Year 3, Month 6, Day 1: Anybody In Here?

This is really really really scary:

Methane gas trapped for millennia under the Artic surface has begun to bubble up into the atmosphere, acccording to scientists.

Thousands of sites where methane has been trapped by ice have begun to emit the ancient gas as the ice melts and researchers believe it could have a significant impact on climate change.

Methane, the second most important greenhouse gas after CO2, has been found to be seeping from a number of spots in Alaska and Greenland, perhaps from natural gas or coal deposits underneath the lakes, whereas others are emitting much younger gas, presumably formed through decay of plant material in the lakes.

Scientists said that if the same thing happened in other areas, for example, in northern West Siberia, which is rich in natural gas and partially underlain by thin permafrost predicted to degrade substantially by 2100, “a very strong increase in methane carbon cycling will result, with potential implications for climate warming feedbacks”, according to the BBC.

Thanks to PZ Myers for the debunking of the dinosaur fart report. Sent May 22:

A major obstacle to public understanding of science is the difference between the way scientists communicate and the way science journalists communicate. An excellent example of this disconnect can be found in the treatment of two stories about methane.

When a recent scholarly paper suggested that dinosaurs may have contributed statistically significant amounts of methane to the atmosphere during the Mesozoic Era, media outlets seized the opportunity to conflate global warming with fart jokes (while getting the facts of the story wrong).

On the other hand, when researchers say that “very strong” Arctic methane releases have “potential implications for climate warming feedbacks”, this terrifying clause is buried in the last paragraph of a blandly written report. The results of those “climate warming feedbacks” will quite likely be catastrophic; responsible journalists should feel an obligation to pass on a warning to their readers.

Warren Senders

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