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Numerous Methane Leaks Found On Atlantic Sea Floor

samzenpus posted about a month ago | from the bubbling-up dept.

Earth 273

sciencehabit writes Researchers have discovered 570 plumes of methane percolating up from the sea floor off the eastern coast of the United States, a surprisingly high number of seeps in a relatively quiescent part of the ocean. The seeps suggest that methane's contribution to climate change has been underestimated in some models. And because most of the seeps lie at depths where small changes in temperature could be releasing the methane, it is possible that climate change itself could be playing a role in turning some of them on.

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Global Warming? (1, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a month ago | (#47749729)

Is this part of the "man made" global warming thing?

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749751)

We put the holes there, right?

Re:Global Warming? (5, Informative)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about a month ago | (#47749795)

No this is naturally occurring seeps. We have known about them in the past but recent discoveries have shown that more exist than was thought and with methane being 30x more potent of a green house gas than CO2 it throws the models and calculations off.

There is however the hypothesis that we create the CO2 that causes the base warming and the because we are warming the oceans it may be causing more methane to be released.

However, this is not known for sure and the extent at which methane is being released from natural sources is still in question.

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Cardoor (3488091) | about a month ago | (#47749919)

except for the fact that arctic methane hydrate release vent growth give some pretty damning testimony. it's basically still a question the same way that evolution is 'just a theory'.

Re:Global Warming? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749935)

No this is naturally occurring seeps. We have known about them in the past but recent discoveries have shown that more exist than was thought and with methane being 30x more potent of a green house gas than CO2 it throws the models and calculations off.

How can it possibly throw the models and calculations off? This is settled science!

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750013)

Because we know precious little about the concentrations of methane in the air above the oceans.

Re:Global Warming? (5, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | about a month ago | (#47750495)

Stop arguing with strawmen. I really hope you got upvoted by shills, because the alternative is that some people have actually bought into the propaganda, which sickens me to consider.

The science that is settled is:
a) The average global temperature is rising
b) Increased CO2 levels cause increased temperatures
c) Humans are releasing far more CO2 than can naturally be absorbed

Those are the settled science - or as most people call them, facts. You will see GW defenders trot out the "settled science" line because people still try to deny those fundamental facts.

Those three facts lead to a settled conclusion:
d) Human activity is causing increases in global temperature.

Again, if you're arguing that, you are either grievously misinformed, or do not understand how logic works, or have decided that you want to argue for a point you know to be wrong.

That humans are contributing is settled science. The extent to which we are contributing is mostly-settled - we know we are the largest factor, but we don't have a complete and clear picture as to how secondary effects (ie. global-warming-caused global warming) or natural effects (solar variance) affect things.

The precise models of "given conditions A, B, C and D, what temperatures can we expect in the next X years at places Y and Z?" are not settled. Further, the data we give those models is not entirely precise, because getting absolute perfect knowledge of the entire planet is basically impossible.

But this does not invalidate the entire argument. You can say "physicists don't know how gravity works for supermassive singularities at nuclear scales", and say that physics is not "settled science". You would be correct. However, if you try to use that to argue that scientists don't know why the Earth orbits the Sun, you're committing serious errors of logic.

And if you then try to argue that you can build a giant but rickety skyscraper over the city, because it can't fall over because gravity isn't a settled science, well, you're just using broken logic to try to make a quick profit despite the fact that you will inevitably kill people when it falls over because hey, science may not be able to figure out the exact second it's going to collapse but we know it's not gonna stay up forever. I hope you managed to understand that metaphor there.

Re: Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750593)

I could've been an upvoting shill, but your good explanation is making me think more about revising my current opinions.

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749937)

"it may be causing more methane to be released." Well, we know for sure that methane ice crystals DO melt in higher temperatures. QED.

Re:Global Warming? (1)

itzly (3699663) | about a month ago | (#47750301)

We have known about them in the past but recent discoveries have shown that more exist than was thought and with methane being 30x more potent of a green house gas than CO2 it throws the models and calculations off.

If the seeps are not growing in size or quantity, the atmospheric methane due to the seeps should remain constant, and the models should be unaffected.

Re:Global Warming? (0, Troll)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47749771)

Yes, dumbass. If I set your house on fire, and go "hey the wood's igniting the other wood, only the small pool of gasoline at the begining is my fault" it's still arson.

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749783)

Yes, dumbass. If I set your house on fire, and go "hey the wood's igniting the other wood, only the small pool of gasoline at the begining is my fault" it's still arson.

I'm sorry. I'm not understanding you. Can you put that into a Car Analogy?

Re:Global Warming? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about a month ago | (#47749841)

If you position a car at the top of a steep hill, release the parking brake and give it "only" a small push, it's still your fault that it crashes into the building at the bottom of the hill.

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750137)

Except then we find out that it was really windy.
And Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles were also in the car with their feet sticking through the floorboards giving it their all.
And the parking brake didn't work in the first place.

Re:Global Warming? (4, Funny)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about a month ago | (#47750185)

And because most of us in here are software types, we will carefully extract the car from the wreckage, put new wheels on it, push it back up the hill, close all the windows, and nudge it downhill again so that we can see if it does the same thing again.

Re:Global Warming? (1)

Cardoor (3488091) | about a month ago | (#47749893)

well put.

Re:Global Warming? (3, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | about a month ago | (#47749777)

Earth farts......

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750515)

At least the headline wasn't "Numerous Methane Leaks From Atlantic's Bottom" or "Methane Leaks Found Coming From Cracks in Sea Bottom"

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749789)

these methane plumes are leaking from where hilary swank took a submarine into the earth's core to restart it..

Re:Global Warming? (3, Insightful)

Cardoor (3488091) | about a month ago | (#47749831)

very possibly.

most of the seeps lie at depths where small changes in temperature could be releasing the methane

in other words, the warming that is already occurring has (surprise surprise) a positive feedback loop. one of many. whether or not the initiator was man-made in origin (hint: it was and is).

Re:Global Warming? (4, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47749869)

And let's break from the summary and go to the article for an even more damning quote(emphasis mine):

Jens Greinert, who heads the deep-sea monitoring unit at GEOMAR, downplays the effect of the new seeps on the atmosphere or ocean chemistry because the magnitude of the releases is dwarfed by human-associated inputs, such as livestock, or even other marine sites. “These little bits of bubbling here or there will not make a memorable impact,” Greinert says. He is more interested in what will happen as the world warms. “It becomes interesting only if you have a catastrophic release,” he says.

Re:Global Warming? (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47749985)

interesting.... however the problem lies in the fact thats it is higher than they thought, meaning it COULD still be worse than they thought, meaning AGW MAY NOT be the doom and gloom some make it out to be.

this little bit of information is not a gotcha moment, but it leads credence to the idea that we still have no idea

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a month ago | (#47750045)

IT is higher than they thought, and yet we are at a global standstill in climate change. And it is all man's fault. ... got it.

Re:Global Warming? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47750099)

im actually arguing the opposite

Re:Global Warming? (2)

itzly (3699663) | about a month ago | (#47750407)

The fact that the amount of seepage is higher than previously thought does not mean it is actually growing.

Re:Global Warming? (-1, Flamebait)

geekoid (135745) | about a month ago | (#47750449)

"and yet we are at a global standstill in climate change."
False, dumb ass.

Re:Global Warming? (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47750049)

Setting: two people with their ankles handcuffed together

Says the left man: "We just don't know exactly how fast that car is going, your radar gun reading 67.432 MpH is based on sketchy theories I don't trust(and how did you get all those sigfigs?), and I'm guessing it's less than that, and think about how much effort it would take to move out of the way. Your 'get hit and die' theory is faulty, so we should clearly not move."

Says the right man: "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah"

Re:Global Warming? (3, Informative)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47750117)

thats actually not what i was saying at all. where did i say do nothing? what I am saying is that the "models" are wrong, because they dont have all the variables in place, as such we can take them with a grain of salt AND AT THE SAME TIME... work on ways to reduce our contribution to the "problem"

Re:Global Warming? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47750175)

Well, okay, I'll be less antagonistic about it.

Because the actual scientists involved have constantly been refining the theory and an entirely unreasonable amount of argument is dedicated to pretending that isn't happening.

It's just the people who are expecting a revolutionary reversal for no reason whatsoever never shut up about how we're not respecting the scientific method, I have a tendency to see that argument vis a vis climate change in a very harsh light.

Re:Global Warming? (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about a month ago | (#47750521)

" what I am saying is that the "models" are wrong, "
No, you are wrong.
The models are excellent models. That have even 'shown' thing we didn't know about, but when we went and looked there they where.
That means they are excellent models.

"because they don't have all the variables in place,"
That doesn't make them wrong.

Are they 100%? No
Are they wrong? No.
You should problem make and effort to understand 2 things:
Climate models
Error Bars.

If someone falls off a building and and I say "My model predicts when will hit the ground and die in 45 seconds. And he hits the grounds in 44 seconds, that doesn't mean he won't hit the ground and die." It cold be the resolution of my tools wasn't fine enough, it could be a strong updraft I didn't know aboput. It could mean he was wearing parachute pants and the extra drag slowed him.,

But that does not make my model wrong, broken, invalid or useless.

Re:Global Warming? (3, Interesting)

blue9steel (2758287) | about a month ago | (#47750069)

That's one possible interpretation. On the other hand this could be an early sign that the current modest levels of man made global warming are triggering a clathrate gun similar to that which may have caused the Permian-Triassic extinction event. It's fairly common for complex natural systems to have "tipping points" where a slow series of gradual changes suddenly goes parabolic before settling into a new stable dynamic.

Re:Global Warming? (0, Troll)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47750121)

also another great possible situation

My point with the post was for both pro AGW and anti AGW people to look back and see that they are SO focused on one data set (man) that they are not paying attention to other sets of data

Re:Global Warming? (3, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47750189)

No, you just imagine that. The evidence is just rather overwhelming that man's contribution to CO2 levels massively disproportionate, and overwhelming natural sinks.

Re:Global Warming? (-1, Flamebait)

geekoid (135745) | about a month ago | (#47750543)

That is blatantly false.
It shows you are incredible ignorant of the area of study, or you are stupid.
In either case you just look foolish and are a distraction.

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750209)

interesting.... however the problem lies in the fact thats it is higher than they thought, meaning it COULD still be worse than they thought, meaning AGW MAY NOT be the doom and gloom some make it out to be.

  this little bit of information is not a gotcha moment, but it leads credence to the idea that we still have no idea

This is not saying that AGW isn't a problem, it's saying that they've identified a(nother) positive feedback mechanism. There are many positive and negative feedback mechanisms, and they're not all well understood. That's part of what makes predicting global climate change so difficult. That's also the scariest thing about AGW. We may push the climate into an unstable state where it runs away due to these positive feedback mechanisms and no matter what we do we cannot bring it back to the way we like it. The climate may do that without us too, it's gone through some pretty crazy cycles. I think we can all agree we'd like to try really hard to prevent that from happening.

Re:Global Warming? (1, Flamebait)

geekoid (135745) | about a month ago | (#47750431)

" meaning AGW MAY NOT be the doom and gloom some make it out to be. "
wrong.
It means AGW "doom and gloom": could be worse the thought, nut not better then thought.

"but it leads credence to the idea that we still have no idea"
That is in no way true.

Re:Global Warming? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month ago | (#47749965)

Is this part of the "man made" global warming thing?

Oh yea.. Personally, I think we should go drill said areas, use fracking and recover the methane before it gets loose....

As a side benefit, we can burn the stuff for fuel... Hey, it's being released anyway, so why not?

Re:Global Warming? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a month ago | (#47750139)

Is this part of the "man made" global warming thing?

It's both. That's the trouble with climate change... it's a very very complex issue. The earth has its own rythems going on and we're throwing a wrench in them. How much is natural? How much is our fault? It's hard to say. But make no mistake... we're poking a very large... very angry bear. The less poking we do the better. It may wake up on its own but we sure as heck don't need to be helping.

Happy Monday from The Golden Girls! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749741)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

I doubt it even makes it to the atmosphere (3, Insightful)

rahvin112 (446269) | about a month ago | (#47749755)

That methane dissolves into the water long before it reaches the surface and re-emerges, I would be surprised if even a small percentage of it make it to the atmosphere because bacteria would consume the dissolved methane before it can reach the surface. Even in the atmosphere where there is very little life the methane only lasts a couple decades, but in the ocean where it's teaming with life I doubt very little of it makes it to the surface.

Re:I doubt it even makes it to the atmosphere (5, Informative)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about a month ago | (#47749797)

From TFA-

"Even in the more likely event that aerobic microbes devour the methane while still in the ocean, it is converted to carbon dioxide, which leads to ocean acidification."

Re:I doubt it even makes it to the atmosphere (2)

GodInHell (258915) | about a month ago | (#47749995)

It's almost like slashdot summaries of full articles cut out much of the context and content required to fully understand the thesis of the story.

Re:I doubt it even makes it to the atmosphere (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a month ago | (#47750003)

Excuse me, but - discussions here will be more free flowing and productive if people's opinions aren't pre-biased by any so-called "facts" which might appear in the linked articles. This is why we have a longstanding prohibition against reading them. Please remember that next time.

Thank you.

-- The Management

Re:I doubt it even makes it to the atmosphere (1)

Cardoor (3488091) | about a month ago | (#47749873)

get ready to be surprised.

Re:I doubt it even makes it to the atmosphere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749999)

"teeming", numbskull.

Re:I doubt it even makes it to the atmosphere (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about a month ago | (#47750229)

As the Chinese motivational speaker always says, there's no 'a' in "teeming".

This is what they mean by "point of no return" (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47749757)

A lot of people discuss this notion, and it's only rarely contextualized in terms of what's actually happening.

Methane is big. A huge greenhouse gas. It knocks the socks of carbon in all ways except that there's not that much of it(yet). It also doesn't "clean up" nearly as nicely after a couple of centuries of forest expansion/ocean calcification.

And a lot of evidence suggests warmer temperatures are going to release more big-time. It's scary because: we can't just stop producing it in bulk like CO2 the heat will release a lot of it naturally(and keep warming things). It's scary because: we have no (economically plausible) geo-engineering solutions like we might have to CO2. It's scary because geologic history suggests the runaways in the past last on the order of thousands of years.

We really really really don't want this.

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47749967)

Just a passing though; A large release would not happen all at once & might be offset to some extent by a large explosion in the microbial life that "devours" this stuff.

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750497)

in the natural order of things, the release would be slower and take a much longer time.
over that much larger time scale the critters maybe could eat it.
but like everything with GW, we're dealing with a much accelerated time scale. i mean no its not instant even right now. but the permafrost melting, the bubbles of methane in siberia popping out, all of it, is going much fast than it would under normal natural cycles.

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month ago | (#47750569)

Which would add it increase CO2 levels for what they eat and increased methane from what they didn't eat.

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47750647)

But they don't seem to worry about the CO2 production when discussing the 'devouring' of the known releases, so maybe they missed that. Isn't CO2 a much less potent greenhouse gas, and won't a lot of it still remain dissolved? Just stuff the models should factor in.

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (1)

slew (2918) | about a month ago | (#47749977)

We really really really don't want this.

We really really really don't have a choice, do we?
Historically, this stuff just happens...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47750073)

This stuff "just happens" over the course of literally millions of years(from your own links). Not a couple hundred.

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a month ago | (#47749987)

If you read the article there is a statement that the methane is converted to CO2 before it reaches the surface. It is a fuel source after all.

The thing is, where else is this going on? Like those mysterious holes [washingtonpost.com] in Russia?

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (1, Interesting)

starless (60879) | about a month ago | (#47750019)

Methane is big. A huge greenhouse gas. It knocks the socks of carbon in all ways except that there's not that much of it(yet). It also doesn't "clean up" nearly as nicely after a couple of centuries of forest expansion/ocean calcification.

Actually, I believe the the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere is a lot less than that of CO2. So, although it's a more "potent" greenhouse gas, the long term effects of CO2 are worse because of CO2's longer lifetime.
See e.g. this article on the effects of methane compared to CO2.
http://www.realclimate.org/ind... [realclimate.org]
When methane is released chronically, over decades, the concentration in the atmosphere will rise to a new equilibrium value. It won’t keep rising indefinitely, like CO2 would, because methane degrades while CO2 essentially just accumulates. Methane degrades into CO2, in fact...

Re: This is what they mean by "point of no return" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750029)

Just about all we can do, then, is scuttle our technological base with panicky half measures that won't solve anything, but will lessen our capabilities to deal with the inevitable climate change.

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (1)

danlip (737336) | about a month ago | (#47750053)

It also doesn't "clean up" nearly as nicely after a couple of centuries of forest expansion/ocean calcification.

Methane has less than a 9 year lifetime [wikipedia.org] in the atmosphere. Still bad, but very different from what you imply.

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750109)

Or maybe it's been going on longer than thought. It's amazing how many things are seen once you start looking for them. An example, when you're looking at buying a new car you'll consciously see more of them on the road (except for rare/new models, of course).
In other words, please don't jump to conclusions as it doesn't help but instead polarises opinions. Wait for proper scientific study and leave out the politics.

Here's an idea, plant a tree or another plant. Gather up the leaves and bury them, they're carbon waiting to be released back into the environment by decomposition so control it.

Dead Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750113)

No, you ignorant fool, it does "clean up" nicely. The half-life of methane in the atmosphere is estimated to be 7 years. Methane emissions are a significant problem. However, methane releases will largely fix themselves over a 50 year period. The problem is that global warming might set of a positive feedback loop of release of methane trapped in the arctic permafrost, causing a rapid rise in global temperatures.

For those who care about science, Methane (CH4) is much lighter than Nitrogen (N2) and Oxygen(O2), and is volatile. It will slowly oxidize in the atmosphere, and tends to migrate up where there's more UV to encourage oxidation. A major release will be very bad for current climates because the rate of temperature rise will be huge, and the methane will decompose to CO2 which will have a significant long-term impact on the environment.

Re:This is what they mean by "point of no return" (3, Informative)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about a month ago | (#47750249)

Methane may be 23 x more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2, but it's also much shorter lived. Which is really worse?

Feedback loops (4, Interesting)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about a month ago | (#47749769)

Nature usually creates negative feedback loops that contribute to equilibrium. The textbook one is if there is population growth in a prey species, the population of predators will increase to check that growth.

In this case we have a positive feedback loop. Increases in temperature will cause more methane hydrate to melt, which causes an increase in temperature.

This is a very not good situation that does not have easy solutions.

Re:Feedback loops (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47749827)

Well, no, the earth does have negative feedback loops. We can see them in the historical records the deniers like to somewhat mindlessly cite for "natural cycles".

Depending on the scale of the runaway, those factors can just take thousands to millions of years to kick in.

Re:Feedback loops (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about a month ago | (#47749863)

OK. I was focusing on human-scale time periods. Geological-scale is indeed different.

Re:Feedback loops (2, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a month ago | (#47749837)

This is something where engineers know things that climate scientists apparently don't.

If the positive feedback was so strong, that the system was unstable (right half plane as it were) the earth would already be Venus. Doesn't stop climatologists talking out of the butts and proposing just such strong positive feed-backs.

TL;DR; Don't ask a climatologist a control systems question and expect a reasonable answer.

Re:Feedback loops (3)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about a month ago | (#47749897)

As the other reply points out- there are negative influences that do check the process and prevent the Earth from becoming Venus.

Unfortunately for us, they take hundreds of thousands of years to happen.

Re:Feedback loops (0, Flamebait)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47749899)

Hey, look, HornWumpus, you don't know shit.

Our planet, has, in it's history, quite provably been over 10 C warmer, due to different carbon levels. That's huge, FYI. Earth has a proven history of going extremely warm(and no one is saying Venus is our future, thanks for the implied strawman there). That kind of change would murder our system of agriculture, almost everywhere.

Re:Feedback loops (3, Informative)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about a month ago | (#47750001)

Hey, look, HornWumpus, you don't know shit.

Our planet, has, in it's history, quite provably been over 10 C warmer, due to different carbon levels. That's huge, FYI. Earth has a proven history of going extremely warm(and no one is saying Venus is our future, thanks for the implied strawman there). That kind of change would murder our system of agriculture, almost everywhere.

Not exactly, higher CO2 levels and warmer temperatures would provide more arable land, more plants absorbing CO2 etc. That is one of the feed backs that mitigate CO2 concentration buildups. I do know that plants in higher CO2 concentrations can handle higher temperatures. Raising the CO2 concentration to 1500ppm in an enclosed green house promotes plant growth and the plants do much better at temperatures up to and a little above 32.2c (90f) I did a study a few years back on that and was surprised at the results.

Re:Feedback loops (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a month ago | (#47750309)

You are looking at the wrong end point. Yes, the planet will survive. Very few people are worried about that. You have to be a real doomer / gloomer to stay away worrying about Venus level runaway heating. But you can have a number of other scenarios that can be considered less than pleasant:

- Intensifying the sixth [bbc.co.uk] major extinction event. The other five really changed the planet around, much to Randall's comfort [xkcd.com] . The planet will survive this next one but since apex predators tend to be significantly effected and humans are the ultimate apex predator, this might be considered a Bad Idea.
- Increasing temperatures increase arable land (generally). The problem is that of time frames. It may take hundreds of thousands of years to convert warm swamps into farmland. Most Americans can't handle fasting between gas stations, much less millennia
- Increasing resource stresses - you may have noticed that humans are having a bit of a problem creating stable geopolitical structures during geologically and biologically stable periods. Add big swings in weather / climate, no matter which way, creates more stressors and more reasons for us not to get along with each other.
- Which segues into another bit of bad timing. Changing climate while simultaneously cranking human population to over seven billion. For a number of important resources it can be argued that we have exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. The degree and speed of upcoming climate events may well overcome our ability to feed, water and house all of us.

So, it's not even a big issue which way the climate goes. The only way climate can mitigate the other problems is if it stays relatively constant. That doesn't appear to be happening.

Re:Feedback loops (2, Interesting)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about a month ago | (#47750589)

Hmm, let me take a stab at your points

1) No other apex predator exists and thrives in as many varied Eco systems as humans. From the arctic to the desert we adapt and survive. Where as other apex predators fail to adapt and go extinct, we as a species adapt and survive. The reason for this is our ability to reason and to build tools.

2) True, however our ability to reason and build tools allows us to adapt both our selves and the land at a much faster rate than nature. Thus as the land becomes arable we move in and hasten it's conversion.

3) Governments change, people change them. This has been going on for 8000+ years. Nothing new here.

4) Even at current climate change prediction we have a couple of hundred years for the changes to take effect. Think of where we were 200 years ago compared to today. In another 200 years there is no telling the things we could discover, build, or learn. Technology moves faster than climate change no matter how you look at it. You may also note that the population growth of the planet has been slowing and is (from memory) dropped to 2.6 kids per family down from 5 kids per family just 50 years ago. At 2 kids per family there is 0 population growth!

Re:Feedback loops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750609)

This is incorrect. The amount of atmospheric CO2 is not the limiting factor for most plant life on earth - sunlight and soil nutrients are. What this means is that after a point which may already have passed, increasing CO2 does not actually promote plant growth. Fertilizer-using greenhouses with grow lights are an artificial construct that does not scale to the Earth's biosphere as a whole. Similarly, arable land is actually going to be reduced by global warming because the newly warmed up (arctic) areas have poor, thin soil and not enough sunlight due to latitude; while the currently productive farm land further south will suffer from dustbowl-type conditions.

Re:Feedback loops (0, Flamebait)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a month ago | (#47750071)

When the earth was 10 degrees warmer, we didn't have out of control methane making the earth Venus (as predicted by climate scientists and the positive feedback they clearly don't understand).

Latitude is the answer to global warming and cooling. Assuming it would be universally a bad thing is idiotic.

Re:Feedback loops (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47750135)

Nobody in climatology has said earth will end up like Venus. Zip Zilch. You won't find a climatologist saying that. Anywhere. If you can take the bullshit liars have said about this debate out of your mental image of the debate, you might end up eventually realizing exactly how you got the the crazy spot you're in.

Re:Feedback loops (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month ago | (#47750667)

Stop making shit up about Venus, it's a non sequitor.

". Assuming it would be universally a bad thing is idiotic."

I't's bad for humans, and has the very real possibility of being the cause of are extinction.
It will be the end of our civilization as we know it.
I say both of those statements without hyperbole.

We need to start doing something series now. Had we continued were Carter left off, we wouldn't be in this mess. Now we need to be even more aggressive.\Ad if we keep waiting we will need to get more and more aggressive. The longer we wait, the more expensive and the higher the impact is to us all.

Re:Feedback loops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749993)

This is something where engineers know things that climate scientists apparently don't.

Not true.

If the positive feedback was so strong, that the system was unstable (right half plane as it were) the earth would already be Venus. Doesn't stop climatologists talking out of the butts and proposing just such strong positive feed-backs.

The climatologist have accounted for it along with paleontologists regarding ecological history - like the evolution of CO2 consuming life forms, acidification of the oceans, yada yada yada....

TL;DR; Don't ask a climatologist a control systems question and expect a reasonable answer.

Who would? We are talking about an incredibly complex planetary system - not some controller for some simple device.

Climatology is applied physics and it is something well beyond engineers, software developers, and others who profess to be smarter than the average bear up here on Slashdot.

Or to put it another way, you know shit and are unqualified to make comments - especially with your little tradesmen background (engineering).

Re:Feedback loops (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47750111)

The salem hypothesis [rationalwiki.org] .

It's not that engineers are always falsely certain about scientific things, it's just that we're the ones who are most likely to think we're more qualified than we are with regards to science.

Re:Feedback loops (0, Troll)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a month ago | (#47750119)

How do you defend the moron climatologists that made these claims (uncontrolled positive feedback from methane that will destroy the earth)?

Calling an Engineer a tradesman is just the lame attempt of a liberal arts major to insult. Get back to work, those fries aren't going to drop themselves. You aren't the 'well rounded' ones, you are the morons.

Re:Feedback loops (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750061)

TL;DR; Don't ask a climatologist a control systems question and expect a reasonable answer.

On the other hand, why should we listen to someone who does control systems about climate change?

Why does everyone on Slashdot think they can make sweeping statements about things which aren't their fields just because (in their mind) they can compare it to something else and come up with a simple answer?

I'm not saying the two can't learn from one another, but I think Engineers talking about climate science is right up there with dentists discussing particle physics.

It's not your field of study, and just because you came up with a simple analogy doesn't mean you know a damned thing about it.

Re:Feedback loops (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month ago | (#47750603)

"This is something where engineers know things that climate scientists apparently don't."
My sig applies to you.

Idiot.

Re:Feedback loops (1)

chmod a+x mojo (965286) | about a month ago | (#47750041)

There is a feedback control that may help mitigate a small portion of the effect already, humidity. Water vapor concentrations in the atmosphere contribute to warming.... until they are concentrated enough so that the albedo effect kicks in ( clouds reflecting sunlight away ).

That isn't to say that it will be the panacea in any way, shape, or form though - since it will barely have an over-all effect short term. I was merely pointing out one tiny feedback check that is going on as we speak.

Re:Feedback loops (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about a month ago | (#47750573)

We could create permanent cloud cover to block out the sun. That would have the added side effect of stopping the solar-powered robot menace, though perhaps it would drive them to find a more sinister power source.

Re:Feedback loops (0, Troll)

argStyopa (232550) | about a month ago | (#47750181)

You had it, and then you lost it.

You talked about feedback loops that restore a system to equilibrium (which, indeed, are amply demonstrated in everything from physical to biological systems on Earth), then (somehow) assume this isn't one.

As you mention, nature frequently has feedback loops that offset changing conditions. If the "sweet spot" comfort zone of the natural system on earth were anywhere near as desperately sensitive one as it's currently portrayed, then over the 4+ billion year history of life on earth - and the half dozen cataclysmic extinction events that wipe out 3/4+ of the extant species - the climate would have spun off into one of these feedback loops that are so desperately (hopefully?) projected and we'd have a lifeless Venus or a dessicated Mars. We don't, ergo the system is robust, QED.

To your specific point, we even have several historical examples in the ice records of (geologically) sudden 'pulses' in CO2 and temperature to levels comparable or exceeding today.* In every case the system has then returned to an equilibrium....DOZENS of times over the past couple of million years. The feedback loops you talk about are real; the cataclysmic FUD you're talking about negative feedback is, quite evidently, not. I'll post 4 billion years of actual historical record of far more substantial shocks to the climate of this planet, against 15 years of panicky hypochondriac environmentalists finally devising an issue with some purchase in the public mind.

*some might point out that it happens every 120k years so so, and the last one was about 120k years ago. Yet this specific instance, curiously, is deemed to be "caused by" humans? If I stood on a beach, and knew that the tide came in 10 times before, regularly, and now it is rising for an 11th time, what sort of a moron would I be to assume THIS TIME it's because I'm standing there?

The article itself states clearly that they have no idea how long these seeps have in fact been going on - while other seeps have been researched specifically for that and found NO BASIS for believing they're getting worse. So to automagically jump to the conclusion (which the article desperately tries to - "it's hard to prove they're the result of climate change" - as if that was the end goal of all research, right?) suggest at least faulty science, if not downright mendacity.
Want a feedback loop? How about this - the seeps are extremely sensitive to ocean temp and pressure. The article suggests that a warming ocean might(hopefully, again) be the cause. But if the planet is warming, and seas are rising, this is going to put those seeps under deeper water, which is in fact more likely to slow them down. And if they've been bubbling away forever (ie contributing steadily and unaccounted-for levels of methane to the atmosphere), this could be the mechanism that then reverses warming.

Re:Feedback loops (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750507)

There I was sitting on a planet looking out into space.
I was thinking about climate feedback systems and if they could spin out of control.

I looked to the left and saw Venus which did.
I looked to the right and saw Mars which did.

Hmm, maybe this spinning out of control theory is not so impossible after all.

Of course, the thing that makes this a chicken little story is that the time scales over which it happened make the odds of it happening while we are here to see it nill.

Ugh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749775)

I'm so sick of hearing about Global Climate Change. I wish the world would just die already. Take Ferguson, Missouri with ya' first.

Re:Ugh (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a month ago | (#47750091)

Those who believe we should end EVERYTHING because it's not perfect generally need medication or serious counseling. I mean it. Get some help, dude.

Related to? (1)

hooiberg (1789158) | about a month ago | (#47749799)

Could this be related to the pacific light seen by pilots while flying across the pacific? http://www.pbase.com/flying_du... [pbase.com]

Didn't folks predict this like decades ago... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749803)

Didn't folks predict this like decades ago as a normal part of global warming? There's a lot of methane frozen on the sea floor that, with a slight change of temperature, will go back into gas. Folks were talking about mining methane hydrates at one point.... ...I feel old... ..Get off my lawn...

All I saw was. . . (2)

tyggna (1405643) | about a month ago | (#47749821)

fish farts are making the earth hotter

TFA says "discovered" and "first time" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749883)

From TFA, they discovered these plumes and this is the first time they have mapped this much area.

That means they have a starting point, one datum for how much methane is coming from these areas. That's nice. Now keep measuring on an annual basis.

If you think this means "global warming", it's not even as bad as measuring the temperature in the morning and mid-day to prove your point. It's as bad as measuring the temperature ad mid-day and extrapolating through that one point.

Regardless of it, we must still pay... (2)

madhatter256 (443326) | about a month ago | (#47749911)

Regardless if it is all naturally occurring seepage or if man contributed to exacerbating seepage, we must still be taxed to pay not just carbon credits but methane credits.

Troubling trend (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749925)

The seeps discovered in the Atlantic may be just natural, but with evidence of warming-based methane release in the Arctic and that the tailing off of warming in the last decade or two is being caused by the uptake of heat into the ocean, it's not out of the realm of possibility that this is the leading edge of something different. The operative question is, how much does the water column have to warm up to start clathrates melting in shallower waters? Given that methane is 20 times more efficient than CO2 at trapping heat, and that the total amount of methane locked up in ices is pretty freaking huge, it seems like someone should really figure this out.

Bermuda Triangle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47749981)

Hasn't this been a known issue since the investigation regarding all of the airplane disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle? The methane threw off their altimeters by making it look like they were climbing at a high rate, causing them to dive right into the ocean. Also, boats having been in the wrong places at the wrong time have had methane "bubbles" from the sea floor cause the water underneath them to get extremely "thin", which causes the boats to sink.

Re:Bermuda Triangle? (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a month ago | (#47750337)

Hasn't this been a known issue since the investigation regarding all of the airplane disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle? The methane threw off their altimeters by making it look like they were climbing at a high rate, causing them to dive right into the ocean. Also, boats having been in the wrong places at the wrong time have had methane "bubbles" from the sea floor cause the water underneath them to get extremely "thin", which causes the boats to sink.

Less Discovery Channel for you, buster.

offgassing is a function of pressure (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750025)

Methane offgassing from submarine frozen methane (clathrates) has been well known for a long time. The freezing point of methane is a function of both pressure and temperature. As pressure is increased, the freezing point also increases. As sea level rises, pressure at the seabed increases and offgassing decreases. So if seabed methane is a contributor to global warming, then it will cause sea level rise, thus limiting itself. Conversely, if the climate cools, then icecaps expand and sea level drops, causing increased methane offgassing. This a self-limiting scenario, not a positive feedback loop.

Most important question first (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750079)

Who can we sue for this? We're Americans, after all.

Just found another (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750081)

in this chair.

On uncertainty (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a month ago | (#47750245)

I have to agree with conservatives on one point: we don't know enough about Earth to make any reliable predictions.

Maybe the Earth will somehow balance itself and the warming will level out. Or trigger positive feedback mechanisms that accelerate warming and/or change. We just don't know.

However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned about altering the "normal" path. It's pretty clear we are gambling big-time via pollution and green-house gasses.

Some of the more thoughtful conservatives say we should go ahead and gamble: humans will adapt around change. Even though I disagree, that's a valid position, for science can't tell us WHAT to do, only what will happen (at best). If simulations show that juggling rakes has a 20% of putting your eye out, and you agree with the odds, and do juggle rakes and your eye gets put out, and you accept the consequences, at least you are honest. Blind, foolish, but honest.

I guess some conservatives want to be proverbial lion trainers. The problem is that we all have to be in the same cage with them.

'Summary' is reverse of article (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750361)

This is the first time they looked at a wide region.
They saw more methane bubbles than they guessed they might see.

They don't think anything is new except that they now know that there is yet another thing that they need to understand before having a working climate model.

Whoever wrote the summary is misrepresenting TFA.

Perhaps proof of "hollow earth" theory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47750391)

Emitting methane as life forms do? You judge http://www.tokenrock.com/expla... [tokenrock.com]

Jehova's Witnesses Knew This Years Ago (1)

turgid (580780) | about a month ago | (#47750561)

Blimey, in about 1998 this old guy from the Jo-Hos knocked on my door and presented me with some literature including something about how "all scientists" believe in god, especially the Great Fred Hoyle, so God must be there.

It also said that "scientists are telling us" about this vast, untapped wealth of hydrocarbon deposits on the deep sea beds in the form of these methane thingy-ma-bobs, so God had provided us with all the energy we'll ever need. He's a great guy that God dude! He didn't mention atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and global warning, though.

So, the Jo-Hos are right. God is really there! And we will never run out of energy!

Methane leaks in the Atlantic ocean floor, I blame (0)

Ajax4Hire (800732) | about a month ago | (#47750643)

Methane leaks in the Atlantic ocean floor, I blame Al Gore. This is clearly due to Global Warming.
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