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  1. The Charney lecture sounded interesting. It was given by Graeme Stevens and concerned cloud feedbacks. It was highlighted at Judy Curry’s blog and can be seen here –

    It sounded like a lot was crammed in to five days. Roy Spencer was obviously distracted because the UAH November anomaly is a week late…[perhaps only relevant to those of us who gamble Quatloos on the result at Lucia’s Blackboard.. :)]

    Does anyone know how well the science was represented at Durban?

    Comment by Anteros — 11 Dec 2011 @ 9:35 PM

  2. Just to say thank you for highlighting these sessions. I’m working through the videos available – across many of the areas covered (not just climate science).

    It’s a wonderful opportunity to see research in progress and in much more detail and with many more nuances than you can get from reading a paper in a journal. And to get a glimpse of what is likely to be published soon (subject, presumably, to review). And to put a face to all the famous names we associate with science – and those who are maybe on the way to being famous :D

    Comment by Sou — 11 Dec 2011 @ 11:55 PM

  3. Anteros,

    About the talks in Durban, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri recently said, “Actually, to be honest, nobody over here [at COP 17] is paying any attention to science.” I think the noise of money and power still continues to overpower the sounds of science far too easily.

    However, there was also this:

    The science isn’t the only area where the future is more and more in the hands of our young people. Actually, the fate of the whole planet may be.

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 12 Dec 2011 @ 3:27 AM

  4. Tiny correction: its Hausfather, not Hausfeather :-p

    [Response: oops! – gavin]

    Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 12 Dec 2011 @ 10:48 AM

  5. I think James Annan will be disappointed not to have been mentioned in that illustrious list of names. He was even worshipping at Prof. Mann’s feet!
    Link: (2nd picture)

    [Response: In reality, James and I were having a rather mundane discussion of spatial error structure in data assimilation approaches ;) He gave a great talk in our session on paleodata assimilation. James is doing some very nice work in this area, and indeed its an area where there is a lot of exciting work going on now, as became plainly evident at this year’s AGU meeting. Hugues Goosse gave a related talk later on in our session, and another related talk the next day (mentioned in this post) on constraining atmospheric circulation anomalies during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) by assimilating information from proxy data. The latter talk was given in the “Climate of the Common Era” session, a really nice new session spearheaded by Jason Smerdon, Kevin Anchukaitas, and co. which I hope we’ll see continued in the years ahead. One interesting theme that emerged from the various “last millennium” paleo sessions this year: precisely what was going on w/ the tropical Pacific/ENSO over the past millennium remains quite enigmatic. A number of quite careful and seemingly convincing regional proxy studies using central Pacific corals vs. tropical African lake records vs. tropical ice cores all yield fundamentally different and seemingly inconsistent pictures. While there is much that we have learned over the past decade, there are still some rather profound puzzles that remain to be worked out. The science is never done. – mike]

    Comment by Marco — 12 Dec 2011 @ 12:04 PM

  6. Mike @ 5, I don’t doubt that much remains to be learned about the past, given the complexities of the present. It can’t be easy to track the Hadley & Walker cells across the vast Pacific 1000 years ago. It might help though to have information from clear around the globe at similar latitudes. Why does the Indian Ocean warm so much? Did it in the MWA? Could research like these three add any light?

    1) Williams and Funk 2011. A westward extension of the warm pool leads to a westward extension of the Walker circulation, drying eastern Africa

    2) Turney and Jones 2010. Does the Agulhas Current amplify global temperatures during super-interglacials?

    3) Lee et al. 2011 What caused the significant increase in Atlantic Ocean heat content since the mid-20th century?

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 12 Dec 2011 @ 8:33 PM

  7. There were lots of good talks, but I also mention the posters, which essentially fill up the main floor of Moscone South and change every day. It takes a few hours just to walk past them all, not even stopping to talk.
    It’s always fun to pick a few and talk to the (usually) grad students at the posters.
    Their enthusiasm is great, and some are so grateful that someone cared enough to ask.
    Those who talk about “scientists are doing it for the big $$” should try this.

    Comment by John Mashey — 12 Dec 2011 @ 10:07 PM

  8. Is the following (apparently results released at AGU) overhyped or a serious worry?

    Comment by crandles — 13 Dec 2011 @ 6:52 AM

  9. Conferences are great for scientists meeting scientists. But when the topic is human-caused change that will have severe consequences if people keep on burning until climate disruption stops them, public education and outreach is also very important. It was discussed some at AGU and Serendipity’s review is a treasure trove for educators.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 13 Dec 2011 @ 11:51 AM

  10. There’s a bit of talk here about the arctic-methane results (Dr Semiletov). Any comments? I got the impression that getting a baseline on these methane plumes was a bit tricky?
    Here’s an article (from The Independent), that we were discussing:



    Comment by Mike Smith — 13 Dec 2011 @ 1:33 PM

  11. For Mike Smith:

    The story you link has today’s date, and I only found a hundred web blog mentions quoting the same words from Semiletov, so maybe it’s new news.

    There have been breathless news stories about this going back several years. You’ll find those easily:

    It’s been very hard to tell which is new and which isn’t new.

    One of the RC posts recently has links to a couple of science institutes that promised news from last summer’s field works would become available sometime in the next few months.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Dec 2011 @ 2:35 PM

  12. ps, the link Mike Smith gave ends with:
    “Dr Semiletov released his findings for the first time last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.”
    Is there a poster or video or any reference to that, for us outside watchers?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Dec 2011 @ 2:37 PM

  13. I’m not sure methane alarmism is in-topic but there’s been two posts in this thread already. Since there’s no official reply, I’ll opine…

    Newspapers frequently give ludicrous titles to their articles and usually fail to provide context.
    The artcle talk about speculation with regards to hundreds of millions of tons of that “deadly” gas which they figure is 20 times stronger as a GHG than CO2 (that number is arbitrary). Well, I reckon it would take not hundreds but something like 2500 megatons to get 1 more ppm of methane. And methane is short lived so you’d need hundreds of extra megatons yearly to maintain that extra ppm.
    People can speculate about how foreboding the methane releases observed by Dr Semiletov are. It makes for good doomer p0rn. But CO2 is a much bigger problem than the methane releases which have been observed so far. People have no notion of how much fossil fuels are burned on this planet.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 13 Dec 2011 @ 2:40 PM


    First items on the first page are:

    Strong atmospheric chemistry feedback to climate warming from Arctic

    Arctic methane sources: Isotopic evidence for atmospheric inputs

    Identifying sources of methane in the Arctic

    Contribution of oceanic gas hydrate dissociation to the formation of Arctic Ocean methane plumes

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Dec 2011 @ 2:48 PM

  15. This seams to be related to this news a two months ago.

    Looks like eyeball data assessment for the moment.

    Comment by Yvan Dutil — 13 Dec 2011 @ 5:05 PM

  16. #13–“People have no notion of how much fossil fuels are burned on this planet.”

    True. But in principle we can control how much fossil fuels are burned. Not so the methane releases.

    You’re right, of course, about the magnitudes so far–but ‘so far’ is a very untrustworthy guide.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Dec 2011 @ 6:46 PM

  17. Kate’s AGU reflections:
    Reflection 1
    Reflection 2
    Reflection 3

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 13 Dec 2011 @ 10:49 PM

  18. #16
    Lurid speculation is an even worse guide than “so far”. Got a skilled model?
    In contrast, there’s little doubt that the coal problem is serious.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 13 Dec 2011 @ 11:42 PM

  19. My highlight was meeting Gavin. So, thanks again for stopping by the poster.

    Comment by steven mosher — 14 Dec 2011 @ 12:42 AM

  20. seemingly convincing regional proxy studies using central Pacific corals vs. tropical African lake records vs. tropical ice cores all yield fundamentally different and seemingly inconsistent pictures. While there is much that we have learned over the past decade, there are still some rather profound puzzles that remain to be worked out. The science is never done. – mike

    Isn’t that what the ‘skeptics’ say, that the science isn’t settled, hence is not ready to be used to make policy?

    [Response: Well that is the illogical jump that ‘skeptics’ keep trying to make, yes. Still doesn’t make it valid. The existence of uncertainty of some facts says nothing about the certainty of others. Does the fact that the Riemann Hypothesis is unproven mean that 2+2=4 can not be used in policy? – gavin]

    Comment by Number9 — 14 Dec 2011 @ 6:59 AM

  21. #18–Of course I don’t have a skilled model–but I’m not arguing for anything “lurid.” Just saying that methane release could become serious, and deserves attention.

    And as for minimizing the “coal problem,” IMO, the potential for methane release only reinforces how serious it is. We need to avoid inciting a really sizable methane feedback, if at all possible. Stopping coal combustion with all ‘deliberate speed’ would be most helpful in doing so.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 Dec 2011 @ 7:38 AM

  22. Thanks Hank et al. sorry if it wasn’t on-topic – I was interested as the findings it was referring to were presented at the AGU meeting.

    In summary, if I understand the conversation correctly:
    1. We should already be worrying ~100% by CO2, so the methane threat doesn’t really change things.
    2. The methane output is likely to remain probably small-beer in comparison to the CO2 issue.

    I’ll relay this to my friends :)

    Thanks all! (and thanks for the fantastic resource/blog).
    (sorry if I accidentally double post)

    Comment by Mike Smith — 14 Dec 2011 @ 10:08 AM

  23. Lurid? I’ll say something “lurid” because the change from the 2010 report to this report, at my best estimate, is a 22x to 33x increase in methane bubbling up from the sea bed over just those two years.

    I don’t need to define hyper-parabolic, I assume. I will remind you that when Walter, et al., announced a three-fold increase in thermokarst lakes back in, I believe it was ’08, I said something like this was coming, and faster than virtually anyone knew – or at least was saying. I was dismissed and scolded, but all the signs were there.

    The thing about science is that it is able to tell us what was expertly, but what will be only cautiously. The thing about human intelligence and creativity, and this incredible brain we have, is that it can tell us things we cannot even explain. We don’t understand how it calculates what it does so we dismiss it. We call it clairvoyance or ESP or second sight or intuition. It’s just our brains working a heck of a lot better and faster than we can begin to measure.

    Hopefully now you are listening. Those calling for geo-engineering are correct in stating the need, completely off their heads in offering solutions; the last thing we need to do now is trigger a set of unintended consequences.

    Reforestation, regenerative and localized food production, food forests/edible forests/edible landscaping, and serious decreases in consumption via localization/walkable neighborhoods > local production and consumption, steady-state economics, etc., etc.

    Nature just yelled, “WAKE UP! The house is on fire!”

    Comment by Killian aka ccpo — 14 Dec 2011 @ 10:33 AM

  24. Lurid? That’s not lurid. This is lurid.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 14 Dec 2011 @ 12:24 PM

  25. The methane chart for Barrow, Alaska confirms a big jump in atmospheric methane in the most recent data.

    Barrow and Cold Bay show big jumps in CO2. Are these related phenomena?

    Killian is right–this is a fire alarm going off. Semiletov talked about a 100 fold increase in methane release. He also said that methane plume sizes went form tens of meters in diameter to over 1000 meters. It seems to me that this implies an increase of some 10,000 times (pi r^2 and all that). But maybe they were bigger but fewer?

    If anyone went to any of the methane sessions, could they inform us?

    Comment by wili — 14 Dec 2011 @ 12:54 PM

  26. The science is never done. – mike

    Isn’t that what the ‘skeptics’ say, that the science isn’t settled, hence is not ready to be used to make policy?–Number 9

    Not quite, Number 9. See, real scientists advance their understanding and then ask other questions and still more questions based on ever deeper understanding. They are true skeptics because they look at what the evidence has to say. Denialists or pseudoskeptics (e.g. you) keep revisiting the same subject over and over and over again, never understanding anything and deluding themselves that their confusion is a sign of wisdom. See the difference?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Dec 2011 @ 1:33 PM

  27. wili, you’re looking at the orange dots on the Barrow Alaska methane chart, right? Those are preliminary and very often far higher than the corrected data. Check again later; look at the monthly and daily charts. The outlier values don’t generally hold up and there’s no “big jump” or trend there yet.

    Yes the concern is real. No, the data aren’t there yet to support this.
    Whatever Semiletov is talking about, he will publish eventually.

    I’m puzzled that nobody on any of those trips appears to have blogged anything or poste any pictures– we only hear Semiletov’s press releases and interviews. If the ship was out there surrounded by bubbling methane, wouldn’t someone have taken a picture? Lighted a match, even?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Dec 2011 @ 1:46 PM

  28. #25
    What’s the source for this: “Semiletov talked about a 100 fold increase in methane release.” It’s not in the linked newspaper article.
    If it’s a genuine quote, it’s got to refer to a small area which is insignificant compared to global methane emissions. Stripping the context of such a quote is… is there another word than lurid?

    If you want reasonable speculation, try this (found by Hank):
    The key word is “unlikely”.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 14 Dec 2011 @ 1:51 PM

  29. Where are the denialists when you really need them….the ones who claim that in the past the warming preceded and caused the increased atmospheric carbon.

    Note that while CH4 only lasts about 10 yrs in the atmosphere, it degrades into CO2+, and it is the rapidity of its release that is really dangerous — like if there is a huge gigantic release within that 10 year frame, it could lead to even greater evermore gigantic releases in succeeding 10 year frames. BTW I’ve seen it figured as 23 and 25 times more potent than CO2, and don’t know where #13 got 20.

    For disaster-movie potential re methane hydrates see:

    Also read Hansen’s STORMS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN, re his discussion of how our “methane shotgun” is more heavily loaded this time than during the PETM massive warming.

    It’s like we’re poking this sleeping big dangerous dragon with our AGW, and he’s beginning to awaken.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 14 Dec 2011 @ 2:35 PM

  30. Here’s something interesting from the AGU only partly connected to GW, by way of bigger deluges and hurricanes, and also people using up resources (involving world inequalities & the political ecology of this), etc:

    “Why the Haiti earthquake may not have been a natural disaster”

    Deforestation and extreme weather may later cause earthquakes, scientists believe.

    [Response: I would be very suspicious of such a claim. And I doubt very much that ‘scientists believe’ in this context is anything other than ‘a scientist has suggested’. We have enough real anthropogenic effects to worry about without making up some more. – gavin]

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 14 Dec 2011 @ 2:51 PM

  31. Lynn’s referring to a story about something by Shimon Wdowinski (University of Miami in Florida) that was just presented at the AGU. I did not find anything about it on his home page or with Scholar.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Dec 2011 @ 3:06 PM

  32. Hank Roberts wrote: “If the ship was out there surrounded by bubbling methane, wouldn’t someone have taken a picture? Lighted a match, even?”

    Oh, yeah. If I were on a ship surrounded by bubbling methane I would DEFINITELY want to light a match. Just to, you know, see what happens and all.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 14 Dec 2011 @ 3:19 PM

  33. I had a fabulous time at AGU, and it was great to meet most of the RealClimate folks. Hope to see you all again soon!

    [Response: I think I speak for all us Kate, in saying that it was a real pleasure to meet you. Keep up the great work! I’m sure we’ll cross paths again at many future AGUs. -mike]

    Comment by Kate — 14 Dec 2011 @ 4:03 PM

  34. Hank@#27, Thanks for the response. I am aware that those most recent data points are preliminary. One would normally assume that such anomalous data were also erroneous. But this time:

    –They come right after a major international scientific expedition has found dramatic increases in methane release.
    –They correspond to increases in CO2 concentrations in the same and in near by locations.

    Together, these make it rather unlikely, it seems to me, that these date point are due to errors in instruments or some very local releases. The instruments would all have to have diverged in the same direction at the same time.

    I see three (at least) independent sources of data all pointing in the same dramatic direction–Semiletov and team’s direct observations, instrumental CH4 data, and instrumental CO2 data (the later many more than two data points and from more than one location). Do you have a convincing scenario about how all these could be pointing in the same direction by accident?

    It would be good to hear from someone who saw the presentation at AGU–anyone??

    Comment by wili — 14 Dec 2011 @ 4:14 PM

  35. @34 You can add anomalous isotopic ratio also.

    Comment by Yvan Dutil — 14 Dec 2011 @ 4:26 PM

  36. Wili, let us know if you find a publication by Semiletov; one should be coming somewhere. Scholar finds a lot published, but not the work you’re talking about. Newspaper stories don’t tend to get this stuff right, generally.

    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 38, L08602, doi:10.1029/2011GL047222, 2011
    Rising Arctic Ocean temperatures cause gas hydrate destabilization and ocean acidification [PDF] Geophysical Research Letters, 2011 “… Russian slope remain almost unaffected (Figure 2c). Only the shallow and potentially methane‐rich [Shakhova et al., 2010] shelf regions in the Laptev Sea show significant annual variations….”


    Shakhova, N., I. Semiletov, A. Salyuk, V. Yusupov, D. Kosmach, and
    O. Gustafsson (2010), Extensive methane venting to the atmosphere
    from sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, Science, 327,
    1246–1250, doi:10.1126/science.1182221

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Dec 2011 @ 4:39 PM

  37. PS for Wili, there’s a piece on the Shakhova paper and video interview here:
    “The CH4 emitted is about 2 per cent of global annual emissions, so it is certainly significant. Ed Dlugokencky of NOAA, who confirmed a couple of weeks ago that recent increases in atmospheric methane were continuing, tells me that the emissions estimates are reasonable, but that the global data is not yet consistent with a large and growing source of Arctic methane ….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Dec 2011 @ 4:43 PM

  38. @34 Dismiss my previous post. Isotope looks ok but not H2.

    Comment by Yvan Dutil — 14 Dec 2011 @ 4:43 PM

  39. #28–“What’s the source for this: “Semiletov talked about a 100 fold increase in methane release.”

    I suspect it was an error; the last sentence of the linked story says that concentrations of methane were 100 times normal (at the sites of the ‘torch-like structures,’ presumably.) Not the same as release rates 10 times higher, of course.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 Dec 2011 @ 5:09 PM

  40. “Not the same as release rates 10 times higher, of course.”

    An error of my own. Of course I meant “100 times.”

    Ah, well.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 Dec 2011 @ 5:11 PM

  41. The finding of huge plumes of methane rising in the Arctic ocean is a worry. The plumes of course are acting like vast air-lift pumps. They will increasingly bring in water from beside the rising plume. That water is obviously warm enough to trigger the release of the methane.

    This inflow of energy and higher velocity water flows will hasten the release, possibly even strip overburden sediment off deeper deposits, which will lead to a worsening of the situation.

    When air surface temperatures are higher than the surface water temperature, then then the upwelling water will pick up energy from the air. The induced overturning of the water column will bring still more warmer water back down to the sea floor, adding another energy source.

    At the ocean floor this pox will spread sideways limited only by the amount of calthrate in a given area.

    While methane is short-lived, all it has to do is shift the global energy balance for a while, to trigger irreversible loss of tundra methane, loss of Arctic sea ice cover and more calthrate loss, then loss of ice sheets and everything else Hansen et al promise.

    Not pretty to contemplate. And its happening as we speak.

    Oh darn!

    Comment by NIgel Williams — 14 Dec 2011 @ 5:23 PM

  42. @ Hank Roberts

    AGU Fall Meeting THURSDAY, DECEMBER 08, 2011

    GC41B-0794. Ebullition-driven fluxes of methane from shallow hot spots suggest significant under-estimation of annual emission from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf
    Natalia E. Shakhova; Igor P. Semiletov; Anatoly Salyuk; Chris Stubbs; Denis Kosmach; Orjan Gustafsson


    TITLE: Ebullition-driven fluxes of methane from shallow hot spots suggest significant under-estimation of annual emission from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf

    SESSION TYPE: Poster

    SESSION TITLE: GC41B. Permafrost and Methane: Monitoring and Modeling Fluxes of Water and Methane Associated With Arctic Changing Permafrost and Coastal Regiona I Posters

    AUTHORS (FIRST NAME, LAST NAME): Natalia E Shakhova1, 2, Igor Peter Semiletov1, 2, Anatoly Salyuk2, Chris Stubbs3, Denis Kosmach2, Orjan Gustafsson4

    1. IARC, Univerrsity Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States.
    2. Laboratory of Arctic Research, Pacific Oceanological Institute FEBRAS, Vladivostok, Russian Federation.
    3. University of California, Marine Science Institute, Santa Barbara, CA, United States.
    4. Institute of Applied Environmental Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.

    Title of Team:

    ABSTRACT BODY: The high-latitude, shallow ESAS has been alternately subaerial and inundated with seawater during glacial and interglacial periods respectively. Subaerial conditions foster the formation of permafrost and associated hydrate deposits whereas inundation with relatively warm seawater destabilizes the permafrost and hydrates. Our measurements of CH4 in 1994-2000 and 2003-2010 over ESAS demonstrate the system to be in a destabilization period. First estimates of ESAS methane emissions indicated the current atmospheric budget, which arises from gradual diffusion and ebullition, was on par with estimates of methane emissions from the entire World Ocean (≈8 Tg-CH4). Large transient emissions remained to be assessed; yet initial data suggested that component could increase significantly annual emissions. New data obtained in 2008-2010 show that contribution of ebullition-driven CH4 fluxes from shallow hot spots alone could multiply previously reported annual emission from the entire ESAS.

    KEYWORDS: [0330] ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION AND STRUCTURE / Geochemical cycles, [0312] ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION AND STRUCTURE / Air/sea constituent fluxes, [0428] BIOGEOSCIENCES / Carbon cycling, [4219] OCEANOGRAPHY: GENERAL / Continental shelf and slope processes.

    SPONSOR NAME: Natalia Shakhova

    The Shakhova/Semiletov Presentation Poster can be found here:

    Note that the brochure is a 10.1 Mb download, for those on a slow connection.

    Comment by Daniel Bailey — 14 Dec 2011 @ 8:07 PM

  43. Thanks all for links, corrections, and insights. It is maddening to watch, but more maddening would be to feel as though absolutely no one else was watching or caring.

    recaptcha: egialia life

    Comment by wili — 14 Dec 2011 @ 8:22 PM

  44. RE #30 & the Haiti quake being strengthened by landslides/erosion (due to deluges and hurricanes), it made a tiny bit of sense to me, since I’d read something earlier about how glacier melt in Greenland may be causing or contributing to very minor, local quakes.

    When the Chile quake happened, I thought perhaps serious glacier melt in the region may have contributed somewhat to the quake’s intensity, and perhaps the same might be for Himalayan quakes. It’s probably an understudied topic, since, as Gavin says, there are much worse, more substantiated anthropogenic problems to focus on.

    I guess it does seem far-fetched that landslides and erosion would lighten the load enough to contribute to quakes. But they did find a correlation apparently.

    If there is a way to access the Wdowinski paper, I’d like to get it for some social science colleagues who specialize on disaster reserach.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 14 Dec 2011 @ 10:50 PM

  45. > If there is a way to access the Wdowinski paper
    Ask the author; his web page has his contact info.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Dec 2011 @ 11:31 PM

  46. Re: #30 Geologist’s perspective: Surficial loadings/unloadings and other anthropogenic factors can be linked to some localized minor earthquakes…here in Montana the filling of Lake Koocanusa behind Libby Dam on the Kootenai River was likely responsible for a series of small quakes in the area, and then there’s the recent series of articles that link “fracking” to minor quakes, but major earthquakes generally occur several kilometers or more below the surface and are related to large scale tectonic forces. It’s hard to imagine how surficial disturbances, however egregious, could be related? Poor land management practices can have a huge impact on a variety of “sustainability” issues, but I’ll second Gavin’s thoughts: we need to be cautious about making things up…. If there are any seismologists that watch the site I’d be interested on their perspective.

    Comment by Tokodave — 15 Dec 2011 @ 10:07 AM

  47. Daniel Bailey at #42, thanks for the link, but that seems to be about geoengineering. I don’t see any info there on the latest excursion to the Arctic.

    Comment by wili — 15 Dec 2011 @ 10:15 AM

  48. Wili, the linked site hosts the AGU poster presentation itself; however, the graphics quality is poor. The brochure flipbook seems to be a walk-through of the poster.

    Comment by Daniel Bailey — 15 Dec 2011 @ 11:31 AM

  49. Mike MacPhaden has been kidnapped by french geologists !

    Comment by Alex — 15 Dec 2011 @ 5:01 PM

  50. RE 30 “I would be very suspicious of such a claim.” Me too. The last thing climate analysis needs is to attribute natural geologic occurrences, bad as they are, to the same causes as a warming climate.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 15 Dec 2011 @ 9:27 PM

  51. Daniel Bailey, I don’t think that was Shakhova’s brochure, but the brochure from John Nissen, the guy who fronts the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (who stand for “start geoengineering immediately”). He was also at AGU.

    Shakhova nor Semiletov are members of this group, AFAIK.

    Comment by Neven — 18 Dec 2011 @ 1:56 PM

  52. Neven:

    Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Upon closer inspection of the poster I cannot ascertain that it was indeed from a presentation made at the AGU. Since the brochure is almost certainly a walk-through of the poster, then indeed you must be correct. And I was in error on that matter.

    Apologies to all for any confusion.

    Comment by Daniel Bailey — 18 Dec 2011 @ 10:21 PM

  53. Joe Romm over at Climate Progress finally got around to discussing the Arctic as a new source of atmospheric carbon, both from permafrost and from the sea. The sea section is toward the end, and seems to suggest that increases there are all from methanogenic bacteria on the surface of the sea.

    Comment by wili — 19 Dec 2011 @ 9:39 PM

  54. RE methane hydrates, here’s a NYT article that claims we don’t have to worry about the deeper ones for 1000s of years because the ocean is slow in warming, esp down at the bottom where the hydrates are (tho some scientist aren’t sure about that):

    The only problem for me is, that doesn’t really matter. I’m on board reducing my GHGs because I want to reduce my harms to people (and other creatures) no matter what year, decade, century, or millennium. So if we’re triggering conditions now that will eventually lead lots more destruction (beyond the pittily next couple of centuries), that is what counts, not how long it takes.

    There’s no statute of limitation on world destruction and annihilation of life on planet earth.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 21 Dec 2011 @ 10:29 AM

  55. Lynn #54,
    With that approach to risk, methane is irrelevant.
    The long term effects of CO2 are well-established and serious enough to motivate harm reduction while the long term effects of methane are relatively small or speculative. The most likely effect of methane is to hasten the pace of climate change during relatively short periods.
    That’s because methanes degrades to CO2 faster than the likely timescale of significant (relative to emissions from fossil fuels) arctic methane releases.

    Yes, methane is a possible wildcard. It’s of interest to scientists obviously. But please be careful with alarmism which is likely to be detrimental to your credibility in the long run. Lurid throwaways like “annihilation of life on planet earth” are uncalled for.
    The long term risks caused by atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuels are hard enough to communicate and are misunderstood by most. So let’s keep things as simple as possible, alright?

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 21 Dec 2011 @ 12:26 PM

  56. AC, so is it your perception that our leaders and the populace at large are already overly alarmed?

    Are you against having fire alarms in buildings because they are ‘alarmist’?

    Yes, we should be clear that it is unlikely that absolutely all life will be annihilated…perhaps. But the point is that people and leaders do not seem to be getting the point that this is an existential crisis that requires an appropriately alarmed leadership and populous.

    Meanwhile, for what it’s worth, here is my response to the Gillis article. Please feel free to critique:

    Thank you, Justin, for a much better article than Revkin recently presented on this topic for your paper.

    But there are some points that you overlook:

    –The East Siberian Arctic Shelf, besides being very vast (~200 km^2), is also very shallow (average ~50 meters), so there is little chance for methane to be dissolved and digested there as it bubbles up (see Dr. Joye’s presentation at the recent AGU conference)

    –Much of the Arctic is now ice free for long stretches, allowing increase in waves that can take surface warming down to the bed of the shallow ESAS

    –Warm ocean currents are intruding further and further into the Arctic ocean, currents that eventually sink to the bottom as salinity increases

    –The Arctic is warming much faster than anyone anticipated; As recently as the last IPCC report, no one thought that the ice cover could melt as fast as we have seen it melt

    –Readings from the monitoring stations at Barrow do in fact show huge increases in atmospheric methane levels… (switch parameter to ‘methane’)

    –The recent expedition by Semiletov and others, veterans at looking at these seas, found dramatic increases in methane plumes

    We certainly need more information, but it is not appropriate to dismiss deep concerns in light of ongoing revelations of recent dramatic increases in methane in the Arctic.

    Again, thank you for your article–the last few paragraphs are particularly apt.

    Comment by wili — 21 Dec 2011 @ 4:00 PM

  57. wili #56,
    Yes, my perception is that there is enough alarm. The lack of reaction to the legitimate alarm won’t be helped by setting off phony alarms.

    Speculation aside, you bring forth preliminary data from a single site. I tried three others which show nothing out of the ordinary. I fail to see how this is cause for concern.
    Your data source states: “Users are strongly encouraged to contact Dr. Pieter Tans, Group Chief ( before attempting to interpret preliminary data.” Have you done so?

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 21 Dec 2011 @ 6:06 PM

  58. Anonymous Coward wrote: “The most likely effect of methane is to hasten the pace of climate change during relatively short periods.”

    Yes, large releases of methane from thawing permafrost and undersea deposits could hasten global warming during a relatively short period — like, say, for example, the next five to ten years.

    And you think that is a reason to NOT be alarmed?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Dec 2011 @ 6:44 PM

  59. Thanks for the suggestion, AC. We have been discussing this on another site, and one of the other posters there agreed to email him so he wouldn’t get inundated with all of our messages. We are awaiting his response.

    There are certainly more data points and information that we would like to see, but it seems odd that so many people are ready to dismiss out of hand the direct observations of the most experienced scientists on this topic, Semiletov and Shakhova, as well as instrumental data, however preliminary, pointing in the same direction as what they are seeing on the ground.

    Note that the monitoring station at Barrow itself is some 1000 miles away from where the emissions were reported. Others are much further away. So it is not surprising that evidence would first show up at this closest (but still quite distant) station before showing up at others that are further away.

    On the other point, American historian Arthur Schlesinger said “American has only two modes of response to energy issues–complacency and panic.” I would say the same applies to American response to AGW. I see plenty of evidence of complacency, and little of alarm much less panic.

    One more quote (sorry, don’t have the source right now): “We have to plan for panic so we can panic with a plan.”

    Comment by wili — 22 Dec 2011 @ 9:28 AM

  60. RE #55, I, like you, did not think permanent runaway warming (as on venus) was possible (due to this AGW episode), and I think most scientists have not come to the conclusion that it is possible. But there are some who say it is, especially if we are bound and determined to dig up all the coal and release its carbon into the atomsphere. See esp p. 24 of

    Since this has not managed to get people alarmed, I’m afraid nothing on eart will ever get them alarmed. In fact they seem to be alarmed that people might get alarmed over AGW, but let me assure you there will be no mad rush to the LED & CF bulb sections of Home Depot, no shopping carts colliding and people rush to reduce their GHG, because they just aren’t going to reduce them. Period. Not if it saves them money. Not if it reduced many other environmental and non-environmental problems (like wars). No way.

    Climate scientists can tell us about methane, and how if you get warming going fast enough with our GHG help, it could indeed melt enough methane in stored in ice to contribute significantly to GW (see — and I think it’s more like the rapidity plus succeeding 10-year frames until the whole lot of methane is released, not just one 10-year frame, that would be at work —

    but climate scientists don’t know a lot about human behavior. It’s pretty weird, but the more dangerous and more certain (.50 on the null being more than enough) the danger, the less likely some people with self-esteem problems will act on it. Of course, they won’t act on a no-danger or mild-danger threat either.

    So anyway this issue has given social and behavior scientist a great opportunity to study human behavior….as we pass the 10th floor, having jumped off the high rise, saying, so far so good.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 22 Dec 2011 @ 10:12 AM

  61. Regarding this Barrow matter: have any of you alarmists bothered to look at the “in-situ data” on NOAA’s site as opposed to the “flask”? Look at the daily average and you’ll see a big methane spike in 2004 and no spike now.
    If methane concentration was elevated at Barrow, the most likely cause would be local and not what Semiletov observed. There’s oil&gas activity in the Barrow aera. My understanding is that Barrow basically sits on an actively exploited methane field.
    Your standard of evidence seems to be no better than the deniers’.

    Alarms are useful when they tell the people in charge to activate a plan. No one’s in charge and there is no plan.
    You are faced with a political problem. There’s no quick fix and alarmism is not helpful when it comes to devising workable solutions and long term strategies. What do you have an alarmed general public do? What can the average denizen of the USA do?
    Rushing to Home Depot to buy light bulbs is counter-productive because malls are a bigger source of emissions than the average household’s light bulbs, not to speak of the cars that people use to get to malls. If you were to calm down, you might be able to figure that out.
    The first thing to do instead is to get together with like-minded folks in your area and to make plans for collective action.
    Methane has no bearing on any of this.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 23 Dec 2011 @ 7:16 AM

  62. “What can the average denizen of the USA do?” Cut drastically back on all activity that produces GHGs. Advocate strongly at every level of organization and government for the same.

    “The first thing to do instead is to get together with like-minded folks in your area and to make plans for collective action.”

    Why do you assume that I am not doing this. Your whole tone here is rather presumptuous and insulting.

    On the methane data, when you assume that the only accurate data is the data you want to believe, it is a kind of selective use of evidence that is, as you say, ‘no better than the deniers.'” We would all like to see more and clearer measurements and explanations for the data we have. Until then, there is no basis to claim that one data point is more reliable than another, one way or the other.

    (By the way, I buy my lightbulbs from the corner hardware store which I walk to.)

    Comment by wili — 23 Dec 2011 @ 10:12 AM

  63. Anonymous Coward wrote: “Rushing to Home Depot to buy light bulbs is counter-productive because malls are a bigger source of emissions than the average household’s light bulbs, not to speak of the cars that people use to get to malls. If you were to calm down, you might be able to figure that out.”

    If you were to provide actual data showing the GHG emissions from a single trip to a mall to purchase a household-worth of LED lightbulbs exceeds the GHG reductions achieved by operating those LEDs for their rated lifetime instead of incandescents, your argument might be worth listening to. Otherwise your condescension is hardly justifiable.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Dec 2011 @ 11:41 AM

  64. AC at 61 said: Regarding this Barrow matter: have any of you alarmists bothered to look at the “in-situ data” on NOAA’s site as opposed to the “flask”? Look at the daily average and you’ll see a big methane spike in 2004 and no spike now.

    Although there is currently “no spike” at Barrow, the “in-situ” measurements do show a steady increase over the past few years with current trend levels being higher than 2004.

    Comment by turboblocke — 25 Dec 2011 @ 12:22 PM

  65. That’s right. The 2004 spike is of no import, like any other transient local spike.
    I’d also sooner believe this unspectacular increase could be related to happenings in Eastern Siberia than happenings around Barrow. But our guesses are of no import. Let someone qualified take a good look at this trend with the help of additionnal data.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 25 Dec 2011 @ 3:28 PM


    Siberian shelf methane emissions not tied to modern warming – AGU

    Identifying sources of methane in the Arctic – AGU

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Dec 2011 @ 7:25 PM

  67. Hank, thanks for the links (though the second one does not seem to be working).

    The first one repeats what has already been shown–that there is a long-term process of slow destabilization of seabed methane. It then seems to leap to the conclusion that this means that all recent methane release from this source cannot be related to GW–a rather hasty conclusion imo, but presumably some further reasons for the conclusion were presented in the full presentation.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the destabilization depth for methane in near 0 degree C temps is 200 meters, so the statement that I have seen here and elsewhere that the methane hydrate is at that depth should not surprise us and should not lead us to think that it is therefore stable–it is right on the edge of destabilizing, any even slight amount of warming will do so.

    The second paper is from atmospheric tests from ’08-’09 and finds that at that time methane escaping from the sea floor was not making it to the atmosphere. But now, with eye witness accounts of the methane bubbling up in kilometer-wide plumes, that is presumably no longer the case (unless all the eye witnesses are pulling our collective leg for some reason).

    So, useful as it is to see these abstracts, the first one seems to make a claim with no support presented for it, and the second one is now out of date.

    But this seems to be the only place left on the net that is talking about this much, and we are left grasping at whatever straws are available to try to make sense of sparse and contradictory evidence.

    Comment by wili — 26 Dec 2011 @ 10:00 PM

  68. Sorry to post back to back, but here are some articles that may be of relevance here:

    Waters near the bottom of the Laptev Sea have warmed 3 degrees C since 2007

    Rapid melting of ice possibly explained.

    Comment by wili — 27 Dec 2011 @ 10:02 AM

  69. Here’s a summary of the same press release wili refers to, this may help find the eventual journal article that’s being prepared according to the PR.

    “ARCTIC: Data finds seawater temperature decrease that spells trouble
    Data from the Catlin Arctic Survey 2011, collected during an eight-week expedition from March to May, indicates the temperature of Arctic seawater below 200 metres depth has decreased by a ‘surprising’ one degree Celsius compared to previous observations. This may conversely be accelerating Arctic sea ice melt, which could have a knock-on effect for the currents that circulate heat and nutrients around the world’s oceans, the researchers warn. Survey research partner Dr Simon Boxall, of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK, says the temperature change indicates that melting Arctic sea ice is quickly circulating into the ocean’s depths and being replaced by warmer seawater from below. Although global ocean temperatures are rising, a layer of fresher water immediately below the sea ice is thought to act as a buffer between the ice and the warmer Atlantic waters flowing into the Arctic Ocean basin at a lower level. It is this buffer level that seems to be disappearing, which would accelerate ice melt.”

    (Aside — this is also the missing piece that belongs with the Knappenberger notion that the Arctic is not warming, recently revived at the Los Alamos meeting mentioned in another thread)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Dec 2011 @ 10:39 AM

  70. Could there be another or an additional explanation for cooling at the bottom of the sea? If lots of methane hydrates are melting, wouldn’t we expect a cooling, since that change-of-state reaction is endothermic? If lots and lots of methane is melting, would that be a large enough energy draw to actually lower the water temperature near sea bottom?

    Could that temp drop also perhaps put a break on further melting–a kind of negative feedback?

    Another thing I’ve been wondering: there was a slight decrease in global average sea level this year. Could that be a factor in the increase in methane destabilization. I had been imagining (rather hoping against hope) that rising sea level might possibly almost keep up with rising water temps so that the methane would remain relatively stable.

    But if the sea level isn’t rising, that’s wouldn’t be something to count on. It does seem an interesting coincidence that the biggest increases in destabilization happened the same year that sea level rise (surprisingly, to me, at least) reversed. I’m guessing, though, that any rise or fall would be too tiny to have much of an effect one way or the other.

    A blessed New Years to all, in case I don’t manage to get back here till then.

    Comment by wili — 28 Dec 2011 @ 1:24 AM

  71. Thanks for the additional link, Hank.

    Revkin has now posted a follow-up article that includes an email response he go from Semiletov and Shakhova:

    Here is the email:

    “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. We have been working in this scientific field and this region for a decade. We understand its complexity more than anyone. And like most scientists in our field, we have to deal with slowly improving understanding of ongoing processes that often incorporates different points of views expressed by different groups of researchers.

    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. Much of our work includes this field validation. 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 assumed a thaw point of zero degrees. Our observations show that the cornerstone assumption taken in their modeling was wrong. The rate at which the subsea permafrost is currently degrading largely depends on what state it was in when recent climate change appeared. It makes sense that modeling on an incorrect assumption about thaw point could create inaccurate results.

    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. [This refers to the work of Ed Dlugokencky and others; see his comments in my Dot Earth post.] The number of stations monitoring atmospheric methane concentrations worldwide is very few. In the Arctic there are only three such stations — Barrow, Alert, Zeppelin — and all are far away from the Siberian Arctic. We are doing our multi-year observations, including year-round monitoring, in proximity to the source. In addition to measuring the amount of methane emitted from the area, we are trying to find out whether there is anything specific about those emissions that could distinguish them from other sources. It is incorrect to say that anyone is able to trace that signal yet.

    All models must be validated by observations. New data obtained in our 2011 cruise and other unpublished data give us a clue to reevaluate if the scale of methane releases from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf seabed is assessed correctly (papers are now in preparation). This is how science works: step by step, from hypothesis based on limited data and logic to expanded observations in order to gain more facts that could equally prove or disprove the hypothesis. 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.”

    Revkin’s aside is in square brackets. The note on cooling seems to fit in well with the article we have just been discussing.

    I would be very interested in people’s comments on this letter.

    Comment by wili — 28 Dec 2011 @ 8:30 AM

  72. wili, just as one reader to another — until our hosts start another methane topic (there have been many) — would you consider holding off the methane stuff ’til you can put 8it in the January open thread?

    It’s off topic in two different threads now.

    Remember hypertext — post the link, and people can read the original and followups at the original source. You don’t need to post full text copies.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Dec 2011 @ 11:45 AM

  73. Thanks, Hank. Will do.

    Just for the record–though I posted the whole letter, this was not the entirety of the Revkin article. We (or at least I) have been waiting for clarification from S&S on their findings, and this is the closest I’ve seen, so I thought the whole letter could be presented for discussion. But it can wait for the January open thread.

    Comment by wili — 28 Dec 2011 @ 1:27 PM

  74. #67–“But this seems to be the only place left on the net that is talking about this much. . .”

    Try Neven’s Arctic sea ice blog:

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 28 Dec 2011 @ 6:57 PM

  75. Tokodave #46
    I’m no Seismologist, but I think you might find the answers you are looking for by searching for information about “fluid-induced seismicity”.

    Comment by On Anonymous Bloke — 9 Jan 2012 @ 6:13 PM

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