I'm not sure how saying that once the permafrost is melted we don't have to worry about excess greenhouse gasses from permafrost is in any way reassuring.)

Are they a "crowd"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16081629)

Many different types of people have come from many different angles to take global warming seriously. They seem considerably less orchestrated than the "denialist crowd". If all you meant by "crowd" was "great numbers of people" then I have no problem with your terminology, which seems dismissive at first read.

Did you pass basic reading comprehension? (3, Insightful)

Pentagram (40862) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081671)

The title to the story is "Faster Global Warming from Permafrost Melt" yet TFA & even the extract say
"No one is sure if the greenhouse effect will cause them to lock up more, or to release more carbon"...


Um no. First of all, you obviously haven't read TFA because it doesn't say this. It was apparently written by the /. submitter, who is in any case referring to uncertainty over bogs, not the melting permafrost.

Sensationalist titles like this are why I still have my doubts about global warning.

You decide whether or not to accept scientific studies based on Slashdot headlines? We're in more trouble than I thought.

Please. Did you RTFA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16081762)

Seems pretty clear to me what the article says. Global warming will cause the lakes to emit more methane, which will help increase global warming to the point that the ice below the lakes melts and the water drains off, presumedly carrying the rest of the methane with it. So in the ultra-long-term, the net contribution of the lakes to methane in the atmosphere is uncertain. But in the next century or so, depending on how fast the earth's temp goes up, the lakes will definitely contribute to global warming.

You wouldn't happen to be one of those energy-industry paid astro-turfers, would you?

Please. Did you RTFA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16082420)

Seems pretty clear to me what the article says. Global warming will cause the lakes to emit more methane, which will help increase global warming to the point that the ice below the lakes melts and the water drains off, presumedly carrying the rest of the methane with it. So in the ultra-long-term, the net contribution of the lakes to methane in the atmosphere is uncertain. But in the next century or so, depending on how fast the earth's temp goes up, the lakes will definitely contribute to global warming.

You wouldn't happen to be one of those fossil-fuel-industry-paid astro-turfers, would you?

Feedback: why climate research is expensive (3, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080859)

Here we've got a positive feedback loop. The warmer it gets, the more CH4 is presumably released from permafrost.

There are also negative feedback loops. The warmer it gets, the more water evaporates, the more clouds there are, and clouds reflect sunlight. On the other hand, clouds can also hold heat in, and water vapor is a greenhouse gas.

If you want to make forecasts you have to put numbers on all those effects, and they have to be fairly precise numbers or you get hit by the uncertainties of (approximate large number minus other approximate large number). You've also got to account for discontinuities, things that only start happening at threshold temperatures (permafrost melting) or that stop happening after some amount of C)2 gets absorbed (oceanic absorption).

That's where all your tax money is going. It's paying to send highly trained people to uncomfortable places to get hard facts.

That also tells you that it's taken a huge amount of field data to get general agreement on what our CO2 output does to climate.

Decimal places (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 8 years ago | (#16080964)

No one is sure if the greenhouse effect will cause them to lock up more, or to release more carbon.

Oh, well, case closed then!

Old news, sorry (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081327)

This is more like "scientific fact, long ago known, by anyone who's followed global warming", not "News". What's next, a Ric Romero story about how the oceans store tons (literally) of CO2?

So... (1)

Kesch (943326) | more than 8 years ago | (#16081434)

Let me get this straight. Globabl warming is caused by farts from Siberian snow?

There's a bad Soviet Russia joke in here.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16085121)

In Soviet Russia, snow melts you?

Sorry, I am still sceptical (1)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 8 years ago | (#16082622)

The weather man can not predict the weather 7 days in advance, why should I believe that weather predictions in the 10, 50, 100, or 200 years from now range are going to be right? I am sorry; I just can not swallow that one!

Re:Sorry, I am still sceptical [sic] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16085053)

You're right, predicting the weather is hard, and so is predicting the climate.

However your conclusion seems to be, since we can't tell for sure what's going to happen, let's just keep throwing crap in the air (CO2 levels are higher than they have been for 800,000 years) and assume that it will all be fine. Common sense says that if we noticeably alter the composition of the entire atmosphere that probably *something* bad will happen.

Hard to predict doesn't mean "most likely there will be no effect".

Re:Sorry, I am still sceptical (2, Informative)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 8 years ago | (#16085557)

This isn't about predicting the weather. It is more similar to predicting that summer will be hot in Texas.

I seem to remember... (1)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 8 years ago | (#16083324)

I seem to remember watching a documentary on Discovery HD about how, in one of the past instances of global warming, methane was released from deep in the sea and caused a mass extinction. This news doesn't surprise me at all.

OH PLease ! (1)

gx5000 (863863) | more than 8 years ago | (#16083742)

WOn't ANYONE think of the Children !!! ..Actually why not in this case... Doing nothing is in effect wagering our children's future.. (I can't beleive I just typed that...the new Simp season just started right ?)

We can finally use all that land for something... (1)

The New Stan Price (909151) | more than 8 years ago | (#16084992)

It used to be cold enough for wooly mammoths up there.
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