Sunday, November 24, 2013

Eli and the Weasel

While Eli counts the Weasel as a frienemey (they jump about stupidly and eat bunnies you know), the Rabett does think that he is a tad too attracted to the economically attractive counterfactual.   Still, on many things we are friends in fur, and on the immediate threat of methane emissions bubbling out of the Arctic ocean in moderate agreement.

There are others pushing that peanut, amongst the now most active, Natalia Shakhova from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladavostok, and, humor abounds in such things, the University of Alaska Fairbanks who works out of the Akasofu Building.  Shakhova and colleagues have published a new paper in Nature

Vast quantities of carbon are stored in shallow Arctic reservoirs, such as submarine and terrestrial permafrost. Submarine permafrost on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf started warming in the early Holocene, several thousand years ago. However, the present state of the permafrost in this region is uncertain. Here, we present data on the temperature of submarine permafrost on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf using measurements collected from a sediment core, together with sonar-derived observations of bubble flux and measurements of seawater methane levels taken from the same region. The temperature of the sediment core ranged from −1.8 to 0 °C. Although the surface layer exhibited the lowest temperatures, it was entirely unfrozen, owing to significant concentrations of salt. On the basis of the sonar data, we estimate that bubbles escaping the partially thawed permafrost inject 100–630 mg methane m−2d−1 into the overlying water column. We further show that water-column methane levels had dropped significantly following the passage of two storms. We suggest that significant quantities of methane are escaping the East Siberian Shelf as a result of the degradation of submarine permafrost over thousands of years. We suggest that bubbles and storms facilitate the flux of this methane to the overlying ocean and atmosphere, respectively.
with paper flaking going on over at Climate Central.   Eli has some questions about this paper, to be discussed later, for example mixing from storms could enhance solvation and reaction of the methane in the ocean as well as release it to the atmosphere, but here, the Bunny would simply point to methane column density (the amount of methane between the surface and the top of the atmophere) as measured by the SCIAMACHY probe during the summers between 2003 and 2005, the time of year, when, according to Shakhova the emissions from the Siberian coast would be strongest

The emissions from the Arctic do not appear to dominate at that point in time. 

UPDATE:  Here is another map showing the same thing.  Note that the major emissions are across the middle of Siberia, not as one of our fans said, near the Siberian coast



Sou said...

Does the paper find more is escaping or is it simply reporting the latest measurements? The abstract suggests the former but an article I read about the paper suggested the latter.

(I don't have a subs to nature.)

Anonymous said...

"The emissions from the Arctic do not appear to dominate at that point in time. "

Did the Shakhova paper claim that they did?

More specifically, are the plots (plural) that you link to inconsistent with the actual Shakhova results? (eg, that 17 teragrams per year were being released from East Siberia Arctic Shelf )

How (quantifiably) can you tell (one way or the other) from those plots that you linked to?

Anonymous said...

"The emissions from the Arctic do not appear to dominate at that point in time. "

It's not even clear what you mean by "dominate"

Jim Prall said...

I think it is clear enough what is meant by "dominate," to wit, "show up as large blobs of hot colours pink & red." The satellite data are quite illustrative of what you'll hear in a survey course on carbon cycle and methane: key sources are oil & gas extraction (fugitive emissions); rice paddies; livestock; wetlands and rainforests.
The hottest colours in the SCIAMACHY figure (NH summer) show the hottest hotspot over China and SE Asia - the sum of large-scale rice cultivation and Chinese heavy industry. Similar factors account for a less extreme zone over the Indian subcontinent.
The U.S. great plains are another large 'warm' spot, which we can chalk up to intensive (and extensive) cattle ranching (with a side order of oil & gas, frakking etc.)
Both China's and the US's large hotspots show really long downwind plumes extending right across the Pacific and Altantic oceans resp.
Note how the Arctic ocean along Russia's north coast shows the NH 'background' level in the ~1760's ppb, pretty uniformly, with a few freckles above or below this.
Questions this map raises for me: (a) why do the Himalayas produce a "cool spot" downwind so much below the well-mixed NH background? and (b) is there any way to account for a 'warm' spot over the east side of the GIS? Just an eddy of the Eastern US downwind stream?

Kevin O'Neill said...

Wouldn't AIRS data tell us more than SCIAMACHY for the arctic?

Russell Seitz said...

At least one Bayesian Nobel prize prior militates for the creation of a mustelagomorphic chimera, but invoking him might provoke a hail of anti-Godwins.

Susan Anderson said...

Somewhere there was a list of different sources and problems with methane. Now that's useful. But ...

Will somebody please tell me why we should care about individual sources of methane more than the sum of all the different sources? I know this is simplistic, but I am vastly less simplistic than 99% of the population, and if something is to be done we have to stop nitpicking within the academic community, which sounds like escapism by another name to me.

And why exactly is it useful to attack Shakhova, who appears to have been under some kind of gag order about her publication, rather than real climate villains? It might make you feel better, but does it accomplish anything? She may be wrong, but a lot of people seem to want to claim she's causing a whole lot of stuff she has nothing to do with. Does it make you feel better?

Susan Anderson said...

Oh sorry, the thanks are due to Jim Prall for the practical list. I knew I'd seen it here.

EliRabett said...

For pretty much the same reasons that Eli has no patience for Qing Bin Lu and Anastassia Makarieva, let alone Randy Mills.

Susan Anderson said...

OK, I don't know enough. So I had to look up all three. And they are all charlatans, I get it.

But why are you convinced Shakhova belongs in that company?

As I have often said, I like to leave science to scientists. And in any case, I don't think individual methane sources are as important as the bigger picture, so ably presented by Jim Prall.

Now I'm not thrilled to run across you, Eli, because RabettRun is a place I like to think I am at least not unwelcome, and if in the long run I am proven wrong (likely) I will be happy to concede. As noted I don't know enough to judge for myself. But the animus is a botheration to me.

Susan Anderson said...

Well, I see my initial remark was a bit rude. It must have been the beer, sorry. Anyway, I still want to know.

Anonymous said...

Jim, perhaps you know precisely what Eli meant by "dominate"

Dominate what? methane emissions for the entire world?

Is that what Shakhova et al claimed?

Then again, perhaps you don't know what Eli meant.

But why don't we let Eli explain, particularly how the plots (plural) that he linked to are inconsistent with the actual Shakhova results (eg, that 17 teragrams per year were being released from East Siberia Arctic Shelf )

Not with something Eli thinks or implies Shakhova et al found and claimed, but with what they actually claimed

That Eli might have "no patience" with a scientist should have no bearing on the assessment of the actual science.

And eyeballing plots of large regions of the globe to decide whether they "appear" to confirm a scientist's very specific results seems to be a very poor approach.

Anonymous said...

Also, Jim

This map actually does show the highest (orange and pink) concentrations in the vicinity of some of the locations studied by Shakhova et al.

And it is important to note that Shakhova et al do not claim elevated levels across the entire E Siberian shelf.

EliRabett said...

What Jim said.

EliRabett said...

Susan, Eli has had it with the self promoters, not you.

Anonymous said...

No, I'm not interested what the current levels of methane across the Siberia are. No really I'm not. I'm not even interested if they're going up or down locally during the annual peak of rotting plant matter. Nothing to see here, go on and let me get my fracked gas for my daily one mile drives to aunt's grocery.

EliRabett said...

Better put by another explaining Eli's position

New Yorkers are brusque, not rude - morons and knee biters simply aren't tolerated, there's simply no time to deal with chuckleheads.

Eli is from Brooklyn

and Susan, even in Brooklyn the bunnies at Coney Island like nice people and invite them in for some cotton candy.

Tenney Naumer said...

What is the best way to share large PowerPoint files?

I have made a file of false-color Envisat AMSU images of the Arctic from January-February 2012 that, to me at least, appear to show what could be methane accumulating under the sea ice in the Laptev.

EliRabett said...

Tenny, first reduce the size by compressing them. PPT lets you do this.

Tenney Naumer said...

It is best to download the file and open it in PowerPoint, then use the scroll function on the bottom right, to move back and forth between the slides:

More on what the colors are later.

Tenney Naumer said...

You can download the images from this site:

(just change the dates to get a different day, they stop some time in February 2012)

Then you need ones that have files names like this (*, for example:

Anonymous said...

Eli still has not answered the main question:

"are the SCIAMACHY ENVISAT plots inconsistent with the actual Shakhova results? (that 17 teragrams per year were being released from East Siberia Arctic Shelf)"

The only way one can answer that question is to actually attempt to estimate the methane concentration(s) that would be expected to result at particular locations from the releases claimed by Shakhova et al.

Making that estimate is not a simple task which, I suspect is why Eli would prefer to wave his hands and say look at the maps"

For example, a paper from U Bremen which discusses the SCIAMACHY ENVISAT results includes a caution for measurements taken over water

"We have processed all available SCIAMACHY Level 1 version 4 spectra of the year 2003 [6,8]. Because of the low reflectivity of water (oceans, great lakes) in the near-infrared the quality of the measurements over water is typically reduced"

How much is it reduced? (I have seen 40-60ppb quoted for CO)

Furthermore, would most of the methane released just off the arctic coast (from the Siberian shelf) be concentrated in an air column immediately above the release point?
Or would prevailing atmospheric conditions (winds) move it? (perhaps inland)

These are not inconsequential questions if one is attempting to challenge the results of Shakhova et al based on the satellite data.

Consider this: If Eli were submitting a comment on the Shakhova results, do you suppose he might have to provide something more than an entreaty for the editors to "Just Look at the SCIAMACHY spectra" accompanied by the claim "The emissions from the Arctic do not appear to dominate at that point in time "?

Surely, they would ask for some actual science (calculations) to back up the claim that Shakhova et al have erred.

Finally, dismissing one's questioners as "morons, knee biters and chuckleheads" might be viewed as "support" for one's claims by the peanut gallery here at Rabett Run, but I doubt it would hold any water with the editors of Nature Geoscience.

Anonymous said...

As a further clarification

There are actually two issues Eli must deal with:
1) he needs to estimate the methane concentration (and probable error) in air columns over particular locations that would be expected due to the releases claimed by Shakhova et al.

2) he needs to determine (calculate) the SCIAMACHY ENVISAT spectra that would result (accompanied by an error estimate) quantitatively taking into account that the measurement over water is reduced.

I look forward to seeing Eli's comment to the journal.

William Connolley said...

Hello, I'm a weasel.

Anonymous said...

Commenter FishOutofWater

Some of the AIRS methane measurements show high levels over the Arctic in 2011 when the field work was done. In November, 2011, methane levels were very high over the Siberian Arctic. Here's a link to an image of Nov 2011 methane levels.

Your criticism of the Nature article based on data from 2003 does not make any sense to me. Perhaps I'm missing some key piece of information. Your posts are generally on target.

Tenney Naumer said...

Color codes for the pptx file at

Pale blue: sea ice

Orange: possibly methane above the sea ice

Black: (1) open water, (2) land, (3) thick multi-year sea ice, or (4) possibly methane just under the sea ice

Kevin O'Neill said...

Eli says" ....morons and knee biters simply aren't tolerated, there's simply no time to deal with chuckleheads."

I doubt that anyone has spend as much time over the past dozen years in the field collecting data in the ESAS as Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov. I doubt that anyone knows as much about methane in the ESAS as the Russians in general. This also gives Shakhova and Semiletov an advantage - many of the Russian scientific articles haven't been translated into English.

But hey - they're chuckleheads.

Steve Bloom said...

OK, lots of Shakhova et al. at the imminent AGU FM. AFAICT they seem to think they've now identified a trend across the ESAS, concentrated in slightly deeper water where the permafrost cap is not so thick. The dread phrase "positive feedback" is used. Anybunny going who can talk to these folks and report back w/ details?

EliRabett said...

Keven, exactly the point. No one has spent as much time as Qing Bin Lu looking at electron scattering from cfcs.

Steve Bloom said...

Note that the last session above features Ira Leifer as lead. He's pretty much the leadng expert on methane detection. More from him.

Steve Bloom said...

The Qing Bin Lu analogy breaks down when we consider that release of the ESAS methane is more a matter of when than if. A further difference is that Shakhova has no lack of collaborators.

Steve Bloom said...

Eli, IIRC warm water encroachment onto the ESAS is thought to be very recent, so I don't know that looking at 2003 data is especially informative.

Anonymous said...

Susan Anderson said...

Now Eli, why did I think you were in Devon? Perhaps the animals remind me of Harry Potter? I'm sentimental about the West Country but no longer fly back and forth.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to that cotton candy (I hope I haven't got it backwards).

I've been happy to leave the argument to others. FishOutOfWater is a personal favorite from DailyKos et al. TckTckTck?

Back to the soul cafe ... but not in genesis.

Anonymous said...

Commenter: FishOutofWater

Thanks, Susan.

The methane problem is very tricky because we are dealing with a 3-phase system - gas, clathrate & brine - that is not in equilibrium. If there is no transport of fluids the system will respond very slowly, governed the diffusion equation. That's how the Real Climate folks - Archer et al - think the system works. I'm not so confident that I know how it works because I have experience in trying to validate models used to predict groundwater transport of contaminants. Three phase problems are brutal when fractures or conduits are involved. I'm interested in seeing more data and watching how methane levels change before I reach conclusions on the East Siberian shelf methane.

I was disappointed to see the name calling here

Tenney Naumer said...

A very interesting site called methanetracker shows atmospheric methane over the Arctic.

Best viewed when choosing the layers from 650 mb / 11775 feet through 469 mb / 19819 feet

Take note that there is plenty of methane coming from other shelves around the Arctic, in particular off Greenland.

Susan Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Anderson said...

well I did flub it. Here:

Hank Roberts said...

Well, if you're an ordinary citizen and go to either Google or Scholar, and search for text -- or again, search for images -- relating to methane, almost everything that comes up in the first few pages is by Sam Carana, expert.