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Russian Scientist Discovers Giant Arctic Methane Plumes

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the warm-it-up dept.

Earth 236

thomst writes "Russian scientist Igor Semiletov of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks revealed in an interview with The Independent that his team discovered 'powerful and impressive seeping structures (of Methane gas) more than 1,000 metres in diameter' during their survey of the Arctic Ocean earlier this year. 'I was most impressed by the sheer scale and the high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them,' Semiletov told The Independent's Steve Connor. This finding is important because methane is estimated to be 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and it could indicate that global warming is about to accelerate dramatically."

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236 comments

Sorry! (5, Funny)

nullnick (1409223) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395604)

It was the dog!

Re:Sorry! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395982)

And those selfish make-my-job-seem-important-so-I-can-continue-to-soak-up-a-paycheck environmentalists were going to conspire with the equally selfish make-my-job-seem-important-so-I-can-continue-to-soak-up-a-paycheck vegetarians to blame cow flattus and eventually lead to outlawing beef. Even the make-my-job-seem-important-so-I-won't-be-forced-to-take-thorazine animal rights clowns hadn't a clue or they would've immediately contacted their make-my-job-seem-important lawyers and started a conventional war that we would all be paying more taxes for.

Re:Sorry! (5, Funny)

flyneye (84093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396002)

In space, no one can hear you fart, but, in the arctic no one can blame it on you.

Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (4, Informative)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395614)

In this case it seems that most of the methane is locked up far deeper than will be affected by rising temperatures for the foreseeable future.

http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2011/2011EO490014.shtml [agu.org]

So, not good, but maybe not as bad as appears at first blush, thankfully...

Rgds

Damon

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1, Insightful)

nullnick (1409223) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395636)

Thats from 6th December. Is it updated with this recent news?

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395728)

AFAIK it is still entirely pertinent...

Rgds

Damon

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395662)

Hopefully they're right. This older review [realclimate.org] from Real Climate comes to the same conclusion.

But we'll know for sure one way or another in a couple of years, by watching the atmospheric methane concentrations
.

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395764)

Thankfully since Climategate 2.0 we now know RealClimate to be a PR effort without any grounding in how proper science is done. Content there has about as much authority as content on "joe blow's personal blog about the world, universe and my trucks"

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396142)

In your fantasy world of evil conspiracies, shouldn't Real Climate be playing up the alarmism rather than defusing it?

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1)

rich_hudds (1360617) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396240)

I'll bite, what's your evidence for this claim?

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396252)

Thankfully since Climategate 2.0 we now know RealClimate to be a PR effort without any grounding in how proper science is done. Content there has about as much authority as content on "joe blow's personal blog about the world, universe and my trucks"

You forgot the <sarcasm> tag

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395948)

I suspect that it'll to take a lot longer than a couple of years to know for sure: a couple of decades maybe.

Rgds

Damon

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (2, Funny)

benthurston27 (1220268) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396000)

that's enough regards for now, Damon rgds Ben

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395950)

Your subject line is not supported by the article we're discussing today.

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396968)

Why do you say that? Given that my subject line is an excerpt of the title of the paper I referenced, which seems applicable, where's the disconnect?

Rgds

Damon

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396158)

Why do twits like you "sign" your name when it's the same thing as your user name? Seriously, we know you put the comment there. Get over yourself.

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396516)

Why do twits like you troll as AC?

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396176)

So why not tap it and burn it off? it's a shallow sea cant they drill and start sucking?

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (3, Interesting)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396334)

If methane was a serious problem, the must have been a huge one at the end of the last ice age, when there was a lot more permafrost thawing up and releasing methane than there is even in existence today. Alas, [am.ub.es] it wasn't.

If methane was the harbinger of a climate apocalypse, the apocalypse should have happened long ago.

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (-1, Flamebait)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396420)

Perhaps you should first get a clue where methane comes from ...
Why do you think the end of the last ice age should have released methane? To release methane there must be methane in the ground, don't you think so? If there is nothing, nothing is released, obviously.

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396694)

By what reasoning should there not have been methane in the permafrost at the end of the ice age? Neither physics nor chemistry changed in the meantime, and biology didn't in a way meaningful to this question.

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396836)

Because the permafrost in the arctic tundra and the perma frost in the middle of europe during the ice age have a completely different composition.
Methan is created by rotting of large amounts of plant material. Like in swamps and Moors. Furthermore most "perma frost" was covered with glaciers, so there did not rot anything. In between where nice areas of completely habitable zones, with no pemafrost at all. Also, the size of the ice covered land during the last glacial age was relatively small (as mainly water, the atlantic, was covered) in relation to the perma frost areas in our time.

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (-1, Flamebait)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396994)

You mean like the swamps and moors that Europe was covered with until a few hundred years ago? There was a lot of work involved in draining and removing them in order to create fertile land.

Also, is your argument really so weak that you have to resort to such stupid subterfuges as comparing the extent of permafrost today with the extent of glaciers during the ice-age in order to come up with some comparison that you thought you could bend to your purpose?

And you're telling me to get a clue? You guys make me sick.

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1)

Urban Garlic (447282) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396610)

I'm not sure I follow -- your position is that there was not a dramatic shift in the climate at the end of the last ice age?

When you say "end of the last ice age", what do you mean?

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396766)

There was no dramatic shift that led to complete melting of all permafrost and a global warming 5K above today's levels, as the climate-apocalypse-runaway-chain-reaction is supposed to do. The increase in methane was a result, not the cause of he warming. Correlation does not imply causation.

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (3, Interesting)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396750)

If methane was the harbinger of a climate apocalypse, the apocalypse should have happened long ago.

The end of the ice age involved melting through a mile-thick sheet of ice. Much of this pooled up behind a gargantuan ice dam, and when it broke loose, it scoured much of the western United States off the map in a cataclysmic torrent that flowed all the way to the Pacific Ocean. That's not a "climate apocalypse"?

Re:Methane emissions not tied to modern warming (5, Informative)

aurizon (122550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38397138)

Temperate methane clathrates are deeper and stabilized by pressure in warmer water. The Arctic clathrates, as mentioned in this article, exist over huge land areas and were stabilized by temperature under permafrost and there is also a lot in the shallow of the arctic, also cold stabilized. Both the water based and tundra based clathrates are being released now. This is very ominous. Nothing we can do will prevent this - not even a total cessation of coal/oil/gas combustion - and we know how likely that is!
Part of the methane from millions of years of vegetative rotting on tundra and shallow seas was trapped in these clathrates. Large areas of tundra are also emitting methane the same way.

dig deeper here http://tinyurl.com/d64n5zb [tinyurl.com]

Bill

The next question (4, Interesting)

sidthegeek (626567) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395624)

Now, the next question would be whether it'd be profitable for anyone to access this methane. I wouldn't think so, seeing as oil rigs burn it off when drilling, but would this be different?

Re:The next question (3, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395666)

Can these plumes be lit? Burning it would be cool (and reduce the overall greenhouse effect)

Re:The next question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395680)

Great plan! We have large quantities of a gas that causes global warming. So then you burn it an end up huge amounts of extra warm and a gas that causes a bit less warming.

Re:The next question (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395736)

The momentary heat would be nothing compared to having all that methane around for the next hundred years.

Re:The next question (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396004)

Methane in the atmosphere only lasts for between 20 and thirty years. SO again its not as bad as thought.
nature.com/thirtyyearmethane

Re:The next question (5, Informative)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396244)

That link doesn't exist.

Methane has an atmospheric lifetime of about 12 years. However it is MUCH more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, so over a 20 year period a ton of methane will cause the same amount of global warming as 72 tons of carbon dioxide. Consider that a ton of methane, burned, would produce about 3.7 tons of carbon dioxide, burning it is a valid approach to mitigating the impact on our climate.

Setting the plumes on fire is a big silly, though. We should trap the gas and use it to displace petroleum fuels.
=Smidge=

Re:The next question (0)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396458)

I can't avoid thinking "how silly is to integrate the heat" every time I see methane and CO2 compared.

Are we really concerned about the total energy retained by the gases? Because last time I saw it, the actual concern was about the temperature, that depends on the ratio of change of that total energy, and care nothing about past greenhouse effects.

But yeah, talking about total heat leads to a nice simple (and useless) number, like counting the lines of code a developer writes.

Re:The next question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396634)

what the hell are you talking about?

Re:The next question (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396774)

You can't compare methane with CO2 in a universal manner. Any kind of comparison leads to information that is only usefull on a few contexts.

But yet, people go with the least usefull kind of comparison, and don't even bother to say that the metric has limitations.

Re:The next question (2, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396068)

Look on the bright side if it reaches the right concentration it will ignite all by itself.

Re:The next question (5, Informative)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396272)

Great plan! We have large quantities of a gas that causes global warming. So then you burn it an end up huge amounts of extra warm and a gas that causes a bit less warming.

methane absorbs 20 times as much IR as the water and CO2 that would result from burning it, so its probably a net win to burn it.

Re:The next question (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396936)

Might I offer an alternative....

Hey look, methane powered cars. Convert the methane to water and CO2. Power our cars. I mean, we're going to burn hydrocarbon for another 1/2 century or more. Might as well use that methane.

Let's drop all of Haliburton there right now.

Re:The next question (1)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395714)

Tapping them for electricity would be pretty awesome

Re:The next question (0)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395670)

What is this I don't even..

Re:The next question (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395998)

Your sentence was cut off before coming to a coherent conclusion, and you didn't even say "Candlejack". Oh shit, I just sa-

Re:The next question (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395984)

Drilling for methane hydrate deposits is one of the 'unconventional' energy resources that's had a lot of attention paid to it in the last while. I believe the Japanese, amongst several others, are paying a lot of attention to it as there are some big deposits off their coast.

However, the relative 'tightness' (poor quality) of the sediment its found in makes it difficult to extract. It's a completely different situation compared to a conventional gas reservoir.

Ironically enough, the poor quality and relative depth of the sediment could be the thing that stops this being as bad as some people think it could be.

Oh shit (-1, Redundant)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395672)

If these methane deposits extend across the whole of the artic we're in SERIOUS trouble.

Why do scientists make these statements? (5, Insightful)

Zondar (32904) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395678)

""The concentration of atmospheric methane increased unto three times in the past two centuries from 0.7 parts per million to 1.7ppm, and in the Arctic to 1.9ppm. That's a huge increase, between two and three times,"

I'm OK with her statement, until this:

"...and this has never happened in the history of the planet," she added.

So there's data for the last 4+ BILLION years with 10-50 year precision so that over a 100-200 year timespan, she can measure the slope of the line (rate in rise over the run of time) precisely enough to say that the slope of the line over the last 200 years is steeper than it has been in any other 200 year period in the last 4 billion years? Sorry, but I find that hard to believe.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (2, Insightful)

sjwt (161428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395734)

Looks like a rather natural cycle, with about a 100k period, with our current high period being an extended one, but it goes back almost 15 thousand years, and yes their are higher peeks.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vostok_420ky_4curves_insolation.jpg [wikipedia.org]

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (5, Informative)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395920)

with our current high period being an extended one

"Extended"? How about "off the charts"? The current ch4 concentration is 1745 ppbv, which is almost twice the peak on that chart.

and yes their are higher peeks

No, there hasn't been. This planet has not seen this much CO2 or methane in the past 400,000 years according to that graph.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396052)

What graph are you looking at? Cause the graph I'm looking at shows both CO2 levels and CH4 levels higher at about 125kya and 325kya.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vostok_420ky_4curves_insolation.jpg

So this planet HAS seen this much or more CO2 and methane in the past 400,000 years according to that graph.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (3, Informative)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396208)

That chart is too coarse-grained, in the time dimension to show the recent very sharp peak. The CH4 peaks (including the "present" one) on that chart
are at about 0.7 ppm and the current level is about 1.7. Similarly, the CO2 peaks are at about 280 ppm and the current level is around 385.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396576)

So, you're saying that there's no evidence of any problems.

The previous 1.5-2 ppm peaks would be just as invisible as the current one.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (5, Informative)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396226)

That chart only covers the ice-core data, which doesn't include the past few hundred years. Google "CO2 ppmv" and "methane ppbv" and you'll see that the current levels are off the charts. I've even graphed it out for you here. [imgur.com] Sorry about my shitty photoshop skills.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396616)

By those charts, it looks like we're in a warm period and about to enter an ice age based on a ~120,000 year temperature cycle. A drop of -10C doesn't look promising, especially outside of the tropics.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (1)

Botia (855350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396764)

Did we stop producing ice for the past few hundred years? That would seem to indicate global warming has been happening for quite a while.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396170)

Can you cite a source for your claims to the current CH4 concentration?

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396488)

http://www.carbonify.com/carbon-dioxide-levels.htm

2011 - 388.92 ppm

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396980)

During the Permian era (millions of years ago) the CO2 concentrations were about 450 ppm. Of course, the temperature was about 10 degrees warmer on average, there were no ice caps, etc, etc.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395780)

As a scientist, I'd say don't believe anything a scientist says to a journalist. Journalists can wrap most of us round their little fingers in a phone interview.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395874)

I'd believe most of what a scientist says to a journalist. I have more of a problem believing things that a journalist hears from a scientist...

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (-1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395786)

"So there's data for the last 4+ BILLION years with 10-50 year precision so that over a 100-200 year timespan, blah, blah"

For your information, Mr. Smarty pants, there were no cows 4 billion years ago. As a matter of fact, there wasn't anything around that long ago that was doing much farting, so where do you think the methane is going to come from? Huh?

Thought so...Big guy thinks he's so smart.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395852)

Natural sources of methane include wetlands, gas hydrates, permafrost, termites, oceans, freshwater bodies, non-wetland soils, and other sources such as wildfires.

You display your ignorance for the public to see....I'd research before making stupid comments.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396602)

Dont forget backteria, which account for 98% of all methane emissions.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396196)

Cthulhu... his farts of death! They existed 400,000 years ago.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (3, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396412)

You ever see a bronto buddy? That's one big assed cow right there. you don't think having plant eaters the size of buildings didn't create some major stinkies? I bet that whole era smelt worse than the bean eating scene in Blazing Saddles!

As for TFA? Burn it, either capture and burn or just light it, since either method would be a net win on greenhouse effect and we are already developing plenty of ways to deal with carbon. you can store it, bury it, even feed it to algae and make fuel out of it, but methane is worse than carbon. The best method of course would be to burn it for electricity, if done right we could feed the carbon output to algae and then use it again to power vehicles but being in the arctic it may not be cost effective. better to get rid of it one way or another than let it go.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395858)

""The concentration of atmospheric methane increased unto three times in the past two centuries from 0.7 parts per million to 1.7ppm, and in the Arctic to 1.9ppm. That's a huge increase, between two and three times,"

I'm OK with her statement, until this:

"...and this has never happened in the history of the planet," she added.

So there's data for the last 4+ BILLION years with 10-50 year precision so that over a 100-200 year timespan, she can measure the slope of the line (rate in rise over the run of time) precisely enough to say that the slope of the line over the last 200 years is steeper than it has been in any other 200 year period in the last 4 billion years? Sorry, but I find that hard to believe.

not to nitpick or anything, but although history takes the entire past as a whole, it is also the study of the study of the past. so technically, she may just be speaking of what we know about the planet's past based on what has been studied so far. with that being said, she is correct.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396326)

I don't even understand how they can say "the past two centuries." I'm fairly positive we didn't have the equipment, the knowledge, or the inclination to measure the amount of atmospheric methane in the late 1800s let alone early 1900s. How are we deriving this "fact"?

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396528)

Because we know how much methane will be enclosed into ice, given certain conditions, and how long it will stay there.

So all we need is ice going back that long.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396618)

The problem is the childish, sweeping statements such as "this has never occurred on this planet before." As a scientist, that's an excellent way to discredit yourself.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (4, Informative)

jlehtira (655619) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396452)

You're right, that's obviously nonsense. We don't have such data. Further, it's been suggested that the Permian Extinction [wikipedia.org] , killing (up to) 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrates, was caused by a sudden release of methane. So there's indication that large increases did happen before, although there's no way of telling how fast.

Re:Why do scientists make these statements? (4, Informative)

thomst (1640045) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396542)

""The concentration of atmospheric methane increased unto three times in the past two centuries from 0.7 parts per million to 1.7ppm, and in the Arctic to 1.9ppm. That's a huge increase, between two and three times,"

I'm OK with her statement, until this:

"...and this has never happened in the history of the planet," she added.

So there's data for the last 4+ BILLION years with 10-50 year precision so that over a 100-200 year timespan, she can measure the slope of the line (rate in rise over the run of time) precisely enough to say that the slope of the line over the last 200 years is steeper than it has been in any other 200 year period in the last 4 billion years? Sorry, but I find that hard to believe.

I suspect she's talking about it having never previously happened in a span of just a couple of centuries.

A dramatic increase in atmospheric methane - triggered by a dramatic rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide? Now that's definitely happened before - at the end of the Permian Period. And it helped cause the Permian/Triassic extinction event [wikipedia.org] , the largest species die-off since the Oxygen Catastrophe.

Opportunities? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395700)

Thinking back to the trouble that they had capping the horizon well, I can't imagine capping a 1km diameter source and capturing the output will be particularly easy? or could it be "routed" into an appropriate catchment device?

It seems that methane has at least some intrinsic value, whether as a fuel source and/or feedstock to other chemical processes. Perhaps (crazy talk around here, I know) the free market might be able to do something about this now apparently abundant resource?

"Russian scientist Igor" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395726)

Hehehe.

Insert additional jokes here, such as:
- He's Russian? I thought he was Transylvanian or something.
- No no, Frankenstein was the scientist. Igor was just an assistant.
- Man, biology must be a tough field. The guy drops a brain and suddenly he's deported to the Arctic?

Oh great (3, Informative)

Guil Rarey (306566) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395794)

Mega-giant civilization destroying hurricanes next. We're doomed.

is this an excuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395808)

I feel that this is an excuse to get around the ban to drill the Arctic for natural resources.

Where does methane come from?
Methane is emitted from a variety of both anthropogenic (human-influenced) and natural sources. ... natural sources (principally wetlands, gas hydrates and permafrost, and termites).

actually.. (1)

vivek_bye (1138507) | more than 2 years ago | (#38395820)

In soviet russia arctic methane plume discovers you

Uh oh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38395918)

Who pulled Mother Nature's finger?

when did it start? (5, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396070)

Nothing I see in that article suggests that this is a new phenomenon...aside from the hyperbolic statements of the scientists.

The author is astonishingly remiss in not asking the obvious question: did this just start? It could be that such methane plumes have existed forever, we just never detected them. This is the EIGHTH such cruise/survey. They should be able to conclusively say "we checked this area in at least one or two previous instances and such seeps weren't observed", no?

It seems logical that there must have been plumes like this for a while, to prompt (and justify) such a large-scale survey.

Yet both the scientists and article author seem to gloss over the fact that "never seen before" != "never happened before".

Re:when did it start? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396298)

I am not a fan of "Global Warming" theories. I think they are at best popycock however; there are some facts people need to understand here.
(1) These are relatively shallow Methane ICE (Methane Hydrate) deposits that are decomposing.
(2) These shallow deposits are affected by temperature changes in the water in the area because as the water reaches near +4C the methane ices become unstable and Geothermal heat actually is what is decomposing the deposits but the Geothermal effects would have been controlled by cold water.
(3) It is fairly clear that the area has warmed up recently.
(4) The deposits are probably the result of methane that was normally rising that accumulated as methane ices due to cold water near the surface.
(5) The deposits are probably cyclic in formation and decomposition over time.
(6) Greenland settlements of around 999AD indicate that it was even more in cyclic recession then than now. It is probable that the deposits decomposing now were formed after 1200AD.
=
The Gulf of Mexico floor while deep has the same ices and in massive quantities up to 170 meters thick. I really seriously question the idea that methane ices are uniquely deep in the arctic as opposed to the Gulf of Mexico.

It is probably true that these deposits should be mined. The main problem is that the oil men view Natural Gas as competitive with oil and don't want it in the market. Since the deposits are going to be released anyway we should burn the gas into useful energy.

Re:when did it start? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396404)

Methane seeps [wikipedia.org] are known world-wide, and furthermore there are "fossil" examples of such seeps known as well (e.g., dating all the way back to the Cretaceous Period). You're right that "newly detected" != "never happened before".

Even so, methane seep structures 1km in diameter is pretty darn big, and the map area and number of them is genuinely impressive. This is certainly larger scale than has been previously detected, and the concern about increasing rates of release if these plumes are related to melting gas hydrates is genuine. This probably isn't something that started due to anthropogenic processes (there have probably methane seeps in this area of the Arctic for a long time), but it is possible they are accelerating due to the increasing Arctic Ocean water temperatures that are also responsible for melting of sea ice.

Re:when did it start? (4, Insightful)

wytcld (179112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396600)

Plumes have been seen before. This has been reported in other articles on this. However the plumes seen before were neither so large nor grouped so closely together.

Your painting the scientists as "hyperbolic" speakers establishes, what, that you know a big word and can use it correctly in a sentence? This should cause us to see you as smarter than research scientists with advanced degrees and many years of expeditions to gather evidence? Trust me, they have a far larger vocabulary than you do. Yet you are the one speaking hyperbolically. Now, what drives you to that?

It's not as if the waters where these were found were terra incognito - or mare incognito - the arctic has been peopled for thousands of years, particularly by the Russians, which is how they came to possess not just Siberia but Alaska. So when a Russian, in particular, says the like has not been seen before, that's someone reporting from a culture which has a good historical knowledge of what's been there to be seen. Sort of like getting a report on the normalcy or not of current tornadoes from someone with deep roots in Oklahoma.

Re:when did it start? (2, Insightful)

thomst (1640045) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396608)

Nothing I see in that article suggests that this is a new phenomenon...aside from the hyperbolic statements of the scientists.

The author is astonishingly remiss in not asking the obvious question: did this just start? It could be that such methane plumes have existed forever, we just never detected them. This is the EIGHTH such cruise/survey. They should be able to conclusively say "we checked this area in at least one or two previous instances and such seeps weren't observed", no?

It seems logical that there must have been plumes like this for a while, to prompt (and justify) such a large-scale survey.

Yet both the scientists and article author seem to gloss over the fact that "never seen before" != "never happened before".

In fact, Igor Semiletov's team has been conducting this survey annually for some time now. From the article:

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

And they have seen this phenomenon in prior years - just not on anything like the scale of methane release they observed this year. Again, from the article:

"Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," Dr Semiletov said.

Don't blame the scientist. Don't blame the journalist. Blame the reader, for not reading the story.

Re:when did it start? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38397134)

I would like to add this quote from the scientist and the article:

We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale - I think on a scale not seen before.

Re:when did it start? (5, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396628)

Nothing I see in that article suggests that this is a new phenomenon...aside from the hyperbolic statements of the scientists.

Hmmmm... TFA...

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who led the 8th joint US-Russia cruise of the East Siberian Arctic seas, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

"Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," Dr Semiletov said.

So, 20 years of beating around the Arctics and seeing seepings of 10s m in diameter and, unlucky them, it is only recently that they found the larger ones... What are the chances? I mean, pretty hard luck to miss something that large and find only the smaller ones for 20 years... I wonder why the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks keeps such unlucky researchers on its payroll?

Re:when did it start? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396674)

It could be that such methane plumes have existed forever, we just never detected them. This is the EIGHTH such cruise/survey.

BTW: it is the "8th joint US-Russia cruise", not the absolute eighth.

Re:when did it start? (2)

Muros (1167213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396780)

Nothing I see in that article suggests that this is a new phenomenon...aside from the hyperbolic statements of the scientists.

The author is astonishingly remiss in not asking the obvious question: did this just start?

I thought it obvious from sentences like "...said that he has never before witnessed the scale.." "This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres in diameter" "the latest expedition suggests this is a significant underestimate of the true scale of the phenomenon" that this is known about. The article is about the fact that this year it is on a larger scale than in the past.

This is the EIGHTH such cruise/survey. They should be able to conclusively say "we checked this area in at least one or two previous instances and such seeps weren't observed", no?

It seems logical that there must have been plumes like this for a while, to prompt (and justify) such a large-scale survey.

Yet both the scientists and article author seem to gloss over the fact that "never seen before" != "never happened before".

It is the 8th joint Russian-American survey. There have more than likely been other surveys conducted; I don't know. It does say that this guy has been conducting surveys for 20 years in the region. Nowhere does it say that they have not previously witnessed this phenomenon. All it says is they have not seen this scale.

Just light a match (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396168)

Problem solved.

ka ching! (3, Informative)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396232)

This is a gold mine of resources. There are a lot of great things going on with methane studies, from fuel cells to low energy conversion methods.

Sen and postdoctoral associate Minren Lin announced a breakthrough. By dissolving a powder of rhodium chloride in water, along with carbon monoxide and oxygen, they had produced acetic acid from methane directly. The reaction took place at a relatively low temperature (100 degrees centigrade), required little energy, and left no environmentally harmful solvents to throw away. http://www.rps.psu.edu/sep98/methane.html [psu.edu]

Colleagues of ours created a highly porous carbon-nitrogen polymer, which we realised had very similar structural motifs to the Periana catalyst,' Schüth says, 'so we wondered if we could incorporate platinum into the structure.
If the mixture is then pressurised in an autoclave with methane, the methane is consumed and methanol formed at conversion rates comparable to Periana-based systems but with the solid catalyst easily recoverable at the end of the reaction. http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2009/August/10080902.asp [rsc.org]

Giant tent (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396392)

Just lay out a giant tent and capture it. The methane goes up right and there's nothing of value in the way (the tent will get covered in snow and animals can just cross like usual). Instead of having to drill for fuel just let it come to us.

Re:Giant tent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396526)

Hundreds of plumes...each 1km across. That's one hell of an engineering feat. Then we have to wonder how we're going to compress the stuff enough to ship it - and then turn methane into something we can burn in power stations and cars. What you're suggesting is a huge engineering leap.

Is it new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396394)

Very good, they went to a remote place and noticed something. Is this new, or has it always been taking place and nobody noticed? How long has someone been looking there?

Re:Is it new? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396720)

Very good, they went to a remote place and noticed something. Is this new, or has it always been taking place and nobody noticed? How long has someone been looking there?

TFA - read it!

... the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

Just light a match (1, Funny)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 2 years ago | (#38396402)

Just light a match. (Oh, and stand back a bit.)

bullpucky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38396476)

Well, you'll have that thing here there, but I bet it's colder than a witch's tit in them Siberia, but you can put your boots in the oven, but that donâ(TM)t make 'em biscuits, I tell you, there ain't no Russian scientists. There were a couple, all they do is new vodka recipes.

What's Russia anywho, it's all made up to keep us running around like a blind dog in a meat house. I knew a Russian scientist, he don't know his ass from a hole in the ground, and that's what they'all looking at there.

Global warming, not so bad... (1)

DigiTechGuy (1747636) | more than 2 years ago | (#38397074)

I'm sure this is an unpopular sentiment amongst the crowd here, but I'm stuck in the cold northeast and as a result of the poor economy it wouldn't make financial sense to take a paycut by not getting a job in my field and moving to a more pleasant (warm) part of the country, even though cost of living would be tens of thousands less. A little global warming can take the edge off and make life here just a bit less unpleasant. The earth is dynamic and has always been changing, warm swings, cold swings, and all sorts of changes. If a couple degrees warmer average temps mean a shorter winter and less snow, I don't mind.

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