Tag Archives: arctic

NASA asks, Is a Sleeping Greenhouse Gas Giant Stirring in the Arctic?

14 Jun

by Joe Romm / ThinkProgress

A NASA science team has observed “amazing and potentially troubling” levels of methane and CO2 from the rapidly warming Arctic. Given the staggering amount of carbon trapped in the permafrost — and the fact that methane is a very potent heat-trapping gas — the space agency is now asking: “Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?

arcticbeast

“Permafrost zones occupy nearly a quarter of the exposed land area of the Northern Hemisphere. NASA’s Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) is probing deep into the frozen lands above the Arctic Circle in Alaska to measure emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane from thawing permafrost — signals that may hold a key to Earth’s climate future.” Credit: UNEP

We’ve known for a while that “permafrost” was a misnomer (see “Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s“). The defrosting permamelt will likely add up to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

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Mercury Pollution in Marine Animals May Be Behind a Population Crash

9 May

by Brian Owens, Cross Posted from Nature

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An isolated population of Arctic foxes that dines only on marine animals seems to be slowly succumbing to mercury poisoning.

The foxes on Mednyi Island — one of Russia’s Commander Islands in the Bering Sea — are a subspecies of Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) that may have remained isolated for thousands of years. They were once numerous enough to support a small yet thriving group of fur hunters. After humans abandoned the settlement in the 1970s, the fox population began to crash, falling from more than 1,000 animals to fewer than 100 individuals today.

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Activists on Occupied Russian Arctic Oil Rig Hit with Water Cannon

25 Aug

Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo gives a thumbs-up as he and other activists board the Arctic oil platform in the Pechora Sea. Photograph: Denis Sinyakov/AFP/Getty Images

Six activists with Greenpeace International have occupied a Russian oil rig to protest drilling in the Arctic. The rig belongs to the Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom, which is set to become the first company to produce Arctic oil through drilling operations in the Pechora Sea. Democracy Now interviewed Greenpeace’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, just as he and other activists are being hosed by the rig’s crew in an effort to thwart their protest.

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Environmental Scientists Protest Firings, Spending Cuts in Canada

14 Jul

In June 2012, Canada’s government made excessive cuts in its environmental departments, resulting in the firing of many top scientists. On July 9, those scientists – and their supporters – had decided they’d had enough; they led a march through central Ottawa to Parliament Hill, in protesting what they said was a vicious attack on science and the environment.

The demonstration was led by a woman pointedly dressed as a Grim Reaper, leading the rest of the workers along with a coffin meant to represent “the death of evidence.” That symbolism served as commentary on conservative Prime Minister Harper’s apparent disinterest in funding or supporting all things scientific, which many feel is motivated by his administration’s bedfellowship with Big Oil Continue reading

Here it goes! Retreat of Arctic sea ice releases deadly greenhouse gas

16 Dec

Russian research team astonished after finding ‘fountains’ of methane bubbling to surface

by Steve Connor cross posted from the Independent

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

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.”

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.

Dr Semiletov’s team published a study in 2010 estimating that the methane emissions from this region were about eight million tonnes a year, but the latest expedition suggests this is a significant underestimate of the phenomenon.

In late summer, the Russian research vessel Academician Lavrentiev conducted an extensive survey of about 10,000 square miles of sea off the East Siberian coast. Scientists deployed four highly sensitive instruments, both seismic and acoustic, to monitor the “fountains” or plumes of methane bubbles rising to the sea surface from beneath the seabed.

“In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed,” Dr Semiletov said. “We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were a kilometre or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal.”

Dr Semiletov released his findings for the first time last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.