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« DECC a dead duck? | Main | The wit and wisdom of Dr Glikson »
Tuesday
Aug182015

Defusing the methane bomb

Environmentalists and some of the more eccentric members of the scientific community like to allude to the possibility that the Arctic permafrost will melt, releasing a methane time bomb into the atmosphere which will inevitably end in runaway global warming and an apocalypse. There is even an Artic Methane Emergency Group featuring our old friend Peter Wadhams, among others, and with headlines along the lines of "The Arctic is rapidly heading for meltdown".

It's a good story, and no doubt good for business too, but unfortunately somebody has gone and spoiled it all:

[N]ew research led by Princeton University researchers and published in The ISME Journal in August suggests that, thanks to methane-hungry bacteria, the majority of Arctic soil might actually be able to absorb methane from the atmosphere rather than release it. Furthermore, that ability seems to become greater as temperatures rise.

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Reader Comments (35)

Because Methane is below IR self-absorption in all its IR bands, the maximum temperature rise for 2.5 times the 'Clathrate Bomb', where it becomes self-absorbed, would be ~0.2 K. There is no problem.

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC1701E

Yes! I posted on this last night, also. Would I be right to believe this would be a Negative climate feedback mechanism?

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterClimateOtter

Tsk!

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:09 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Yes: the same mechanism that minimises surface temperature variation and OLR deviation as solar effects and the long term ocean cycles vary clouds also ensures there is near zero effect of non-H2O [GHG] variation.

The fake EGHE is based on a mistake made by Hansen et al in 1981 when they assumed imaginary negative convection controlled lapse rate. The Met. Office replaced it with a Kirchhoff's Law of Radiation explanation, but that is based on dodgy cloud physics. This has been a 34 year failure of the scientific method, an appalling indictment of academic science.

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC1701E

Now if we can just find methane-creating bacteria then all our problems are solved.

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I thought the Japanese were a step ahead of this by developing methods of clathrate extraction to burn the gas to provide energy! It's almost limitless!

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

So once again skeptics were justified to be dubious of another prophecy of climate doom.
Once again the climate apocalypse promoters are shown to be wrong.
Once again the climate true believers were played for fools.

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

So, once again careful science has trumped emotional speculation.

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

It's a bugger when the real world trumps ideology. Innit.

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

If pigs could fly, they might compete with seagulls as the greatest menace from above.

Breaking: pigs aren't designed to fly. Who would have guessed ?


A very large part of climate alarmism is based on fundamental lies about future temperatures.

Aug 18, 2015 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

One has to question the scientific qualifications of all the 'climate scientists'. It appears that they need to go back to university to learn some real science.

Aug 18, 2015 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterivan

I have no idea who he/she is but the contributions from NCC1701E in recent weeks have added very significantly to the already high level of expertise on this blog. Many thanks and keep 'em coming.

Aug 18, 2015 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim

"Artic Methane Emergency Group"

A few artics may be useful to transport the stuff.. :-)

Aug 18, 2015 at 11:09 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Some 9000 to 7000 years ago the treeline extended to the Arctic Ocean shoreline.
http://epic.awi.de/4164/1/Mac2000c.pdf
Trees cannot grow in permafrost, so it must have melted.

By some miracle the Earth didn't fry, as proved by our presence now.

Wadhams is a serial liar/fantasist- he MUST know about papers like the one above.
And so should the press- it took me less than a minute on the internet.

Aug 18, 2015 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

So now it is clear that there is no need to panic, will the Arctic Methane Emergency Group be terminated, or just left to rot and fester, allowing unnecessary methane release, in the corridors of power?

Aug 18, 2015 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Drats, foiled again by those pesky natural feedbacks again.

Aug 18, 2015 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

For the record, not all bought in to the "methane bomb" idea.
E.g., in this Guardian article two years ago, Gavin Schmidt and two other scientists were cited as not crediting the hypothesis.

[The article's author, Nafeez Ahmed, then went on to argue that we should, in fact, be very scared.]

[Edit: the Lau et al. paper is available here.]

Aug 18, 2015 at 12:11 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Anaerobic digestion is an established process at sewage works. The methane produced is used to generate electricity.

Aug 18, 2015 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Gaia comes to our rescue!

Aug 18, 2015 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Elliot

Ooh, wrong answer! That'll be the last we'll ever hear of Chui Yim "Maggie" Lau. She and her pals will be on her way to the salt mines as we speak.

Aug 18, 2015 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

Bacteria heartily eating Methane is that the same as plants tucking into CO2.

Aug 18, 2015 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Don Keiller - interesting paper. I've seen some from the Canadian Arctic review of fossilized trees, but they are much older forests but very large trees ( to 20 m high).
That russian paper you note has a few comments of interest - one being they estimate the temperatures then could have been 7 C higher, and also during that period, the ocean there was 25 m lower.Any idea if the Antarctic had that much extra ice to lower the opposite pole sea level, or do you think its simply a subsidence and rebound issue with the russian arctic shore line? Just curious.

Aug 18, 2015 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered Commentermikegeo

NCC1701E,

Thank you for your informative posts.

However, while they provide answers/proof contradicting those of warmists, they are above my level of knowledge. I would be grateful if you would expand your posts to provide more information for those with a lower level of knowledge in this area ie teach us please.

NCC1701E Aug 18, 2015 at 10:02 AM
Because Methane is below IR self-absorption in all its IR bands, the maximum temperature rise for 2.5 times the 'Clathrate Bomb', where it becomes self-absorbed, would be ~0.2 K. There is no problem.

Methane, IR, IR bands, Clathrate - OK. K = Degrees Kelvin? IR self-absorbtion, self-absorbed ???

NCC1701E Aug 18, 2015 at 10:09 AM
Yes: the same mechanism that minimises surface temperature variation and OLR deviation as solar effects and the long term ocean cycles vary clouds also ensures there is near zero effect of non-H2O [GHG] variation.

The fake EGHE is based on a mistake made by Hansen et al in 1981 when they assumed imaginary negative convection controlled lapse rate. The Met. Office replaced it with a Kirchhoff's Law of Radiation explanation, but that is based on dodgy cloud physics. This has been a 34 year failure of the scientific method, an appalling indictment of academic science.

Grammatically all makes sense, understanding is virtual zero - help please.

Aug 18, 2015 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

• The meltdown is accelerating and could become unstoppable as early as Sept 2015

That's next month. Anybody care to remind the good Professor of this prediction?

Aug 18, 2015 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

If I get one of those nice white coats will that make me a scientist like them?

Aug 18, 2015 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Mikego / Don - I once came across a comment on a blog by someone who had visited Eureka, and saw not only the stumps of much older fossilised trees, but also the woody remains of much less old trees. Eureka is not just on the Arctic shoreline, but at the head of a long fjord on Ellesmere Island, effectively far inland and far north. The reason he was sure the younger trees were not fossils is because some of the students were using the remains of the trees to fuel their camp fires. I am not sure if the sea level was 20m lower in that period in the Arctic, or across the whole Arctic; there is good geological, paleo and archaelogical evidence from northern Greenland that it was actually 5-8m higher than present - raised beaches and ridges created by wave action from open seas - which can be accurately carbon-dated by driftwood (from Siberia) embedded in the ridges.

I had 3 links which related to this:

http://hol.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/4/607

http://www.ngu.no/en-gb/Aktuelt/2008/Less-ice-in-the-Arctic-Ocean-6000-7000-years-ago/ (now 404)
http://www.apex.geo.su.se/images/stories/apex2009.pdf (now 404)

but the last 2 are now vanished - may be worth looking on the way back machine though.

How the north Greenland sea level could have been 8m higher, at roughly the same period as the sea level around the UK was 10-15m lower (mesolithic footprints and tree stumps only visible at very low tides along the shores of the Bristol Channel), is a puzzle, and leads me to think that Professor's Hapgood's thesis (that textonic plates can occasionally move up/down suddenly) may have some merit.

Aug 18, 2015 at 9:31 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

If methane hungry bacteria munch their way through methane, how long before the next scare becomes the flatulence from methane eating bacteria?

Any biochemists able to advise? It wouldn't be toxins such as CO2 and H20 and to produce them would suck all the oxygen out of the air?

Forget clathrate bombs, it is crapthreat clangers we need to be very worried about.

Aug 18, 2015 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

lapogus
link#2 -- archived here, relocated on original site here (without pictures).

link#3 -- not archived, but perhaps this one?

Aug 19, 2015 at 3:59 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

NCC1701E, I am beside Pcar! Would you (or maybe someone else) please explain this a bit more?

Aug 19, 2015 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterSara Chan

HaroldW - thanks for finding the new URLs - very useful and appreciated.

Aug 19, 2015 at 8:42 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

"Trees cannot grow in permafrost, so it must have melted."

A quick fact check. Trees certainly do grow in permafrost. In fact there are millions of km2 of boreal forest growing on permafrost soils across the Arctic.

Aug 19, 2015 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterM Holmes

@Sara Chan: the mechanism is a bit of physics completely missed by Climate Alchemists even though it is in plain sight in the radiation transfer calculations. However, the Bish won't want me to become controversial over radiation modelling because the $15 trillion industry depends on the fraud and he'll be visited by paid-trolls in their 1000s.

Suffice it to say that in order to explain the real atmospheric control mechanism, you also have to explain the Faint Young Sun Paradox and the ~10 K rise in surface temperature compared with now in the Carboniferous when atmospheric pressure was ~20% higher.

Aug 19, 2015 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC1701E

HaroldW (Aug 18, 2015 at 12:11 PM): an interesting article, if only in this particular admission – “What I discovered was that Skeptical Science's unusually skewered analysis was extremely selective…” Who knew?

Other points to question: “4. Current Arctic methane levels are unprecedented”. So, how long has observation of Arctic methane been going on? A few decades, perhaps? So, unprecedented compared with… what? Seeing as how the levels of methane have risen from 1850 ppb to 1890 ppb, should we really be scared? Let us put those figures in context: atmospheric CO2 has risen some 42% to around 400 ppm, or 0.04%, a rise that remains of questionable significance; however, this methane has risen a staggering 2.2% from 0.000185% to 0.000189%. Ooh, let us be terrified!

Now, given the age of the article, and the fact that we have not yet burned to a frazzle (much to the chagrin of so many enviro-loons), it does suggest that perhaps this is yet another scare that has no real basis, would you not agree?

As for trees growing in permafrost, M Holmes – surely there has to be liquid water available for the trees? If so, then it cannot really be called permafrost, can it?

Aug 19, 2015 at 2:20 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

@NCC1701E; I am another who would welcome an explanation of your comments. Maybe our Host would allow you a guest post or open a topic in the discussion forum?

Meanwhile your first comment reminded me of something I read/heard a while back to the effect that much of the absorption spectrum of Methane overlaps with that of water vapour so any effect would be mostly blanketed by the ubiquitous H2O.
Is that correct?
If so it suggests that those "scientists" pushing this particular scare are either ignorant of the facts or are being economical with the truth (not put it politely).

Aug 19, 2015 at 2:21 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

@mikeh: the Enhanced GHE cannot exist. It's based on Goody and Yung's incorrect bidirectional photon diffusion argument, breaching Maxwell's Equations and the 1st & 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics, also a failure to understand that a pyrgeometer outputs an exitance, not a real flux. The Climate Models exaggerate energy input by 140% over reality then cut it back to the claimed EGHE by incorrect application of Kirchhoff's law of Radiation. That would not be needed if they simply used the vector sum of irradiances, standard physics. The non-enhanced GHE does exist but it is reduced to near zero by the water cycle and biofeedback. CO2 climate sensitivity could be slightly negative because of biofeedback.

Aug 19, 2015 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC1701E

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