Monday, December 12, 2011

Bubble, bubble, natural gas is trouble

From Greenframe this pointer to an article in the Independent about methane emissions near the northern Siberian coast, where

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

"Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," Dr Semiletov said. "I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them."

Of course, this is right in the Northern Passage area. Hopefully none of the crew on those ships will smoke on deck.


very1silent said...

So did anybody presentation he is supposed to have given at the AGU? I wasn't able to find a poster or anything.

Steve Bloom said...

There were abstracts for talks, although I've heard nothing of the talks themselves. The question is the trend, and unfortunately the comprehensive obs program hasn't been in the field long enough to spot one. OTOH, probably it's good news that they seem not to have spotted an obvious increase from last year, although perhaps material from the just-concluded 2011 campaign (takes place during the autumn ice-free period) wasn't included in the abstracts, or not fully anyway.

BTW, the searchable program had been carefully hidden under the heading "itinerary planner" under "scientific program" on the FM home page, although somebody seems to have noticed the problem and placed a direct link at the top of the latter page.

When you find an interesting abstract, note the session number and then search on it for all the related ones.

Steve Bloom said...

Aha, I see that article makes clear that these were this year's obs. But still nothing about the trend.

Russell said...

" Hopefully none of the crew on those ships will smoke on deck."


If CH4 in the air being sucked into the engine room exceeds the explosion limit, it would be cruel and unusual to deny the condemned their last Sobranie, or Player's Navy Cut.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.

"Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed."

Hmmm. Well maybe that's because the earth is billions of years old and Dr. Semiletov existence is .000000000000000000000000000001 of earth's history. Dr. Semiletov might be shocked to find out that there has been far more methane and far more co2 in the atmosphere. But since the earth eliminated the excess gases by itself, we dare not mention that the earth will just do it again.

What is Dr. Semiletov's reference point? His lifetime? That is pathetic.

J Bowers said...

Judging by the tone, DrJCPhD appears to be worried.

chek said...

IIRC a conversation with Dr. Kay Hershey PhD and bar in tautology, the greatest risk isn't to some unlucky sailor accidentally igniting atmospheric methane, but from the change in the bouyancy characteristics of water when mixed with large quantities of gas.

The good Dr Hershey PhD (tautology, Oxon. Pfeffer Katzenellenbogen Super Mare) reminded me of research by May & Monaghan of Monash University: "Sonar surveys of the ocean floor in the North Sea (between Britain and continental Europe) have revealed large quantities of methane hydrates and eruption sites,” May and Monaghan wrote in their report, published in the American Journal of Physics.

“A recent survey revealed the presence of a sunken vessel within the center of one particularly large eruption site, now known as the Witches Hole.”

“One proposed sinking mechanism attributes the vessel’s loss of buoyancy to bubbles of methane gas released from an erupting underwater hydrate,” they wrote. “The known abundance of gas hydrates in the North Sea, coupled with the vessel’s final resting position and its location in the Witches Hole, all support a gas bubble theory.”

Imagine if they gave an open NW passage, and nobody could come.

Anonymous said...

Steve Bloom,

Going back, this press release for the Shakhova et al (Semiletov is 2nd author) March 5, 2010 Science paper gives the estimate from the East Siberian Shelf as of 2009 (~7 teragrams - 8 million tons – yearly) as quoted in Independent article. The imbedded 3 1/2 video of Shakhova’s comments is worth watching.

I couldn’t find anything else on the AGU meeting site where there is actually quantification of any more recent data than in the Science paper to support “the latest expedition suggests this is a significant underestimate of the phenomenon” quote in the Independent. Presumably, Semiletov seeing much larger venting features "this time" was during September of this year. I don’t have a good handle on all the British Press, but the use of “shock” and “deadly” in the headline and “exclusive interview” in the 3rd paragraph set my hype alert to condition orange.

If you haven’t already read it, the full 2010 Science paper is free at:


Anonymous said...

scas, PhD, President of the USA, King of the Royal Society

There's a bit more here...

The ice is retreating, the oceans are warming, the methane is degassing...and people are sleeping, falling ever deeper into denial.

Abrupt climate change yippee!!!

Anonymous said...

The Russians have studied the problem of Clatherates etc...


Tenney Naumer said...

Here is their AGU session:

Note especially the "flipbook" - link located on first page in the white banner at top.

James Crabb said...

Shakhova, one of the first to write about the increased Methane release from beneath the East Siberian Sea stated that rapid release of reservoir could occur at any time, this is now occuring. It seems that the “Methane burp” effect can now be measured real time.

I give it 5 years tops before it's 50degC at night and I see the only option is to build sunken Abodes with Greenhouses and developing Nanotech as hope, anything else is just death and denialism.

Hank Roberts said...

> CH4 in the air being sucked into the engine room

That'd be a quantity more typical of a single point -- a gas well blowout -- than bubbles across a wide area of sediment

That's what blew up the deepwater drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico:

BP blowout, Houston-area explosion have ties to diesel engines ...
. ... known as a runaway diesel engine, or diesel overspeed. ... explosive vapor, like the methane gas that came up