Why Yes, Methane Bubbling Up From a Frozen Lake Can Be Lit on Fire

Now that I've got your attention with scientists lighting methane bubbling up from a frozen lake (and very nearly themselves) on fire it's time to turn attention to the threat of, as Climate Feedback puts it, the sleeping giant of climate change. In case you're not aware of the danger of increasing methane levels in the atmosphere, here's the gist of it:Methane Much More Potent Than CO2
Methane is 25 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, and though atmospheric concentrations have increased 150% since the Industrial Revolution, there is a vast amount of it stored in permafrost. While it's frozen there now, increased warming could start releasing it, thereby accelerating warming even more, and so on. Rapidly rising methane levels have been suspected in nearly every dramatic warming spell in Earth's history. (Nature.)

atmospheric methane concentrations image

image: Matt Rigby/Nature
So Should You Worry? Maybe
The thing that alarms scientists is that in 2007, methane levels in the atmosphere spiked after remaining stable for decades. This has caused some scientists, such at Matthew Rigby of MIT to speculate that "we can't rule out" that we are seeing the start of permafrost melting.

That's not to say it is happening. Yet. The original article also quotes Ed Dlugokencky of NOAA as saying,

If I had to make a prediction about what's going to happen in the future based on the last three decades of observations, I would say that there's a reasonable chance methane will continue to stay flat or even decrease before we see the effects of a warming climate on methane sources.

To round out the picture, geochemist James White of the University of Colorado at Boulder, added that if we experience two or three more years with increasing methane levels, then you could make a "strong statement that we're beginning to see permafrost degradation resulting in methane increases."

So in other words, you may not have to worry about rapid methane increases yet. But you should be aware of the issue. Read the full Nature article for more info.

via: Cool Green Science
Global Climate Change
Potent Greenhouse Gas on the Rise: Atmospheric Methane Levels Increasing Again
Sea Level Rise Predictions Too Low, No Abrupt Release of Methane: US Climate Change Science Program
Permafrost Holds Twice as Much GHGs as Previously Thought

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