Thursday, May 29, 2008

Could Methane Trigger a Climate Doomsday Within a Human Lifespan?

The new paper suggests that exactly this type of cascading release of methane reserves rapidly warmed the Earth 635 million years ago, replacing an Ice Age with a period of tropical heat. The study's lead author suggests it could happen again, and fast -- not over thousands or millions of years, but possibly within a century.

"This is a major concern because it's possible that only a little warming can unleash this trapped methane," Martin Kennedy, a professor at UC Riverside, said in a release. "Unzippering the methane reservoir could potentially warm the Earth tens of degrees, and the mechanism could be geologically very rapid."

Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. And the frozen reserve is twice as large, by volume, as the world's known fossil fuel reserves.

Admittedly, it's a worst-case scenario. But fuck.


Anonymous said...

Ever read "Mother of Storms" by John Barnes? It's a fun thriller that portrays a methane-driven climatological doomsday (with a little bit of fudging, compressing the action down to about a decade)My favorite part is his description of the island of Honolulu "scoured to naked bedrock" by a super-cyclone.

intense said...

Fuck, indeed.

Mac said...

I've indeed read "Mother of Storms." I loved it!

eyemage said...

the book "under a green sky" nonfiction covering the archeologic history of a methane heavy atmosphere for most of earth history.

evidently blue skies are rather a recent development compared to the sum total of the existence of earth.