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Scientists Raise Alarm About Methane From Melting Arctic Sea Ice

Arctic Sea Ice 2012

A group of concerned scientists is raising alarm about melting Arctic sea ice and calling for last ditch efforts to save the world from a planetary emergency.

Arctic Sea Ice 1980

Professor Stephen Salter and the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) warned U.K. MP’s that melting Arctic sea ice is leading to the release of methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon-dioxide. If the Arctic becomes completely ice-free in the summer, it could trigger a massive release of methane, thus exacerbating climate change and increasing global temperatures to dangerous new heights.

The AMEG claims that we could be seeing a large-scale release of methane as early as 2015.

Unfortunately, Arctic sea-ice has been melting substantially over the past decade. In particular, for each of the last four years, minimum September levels have seen about two-thirds of the average cover as was seen in 1979-2000. Ice has melted so much that new ice-free shipping lanes have opened up between Europe and Asia.

In response, Salter and the AMEG are calling for “technical fixes” or “geo-engineering” to reverse the effects of climate change in the region.

An initial plan was to bring ships into the Arctic Ocean to spray whitening clouds into the air to reflect incoming solar radiation back into space. But now Salter feels that we don’t have time to build the ships, and instead suggests the construction of towers to spray tiny water droplets into the sky.

However, some have expressed concern that geo-engineering could only make matters worse. For instance, some scientists have argued that spraying the wrong size water particles into the sky (under the cloud-whitening solution) could in fact increase global warming.

And still other scientists remain reluctant to accept that Arctic methane will release as quickly as the AMEG suggests.

Meteorologist Lord (Julian) Hunt, who chaired the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change, stated that a sudden release of methane was not inevitable and that it was instead an “an issue for scientific debate”.

What are your thoughts on melting sea-ice in the Arctic? Would you support geo-engineering solutions to counteract the effects of global warming?

Image courtesy of NASA

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Teresa Speer

    As a retired environmental scientist, I am concerned about the melting sea ice and changes in the Arctic habitat for so many species, however, I do not believe that any sort of intervention will stop the melting.  It is my belief that we should allow the eco systems to balance themselves naturally, without intervention.  In my opinion, I feel that increased oceanic volcanism and excitation of earth’s polar atmosphere, via solar M and X class flares, may be contributing to the increased speed of the melting ice.

  • Harold Hensel

    The thaw lakes from the permafrost are in the process of producing up to 50 billion tons of methane according to Dr. Katey Walter from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dr. Stephen Chu’s research acknowledges the existence of this process. 
    Semiletov et al have estimated about 2100 billion tons of methane in their East Arctic Study zone. They estimate that 50 billion tons of “free methane” can come up any time now. Dr. Malcolm Light has mapped the methane hydrates in the Arctic Ocean and states that two thirds of the available methane is outside Semiletov’s 2011 study zone. Meteorologists do not mention that the Gakkel Ridge runs right into the high concentrations of methane hydrates in the South East corner of the Laptev Sea. One large earthquake in this area and huge amounts of methane hydrates will be disturbed. The Arctic Ocean floor is warming and the permafrost is thawing.  Micha Ruhl from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark estimated that the extinction at the end of the Triassic period was caused by 12,000 billion tons of methane from the sear floor. Yes we are in an emergency situation.

  • Harold Hensel

    Dr. James Lovelock, author Gaia hypothesis, says the world’s climate will balance it’s self out. However, he also states that it will take about 100,000 years. This would be after a major extinction of humans. Dr. Peter Ward says in his book, “The media Hypothesis” that the earth’s climate will not balance itself out. He says we just happen to be living in a habitable time between the earth’s climate swing from one extreme to the other. He says we must intervene if we are going to have a stable climate to live in.  

  • Harold Hensel

     Dr. James Lovelock, author of the  Gaia hypothesis, says the world’s climate
    will balance itself out. However, he also states that it will take
    about 100,000 years. This would be after a major extinction of humans.
    Dr. Peter Ward says in his book, “The media Hypothesis” that the earth’s
    climate will not balance itself out. He says we just happen to be
    living in a habitable time between the earth’s climate swing from one
    extreme to the other. He says we must intervene if we are going to have a
    stable climate.