More very real doom-and-gloom news from one of America’s greatest climate writers. If we don’t heed the warnings now, we shall all pay a terrible price indeed.


Over the past few months, reporting stations around the Arctic have shown a ramping rate of atmospheric methane accumulation. The curves in the graphs are steepening, hinting at a growing release of methane from a warming Arctic environment.

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Alert, Canada Methane June 1 2015

(Alert, Canada methane graph shows atmospheric methane increases in the range of 20 parts per billion in just one year. This rate of increase is 2-3 times the global average for the past five years. A skyrocketing rate of increase. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

A Massive Thawing Carbon Store in the Far North

The science is pretty settled. There’s a massive store of ancient carbon now thawing in the Arctic.

In the land-based permafrost alone, this store is in the range of 1.3 billion tons — or nearly double the volume in the atmosphere right now. Arctic Ocean methane hydrates in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf…

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5 thoughts on “Arctic Methane Alert — Ramp-Up at Numerous Reporting Stations Shows Signature of an Amplifying Feedback

  1. We are in an accelerating clamber to the tipping point. People don’t get it. That’s when we pass the ‘point of no return.’

    Whenever I blog about something inspiring like the pro-democracy movement, or Bernie Sanders’ campaign, or how Pope Francis works on climate action, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, ‘if we have time….’


    • Excellent point, JoAnn. I’m not sure if we have the time. Even if the world were to stop burning fossil fuels today, a logistical impossibility now and a practical improbability in the foreseeable future, there’s still enough warming already locked into Earth’s climate as to pose serious environmental challenges for human civilization for decades to come.


      • So… in the best scenario, if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, the ice caps would not suddenly stop melting (for example), because the atmosphere has already warmed. And as the caps slowly melt, the sea level slowly rises. Do I understand correctly?


        • Yes, sort of. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere much longer than other more powerful greenhouse gas pollutants such as methane, and that is why it is the primary driver of climate change. The natural processes which remove CO2 from the air (i.e. carbon sinks: chemical absorption in the oceans, plant photosynthesis, etc.) are exceeded by anthropogenic activity (i.e. the burning of fossil fuels by humans), so atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing with time. If we stopped burning fossil fuels today, it would still take many decades or more for atmospheric CO2 to return to pre-industrial levels; and therefore, global warming would continue until that equilibrium was reestablished.

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