BP’s Methane Monster: From the Gulf to the Globe

photoWe hear a lot of talk about carbon dioxide as the most dangerous climate culprit. And we should. So far, loading the atmosphere with CO2 is the single biggest cause of climate disruption. But, in the final analysis, methane may prove to be the most deadly of all greenhouse gases.

Unlike CO2, methane is flammable. BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf was triggered by a bubble of methane gas that escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding. The fiery blast killed 11 workers and sank the platform. Since then, an estimated 100,000 barrels of oil has spewed into the Gulf every day, making it the biggest oil spill in US history.

Methane is a menace to coal mining. Mines use giant fans to keep this colorless, odorless gas below dangerous concentrations. But if this fails, the tiniest spark can set off a deadly blast. Methane explosions killed 29 miners in the Massey coal mine disaster last month and claimed 12 miners in the Sago mine disaster back in 2006.

However, methane’s explosive properties are a miniature menace compared to its heat-trapping capacity. As a greenhouse gas, methane is about 25 times more potent, molecule for molecule, than carbon dioxide. Today, the amount of methane in our atmosphere is spiking at an alarming rate. Scientists studying this situation call methane “a ticking time bomb,” and warn that vast stores could be released from frozen deposits on land and under the ocean in the coming decades.

Over the last few years, research ships in Arctic seas have found methane bubbling and foaming on the surface. These “methane chimneys” are caused by 10-degree jumps in temperature over eastern Siberia. Warmer temperatures cause methane to be released from thawing tundra and from melting methane deposits beneath the ocean. “These deposits rival fossil fuels in terms of their size. It’s like having a whole additional supply of coal, oil and natural gas out there that we can’t control,” says James White, a geochemist at the University of Colorado.

The Siberian Shelf alone harbors an estimated 1,400 billion tons of methane – about twice as much carbon as is contained in all the trees, grasses and flowers on the planet. If just one percent of this escaped into the atmosphere within a few decades, it would be enough to cause catastrophic, uncontrollable climate change. This process could initiate a self-reinforcing feedback loop that would spiral out of control even if we cut our greenhouse emissions to zero. Scientists have no idea how close we are to crossing this point of no return, but the signs that we’re approaching this tipping point are growing every day. …

via t r u t h o u t | BP’s Methane Monster: From the Gulf to the Globe.

I knew there was some kind of cover up about what actually caused this disaster. I thought perhaps it was foreign terrorists, but the truth is so much worse.

The frozen methane ice under the oceans is a sleeping dragon that will wake and scorch the earth. Our cars and all of our CO2 warming up the earth just a few degrees is like lighting a little tiny match …  in a room full of gas.

One Comment

  1. Recently a scientist and his colleagues and their grad students from Texas (Houston?) received a grant to investigate methane in the Gulf. His work is on the effect of methane on life on the ocean. Because of the high rates of methane currently in the Gulf, it’s a rare opportunity, he says.

    He measured methane higher than it was ever recorded in any body of water anywhere. He said in some places it was normal but in other places it was several hundred thousand times higher. He said, he measured a reading that was a “million” times higher than normal at one spot.

    But, all this methane is already in the water. On “Coast to Coast” with whomever it is, a guy said that there was a build up of methane under ocean floor. Well, I don’t know about that. But, BP’s well is producing more methane than any other well and its all going into the water.

    Eventually bacteria will consume the methane. But, in so doing, they multiple and take in all the available oxygen from the water killing all other species of life that depend on oxygen in the Gulf. – expanding the already largest “dead zone” in the world even before BP’s blast, which is due, by the way, to taking short cuts and avoiding costs (a typical business thing to do, you know). During some summers the “dead zone” has been several thousand km long.

    What we should give some thought to, however, is the effects on the coast by hurricanes in the Gulf. They’re going to dump a lot of nasty water on the coastal human population.


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