The methane hydrate melting problem

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The methane hydrate melting problem

Postby JamesNewell » 04 Mar 2014, 17:39

The speed of things is slow enough to be worrisome. About 15 years ago, I tried to get a public debate going on the methane hydrate melting problem, but without success. In the past year, scientists have begun talking about the methane hydrate problem.

The increasing methane hydrate melting will make global warming worse than the computer models of the last few years, but how much worse is unknown because nobody knows how much methane hydrate there is. We should have surveyed the methane hydrate deposits 15 years ago.

Methane hydrates are a combination of methane and ice, which is found in permafrost, shallow ocean floors and deep ocean floors. Estimates have ranged from the carbon content of several times all commercial fossil fuels ever discovered to hundreds of times all commercial fossil fuels ever discovered. Methane itself is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but it oxidizes in the air with a half life of a little over 12 years, so in the long run, what is important is how much extra carbon dioxide the melting methane hydrate deposits will produce.

If all the methane hydrates were to melt, given the above estimates, the total amount of CO2 after we burn all the fossil fuels would be anywhere from several times the ultimate carbon dioxide in the computer models to hundreds of times the ultimate carbon dioxide in the models. I have major doubts that the hundreds of times estimate is true.

The permafrost and shallow ocean floor methane hydrates are melting now, but the deep ocean deposits are still stable because deep ocean water is still cold. The ocean is very large so it might require a long period of time for water at the deep ocean floors to increase in temperature.

At present, permafrost methane hydrate melting is fairly fast. Researchers have reported that a number of arctic lakes are fizzing with methane bubbles, like soda pop. Probably, shallow ocean floors in areas where the floating ice doesn't melt during the summer aren't seeing their methane hydrate deposits melt yet.

Thus, what is about to happen is uncertain. This might merely make the global warming somewhat worse at a fairly slow rate. Or the methane hydrate melting might be going on fast enough that we are almost in an emergency situation.

Notice that there is no widespread public debate going on about the methane hydrate problem.


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