Ignoring the Arctic Methane Monster: Royal Society Goes Dark on Arctic Observational Science

Back in 2011, a team of Arctic researchers shocked the world when they announced the observation of 1 kilometer across methane plumes issuing from regions of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Indications were that this shallow sea might be vulnerable to large-scale release. And in the flurry of observations that followed, it was discovered, according to lead scientists Shakhova and Semiletov, that about 17 teragrams of methane was being emitted each year from this region (which exceeds the total amount of methane currently leaking from all the US’s wells, coal beds, and pipelines combined[14 teragrams]).

The methane emission had not reached catastrophic levels, but the rate of release was far greater than expected. So there was some cause for concern. Concern that this larger than expected release was part of a ramp-up to something worse. A kind of climate nightmare scenario that no-one likes talking about.

Methane Oct 9 2014

(NOAA METOP data captured by Sam Carana on October 9 of 2014 shows a strong methane spike in the range of 2562 parts per billion — more than 700 parts per billion above the global average. Spikes of this kind are now rather common in the METOP data. Note that the origins of high atmospheric methane readings are mostly concentrated in the far north — an indication of a local methane overburden. Though not signs of catastrophic release, these spikes present a troubling trend in the observational record that is an indicator of an increasing Arctic methane release. Links: NOAA OSPO and Arctic News.)

There was no direct evidence, yet, that these fears were in the process of being realized. But there was certainly enough to sharply raise concerns, to increase the observational wing of the science, and to discuss and debate the observational results in the larger scientific bodies.

Questions arose and were addressed. One — citing that perhaps this much methane had been releasing from the ESAS for centuries — was answered when researchers discovered new methane plumes in only recently submerged tundra. An indication that at least a subset of the plumes were recent.

Broader Arctic methane science outside the bounds of specific ESAS release, which had for years identified a risk that rapidly thawing tundra would add new volumes of methane and CO2 to the Arctic atmosphere, provided additional cause for worry. Paper after paper found rising methane emissions from thawing tundra — in lakes and heating peat bogs and in any zone where the soil was anaerobic and warming. NASA’s CARVE study found 150 kilometer regions of terrestrial tundra emitting plumes of methane into the atmosphere and a subsequent study by CARVE found that current models combined with spotty observational evidence couldn’t even pin down total methane emissions for the Arctic region.

It was a clear sign that both the observational science and the model science was not yet mature enough to make decisive conclusions about rates of Arctic methane release. Much less accurately predict what would happen in a future that included the likelihood of Arctic warming at a pace 30 times that seen during the end of the last ice age and a global carbon emission (from human fossil-fuel based industry) that is six times faster than at any time in Earth’s geological past.

Ramping methane

(Steadily ramping atmospheric methane concentrations since 2008 indicate an additional methane release substantial enough to overwhelm the OH sink and result in strong annual increases. Conversely, from the late 1990s to the mid 2000s methane sinks and sources had reached a balance with atmospheric levels plateauing at around 1790 parts per billion. Notably, 2013 to 2014 has shown the most rapid rate of annual increase for many decades in this ESRL data. Was this methane spike at least in part spurred by major reductions in Arctic Sea Ice and coincidentally powerful polar amplification occurring since 2005? Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

That said, concerns that releases from the broader Arctic environment would increase due to human heat forcing abounded. In 2011, a group of 41 Arctic researchers projected that Arctic carbon release would equal ten percent of the total human emission if rapid reduction of carbon emissions was undertaken as soon as possible. Under business as usual carbon emissions through 2100, the researchers suggested that the Arctic feedback would amplify to a size equaling 35% or more of the human emission. Enough to set off a runaway to a hothouse state even if all human emissions were to cease.

This summer seemed to raise concerns even further with the SWERUS C3 mission discovering very large methane plumes in the Laptev Sea. Strange, anomalous, methane blow holes that no-one ever imagined or predicted appeared in the Yamal region of Russia. And though the methane release from the individual holes was small when compared to the global methane flux, they provided yet more contextual evidence of an increasingly unstable Arctic, one that is finding more and more pathways for carbon release — some of them catastrophically explosive.

methane bubbles near the Laptev sea surface

(Methane bubbles near Laptev Sea surface as observed by the SWERUS C3 mission. Image source: SWERUS C3.)

Royal Society Goes Dark on Arctic Methane Observation

Now, as the SWERUS C3 mission has come to a close, something rather odd has happened.

A part of the SWERUS C3 mission, perhaps the most important part, was to collect observational information about methane release from the sea bed. Initial reports from the mission indicated at least what appeared to be an important discovery in the Laptev. The mission also spent quite a period moving through regions of the ESAS — where earlier large releases were observed. It was expected that the lead researchers – Shakhova and Semiletov would present their findings. And what better place than the upcoming Royal Society meeting on ‘Arctic sea ice reduction: the evidence, models, and global impacts (emphasis added)?’

As a critical heat-trapping feedback in the Arctic, one would expect that observations on the release of methane — which is at least 25 times more potent a heat trapping gas by volume than CO2 — would be a matter of some importance to the issue of Arctic sea ice reduction. And it appears that the scientific forum was open enough to the issue to include a model-based discussion of the subject by Dr. Gavin Schmidt. But with the failure of the Royal Society to invite Shakhova and Semiletov, a good portion of the observational science was simply excluded.

Modelers, instead, could have a discussion with themselves. And though I assume such a discussion was somewhat enlightening and probably more than a little reassuring, one wonders how much realistic grounding such a discussion can have without including the most recent observational findings for debate and analysis.

To this point, earlier this month, Dr. Shakhova made the following statement on behalf of herself and the 30 other scientists involved in her research:

October 4th, 2014
By mail and email

Dear Sir Paul Nurse,

We are pleased that the Royal Society recognizes the value of Arctic science and hosted an important scientific meeting last week, organized by Dr D. Feltham, Dr S. Bacon, Dr M. Brandon, and Professor Emeritus J. Hunt (https://royalsociety.org/events/2014/arctic-sea-ice/).

Our colleagues and we have been studying the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) for more than 20 years and have detailed observational knowledge of changes occurring in this region, as documented by publications in leading journals such as Science, Nature, and Nature Geosciences. During these years, we performed more than 20 all-seasonal expeditions that allowed us to accumulate a large and comprehensive data set consisting of hydrological, biogeochemical, and geophysical data and providing a quality of coverage that is hard to achieve, even in more accessible areas of the World Ocean.

To date, we are the only scientists to have long-term observational data on methane in the ESAS. Despite peculiarities in regulation that limit access of foreign scientists to the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone, where the ESAS is located, over the years we have welcomed scientists from Sweden, the USA, The Netherlands, the UK, and other countries to work alongside us. A large international expedition performed in 2008 (ISSS-2008) was recognized as the best biogeochemical study of the IPY (2007-2008). The knowledge and experience we accumulated throughout these years of work laid the basis for an extensive Russian-Swedish expedition onboard I/B ODEN (SWERUS-3) that allowed more than 80 scientists from all over the world to collect more data from this unique area. The expedition was successfully concluded just a few days ago.

To our dismay, we were not invited to present our data at the Royal Society meeting. Furthermore, this week we discovered, via a twitter Storify summary (circulated by Dr. Brandon), that Dr. G. Schmidt was instead invited to discuss the methane issue and explicitly attacked our work using the model of another scholar, whose modelling effort is based on theoretical, untested assumptions having nothing to do with observations in the ESAS. While Dr. Schmidt has expertise in climate modelling, he is an expert neither on methane, nor on this region of the Arctic. Both scientists therefore have no observational knowledge on methane and associated processes in this area. Let us recall that your motto “Nullus in verba” was chosen by the founders of the Royal Society to express their resistance to the domination of authority; the principle so expressed requires all claims to be supported by facts that have been established by experiment. In our opinion, not only the words but also the actions of the organizers deliberately betrayed the principles of the Royal Society as expressed by the words “Nullus in verba.”

In addition, we would like to highlight the Anglo-American bias in the speaker list. It is worrisome that Russian scientific knowledge was missing, and therefore marginalized, despite a long history of outstanding Russian contributions to Arctic science. Being Russian scientists, we believe that prejudice against Russian science is currently growing due to political disagreements with the actions of the Russian government. This restricts our access to international scientific journals, which have become exceptionally demanding when it comes to publication of our work compared to the work of others on similar topics. We realize that the results of our work may interfere with the crucial interests of some powerful agencies and institutions; however, we believe that it was not the intent of the Royal Society to allow political considerations to override scientific integrity.

We understand that there can be scientific debate on this crucial topic as it relates to climate. However, it is biased to present only one side of the debate, the side based on theoretical assumptions and modelling. In our opinion, it was unfair to prevent us from presenting our more-than-decadal data, given that more than 200 scientists were invited to participate in debates. Furthermore, we are concerned that the Royal Society proceedings from this scientific meeting will be unbalanced to an unacceptable degree (which is what has happened on social media).

Consequently, we formally request the equal opportunity to present our data before you and other participants of this Royal Society meeting on the Arctic and that you as organizers refrain from producing any official proceedings before we are allowed to speak.

Sincerely,
On behalf of more than 30 scientists,
Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov

Which raises the question — if models aren’t being informed by current observation any longer, then what are they being informed by?

The exclusion also highlights a large and what appears to be growing rift between those who observe the Arctic system and some that model it. Concern for larger carbon release from the Arctic system appears to be steadily rising among Arctic observational specialists, while some modelers appear to have retreated into silos in an attempt to defend previous understandings that were based on earlier work. It would seem that the wiser move would be to attempt to incorporate new data into the models. But in some cases, this does not appear to be happening.

Sea ice vs model runs

(Arctic sea ice melt model runs were way off. Do we want to have a similar unpleasant surprise when it comes to methane release?)

In such cases, there is a high risk that a kind of institutional bias may form to delay the progress of the science. Such an instance would be tragic considering the dangers posed by the very rapid build-up of heat trapping gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere and the absolute necessity for swift and decisive action to prevent even broader-scale harm than we’ve already locked in. If we are misinformed of risk, even by those with the best of intentions, then we may grow complacent and fail to act soon enough on the basis of assurances that prove false at a later time.

Links:

Arctic News

The Distribution of Methane on Marine Arctic Shelves

Geophysical and Geochemical Evidence of Methane Release Over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf

Ebullition and Storm Induced Methane Release From East Siberian Arctic Shelf

High Risk of Permafrost Thaw

SWERUS C3

Arctic Sea Ice Melt, Methane Release, Shows Amplifying Feedbacks from Human-Caused Climate Change

Arctic Methane Monster Shortens Tail: ESAS Emitting Methane at Twice Expected Rate

Arctic Methane Monster Stirs: NASA’s CARVE Finds Plumes as Large as 150 Kilometers Across

Tracking the Footprints of the Arctic Methane Monster

The Arctic Methane Monster Exhales: Third Tundra Hole Discovered

When it Comes to the Arctic Methane Monster What We Don’t Know Really Could Kill Us

Methane and Frozen Ground

NOAA OSPO

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155 Comments

  1. wili

     /  October 15, 2014

    “Which raises the question — if models aren’t being informed by current observation any longer, then what are they being informed by?”

    Good question!

    I linked this over at RealScience, SkepticalScience, neven’s Arctic Sea Ice Blog, and POForums Environmental thread. We’ll see what kind of reactions or explanations are forthcoming (or if I am simply banished forthwith from some of the sites!).

    I encourage others to do the same on any science or environment based blogs they are active in or know of.

    Reply
  2. james cole

     /  October 15, 2014

    I just think this type of thinking and behavior among scientists, the people the rest of us count on for, is shocking, narrow minded and terribly shallow. ” The exclusion also highlights a large and what appears to be growing rift between those who observe the Arctic system and some that model it. Concern for larger carbon release from the Arctic system appears to be steadily rising among Arctic observational specialists, while some modelers appear to have retreated into silos in an attempt to defend previous understandings that were based on earlier work.” I can’t believe this type of thing is going on during the cusp of a world wide crisis of unknown future impacts.
    I also think it should be an “all hands on deck” approach to monitoring the arctic seas for changes in methane releases. We can’t afford to take our eye off of this one for a second.

    Reply
    • There will be no “all hands on deck”. It’s in the interests of the socioeconomic elites to maintain control of the populations as much and and long as possible. That does not mean informing them properly.

      Information about critical things tends to become harder and harder to come by the more critical and immediate they become. Just watch and see.

      Reply
    • I believe it. People spend their lives working on this stuff. Unfortunately a lot hangs on perfect knowledge and the defense of positions. But no knowledge set is entirely perfect. We could have very good models and some of them would still be wrong. That’s why we need observation for a check and balance.

      Reply
      • What’s really good though is that Shakhova and Semiletov appear to finally be willing to make somewhat of a stand.

        This isn’t the first questionable thing that has happened in the last few years, but it’s one of the most easily identified, and their willingness to rattle the cage a bit is a positive development at least.

        Reply
        • I’ll be interested to see where SWERUS comes out in all this. Not a peep so far, but such a huge expedition has got to have a lot forthcoming.

  3. The problem is that the reality of what is happening in the Arctic is simply too inconvenient to engage with adequately. That said, I’m sure the politics comes into play too.

    The other problem is that even what Semiletov and Shakhova have said has been pretty guarded in recent years. I strongly suspect they’re holding some cards close to their chest that will not be released for public consumption.

    Unfortunately, one cannot prove a negative – so I’m left only with speculation.

    I think we’re in much bigger trouble than people realise – even those with a strong interest and lots of knowledge in relevant areas. Nobody much wants to countenance this notion. Even fewer people wish to engage with meaningful actions in the face of it.

    So what to do, besides quietly continue with my own personal stuff? Not a lot, that I can see.

    Reply
    • This is what happens in a state of active competition rather than cooperation. The players retreat to their respective corners and information sharing is suppressed. This is exactly what we don’t need.

      Reply
      • An aeons or two of evolutionary pressure and most of human history point at competition rather than cooperation being what increases as stresses build. We’re just not equipped to deal with this rationally on the macroscopic scale, and by not equipped I’m talking about our fundamental nature (even perhaps that of all living things really). Much tougher problem than just technological or economic.

        Reply
      • mikkel

         /  October 15, 2014

        CCG, I’m a fan of the thought experiment that perhaps there is no long lasting intelligent life because the evolutionary traits required to have intelligence inevitably lead to domination and competition that destroys them.

        That said, many anthropologists point out that it is not inherent to humanity, since several examples of cultures that live within boundaries exist. Of course, most of them were taken over by hierarchical growth oriented cultures, so the point still stands on social level if not biological one.

        I became depressed for a while after studying the maximum power principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximum_power_principle) and dynamics of growth vs. efficiency based strategies showing that competitive growth will always win out — at least until it is beyond carrying capacity and collapses under its own weight. Then cooperative (at least intragroup) efficiency wins for a while until the cycle begins yet again.

        I believe that we’re at that point now, and cooperation would actually out perform competition if only enough people recognized it and started preferentially dealing with each other vs. the system at large. That could then displace the status quo because it would be able to provide sustenance for the majority who are left out in the cold due to neoliberalism, and make social policy much easier.

        But of course the windows are quickly closing on the ecological and climatological levels.

        Reply
      • @mikkel – I agree with your points. Personally, my philosophy is that our only future can lie within sustainable limits, and it has been managed in isolated (and sometimes prolonged) instances before.

        Competitive growth may always win out short term but my philosophy is that this problem can be solved by ruthlessly crushing that ideology in favour of true sustainability. The sustainable populations were destroyed by unsustainable ones – but what if they had proactively preempted that by stamping out the unsustainable ones first? In short, I argue that unsustainable behaviour ought to be treated aggressively as the attack upon humanity that it is and dealt with accordingly.

        It’s a question of how to counter our nature and to counter what can work short term at the expense of the future. Unfortunately I do not yet have a better credible answer than preemptive violence – destroying the cancer before it destroys you.

        Clearly even that strategy can only work post collapse as the cancer is much too widespread and all encompassing to work with right now. We bought into growth, and like a cancer, are finding that it ultimately compromises our host. So the host must die, and we must consistently stop the cancers early enough moving forwards, presuming that enough strength can be forged in the aftermath to do so.

        It doesn’t mean we don’t have technology or cannot progress, but it does mean these must be tempered by the requirement to do so within a truly sustainable framework. Many things that we could do, we must not do unless we can find a way for them to be sustainable. We must solve problems in advance, instead of handing an increasingly cursed pile of toxicity to those in the future as our ancestors have done for some generations now. A virtuous cycle where we made the world better for our long term descendants instead of ourselves would ultimate benefit our species far more and for far longer than what we please to call progress today.

        Any better ideas? That don’t involve some miraculous shift in human nature and everyone joining hands and singing happy songs together?

        Reply
        • It’s just the kind of Growth that Mitch McConnell favors that’s hurting us so much. The kind that centers on the use and exploitation of fossil fuels. A decentralized, sustainability economic model that focuses more on the well being of the individual and the community and less on the success of profit driven, exploitation-based corporations that force/drive consumption of crud people don’t need, would go a long way to righting the ship. You have ‘growth’ of a kind under that system. One that is far happier and more oriented to the long term.

          Under the current system, you don’t really even get much growth anymore. Just wreckage and collapse. Just retraction and endless wears and instability.

        • You don’t get much growth, because you can’t get much growth now – we’re bumping up against and eroding the limits.

          The ideal end scenario is I think the same whether collapse is in the middle of the process or not. I just can’t see how we get there without collapse being in the middle myself.

        • I can. We still have so much in the way of resources. It’s just now going in the wrong direction.

        • We really don’t have so much in the way of resources. That’s the problem with growth. There’s that guy who presents that topic quite well in his lectures whose name I momentarily forget – but if a bacteria doubles numbers every minute, at what point are half their resources left? One minute to the end…

          On the face of it there might seem to be a lot of resources, but simple growth says otherwise. The last half of the resources can be consumed massively faster than the first half…

        • Sorry, CCG. Couldn’t agree less. If we are spending in excess of 600 billion dollars each year to find oil, we have loads of resources that are just involved in going in exactly the wrong direction. If we aren’t raising taxes on the rich and gaining another 300-600 billion a year for energy transition and sustainability measures, then we have tons of resources all going in the wrong direction. If we are turning schools into profit centers for rich fat cats, we have tons of resources going in the wrong direction. If we have a health care system that costs twice what it should all for the sake of profits for the wealthy, then we have tons of resources all going in the wrong direction. If we have a food system that relies on billions of livestock animals for meat and that multiplies the resource footprint of farming by two to five times, then we have tons of resources all going in the wrong direction.

          We collapse not because we grow, but because we grow the wrong things — conspicuous consumption for the wealthy primarily, and excess consumption of things that we don’t need while we sacrifice so many things that matter.

          Growth Shock is not simply about growing beyond limits. It’s about squandering resources in destructive endeavors. But no, we are not resource poor yet. Not by a long shot. We have abundant resources now, but we are making ourselves poor by giving it mostly to the wealthy and squandering the rest in destructive, excessive, and exploitative endeavors.

      • bill shockley

         /  October 16, 2014

        “That’s the problem with growth. There’s that guy who presents that topic quite well in his lectures whose name I momentarily forget”

        Richard Heinberg? Guy McPherson?

        Reply
  4. Corey

     /  October 15, 2014

    A Schmidt Storm may be inevitable at this point, but I’ll be happy when G&D directly address Robert’s concerns re: the relevance of paleo data in evaluating the methane threat.
    Thanks for fighting the good fight.

    Reply
  5. bill shockley

     /  October 15, 2014

    Quick writeup of Shakhova’s small Spring expedition.
    http://fractalplanet.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/how-guy-mcpherson-gets-it-wrong/comment-page-6/#comment-2650

    In her interview with Nick Breeze following the trip, she said the core sample from the very-near shore ESAS seabed was very important because it showed thawing or partial thawing all the way down, as deep as they bored (50-60m), in a place that had only been submerged in the last 150-200 years, and therefore demonstrated how quickly heat can penetrate the subsea permafrost. In particular, this contrasts with the Archer model that was presented by Schmidt at the Royal Society meeting. 50-60m/150-200 years observed vs 100m/1000 years modeled. I believe this is a more aggressive allowance for thawing then previous, similar models.

    The drilled core was as deep as they could go with their equipment, so they do not know how deep the thawing went. The rate discrepancy is at least 3X between observed and modeled, and could be more, and possibly much more.

    OTOH, I don’t know how representative the location is where they drilled or how valid her statement that the location is “very near-shore ESAS”. Perhaps it’s OK–I don’t know how to evaluate it. Just seems a bit disconnected from the body of the sea and all that entails.

    “We also drilled new sites located within recently-submerged thermokarst lakes that are transforming into sea lagoons to evaluate predominant factors controlling subsea
    permafrost thermodynamic characteristics”

    I also submit to you (in case you lost the link from last time) my transcript of Part I of her Spring interview with Nick Breeze. It includes a link to the Youtube video:
    http://fractalplanet.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/how-guy-mcpherson-gets-it-wrong/comment-page-5/#comment-2022

    Reply
    • bill shockley

       /  October 15, 2014

      Wrong link for the Shakhova Spring trip writeup. Here’s the correct one:
      http://www.ice-arc.eu/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2014/07/ICE-Tiksi-2014-submitted.pdf

      Reply
    • Well, this is something that could have been hashed out at the Royal Society. Missed opportunity.

      Thanks for the links. I ‘be seen the Nick Breeze interview a few times. He does a great job.

      Reply
      • bill shockley

         /  October 16, 2014

        “Well, this is something that could have been hashed out at the Royal Society. Missed opportunity.”

        Ha. Avoided opportunity. I have no words for Mr. Schidt.

        “Thanks for the links. I ‘be seen the Nick Breeze interview a few times. He does a great job.”

        Yes, he does. Jennifer Francis and Michael Benton on deck (interviews already done, waiting for editing and posting).

        Reply
        • I’d like to see this not polarize too much. Reminds me of the conflict over what causes mass extinctions — the impact theory folks tried to dominate everything.

      • Spike

         /  October 16, 2014

        The history of science is littered with bitter disputes about subjects between polarised camps, so I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised.

        It is unbelievably sad though to see this happening when each of the parties would seem to have so much to gain by co-operation and open discussion without pre-conceived fixed ideas, and when the issue at risk is so much bigger than individual egos. What happened to models being tempered with empirical evidence? You may say the evidence is too poor or preliminary to be allowed any influence – I don’t know. But I have read some rather dismissive and frankly unpleasant stuff out in the public domain which does no credit to those spouting it. GOK we have enough problems with dung beetle deniers pushing their BS uphill – we need to avoid open warfare within the science community. A little humility is called for I think. Even if your models have convinced you there is no problem it is surely necessary to keep an open mind to new data – beautiful models and theories have been slayed by ugly data before.

        Reply
      • bill shockley

         /  October 16, 2014

        “beautiful models and theories have been slayed by ugly data before.”

        Sea ice comes to mind. Oh, that would have been Wadhams–funny that!

        Reply
  6. Institutional bias? It does appear so, and that probably shouldn’t be surprising in this troubled day and age. What I’m unclear on is the Royal Society’s and RealClimate’s reasoning and/or motivations. Is it just normal infighting and turf-defending within the scientific community? Anti-Russian sentiment? Or, are researchers reluctant to support catastrophic climate scenarios (i.e. methane release) – which if not realized – would damage their mitigation efforts?

    Side-note, here’s a current industry-related methane hot spot: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/10/14/1336495/-NASA-Methane-hot-spot-in-U-S-is-triple-the-size-of-previous-estimates

    Reply
    • I’m reminded how much good Carl Sagan’s piece on nuclear winter did for the arms control movement. Not all the fears raised in that paper were valid, but enough were to move the people and politics along. If there is risk of methane release and we rapidly mitigate, then the problem is prevented, regardless of how likely or unlikely that ultimate risk is. I suppose the question is — is the risk plausible? I think all we need do is look at the hothouse mass extinction record for that.

      Reply
      • Good analogy, Rob. Not only is the methane release risk plausible, it is likely inevitable if CO2 levels remain unabated. I think the Royal Society and RealClimate folks have some ‘splaining to do.

        Reply
    • james cole

       /  October 16, 2014

      The Russian Federation is in a tight spot. They are an energy producer and exporter, they are a resource extraction based economy. Russian science was not friendly to global warming for that reason. But Soviet times are over, and freedom is available for science to develop a Climate Change camp, as it were. 20 years ago the Russian outlook was hostile to climate change caused by CO2, even as the northern communities began to see permafrost melt and play all hell with roads, buildings, pipeline, railways and roads. The arctic seas are of great interest to Russian science, as this is a frontier for development. I think the bias is still anti climate change, but there is a real and alive community of serious climate science being done. The methane research and permafrost melting are two areas they continue to be deeply involved in. All in all, the Russian and USA governments are both foot dragging to an equal degree. They both are owned by fossil fuel interests.

      Reply
      • For the Russia government, it appears they are positioning themselves to attempt to capitalize on the situation politically and short-term financially by spinning the methane issue. The spin goes something like this — it’s inevitable that it’s going to come out, so we might as well burn it anyway.

        Of course that’s a blatant falsehood and oversimplification. The amount that comes out is determined by how much fossil fuel we burn and how much carbon we put into the air. So ‘pre-emptive burning’ becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

        All nations should be looking at transitioning away from fossil fuels. This is for the prosperity and future of their people, not for the prosperity of their oligarchs.

        Reply
  7. Interesting report from Nick Breeze who was at the Royal Society meeting – “Although having two opposing camps adds a bit of flavour to the proceedings, what soured the taste afterwards was Schmidt’s insulting tweeting during Wadhams’ presentation.”

    http://climatechangepsychology.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/nick-breeze-gavin-schmidt-tweeting-on.html

    Reply
    • Good link. I wish I could have seen it.

      Reply
    • This excerpt from the link caught my attention because governments, in times of crisis, are very concerned about not panicking the population:

      “Dr Gavin Schmidt, the newly positioned Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute For Space Studies.”

      Reply
  8. What is the motive to disallow their work?

    Is it political (paid for), special interests (energy companies), special interests (lobbying), religious (denial), spite (others in the community), sour grapes (others in the community), other?

    Has anyone identified the real culprit behind this move to try to bury their work yet?

    Reply
    • …and of course, if so, why? (money, politics, religion, spite, etc….)

      Reply
      • bill shockley

         /  October 16, 2014

        This is a super-short interview with Shakhova, posted a few days ago, where she wonders the same thing herself.

        I know there was a meeting a couple years ago at the White House, where an Australian arctic scientist, Duarte, was invited to talk to a bunch of government scientists about what is going on in the arctic. The press was informed ahead of time that the meeting would take place and then afterwards, they went mum and would neither confirm nor deny whether the meeting happened. The episode was covered by Nafeez Ahmed on The Guardian.

        The military has a keen interest in global warming and is well informed.

        There’s this presentation by a military historian based on his book:
        Youtube: Gwynne Dyer on Climate Wars
        Gwynne Dyer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwynne_Dyer

        Reply
        • I can tell you that military is now developing scenarios based on methane release and a more rapid response from the Earth system to climate change than now considered in the mainstream science. The military is very concerned as this can rapidly destabilize whole regions. Look at the Syrian drought. Look at ISIS. You can’t separate ISIS from climate change related impacts to Syrian. The military is well aware of this impact.

          If you have rapid Arctic warming, you threaten food production, you push droughts into the productive regions. The storms you get are more violent and crop destructive. We see some of this now. But we are just at the start. This year, we dodged a bit of a bullet with the El Niño holding off. India is a bit dry, but nowhere near as dry as it would have been. Asia dodged a bullet. And record acres planted has averted most shortages and even swelled some stores. But record acres planted means more land converted to farmland and that means more deforestation. And the record acres planted still occurred over a backdrop of serious climate related damages to productive regions. So there is a struggle underlying the success this year. And if you go region by region you find that stresses and risks abound.

          This is in the context of rapid Arctic warming and ramping impacts from climate change.

      • bill shockley

         /  October 16, 2014

        Shakhova link:

        Doh!

        Reply
        • I think that sums things up quite nicely. I must say that I can sympathize with Shakhova in this.

          In the end, those who are pushing for rapid response to the climate crisis oppose very powerful interests. Interests that have been around for a long time and hold a stake in delaying action for as long as possible.

          I doubt that D&A are directly related to those interests. But in that the mainstream science provides more time for action than in the case of a more rapid potential methane release, this science would be extraordinarily threatening to, say, interests looking to continue to exploit fossil fuels well into the future.

          The issue is that if release of Arctic methane is more imminent, then end climate sensitivity, or at least ECS sensitivity, is much higher. And that presents a huge problem for those who wish to delay policy.

          By contrast, Archer’s slow thaw hypothesis would be much more appealing.

      • bill shockley

         /  October 16, 2014

        “…and of course, if so, why? (money, politics, religion, spite, etc….)”

        Goethe said: “Grand ideas and great conceit lead to horrible mischief.”

        Could be something along those lines. Or all of the above. Spite? Unequivocally, definitely! LOL

        Reply
      • Good questions that are tough to answer except that it seems most institutions are resistant to change. I do find it a bit odd, though, considering Hansen raised the methane flag last decade and leading voices continue to show concern over the issue.

        Reply
      • bill shockley

         /  October 16, 2014

        “You can’t separate ISIS from climate change related impacts to Syrian. The military is well aware of this impact.”

        Not to mention the immigration troubles on the border with Mexico. How much of that is climate driven? None, if your source is the mainstream media.

        Reply
      • bill shockley

         /  October 16, 2014

        House amended the NDAA recently to prohibit spending by the millitary on climate research using NDAA funds.
        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/23/pentagon-climate-change_n_5382067.html

        Vote was almost straight down party lines.

        I tracked this down based on a comment by Jeremy Jackson in one of his videos that was posted here. He had said something about “no new climate research” in the context of talking about our “representatives” in Congress.

        He has three videos on Youtube and they are tremendous. Thankyou to whomever it was that posted that!

        Reply
        • Well, at least democrats aren’t completely stupid and ignorant when it comes to climate change. We can certainly find that they don’t act rapidly enough in many cases. But blaming them for a Republican obstinance is blind and counter-productive.

      • bill shockley

         /  October 16, 2014

        Sorry, poor wording. But I did point out the party split in the voting.

        Reply
  9. Apneaman

     /  October 16, 2014

    Gwynne Dyer is a great writer and journalists. In Canada, his work only appears in independent papers now, because he tells the truth. He is highly critical of much of Israel’s behavior, so the main stream papers banned him. The big newspapers in Canada are owned by people who are pro Israel BAU.

    For anyone interested in the CBC radio version of Climate Wars, narrated by Gwynne here is the link. It’s a few years old, but it still stands. (3 parts)

    http://gwynnedyer.com/radio/

    Reply
  10. Is there the possibility that this is being silenced as there is no way to spin a positive, deny or in any way sugar coat this?

    If the true scope & numbers, trends are released then any 9th grade high school science teacher can easily do the math, thus it jeopardizes the basic population control?

    If something so simple to connect with just a couple of dots (no need for a complex mathematical model here) then the fog of confusion that keeps people from panicking is blown away, and becomes common knowledge and can not be disputed, the gig is up.

    Just pondering why, what motive would cause such a thing would happen such that this valuable information needs to be suppressed.

    Reply
    • We have a fossil fuel interest that occupies 60-70 percent of Congress, 55 percent of the presidency, and that dominates major swaths of the economy. We have a petro state to our north who won’t let scientists talk to media and is twisting politicians around the world to accept the highest carbon oil imaginable. We have China that runs on coal to which major US ‘interests’ are selling fracking as a solution (as ludicrous as that sounds). We have an Australia Prime Minister who baldly says that coal is good for people. 1/4 of the top richest people in the US hold most of their interest in fossil fuels. These wealthy persons are the most politically active of a politically active group. If the oil companies go down, Wall Street looks pretty much a shambles for some years to come.

      The old growth interests (new collapse interests) simply won’t let go without one heck of a fight.

      Reply
      • The last one to die, still dies. They just don’t get it.

        Reply
        • They are bringing instability and extremism — first to the world, then directly to their doorsteps. They are the rulers of Viking Greenland and Easter Island. They are short-sighted and invested in doing everything possible not to change.

    • Weir Bohnd

       /  October 16, 2014

      “You can never be too rich or too thin.”

      The first part of that saying is incontrovertably true. The second part is obviously an exageration.

      The information in question is not valuable, it is value destroying. The risk is that under enough pressure politicians might discover they do have spines and raise a little rebellion against their masters on Wall Street and The City. You know, those doers of god’s work. I think the MoU’s do not wish to test the thesis that Mammon is all powerful. They would not want the risk that some eager beavers might dam up the money river. It’s all they live for.

      I think there must be a reason they call it the ROYAL Society. I do not find it surprising that it does not want the boat rocking any more than it already is. I do believe Maggie’s spawn, the IPCC, was created to keep science on a leash. The Spice must flow.

      The time for effective pre-emptive violence is behind us. Milton Friedman was not strangled in the cradle and thus our chance was lost.

      Reply
      • I think, given the current level of wealth and resources that it’s absolutely possible to make a number of very positive and effective changes. We should remember that Milton Friedman was not new, nor was his ideology. It’s just that the ideology was greatly marginalized in the 30s and 40s and it’s horror was enough to keep it out of vogue (though it still existed) until the 70s.

        We are living in a guilded age where the concerns of the environment or people lives and well being must bow to the consideration of money. But we are learning that the limits and the failures are much worse, much harder than at the end of the guilded age.

        In any case, we absolutely have enough power to enact positive change. It just takes organization and action. 350 is a minor example of what can be done. But, yes, we could certainly be doing so much more.

        Reply
  11. Dave Person

     /  October 16, 2014

    Hi Folks,
    I think it too early to be concerned about reports from SWERUS-C3. I am sure the teams of scientists involved are analyzing data like mad and preparing papers for publication. It may be they are closed mouth until ready to publish, which could be a sign of important information forthcoming. Remember Carl Sagan’s statement, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary data”. The action of the Royal Society with respect to S&S is perplexing. Did they respond to Shakova’s letter? Regardless, S&S will prepare manuscripts and if the data are good, will get published. There were also many other scientists on the SWERUS expedition who will also get things published. We just have to be patient. At present, and of course my view is subject to change pending more data, I believe the fear of a great “methane” coverup is no more rational than believing thousands of scientists are conspiring to create a “global warming hoax”.

    dave

    Reply
    • Apneaman

       /  October 16, 2014

      It’s kinda hard to show the Royal Society the data when they don’t want to see it.

      Reply
    • I doubt there is a great methane cover up. Just institutional resistance to ‘extraordinary claims’ in the backdrop of the political and economic conflict over responding to climate change. Such conflict may have indirectly influenced the exchange and added difficulty to S&S efforts. But, yes, we shouldn’t puff it up to an all encompassing conspiracy, though we should also not ignore a context in which some scientists have been gagged (even at the national level — Canada), and that attacks against observational scientists showing the effects of climate change have been rampant (Mann).

      Reply
    • Absolutely.

      Been tracking this trend since early October.

      We have a very hot pool of water off the US NE in conjunction with cooler water near Greenland amplifying the storm track. Strong Rossby wave propagation through North America strengthening the storm track.

      Reply
    • Looking back at Hansen and Sato’s work today shows they aren’t dismissive of potential methane hydrate destabilisation, although they state it is unlikely within the temperature envelope of previous interglacials, which we shall soon blow through. The fact that someone with his record isn’t dismissive concerns me.

      And those observed Arctic methane spikes on top of a recent gradual rise do seem to be taken seriously by people with Arctic experience like Box.

      Even if ocean shelf hydrates turn out not to be a big problem in the near to medium turn I would still be concerned about permafrost. Robert quotes the expert opinion that 10-35% of current human releases may come from this source this century, which is higher than our budget, certainly at the 35% level – suggesting warming could acquire independence from human drivers. We have seen recent work on cave stalactites suggesting we are close to the melt threshold in Russia

      I was reminded of this study by Beerling et al looking at the Early Eocene, where a terrestrial carbon source from permafrost degradation was suggested:

      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v484/n7392/abs/nature10929.html

      With a warmer wetter Arctic I would expect more of it to come out as methane than at present. Action now to decarbonise rapidly should not be hindered by deniers latching onto egotistical academic spats to discredit the arguments.

      Reply
    • I think that this assertion is far too premature. We don’t have enough information to make this claim. In any case, if Greg is saying that the vast stores of carbon in the Arctic will not respond to the human heat forcing and, under BAU, at volumes potentially high enough to risk a mini-runaway, then he leaves us open for terrible disappointment.

      Reply
    • I’d also like to issue a fair warning that the ends of this debate, as they have been framed in the popular media are highly artificial.

      On the one end, we have the down players who claim, in the vein of Archer, that Arctic methane and carbon release is not an issue of consequence for hundreds to as much as 1,000 years. This is the source of the ‘methane is not a thing’ argument.

      On the other end of the popular debate, we have ‘the world is going to end within 30 years due to methane release argument.’ This side of the argument is highly speculative, fear driven, and jumps to immediate conclusions. This lends strength to the first group, which can now seem rational in the face of what appears to be irrational fear.

      Between these two groups are the observational scientists. If they raise a warning, the first group can immediately associate them with those who are running around in fear over the methane release risk. So any heightened risk that falls between the extremes of no risk for 1,000 years and immediate extraordinary risk is immediately painted with the extraordinary risk brush. The net result is to, unfortunately, hush anyone who has valid concerns over methane release and who would actually work to paint a more realistic picture of what is happening in the Arctic.

      17 teragrams from the ESAS alone is not insignificant as some would have you believe, nor is it the end of the world as others seem to imply. The way we should read this larger than expected release, of a size comparable to a major industrial nation’s methane emission, is that it represents potential risk. A risk we should not ignore and that we should remain aware of so that we are not unpleasantly surprised after the fact.

      The magnitude of the potential risk, even in the event of a release that is in the moderate range such that Arctic carbon release, including methane, has the potential to achieve a significant fraction of the human emission, is extraordinary and represents a hazard that an environmental runaway, outside the inexorably building human heat forcing, may occur. Any ongoing release of this kind would eventually be catastrophic and should be avoided at all costs.

      This risk lends urgency to efforts to rapidly reduce the human greenhouse gas emission and to take measures that render societies net carbon negative. As such, the risk should neither be ignored nor should it be over-played. Rational concern — not denial, not hysteria — is the appropriate response. We have more than enough evidence for plausible concern, both in the present observational record and in the paleoclimate record that large scale release and mini runaway could happen.

      There are numerous scientists who do not downplay this risk including Hansen, Sato, Tyson, and hundreds of other Arctic observational specialists who have continued to record an increasing carbon release from the Arctic environment from multiple single sources and who identify very large volumes of carbon that could be at risk.

      This renders essential that the massive and potentially far larger volumes of carbon that could be burned as fossil fuels are left in the ground and that a shift to renewable energy and low/negative carbon based civilization occur as swiftly as possible.

      We should not ignore risk. This, ironically, inflates fears and leads to unexpected and counter productive social outcomes. Nor should we bow to hysterics. Instead we should move with purpose and due urgency in the face of a rising threat — one that we most certainly pose to ourselves, and one that the Arctic environment threatens to contribute to.

      Reply
  12. Gerald Spezio

     /  October 16, 2014

    Much, if not all, of our life or death controversy concerns the empiricist philosophy of science versus the modeling/deductive/pure theory philosophy of science.
    There are some easily grasped but deep intellectual roots of our heated dispute between modelers David Archer/Gavin Schmidt and hard nosed empiricists Igor Semiletov/Natalia Shakhova.
    May I suggest a stimulating & very insightful discussion focusing on David Stove’s attack on David Hume’s arguments against induction & Hume’s very willing altar boy – the muddleheaded philosopher of “irrational” science, Karl Popper.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popper_and_After

    Some of Nick Breeze’s “inductive observations” at the Royal Society conference;

    On the other side of the debate stands the modellers. David Archer (not present at the event) is referred to as the “go to man” on Arctic methane. Archer says that no risk is posed from methane releases from Arctic shelves such as the one in Eastern Siberia. To represent this view at the Royal Society meeting was Dr Gavin Schmidt, the newly positioned Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute For Space Studies.

    Dr. Schmidt presented his modelling data, positing that there is no evidence such a risk exists. This is as a result of his examination of the data record of the Holocene period; a period of climate stability in which we and many other species have flourished. There are other scientists who look at our unprecedented climate situation and conclude that this is the beginning of the “Anthropocene”; a period of climate driven by human activity.
    Schmidt does acknowledge there was a huge methane release way back in the geological record but states that the world was a very different place then and we cannot draw conclusions from it.

    Schmidt’s view is based much more on modelling data and theory, which is viewed with suspicion by some, due to the inability of the models to keep pace in real-time with the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice. The argument goes that if you cannot get the model to reproduce what is happening today, how can you draw conclusions of what the sea ice will do in 10, 20 or 100 years? All scientists use models, and they are very useful in looking at climate and their results are always getting better, as both the technological capacity, and the scientists understanding of Earth system processes gets better.

    Dr Schmidt’s presentation was especially crafted to dispel the idea of a risk from methane releases and to directly discredit the work of Shakhova et al. Even when he mentioned the word methane, he did so encouraging the audience to make horror noises.

    http://climatechangepsychology.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/nick-breeze-gavin-schmidt-tweeting-on.html

    Reply
  13. Gerald Spezio

     /  October 16, 2014

    A genuine intellectual feast for those who believe that probabilistic truth exists & toiling humans using good science can know that truth by induction.
    Empirical scientists such as Semiletov & Shakhova are living proof.

    A delightful sample;

    In Jaynes’s Bayesian revival of Laplace’s view, probability theory asks what degree of belief in an uncertain proposition is logically necessary, given all and only the information one has (which may include but is not limited to that obtained from random experiments). A probability is thus a measure of a state of knowledge and may change as this state is updated even when the system under study remains itself unchanged.

    As a start to understanding Jaynes’s approach, let us consider the process of drawing inferences. In introductory philosophy courses it is not unusual to see induction naively presented as “the opposite of” deduction. Deduction always draws assured consequences from the premises but will never tell us anything that was not already in the premises; specifically, if the premises represent what we know, deduction cannot tell us anything we didn’t know to begin with. Induction, on the other hand, works backward from empirical facts to general principles. In this way it can tell us something new, but it will never guarantee its revelations.

    http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/honesty-in-inference

    Reply
    • bill shockley

       /  October 16, 2014

      Nice. This is exactly true and totally applicable here. The law of gravitation is not deduced, it is induced. It is the result of fitting a curve to data points and is applied using extrapolation.

      There is a dominating force governing the acceleration of falling objects. That is what we call gravity. There is at least one common opposing force–air or wind resistance. That becomes more of a factor as the speed of the object increases. A negative feedback. I wish someone would tell me what, fundamentally, is different about suicidally declining sea-ice and an object falling through the atmosphere.

      Reply
  14. Ann

     /  October 16, 2014

    Like Robert Vella, above, I have a feeling that there might be a political component to this non-invitation to the conference. U.S. officials seem to be going out of their way to shoot many holes in their own feet in order to symbolically insult Russians. Canada (the most extreme U.S. boot licker, after the U.K.) even refused to issue visas to Russian scientists and astronauts to a conference:

    http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/canada-rejects-visas-of-russian-delegates-to-attend-space-conference/

    I’m pleased to see you address this issue in a specific post, Robert. I will forward the link far and wide. We may never know the reason for this snub, but we need to raise awareness anyway.

    Reply
  15. This reminds me of the current state of New Testament / Church History “scholarship” where all ideas on the historical existence of Jesus (Ben So-and-so) are denounced, marginalized and excluded save the one popular with conservatives therein: an apocalyptic prophet whose career is a reasonable approximation of that of the Jesus of the Gospels.

    No one aside from a few individuals are harmed, mind you, and even then it’s not physical and existential when this sort of thing goes on in Religious Studies. It’s completely the opposite when it’s going on on the physical science especially when the whole biosphere is at stake, as it is in this case.

    Reply
  16. Apneaman

     /  October 16, 2014

    “Canada (the most extreme U.S. boot licker….”)
    Lol. Sad but true. Alas, it was not always this obvious or extreme. It was only about a dozen years ago when Canadians were marching it the streets of our cities ( a quarter million alone in Montreal) protesting the invasion of Iraq and the prime minister refused to go without UN sanction. My my how quickly we have become cowed by Harper’s authoritarian regime and propaganda. Most people I know are silent on every issue that matters. Happy in their electronic intoxication and materialism. I can hardly bear to be around my own family anymore except for the little ones.

    Reply
  17. Peter Malsin

     /  October 16, 2014

    For some time the Climate Reanalyzer’s map of SST’s has shown the waters at the top of the globe to be a study in red– North Atlantic SST today for ex is 1.82 C above baseline. No two events in history are ever exactly the same and I can’t help but wonder if the modelers are underestimating the role of exceptionally warm water almost throughout the Arctic region.

    Reply
  18. JPL

     /  October 16, 2014

    There was a mention in the comments above about climate change impacts to Mexico. I came across this interactive graphic that attempts to model changes in North American precip under the RCP 8.5 scenario. Not pretty. That would put tremendous pressure Mexico if the future unfolded like that.

    http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/our-changing-climate/precipitation-change#graphic-16691

    That site has a ton of info and graphics to sift through. Probably been posted here before but I hadn’t come across it until recently:
    http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/

    John

    Reply
  19. wili

     /  October 16, 2014

    Here is Gavin Schmidt’s response to my query about this topic over at RealClimate:

    “it’s mostly nonsense. At the RS meeting on sea ice a few weeks ago there were two presentations that mentioned about the Shakhova et al ‘methane time bomb’ scenario – one by Peter Wadhams which was pro and one by me which was more sceptical (in both cases it was only part of the larger presentation). Some of the more ‘out there’ supporters of Shakhova et al – many associated with AMEG- seem to be unhappy that that there was any criticism at all, and have taken to making up stories about the meeting. Claims that observations were ‘rubbished’ or that the Russians were attacked (perhaps as part of some geopolitical agenda) are just made up. The audio of the sessions is available at the RS website, and my slides are available too. There was a lot of tweeting at the time #RSArctic14 and so you can see what audience impressions were. Stoat has a good blog post on the rather odd aftermath. – gavin”

    http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=17588 (#98)

    Let me be clear that, though I do find Schmidt and Archer to be sometime a bit to dismissive of possibilities of methane release, I also have found some of the work coming from the AMEG group to be…flawed at best. The Stoat response is sure to be snarky, smart and entertaining, as usual, but not necessarily truly illuminating. I may not have time to track down the RS audio or other relevant sources mentioned very soon, so if others felt so moved…it would be appreciated.

    We have real FF monsters to confront. It is disheartening to have extreme vitriol among scientists who all should be basically on the same basic side.

    Reply
  20. Peter Malsin

     /  October 16, 2014

    Schmidt has effectively joined the camp pushing the metanarrative minimizing what is happening on the ground, now.

    Reply
  21. wili

     /  October 16, 2014

    Yeah, I didn’t mean to lump S&S in with them. I guess I fell into gavin’s misdirect there, a bit.

    I want to remind everyone that very few scientists have long-term first-hand knowledge of the ESAS. Of the handful of who do, S&S and Wadhams are among the most prominent to my knowledge. Unless there is some objective reason to dismiss their credential as scientist (which I have not seen), their voices should take precedence over most others about what is happening in that area, it seems to me.

    (Hank Roberts made the same point some time ago on RC, iirc, but he seems to be willing to join in the smear at Stoat rather willingly.)

    Reply
    • In a way, AMEG is a kind of strawman for this discussion. They are group of scientists with some rather highly elevated concerns on methane release, true. But they are more a forum for addressing he most extreme concerns/fears. The observational science ongoing is outside of their broader purview and should be considered as such. In addition, framing the issue as Schmidt vs AMEG again just keeps the frame in the context of very slow (1,000 year) Arctic carbon release vs very fast (immediate NTHE release). In my view, the context is completely irrational as it continues to invalidate observations on the ground that may well establish a far more realistic subset and a far better and more concrete context for discussion. So, absolutely, the framing is arbitrary and artificial.

      Reply
  22. Chris in SLC

     /  October 16, 2014

    Thanks as always for your attention to even the small details of these issues. I hope you will do some follow-up reporting on the Royal Society’s response, rationale, etc.

    Reply
  23. Dr. Richard Alley on Undersea Methane

    Reply
    • Exactly. And why, oh, why, would we want to shut off observation of one of the key uncertainties.

      In other words–

      S&S: “that landing zone looks too risky for comfort.”

      S: “We do not like what we see. Do not like.”

      Reply
    • Gerald Spezio

       /  October 17, 2014

      Here is a linear print quote of Alley’s position about abrupt methane release.
      I think that he will have to eat crow big time in the near future.
      “There were worries about the possibility of giant methane belches changing the world almost instantly,” he said. “Now, we have fairly high confidence that there are safety valves. Giant methane belches are not the big worry.”

      Reply
  24. Apneaman

     /  October 16, 2014

    More evidence for who runs/owns the world. The industry does not matter cause they are all the same. No amount of evidence or asking nicely or policy change will ever change these people. They own everyone and their status and wealth trump your kids lives and humanities continuation.

    Privatized Ebola

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26861-privatized-ebola

    Reply
  25. Jay M

     /  October 17, 2014

    can we somehow use homo colossus in overshoot to glide down the carbon burn
    burning it slowly in small quantities might be beneficial in the future for special needs –certainly not to enable authoritarian states
    coal use and petroleum distillation need to be regulated

    Reply
  26. james cole

     /  October 17, 2014

    It does all remind one of Easter Island. That story is a lesson. But don’t sell deniers short, there are even serious attempts now to revise the lessons of Easter Island. They are pathetic and I refuse to even repeat what they are. But the lesson of Easter Island is incredible. Somebody did wake up in the morning, walk over to the last tree on the island and find a reason to chop the sucker down! We are going to find some guy who will burn the last barrel of oil, and think himself a great man for being the one to do it. Only when he burns it, he may be the last man standing on nearly dead planet.
    But, I see the direction is still to burn fossil fuels until they are gone, or just too expensive to produce.

    Reply
  27. Closer to the equator:

    A heat wave that began to grip central parts of South America on Tuesday will build over the next few days bringing near record heat to some areas.

    Temperatures will average 6-12 C (10-20 F) above normal across a large swath of South America through the weekend.

    Cities that will experience the extreme heat include Asuncion in Paraguay, Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia and Sao Paulo and Brasilia in Brazil.

    http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/heat-wave-continues-across-bra/35767626

    Reply
  28. Bernard

     /  October 17, 2014

    Stationary aerosol concentration over Brasil since Oct 9th. No shortage of fires.

    Reply
  29. Mark from New England

     /  October 17, 2014

    My former Senator, John Sununu (R-NH), recently penned a very pro-coal op-ed in the Boston Globe titled “The no-coal party’s folly”, which slams the Democrats for supposedly waging a war on coal (we wish!) and concludes with…”Obama thinks that the costs of wiping coal from our energy map – in lost jobs, fewer exports, and higher electricity costs – are worth it. He’s wrong.”

    I wrote this letter in reply and just sent it to the Globe. We’ll see if they publish it:

    In his October 13 op-ed, “The no-coal party’s folly”, former New Hampshire Senator John Sununu illustrates the perils of thinking solely in terms of short-term costs and benefits, without considering long-term consequences. The goal of eliminating coal from not only America’s, but the world’s, energy mix is a necessary but not sufficient condition for preventing catastrophic runaway global warming later this century. I strongly suggest that Senator Sununu read the World Bank’s 2012 report “Turn Down the Heat”, which examines what 4 degrees Celsius of average global warming would mean in terms of drought, erratic rainfall, sea level rise, the spread of disease and the failure of agriculture. As the World Bank put it, “there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible”. Global warming is just getting warmed up; soon it will be going exponential. Of course, any transition away from coal and other fossil fuels should address the employment and community needs of those people and regions formerly dependent on such extractive industries.

    Reply
    • Sununu may well defend coal and all the harm that it is causing. But I doubt Sununu would actually support the aid needed to transition workers to new jobs as a necessary and responsible shut down of the coal industry advances.

      Sununu is double blind on coal. First he’s blind to the harm in continuing its use and, second, he’s blind to how to manage a transition away from coal while still supporting communities and workers.

      He lacks exactly the kind of foresight and wisdom necessary for effective leadership, which is why he is the worst kind of leader — shortsighted, bull-headed, and blundering.

      Great letter, Mark. I hope they publish it!

      Reply
      • Mark from New England

         /  October 17, 2014

        I know – and there are many “Sununus” out there seeking office or re-election this mid-term election. Thanks for liking my letter!

        Reply
        • We fight an uphill battle in the mid terms. The turn-out is smaller and so the elections are more greatly influenced by conservatives traditional strengths — big money bombs and voter antagonization/suppression.

      • Also, Sununu was as equally pro nuclear power (Seabrook) when he was governor of NH.
        He seems sort of morally and ethically bi-polar. At least he’s consistent.🙂
        Nuclear Power Payments Haunt Sununu : Reports Question Seabrook Operator’s Role in New Hampshire
        August 22, 1989|JOE PICHIRALLO | The Washington Post:
        WASHINGTON — When White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu was governor of New Hampshire, his Administration used funds provided by the operator of the Seabrook nuclear power plant to pay half of a top Sununu aide’s salary and the salaries or consulting fees of several other Republicans.

        This disclosure, in the Boston Globe and Concord Monitor newspapers, has provoked criticism from opponents of the Seabrook facility and from New Hampshire Democrats. Robert A. Backus, a lawyer and longtime Seabrook opponent, has charged that the funds were used as “a feeding trough for the politically well-connected in New Hampshire.”…

        Reply
  30. Gerald Spezio

     /  October 17, 2014

    I am hoping that some fellow bloggers are interested in this somewhat obscure info because I think that it is a big part of our Schmidt & Archer vs Semiletov & Shakhova dispute.

    I cannot say that Schmidt is a acolyte of Popper but he surely sounds like Popper.

    David Stove, a deceased Aussie philosopher of science, presents Karl Popper’s own EXPLICIT endorsement of David Hume’s scepticism regarding induction.

    “I agree with Hume’s opinion that induction is invalid and in no sense justified.”[11]
    “Are we rationally justified in reasoning from repeated instances of which we have experience to instances of which we have had no experience? Hume’s unrelenting answer is: No, we are not justified. … My own view is that Hume’s answer to this problem is right.”[12]
    citations below

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popper_and_After

    Reply
  31. Gerald Spezio

     /  October 17, 2014

    Apologies to those who could readily accuse me of behaving like a bird dog who smells a pheasant.
    I smell a rat

    from Shakhova’s letter to the Royal Society is all about her empiricist credentials & empirically gathered data.

    ” … Dr. G. Schmidt was instead invited to discuss the methane issue and explicitly attacked our work using the model of another scholar, whose modelling effort is based on theoretical, untested assumptions having nothing to do with observations in the ESAS. While Dr. Schmidt has expertise in climate modelling, he is an expert neither on methane, nor on this region of the Arctic. Both scientists therefore have no observational knowledge on methane and associated processes in this area. Let us recall that your motto “Nullus in verba” was chosen by the founders of the Royal Society to express their resistance to the domination of authority; the principle so expressed requires all claims to be supported by facts that have been established by experiment.”

    I am confident to claim that Feynman would endorse Shakhova’s empiricist/observational position.

    Reply
  32. Greg Smith

     /  October 17, 2014

    On a side note this short video by Ocean Preservation Society shows us CO2 in our everyday life if we could see in that part of the spectrum. Not sure if they are just capturing IR or IR and more but it gives us a visual we don’t usually have:

    Reply
    • Great visuals, Greg.
      Every bit of ‘real time’ visual information helps.
      Me. being a photographer, puts great store in anything adds to the (I will use a favored book title — if I remember right.) ” The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”.
      Thanks

      Reply
    • Well done. We need more of this.

      Reply
  33. Ann

     /  October 17, 2014

    Robert, the Greenland Surface Melting site is now down. Did they tell you that they were going to re-calibrate?

    Reply
  34. Gerald Spezio

     /  October 17, 2014

    Magnifico Greg, a great techie experiment to show how empirical sense data helps to form a more accurate picture of our world.

    Reply
  35. fusion.net Updated 10/17/2014 12:39 pm
    NEWCASTLE, Australia —Business at the world’s largest coal-exporting port was slowed to a snail’s pace on Friday by a group of Pacific Islanders and environmentalists who blocked the shipping channel with a flotilla of traditional canoes and orange kayaks.

    Reply
    • This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. We need this kind of action at as many coal ports as possible.

      The other side of this story is that the islanders come from locations now under threat from sea level rise. They built these canoes and traveled across the ocean to the port. Of course, the kayakers who joined them were local.

      Reply
    • Apneaman

       /  October 17, 2014

      Personally, I just see this as theater. It will be as effective as the folks at the Russian oil rig last year; long forgotten. The change needed is so radical and the sacrifices are so great (let’s not pretend otherwise) that almost no one will do it willingly. I remember Derrick Jensen said something about people will defend, to the death, the system they know. Industrial civilization is the only thing every living person it the west knows and billions more want it and are well on their way. I’m burnt out, frustrated and feeling resentful; almost raging at times. I really should not be given that I’m well aware that we are status seeking-pleasure seeking primates locked in a system and culture that worships stuff and super hyper stimuli. I think I will just become a silent watcher. Best of luck fellas and ladies.

      Reply
    • Did you notice the picture of the sailboat with the ‘No More Fossil Fuels’ sign. A good touch, that.

      I’m glad to see this blockade and hope we see more and more intense efforts of this kind.

      Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  October 17, 2014

      Good to see how well maintained that coal bulk carrier is.

      Reply
  36. Colorado Bob

     /  October 17, 2014

    Peru Says Country’s Glaciers Shrank 40% in 4 Decades from Climate Change

    Climate change has shrunk Peruvian glaciers by 40 percent in the past four decades and the melt-off has spawned nearly 1,000 new high-altitude lakes since 1980, Peru’s government said on Wednesday.

    Nearly 90 percent of Peruvian glaciers are smaller than 1-square-kilometer, putting them at greater risk of disappearing in coming years, Peru’s water authority said in an update of its glacier inventory from the 1970s.

    http://insideclimatenews.org/todaysnews/20141017/peru-says-countrys-glaciers-shrank-40-4-decades-climate-change

    Reply
    • So much pushing for South America to dry…

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  October 17, 2014

        Nearly 90 percent of Peruvian glaciers are smaller than 1-square-kilometer, putting them at greater risk of disappearing in coming years, Peru’s water authority said in an update of its glacier inventory from the 1970s.

        This is like watching ice cubes melt at pool party in Vegas. The water crisis in South America is about to get really , really bad.

        Reply
    • Spike

       /  October 19, 2014

      Unprecedented recent change in Iceland too:

      Reply
  37. Colorado Bob

     /  October 17, 2014

    Scientists have said the Himalayas are especially vulnerable.

    The current situation in Nepal — the incessant rain, blizzard and avalanche — appears to have been triggered by the tail of Cyclone Hudhud in neighbouring India. The cyclone, reports suggest, was among the strongest storms recorded off the Indian coast.

    “Storms in that region are getting stronger,” said John Stone, an IPCC lead author and adjunct professor at Carleton University in Ottawa. “It is not inconsistent with what scientists have been saying.”

    But Stone is quick to say that it “does not mean any one of these events are directly in response to climate change . . . but by making the atmosphere contain more energy, we have increased the likelihood of more frequent and severe storms.”

    Link

    Reply
    • Your weather is your climate. If the frequency of severe storms has increased, then climate has changed.

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  October 17, 2014

        Amen. ……………. the old saying “does not mean any one of these events are directly in response to climate change . . ” Is holding less and less water .
        In fact it is being flooded by more and more water. Except where there is less and less water.

        Reply
        • 😉

          As an aside, what did you think about the whole Peter Wadhams flap? I’ve tried to avoid it myself. Couldn’t in good conscience keep quiet about S&S, though.

  38. Colorado Bob

     /  October 17, 2014

    Anthropocene: Post-Holocene epoch so affected by humans we should name it after ourselves?

    The Anthropocene Epoch is a name under consideration to describe our present time in geological history. The title was chosen to reflect the great influence of human activities on the modern environment, but will it be accepted by an official body in charge of assigning such names?

    The Holocene epoch began 11,700 years ago, and continues to the current day. But, scientists will soon meet to decide whether or not to recommend naming a new time period in order to reflect the domination of mankind over the Earth.

    A group including climatologists, geologists, ecological researchers and an expert in international law will all meet in Berlin on October 23 and 24 to discuss the question of assigning a new epoch to our current time. Each of the members have been studying the issue since 2009, but this is the first time the working group has met in person.

    The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) is likely to recommend a change, although details of what the group will suggest remains unknown.

    Link

    Reply
  39. Colorado Bob

     /  October 17, 2014

    Orange Sludge Oozes Into Arizona Waterways From Abandoned Mines

    When record breaking rain from former Hurricane Norbert and Hurricane Odile moved into the Southwest last month, residents of Patagonia, Arizona, might have expected local waterways to flood, but they definitely didn’t expect them to turn orange.

    But that’s exactly what happened just outside the sleepy Santa Cruz County town after two local abandoned mines flooded and sent a surge of toxic substances into creeks in the area. Tuscon’s KMSB Fox 11 details how, Gooch Goodwin, a member of the local conservation group the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance (PARA), stumbled upon the orange flow while on a hike weeks ago.

    “It’s dangerous and it’s getting in our waterways,” Goodwin told the station.

    http://www.wunderground.com/news/orange-sludge-arizona-waterways-abandoned-mines-20141017

    Reply
  40. Colorado Bob

     /  October 18, 2014

    Way off topic –

    This week the Roman Church has decided to stop picking on gays. Their ranks are full of gays, and their art was created by gays. Pretty big deal .

    This is a very big deal. The lie that was the Catholic Church may be changing .

    As told my mother , there was no Mrs. Michael Angelo .

    The Catholic Church has a lot to answer for. .

    Reply
  41. Thanks very much for this post. Much appreciated.

    Reply
  42. Gerald Spezio

     /  November 30, 2014

    AGAIN & again & …

    from Shakhova’s letter to the Royal Society about observational knowledge, empiricism, field experimentation, & a wealth of empirically gathered data.

    ” … Dr. G. Schmidt was instead invited to discuss the methane issue and explicitly attacked our work using the model of another scholar, whose modelling effort is based on theoretical, untested assumptions having nothing to do with observations in the ESAS. While Dr. Schmidt has expertise in climate modelling, he is an expert neither on methane, nor on this region of the Arctic. Both scientists therefore have no observational knowledge on methane and associated processes in this area. Let us recall that your motto “Nullus in verba” was chosen by the founders of the Royal Society to express their resistance to the domination of authority; the principle so expressed requires all claims to be supported by facts that have been established by experiment.”

    Reply
  43. Just a question. How is the OH sink created. Where does OH come from. Is there a chance that the methane could use up all the reserves and then methane will only be able to be oxidized at the rate that new OH is created. If the rate of creation is not great, presumably the concentration of methane in the atmosphere would increase markedly.

    Reply
    • Primary formation occurs when electrically charged oxygen reacts with water vapor. It would take a very, very large pulse of methane to exhaust the OH sink.

      Reply
  1. Ignoring the #Arctic #Methane Monster: Royal So...
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