False Alarm: Arctic Methane Emissions Have Been Going On For Ages
The Register: Scientists returning from a seaborne expedition to the Arctic say that the ongoing panic in some quarters regarding runaway emissions of methane from the chilly polar seas – and associated imminent global-warming disaster – appears to be unjustified.
For those unacquainted with this particular panic, the idea is that rising Arctic sea temperatures caused by humans in recent times are causing methane locked up as hydrates on the chilly seabed to be emitted into the atmosphere as gas – as methane hydrates are only stable at very low temperatures and high pressures. Methane, as any fule kno, is a hugely more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, so this would cause more warming which would then release more methane from the seabed until once again planet Earth becomes a baking lifeless hell. As ever with scenarios leading to baking lifeless hell, Greenpeace and similar activists are very keen on this idea. Various scientists have detected methane emissions from Arctic waters by various means, too.
Anyway, this seemed worth looking into, so an international team of scientists set out this past summer aboard a German research vessel for the freezing seas off Spitzbergen, to look into Arctic seabed methane emissions and try to figure out what might be causing them.
In short, whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be anything human beings have done. The Arctic seems to have been emitting methane for a very long time. The Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung (Centre for Ocean Research, aka GEOMAR) in Kiel tells us so, in an announcement revealing the “surprising result” that methane emissions from the Arctic seabed are “no new thing”. [...]
The expedition’s findings obviously won’t put an end to people’s fears of climate catastrophe. Theorists (and occasionally untrained activists or journalists) keep coming up with new proposed positive-feedback runaway disaster mechanisms faster than experiments and expeditions can disprove them: it’s like playing global warming whack-a-mole. But at least this week there’s one less thing to worry about.