Arctic permafrost leaking methane at record levels, figures show  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The Guardian reports that methane emission from Siberia are accelerating - Arctic permafrost leaking methane at record levels, figures show.

Scientists have recorded a massive spike in the amount of a powerful greenhouse gas seeping from Arctic permafrost, in a discovery that highlights the risks of a dangerous climate tipping point.

Experts say methane emissions from the Arctic have risen by almost one-third in just five years, and that sharply rising temperatures are to blame.

The discovery follows a string of reports from the region in recent years that previously frozen boggy soils are melting and releasing methane in greater quantities. Such Arctic soils currently lock away billions of tonnes of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, leading some scientists to describe melting permafrost as a ticking time bomb that could overwhelm efforts to tackle climate change.

They fear the warming caused by increased methane emissions will itself release yet more methane and lock the region into a destructive cycle that forces temperatures to rise faster than predicted.

Paul Palmer, a scientist at Edinburgh University who worked on the new study, said: "High latitude wetlands are currently only a small source of methane but for these emissions to increase by a third in just five years is very significant. It shows that even a relatively small amount of warming can cause a large increase in the amount of methane emissions."

Global warming is occuring twice as fast in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth. Some regions have already warmed by 2.5C, and temperatures there are projected to increase by more than 10C by 2100 if carbon emissions continue to rise at current rates.

Palmer said: "This study does not show the Arctic has passed a tipping point, but it should open people's eyes. It shows there is a positive feedback and that higher temperatures bring higher emissions and faster warming."

The change in the Arctic is enough to explain a recent increase in global methane levels in the atmosphere, he said. Global levels have risen steadily since 2007, after a decade or so holding steady.

The new study, published in the journal Science, shows that methane emissions from the Arctic increased by 31% from 2003-07. The increase represents about 1m extra tonnes of methane each year. Palmer cautioned that the five-year increase was too short to call a definitive trend.

The Guardian also has an article from George Monbiot on a "national outpouring of idiocy" in Britain in the wake of the recent cold snap - Britain's cold snap does not prove climate science wrong.
It's as predictable a feature of the British winter as log fires and roasting chestnuts: a national outpouring of idiocy every time some snow falls.

Here's what Martyn Brown says in today's Express:
As one of the worst winters in 100 years grips the country, climate experts are still trying to claim the world is growing warmer.

There's a clue as to where he might have gone wrong in that sentence: "country" has a slightly different meaning to "world". Buried at the bottom of the same article is the admission that " ... other areas including Alaska, Canada and the Mediterranean were warmer than usual." But that didn't stop Brown from using the occasion to note that "critics of the global warming lobby said the public were no longer prepared to be conned into believing that man-made emissions were adding to the problem."

The ability to distinguish trends from complex random events is one of the traits that separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. It is also the basis of all science; detecting patterns, distinguishing between signal and noise, and the means by which the laws of physics, chemistry and biology are determined. Now we are being asked to commit ourselves to the wilful stupidity of extrapolating a long-term trend from a single event.

The Express would have us return to the days in which the future course of human affairs could be predicted by solar eclipses and the appearance of comets. It has clearly made a calculated decision in recent months that climate scepticism plays to its readership - and therefore shifts papers - just as the daily drip-feed of conspiracy theories about Princess Diana and Madeleine McCann has done in the past.

Brown is by no means alone in his idiocy. On Sunday, the Telegraph and the Mail published almost identical articles; one by Christopher Booker, the other by his long-term collaborator, Richard North. Both claimed that the Met Office had predicted a mild winter, and that it had made this prediction because it has been "hijacked" by a group of fanatics - led first by its former chief executive Sir John Houghton, now by the current boss Robert Napier - who stand accused of seeking to to corrupt forecasts to make them conform to their theories on climate change.

If this story were true, it would be huge: the UK's official weather forecasting service is deliberately changing its forecasts to make them fit a political agenda. It would also be fantastically stupid, as forecasts can always be checked against delivery. Booker and North offer no evidence to support this humongous conspiracy theory, just a load of unrelated facts cobbled together in the usual fashion.


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