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Quote L Hamilton:

" Anyone care to create a cycle plot?

I haven't seen one before, but it's Sunday morning, sunny and cold here, guitars on the stereo, here's a cycle plot of Barrow and Mauna Loa methane 1986-2010:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v224/Chiloe/Climate/Cycle_methane_1.png "

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I do enjoy your cycle charts - lends great perspective.


"There is a couple of readings in Barrow approaching 2200 nmol/mol. Last time we saw something like this it turned out to be a leak in the apparatus so probably shouldn't get too excited about this."


Whats more there are a couple of other years that have shown similar spikes and as its surrounded by tundra, melting land permafrost has to be a candidate as well.

Timothy Chase

idunno wrote:

... it is also important to note that the Storegga megatsunami was certainly largely caused by a large chunk of the seabed falling off a (submarine) cliff.
I believe that is why I refered to an undersea landslide.

idunno wrote:

There seems little danger of this happening on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which is shallow and flat.
I did not say that we might experience something the size of the Storegga event. However, there is reason to believe that methane hydrates had an amplying if not triggering role in the Storegga event, and some of the methane upwelling currently is near the edges of the shelf. Furthermore, what I was specifically responding to was the statement:
Some ship wrecks and plane crashes have been blamed on Methane bubbles in the past, so I guess that's the scale of things you might expect.
I might not expect a major undersea landslide to be triggered by methane hydrates, but something more than "bubbles" is certainly possible.


Hi Timothy,

Pretty much agree with you; I was not trying to misrepresent what you were saying, just to point out that the bathymetry of Storegga and ESAS are different.

"...something more than "bubbles" is certainly possible."

Well ,yes, but if the "bubbles" turn out to be subterranean gasfields the size of Arkansas, and several hundred metres deep, "bubbles" (and consequent "ripples") should be enough to worry about.

Timothy Chase

idunno, understood.

Al Rodger

A little off topic being emissions from permafrost - Jo Romm has a post

showing a graph of forecast permafrost (or 'permamelt' as JR says) carbon emissions from a paper by Schaeffer et al 2011 "Amount and timing of permafrost carbon release in response to climate warming." (Abstract available on line - http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0889.2011.00527.x/abstract )
The prediction assumes the 'business as usual' human emission scenario. Emissions plotted for 2010 give a value of some 200 million tons carbon. The author was asked if these would be a methane or CO2 release & confirmed this would be CO2.

Timothy Chase

Al Rodger wrote:

The author was asked if these would be a methane or CO2 release & confirmed this would be CO2.
The big question regarding whether organic decay will result in the production of methane or carbon dioxide is, "Will this take place in the presence of oxygen?" If oxygen is available organic decay will result carbon dioxide, but in anaerobic conditions methane is produced. Since they are expecting the Arctic to dry out, at least during the warm summers, they are expecting carbon dioxide.


Al Rodger,

What is the status of those graphs? Is it permissible to upload to wikipedia? If so, do you want attribution?

Aaron Lewis

Permafrost does not melt uniformly, it forms thermokarst. When it gets to the temperature that themokarst forms, the transformation from permafrost to thermokarst is rapid.

Permeable sediments under the ESS (including permafrost) are in the range of 6 km thick, and thus could hold a lot of gas phase methane. Sea water will backfill any releases, so if it goes, it will all go at a good pace. That gas would be at low pressure (for underground methane), but it is a large and substantially continuous formation.

Circa 1990, oil drillers stopped venting natural gas from drilling operations as a result of the Clean Air Act, the rising value of natural gas, and pipelines to take it to market.

The power of methane releases are hard to visualize. One must experience a "kick" in oil field operations, or see an oil well fire to understand the power of methane coming out of the ground under pressure.

Al Rodger

Hi crandles.
If by 'those graphs'you mean the marclimategraphs, I'm happy if they get used & seen. Attribution-wise, they do have the name in the top right corner (well, most do) so folk should be able to work out where they came from.

Harvey Puca

A discussion on the PETM possible causes:




Steve Bloom

Al, that study was incomplete and is being followed up now (or already has been and it's in the publication pipeline). Methane emissions and feedbacks weren't included in the first one, but will be in the follow-up. From Joe's piece:

'The permafrost permamelt contains a staggering “1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere, much of which would be released as methane. Methane is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 times as potent over 20 years! One of the most conservative assumptions the study made, the lead author Dr. Kevin Schaefer confirmed in an email, is that all of the carbon would be released as CO2 and none as methane.'

The point is that the authors don't believe the assumption was correct, but had to make it to keep the study simple enough to get a result with the limited model they used. The follow-up will involve a full-blown GCM that won't require such simplifications.

Wayne Kernochan

Hi all -

I just put in my 1.999... cents worth in a post on my blog:


You don't have to, but I would appreciate some scathing reviews from y'all to tell me what I blew in my haste. I promise to save the cutting retorts until after Hanukkristmakwanzaamhain. Happy holidays ... - w


Hi all,

There is a good summary and critique of all of the recent press coverage of arctic methane, both terrestial and submarine, at the Columbia Journalism Review:


Inter alia - Steve Connor of The Independent found the story from Igor Semiletov. Semiletov was not looking for any publicity at this point.

Revkin had already published a piece on December 1, stating that there was nothing much to worry about, which perhaps helps to explain the very complacent tone of "Apocalyse Not" - just because the facts changed, he was hardly likely to change his mind.


"I have also been wondering if the release of methane could actually affect weather patterns"

Absolutely yes. Atmospheric methane affects cloud cover, along with ozone levels. I'm working my way through this primer:

"Atmospheric Methane: Trends and Impacts"


Money quote:

"As discussed earlier, increasing water vapor from methane could be leading to an increased amount of polar stratospheric clouds. Ramanathan (1988) notes that both water and ice clouds, when formed at cold lower stratospheric temperatures, are extremely efficient in enhancing the atmospheric greenhouse effect. He also notes that there is a distinct possibility that large increases in future methane may lead to a surface warming that increases nonlinearly with the methane concentration."

See also:

"Archer: Destabilization of Methane Hydrates: A Risk Analysis"

PDF at: http://www.wbgu.de/fileadmin/templates/dateien/veroeffentlichungen/sondergutachten/sn2006/wbgu_sn2006_ex01.pdf

Al Rodger

Steve Bloom.
Thank you for correcting my fallacious comment above. I must confess I was drawn to the graph & the value given for 2010 carbon emissions - 200 million tons pa. The question “How much will be methane?” (I concluded as 'not a lot' which sort of fitted with misinterpreting the “none as methane” comment.)
Happily Jo Romm has another longer post drawing together a number of studies. He uses the word 'tantalising' and it sure is.
Some headlines from the piece for me:-
() The “likely” drivers of the renewed rise in global methane levels – increases in Arctic temperatures & tropical rainfall. () An estimated % methane from permamelt – 2.7% - which would double the GHG impact of the 'carbon' release. () Wofly from HIPPO commenting on the increase in Arctic methane apparently coming from open ocean suggesting the culprits are munching micro-organisms not melting hydrates.


Bob Wallace


Methane measurements at Barrow.

Someone pasted this graph on Weather Underground. Those last three data points don't look encouraging. They certainly drag the gray line upwards....


Hi All, I share some over Neven's concerns, however these reading are all provisional and are outliers, which means they need to be confirmed. On the other hand, maybe we are all in denial of what is happening, but that is for the future to judge.



Take a look at the CO2 at Barrow.

It seems to be having a very high spike 2 or 3 months earlier than the seasonal cycle had been during the past several years.

It's preliminary data so maybe it's just a spike.


Hi all,

News from Semiletov and Shakharova @


In which they stress that its still early days and no firm conclusions can be drawn. I have little time to study in depth, but thought others woiuld like to know, (and may be slightly relieved).

Happy New Year!


I don/t find anything reassuring in Sakharova's latest disclosures. Only her last paragraph deals with the 2011 cruise, and it ends with
'be open to the idea that new observations may significantly change what we understand about our world.'

Consider that since that cruise both she and Semiletov have joined the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, who are advocating geo engineering solutions in 2013 to cool the Arctic.

Wayne Kernochan

@idunno: Please note that their "response" was part of an article by Andy Revkin, who has long been severely criticized by Joe Romm and others as doing a fundamentally dishonest job of reporting on climate change, effectively downplaying it. It appears on first reading that this is yet another example: despite what is probably cherry-picking of quotes, the real message is that (a) there is good reason to anticipate that methane clathrates would melt sooner than previous models have said (it melts at subfreezing temps), and (b) the latest survey should probably cause model adjustments to factor in a large immediate rise in clathrate melt. Just the type of thing we're panicking about.

Of course, you can believe Mr. Revkin when he says, move along, there's nothing to see here ... nah, only an Imperial Stormtrooper would fall for that one (g)- w

Kevin McKinney

I do think Revkin underplays the severity of the--well, I'd say "crisis"--that we face.

But I also appreciate that he consistently brings out stories such as this one--including the (IMO) greatly under-stressed point that S & S found the clathrates melting at sub-zero (C) temps:

"Last spring, we extracted a 53-meter long core sample from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, to validate our conclusions about the current state of subsea permafrost. We found that the temperatures of the sediments were from 1.2 to 0.6 degrees below zero, Celsius, yet they were completely thawed. The model in the Dmitrenko paper [link] assumed a thaw point of zero degrees."

I'm going to go see what that Dmitrenko paper says.

Kevin McKinney

Right, that was the paper which Revkin based his "don't worry about methane" article upon. Abstract here:


It's not clear to me what the consequences of this difference would be to D's modeling, since though the lower melting point can't be good news in the real world, it could also (conceivably) have counterintuitive biassing effects on D's results.

Still, Revkin might have mentioned that his previous article's conclusions have just acquired a whole new level of uncertainty--worrisome uncertainty, IMO.

Aaron Lewis

Well, all you sea ice watchers, it is just me, or are there some little spots of sea ice missing? I see it mostly in the Cryosphere Graphics, but that does not give me confidence that it is just my imagination or dirt on my computer screen.

Timothy Chase

RE idunno | December 28, 2011 at 10:40

Semiletov and Shakhova are quoted by Revkin:

Yes, modeling is important. However, we know that modeling results cannot prove or disprove real observations because modeling always assumes significant simplification and should be validated with observational data, not vice versa.
This point they stress isn't entirely true. For example, there were the early balloon-based tropospheric soundings. These proved to be less than accurate, and the models more accurate as was borne out by later measurements. Models showed greater warming in the upper troposphere than what was being "observed," and it was the observations that proved less than accurate.

Oftentimes what we refer to as "obsevations" actually entail the use of some theory, particulary with satellite measurements that employ complicated equipment, such as with satellites that don't really measure temperature but spectra and assumed that carbon dioxide was evenly distributed. Other times older measurements will have been with less reliable equipment , under conditions that differed, such as surface measurements that differed by time of day or location when a station moved, with different sets of equipment (e.g., in the case of sea temperatures, flasks tossed over the side of a ship vs. water intakes for cooling the engines), with old equipment that needs replacing (satellites with orbits that have decayed or which may gradually fail due to exposure to radiation), with new equipment that needs to be tested or requires fine-tuning (e.g., new satellites or Argo floats), or measurements that are simply too sparse.

When observations and theory clash the deciding factor is the weight of the evidence -- and oftentimes there won't be enough evidence to conclusively decide in favor of either without the gathering of further evidence.

Artful Dodger

Archer, Buffett, and Brovkin (2008) "Ocean methane hydrates as a slow tipping point in the global carbon cycle"


"This hydrate model embedded into a global climate model predicts ≈0.4–0.5 °C additional warming from the hydrate response to fossil fuel CO2 release, initially because of methane, but persisting through the 10-kyr duration of the simulations because of the CO2 oxidation product of methane."

This is the most relevant paper I've seen to date. Awaiting the 2011 data.

Happy New Year,

Artful Dodger

This Google Scholar query (related articles to Archer paper above) will connect you to the science on methane hydrates:


This is an amazing treasury of work.


Thanks for the update to the Revkin piece, idunno! I fully agree with the last line of the Semiletov+Shakhova quote: "We would urge people to consider this process, not jump to conclusions and be open to the idea that new observations may significantly change what we understand about our world."

Consider that since that cruise both she and Semiletov have joined the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, who are advocating geo engineering solutions in 2013 to cool the Arctic.

I thought the same for a while, but I don't believe it's true, Twemoran! The AMEG website slightly gives the impression it's so.

Andy Wilkins

Before the "we're all going to hell in a hand-cart" brigade get anxious about another 'AGW' crisis, let's here what Semiletov and Shakhova had to say to Revkin themselves:

"We would first note that we have never stated that the reason for the currently observed methane emissions were due to recent climate change. In fact, we explained in detail the mechanism of subsea permafrost destabilization as a result of inundation with seawater thousands of years ago...

..Observations are at the core of our work now. It is no surprise to us that others monitoring global methane have not found a signal from the Siberian Arctic or increase in global emissions...

...We would urge people to...not jump to conclusions and be open to the idea that new observations may significantly change what we understand about our world."

Hmmm, seems blaming it all on our 'wicked' modern society and 'evil Big Oil' may be wrong after all.

Andy Wilkins

Neven and idunno, it seems I was a bit slow off the mark compared to you two!

Neven, it's saddening to see that "she and Semiletov have joined the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, who are advocating geo engineering solutions in 2013 to cool the Arctic."
I've just looked through the AMEG brochure at: http://www.flipdocs.com/showbook.aspx?ID=10004692_698290
The whole brochure is an exercise in alarmist propaganda, full of scary predictions and frightening soundbites, even to the point of placing a quote on the front cover from arch-warmist Hansen in a speech he made to the rather sinister Club of Rome.
The whole brochure is an affront to cool and dispassionate science.


There is something amiss at the Barrow site - the latest updates have removed the anomaly and now show a descending average for methane through the later half of the year.

To see the differences you have to plug in various years into the "some" year box. 2010/2011 and 2011/2011 seem to work well. Note the date in the bottom right corner.

Kevin McKinney

". . .arch-warmist Hansen in a speech he made to the rather sinister Club of Rome."

Not exactly a "dispassionate" comment.

Hank Roberts

Nothing is amiss; data always needs cleanup; at those pages preliminary raw data are posted but unreviewed points are flagged/colored so they're clearly identified as provisional.

Once new data is reviewed the data point color is changed to so signify. See the discussion below the chart.

It says get professional advice before relying on preliminary data.

Hank Roberts

Some of the dip and rise over more than a decade may be partly the collapse of the USSR and revival of industry. I recall reading they had a gross methane leak problem even before maintenance paychecks stopped.

Here's something for the US, presumably a bit tighter system:

If I were the worrying kind, I'd be asking if any hot waste from the soviet nuclear navy is in sediments over shallow hydrates.

It's a horse-race of the apocalypse.

Aaron Lewis

Timothy, Artful,

Go back, and look at the Arctic Sea Ice forecasts in the literature as of 2007. The same conceptual fault is in the permafrost models. The same conceptual fault is in the clathrate models. They assume uniformity and homogeneity. Neither sea ice or permafrost is uniformity. Such models have their uses, but estimating time to failure is not one of them. Ice melts where it is stressed or contaminated and windows open allowing passage fluids, including methane.

Aaron Lewis

Methane is lighter than air, and plumes of the methane will rise. Sampling at Barrow is not a useful indicator of ESS releases.

Hank Roberts

Earth: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/images/content/122450main_methane_chart_lg.jpg

Mars: http://universe-review.ca/I07-21-methane2.jpg

Hank Roberts

As to identifying where the methane comes from -- well, when a Duke University study of methane in well water suggested methane was coming from fracking gas wells, the industry response relies on measuring isotope signatures from the well gas compared to those claimed typical for different geological strata under the site. Their conclusion was "uncertainty" -- but the method is instructive.
from: http://www.ogj.com/1/vol-109/issue-49/exploration-development/methane-in-pennsylvania-water-p7.html

(not endorsed or carefully read, just reporting the claim of using the method)

Of course you have to sample the strata to know their signatures -- probably not extensively done in the Arctic (yet).



You are almost certainly correct - I'm still a little nervous of another Monnet event. One in which the researcher doesn't stand his ground.

Just 'cause you know you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't after you ;>)


Hi all,

Yet more from Revkin:


Kevin McKinney

". . . another Monnet event. . ."

Seems the latest on that affair is still the PEER PR from October 26, which I had previously missed:


Wayne Kernochan

@Neven: In the process of reading the blog posts of Justin Gillis of the NY Times, who in the opinion of Joe Romm is a far more reliable climate change reporter than Andrew Revkin, I found a link to this 2006 government report: http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/saps/301

I think you will find Chapter 5 enlightening and somewhat reassuring, if you can wade through it. However, it does appear to indicate that its models seem to argue strongly against two things reported by the 2011 expedition: (1) methane bubbles actually reaching the surface, and (2) methane clathrate melting of the scale reported by the expedition.

Fwiw, until these anomalies are explained, I have to keep in mind the possibility that you still should be sick to your stomach, if somewhat less so.


Thanks Kevin, but it didn't help with the paranoia.

Hank Roberts





Re: "There is something amiss at the Barrow site - the latest updates have removed the anomaly and now show a descending average for methane through the later half of the year."

I try and follow, but sometimes you guys lose me. I have gone through all permutations of how to graph the methane data on the site below for Barrow and the latest numbers are still there like they were a week ago. All of 2011 colored as preliminary. Only 12/2010 and older colored as verified. I see the latest 2011 numbers as 2170, 2175, 2195 (estimated from graph) for the last 3 data points.

Where am I getting lost in this discussion. Thanks.




If you check the data using 'some years' you find that after 12/18 the high readings have been eliminated. My fear was that pressure had been put on some of the researchers to modify the results - however - a poster on another site explained that this was BAU and that the raw figures would be available when the yearly compilation in on line.



Sorry, I have no skill at shrinking or animating images.
The graphs below show November CH4 for 2010/2011 with a polar projection - scary stuff!!




Timothy Chase

Hi Terry,

What a difference a year makes, eh?

I had difficulty with the paths since they actually get cut off part way through the file names.

However, the directory is:


... and the files are:

ARCTpolar2010.11._AIRS_CH4_400.jpg and ARCTpolar2011.11._AIRS_CH4_400.jpg


"What a difference a year makes, eh?"


Lets look at 2009.
What exactly do you think you are showing us.


"What exactly do you think you are showing us."

I'm not sure of what the whole data set shows. I was astounded that Arctic methane emissions seem to be a winter phenomena, I'd have guessed the opposite.
Could it be that summer methane gobbling monsters die out in cooler conditions?
Is solar radiation enough to change all the CH4 to CO2?


"Arctic methane emissions seem to be a winter phenomena, I'd have guessed the opposite."

Soil freezing in the arctic

Timothy Chase

Just trying to be helpful, dorlomin, by rescuing the links, and then I made an offhand comment. But you are right, 2011 and 2009 look comparable.

Furthermore, concentrations are actually slightly higher in 2008 compared to 2009. And the difference between yellow and dark red amounts to roughly a 2% difference in methane ppbv.

Timothy Chase


I had written:

Furthermore, concentrations are actually slightly higher in 2008 compared to 2009.
2008 is slightly higher than 2010, but clearly much lower than 2009.

Otto Lehikoinen

"I was astounded that Arctic methane emissions seem to be a winter phenomena"

some reasons would be:
1)The lack of sun (photosynthesis stops)
2)the ice cover (lack of atmospheric mixing of surface waters)

it's not unusual in ice covered lakes for fish to die of lack of oxygen in winter, drilling a hole in the ice may even attract some of the fish near it in some lakes.


@Timothy Chase I am being a little tetchy about this methane thing at the moment. I have had to deal with all manner of tom foolery including someone trying to tell me elephants were dying in Zimbabwe because of the heat from a "runnaway methane release".

Apologies if I am being a bit too sharp.

Kevin McKinney

"runnaway methane release".

[Tacky quips suppressed here.]

Kevin McKinney

Not to be confused with the former is this Real Climate release on runaway (and other) methane:



Hi Kevin,

Thanks for this very reassuring link. (Highly recommended, Neven, should make you feel a great deal better.)

Andy Revkin has also written yet another post in the light of it, @


Wayne Kernochan

@idunno: I'm sorry, but reading the real climate article has absolutely zero effect on my worry. If anything, it confirms it.

What I, and Joe Romm afaik, worry about is an intermediate case, where the methane (not including deep ocean) is released from Arctic clathrates, permafrost, and newly formed wetlands where permafrost was, steadily over the next 160 years or so. What they confirm is that this will add some sort of spike in methane-induced global warming over that time period, followed by an increase in CO2 over what it would have been otherwise for "thousands of years" (I suspect that may be too long). Nor do they clearly establish why that intermediate case should not result in substantial additions to global warming between, say, 20 years from now and 1000 years from now. In fact, they say the opposite: "it's the carbon dioxide [from methane in the atmosphere] that matters", and it matters starting somewhere in the next 100 years. Finally, they note that methane clathrate emissions shouldn't matter unless they "spike by 100 to 1000 times their present rate", which is exactly what the Russian survey suggests is happening -- and if we have underestimated the speed of that, why haven't we underestimated the speed of its effect on proximate permafrost and peat bogs?

In sum, they explicitly reassure us about cases that I for one am not worried about, and implicitly worry me about a case that is seemingly more likely than these.


An interesting note:

Shakhova's AGU eposter session abstract has been removed from the AGU convention website.


Another research presentation of interest on Arctic methane measurement, Oct. 2011:



Global warming potential of methane is based upon the expected operational lifetime of it, before it breaks down as a result of photolysis in combination with hydroxyl radicals.


Since amount of available solar energy is fixed, at some point higher concentrations of upper atmospheric methane should result in a non-linear dynamic, increasing the global warming potential of methane by extension of increasing its half life, and therefore persistence and global warming potential.

I have yet to see any study on this potential [and potentially disastrous] phenomenon. This dynamic is yet another potential positive feedback variable.

Anyone have any data?

Timothy Chase

UltraVerified, you may want to check:

Methane lifetime, defined as the total atmospheric CH4 burden divided by the sum of all loss processes (25), also increased (Table 1). It reflects a four- to fivefold higher CH4 burden that was only partially offset by faster oxidation with hydroxyl radicals (OH) in a warmer climate, and increased OH production in the warm moist tropospheres (26) (Table 1) (Tables S2-S4). These CH4 budget changes produced global mean concentrations of around 3,614 ppb in the 4 x CO2 Eocene, and 3,304 ppb in the 4 × CO2 Cretaceous (Table 1)..

David J. Beerlinga, Andrew Fox, David S. Stevenson, and Paul J. Valdes (May 31, 2011) Enhanced chemistry-climate feedbacks in past greenhouse worlds, PNAS, 10.1073/pnas.1102409108

... and:
A small fraction is also removed by surface deposition. In the stratosphere, where water vapor is in the range of only a few ppm, CH4 oxidation contributes to water vapor buildup. Since reaction (R1) also represents a significant loss path for OH, additional CH4 emission will suppress OH and thereby increase the CH4 lifetime, implying further increases in atmospheric CH4 concentrations [Isaksen and Hov, 1987; Prather et al., 2001]. This represents a positive chemical feedback, with a feedback factor estimated to be about 1.4 (uncertainty range 1.3 to 1.7) for current atmospheric conditions [Prather et al., 2001]. The nonlinearity in the chemical system could result in a significantly enhanced feedback factor for large CH4.

Isaksen, I. S. A., M. Gauss, G. Myhre, K. M. Walter Anthony, and C. Ruppel (2011), Strong atmospheric chemistry feedback to climate warming from Arctic methane emissions, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 25, GB2002, doi:10.1029/2010GB003845

They would appear to be along the lines that you are looking for.



Barrow alaska seems to have updates its methane time series and taken out the unusually high readings.

Much the same thing as happened with Zeppline last year, an instrument error.

Timothy Chase

Apocalypse4Real wrote:

An interesting note:

Shakhova's AGU eposter session abstract has been removed from the AGU convention website.

Your right. I wouldn't mind knowing the story behind that.

One of the things that struck me as odd is the quick change in the bubbling from one year to the next even though we don't seem to be seeing it in the measurements (I know, some of the readings we were getting back seemed to cooberate their observations, but those seem to be fantoms.)

More importantly, after initially coming out with their story earlier this year, they apparently claim (via Revkin) that the cause is sea water inundating methane hydrates thousands of years ago.

I mean, first off, this seems kind of early in their investigation to be concluding that the cause is thousands of years old. They've only begun to see the really big (1 km) methane releases this year, and they have already concluded that this is due to something that happened thousands of years ago?

Second, if "the cause" is thousands of years old, why is it suddenly making itself known at this point -- just when the Anthropocene is starting to really rev up? Maybe our actions are greatly exacerbating a problem that was already there, which might help to make sense of this, but we haven't gotten that. That pretty much bothered me the first time I heard of it.

Honestly, something didn't seem right, but I kept my suspicions to myself because, after all, they are just my suspicions. Maybe I still shouldn't have said anything. More might still come out that will help make sense of it all. But with their abstract being taken down, maybe I should have put a little more stock in those suspicions. Hope no one minds my voicing them.

Regardless, if this story of theirs doesn't pan out, you have to wonder, why the story in the first place? Not that I am going to offer any hypothesis there. In my view it is till a little early for that.

Kevin McKinney

Did a very rough calculation on expected methane excursion at Barrow--just based upon the respective areas of an assumed 125 km2 source area, 2000 km from Barrow. Came in at 22.5 ppb swing, which is about the size of the annual cycle.

So it seems possible that Barrow might pick up any sizable emissions in the East Siberia Sea--that is, if my simplifying assumptions don't create too much error/stray too far from real parameters.

One source of error would be the *vertical* mixing--I've no idea what the vertical CH4 profile looks like. The only AIRS data I've seen is for the 400 mb level, which is above the mid-troposphere. Do they have near-surface maps, too, stashed away somewhere where I didn't look?


Hi all,

David Archer has done a follow up at real climate looking at a worst case scenario@


But it's still okay. You can look at it Neven, and it might even help settle your stomach.

Yippee!, we might survive!

Wayne Kernochan

@idunno: While Archer's follow-up strikes me as a SWAG (extrapolating from Arctic lakes to added wetlands plus clathrates?), it does seem to confirm my likewise SWAG projections. He does omit the consequences of half of those emissions turning to CO2 in the atmosphere, not to mention the methane released as CO2 -- which would seem to be anywhere from 200 to 800 ppm (another SWAG). So: an additional 3-5 degrees C for 100 years, followed by another 2-5 degrees C far beyond that. And, of course, perhaps 2x as bad in the far North and during winter.

I figure Hansen factored some effects from methane in, so I still go by his "if we use up all the oil, gas, and coal, there's a small chance of the end of life on earth; if we use all the oil shale and tar sands as well, it's probable." What makes me concerned, aside from the fact that the methane effects cited make "hell on earth" that will kill most species and most of humanity more likely before the effects fade, is that the added stress on our economy make it more likely that we will use up those fossil fuels to compensate, and less likely that we will be able to do geo-engineering to escape the consequences.

I should also note that there was a recent post in www.dailykos.com that said that scientists had figured out how to make a sand-based slurry that would suck all the CO2 out of the proximate air. They noted that this still did not solve the problem of where to store it over the long term; they didn't say how such a slurry could be scaled adequately. Still, at this point, I'll take any hope.

Chris Reynolds

I've put the AIRS images from Dr Yurganov up as Youtube videos.

Twemoran and Dorlomin,

One of the reasons for higher CH4 in the winter is that the cold reduces the reaction rate of CH4 + OH. i.e. "..observations at Alert show a July minimum due to chemical loss in the Northern Hemisphere.." Picket-Heaps et al 2011 - Magnitude and seasonality of wetland methane emissions from the Hudson Bay Lowlands (Canada).



This needs posted on the January Open Thread. It will get more views


Hi all,

Skeptical science has an interview with Shakhova @


As the title suggests, this is their second recent posting on ESAS methane.

Kevin McKinney

Hah! Missed it earlier, and was just going to post the link--but (for those who may be even later to the party than I am), the Shakhova interview is well worth reading.

Daniel Bailey

FYI, Shakhova and Semiletov hope to publish their findings possibly by the end of summer, 2012.

I Ballantinegray1

Gah! another 9 months before we see last Sept's info!!! At least it was made clear that the 10m plus features measured in the past were not necessarily the ones measured at a km across and more (phew!)
If we are seeing an acceleration in the rate of degradation of the reserves it would be useful to know 'where' , within the process, we are? Have the past 8,000yrs brought us to a 'tricky area' where AGW heating is very poorly timed or whether we are already past the worse with much of the Hydrate already spent.

Never a dull moment eh?


Video – Measuring Methane in the Siberian Arctic

Artful Dodger

Look at how warm the Eastern Arctic is today, from the Barents sea all the way to the E. Siberian sea, it's a +12C anomaly. Methane signature?


Very unlikely, much more likely a result of the export of ice from the arctic allowing energy into the local weather and if you look at the huge cold spot across Eurasia liable to be the some of the heat from their!



Thanks for the link, is that a regular WU accessible map? I looked but didn't find one.

Also,it would be interesting to compare this with the AIRS methane data when it comes out in a couple of months.

The relationship with the AO going negative seems more apparent.

Artful Dodger

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas over the short term than the commonly used figure "20 X times more effective in trapping heat than CO2". The figure 20X is the effect of a set mass of CH4 summed over a 100 year period, as the methane (CH4) slowly devolves into CO2. The half-life of CH4 (presently) is around 9 years in the atmosphere.

Over the short term (a year), methane is about 120 X more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. But, as long as atmospheric methane levels keep rising, new CH4 more than replaces devolving CH4. So there is no decrease in CH4's net forcing effect on climate over time. In fact, the forcing continues with ever increasing effect.

In this circumstance, the appropriate number to use for methane is 120 X CO2. That means the current 1.9 ppm CH4 has the same net effect as would an additional 230 ppm CO2. So make the total forcing 230 + 393 CO2 = 623 ppm CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).

Jan 2012 Mauna Loa CO2 = 393.09

We weren't supposed to see these kind of CO2 forcings for a hundred years. But they're here today. That is why ice is melting in the Arctic. And that's why the models can't keep up with the melt.

This year. Right now. In the middle of the warmest Arctic Winter on record. Even with the recent cold spell in Alaska, the rest of the Arctic is up to 7 degrees C warmer than normal for the season.

There is 1.1 million km sq less Arctic sea ice cover today than the 1979-2000 average (CT anomaly). Warm ocean gives off longwave radiation (OLR or IR ) which is retained by a greenhouse blanket in the atmosphere above. Water vapour, CO2 + CH4 all add their cumulative effect.

You do not need heat from the Sun for this effect to occur. Shortwave radiation from the Sun just warms the water. The Ocean is already warm. The solar energy is there, stored as heat in the water. And it's giving off the same amount of heat as it would on any Summer day with a similar temperature gradient between water and air.

Since open ocean water is -2 C or warmer, and the atmosphere is -20 or colder, likely more heat is coming off the water today than during Summer. And is then trapped by greenhouse gases. The atmosphere doesn't cool. Sea ice doesn't grow. It a feedback loop that warms the Arctic Winter faster than the Summer.

This is affecting weather now, all over the Northern Hemisphere. Not a hundred years in the future.

The 2011 Durban agreement, and it's 2020 target to begin curbing carbon emissions, will be a death sentence for many.


I don't think it is right to multiply 1.9ppm by 120 to get 230. Isn't the effect similar per doubling and the 120 only correct with current levels?


indicates preindustrial methane was at a level around 680ppb so 680 to 1790 indicates there has been about 1.4 doublings compared to about 0.5 doublings for CO2.

I don't know whether that might help you do more appropriate calculations. As for me:

A mole of methane has much more (393/1.8) of a doubling effect than a mole of CO2 so the 120 you used indicates that the effect of a doubling of methane has less effect than a doubling of CO2 by a factor of 120*1.8/393 = 0.55

1.4 doublings of 0.55 effect would indicate more effect than 0.5 doublings of CO2. That doesn't sound right to me so I am probably confused.



There is a misunderstanding. Methane is per ppm the stronger greenhouse gas only because adding 2ppm will about double the methane concentration, while a 390->392 ppm CO2 is about 1/130th of a doubling.


Methane is actually the weaker greenhouse gas, a doubling in CH4 lead to max 0.8 W/m2 forcing. That is about 20% of that of a CO2 doubling. It is weaker because the absorption bands are narrower and are at wavelengths where less heat is radiated.

Compared to 1750, forcing of methane is currently about 50% of that of CO2.



You seem as optimistic as I about the short term viability of things. The Jan. AIRS was not supposed to look like that.

The future is now, about a hundred years ahead of expectations.


Another factor to bear in mind regarding Methane is that it doesn't have a log response (see Hansen 88) so you're not concerned about doubling. It's nearer to the linear response.


Kevin McKinney

I'm pretty sure you are mistaken there, Phil--don't have time to find a reference now, but perhaps someone else will address this point.


The 0.8 W/m2 for methane doubling comes from RC: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/12/losing-time-not-buying-time/

Hansen et al 2005 gives slightly lower numbers for methane doubling:


Artful Dodger

Kevin, the answers you seek are here in Table 6.2


Be aware that new results presented in Hansen (2012) suggest the effect of aerosols is underestimated. If confirmed this may results in adjustment to the coefficients in the equations linked above.

Still, the equations are highly useful in the Polar night. With zero insolation, the aerosol forcing effect on incoming shortwave radiation is also zero.

Hansen's new results would just mean that the heat-trapping effect of GHG's is actually higher in reality than has been estimated in previous model runs.

Coming in the next comment:
SST's, black body radiation, and GHG absorption spectra...

Hold your Water!



r05c05.2012045 MODIS...

Another weird sign... Apart from a ‘budding’ Lena delta cauliflower, thesouthern Laptev Sea is showing a large field of grey punctuations on it’s fast ice. It’s between the Lena delta and Great Lyakhovsky Island. Isn’t that one of the regions featuring in Semiletov’s and Shakhova’s studies?

Artful Dodger

Hi Werther,

Looks like melt/breakup to me. Are you viewing the bands 3-6-7 image? They make it much easier to distinguish sea ice from cloud.



Lodger, Werther is looking at row 5 (not row 2). It certainly looks to be in the map area shown on this post of Neven.

It doesn't look like thin ice break up in this region like after day 170 of 2011.

But is it much different than this 2010 day 70 pic

in some worrying way?

Artful Dodger

Thanks, Chris. Any other data sources we can draw upon? Ships at sea? Buoy data?


Seems like a new resource will be available on CO2 and Methane release in the Arctic this year over Alaska.

The CARVE Mission data will be helpful, but it seems it will be restricted.


Kevin McKinney

Ah, CARVE is flying the good old DeHavilland Twin Otter! Somehow refreshing to see it at work in an era dominated by satellites!

"Otters" have been flying longer than I've been alive.

Janne Tuukkanen

Oh, the Otter! I used to jump from one when I was young and crazy. (now I'm only... you know) Did you know they restarted production a few years back?


Part of LM r05c05 25022012
Crandles, Lodger...
This is the punctuation I mentioned...
right in the middle.
Is methane doing this?
For a better look, check Rapid Response...


Sorry, no title was added.
It's r05c05, the 'cauliflower'on the Lena Delta lower right, tip of Great Liakhovsky Island middle left.


I was comparing
r5 c5 2010 day 70

to Werther's punctuation:

Werther's does look more like small punctures but I am not sure there is a lot of difference in the looks of the different marks between these two pics (other than nearer land in 2010).


Flew on a Beaver (DeHavallind)last summer. Noisy, shaky and totally wonderful. It was older than I, and was beginning to look it:)

Kevin McKinney

Janne, yes--albeit with a 'new' firm, Viking Air of British Columbia, doing the work now. Wiki says the first of the new 400 series came off the line in 2010.

Twemoran, I'm envious! Viking isn't making any more Beavers, but they are refurbing and tricking out the old ones. Sounds like the one you rode could be a candidate!


We now return to our normal programming. . . (or not.)


Today's r05c05 gave a real good view of what I call punctuations in the fast ice north of Tiksi/Jana Bays in the Laptev Sea.
Check it out. These fields measure up to 10.000 km2. I related them to a geomorphologic map I found and the fields line up pretty well with some structural features in the seabottom. I'm still wondering what the nature of these marks is. A lot measure up to 500-700 m in diameter. Hope to see more when these parts are in their blueish melt stage in june.

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