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Snap 2013-05-27 at 03.13.20

When a former hedge fund manager uses the word “extinction” seven times in his article, that tends to get my attention.  has written a new article entitled America’s Ecological Precipice which is an overview of many of the things we have been talking about here. He identifies two primary threats from the Arctic which is currently in runaway climate change:

(1) The warming Arctic alters the atmospheric jet streams, bringing in its wake embedded droughts similar to the 2012 blistering drought, the worst drought since the 1950s.

(2) Additionally, and more critically, the warming Arctic is flat-out releasing methane into the atmosphere like there is no tomorrow, threatening to heat up the entire planet, which, over time, could turn into a worldwide scorcher, possibly triggering an extinction event.

He mentions that the Arctic Methane Emergency Group [AMEG] has decided to quantify the amount of methane that is now escaping into the atmosphere from these Arctic areas. I was not aware of this, and I have not seen any data from them.

Based upon eight (8) joint Russian/American scientific expeditions into the Arctic under the aegis of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University Alaska Fairbanks, methane fields of a breathtakingly fantastic scale have been discovered with plumes over a half-mile wide spewing methane directly into the atmosphere in concentrations 100 times higher than normal. The Russian and American scientists have never before experienced anything of such magnitude, and in addition to powerful emissions from shallow waters where over 100 readings were recorded, it is spewing up from within cracks in the Arctic ice in the open seas far from land.

Moreover, the quantities of methane in the continental shelf alone are so huge and overwhelming that only 1% or 2% of the methane released could lead to an unstoppable chain reaction of runaway overheating of the planet.

Along these lines, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group is deciding to quantify, for the first time ever, the results of runaway climate change, leading to the probability of an extinction event on planet earth. Unfortunately for those who choose to disregard concerns about climate change, this could happen within their lifetimes, or their children, or grandchildren. Nobody knows for sure.

The most current readings from NOAA show a continual rise in global CH4 levels:


I suspected the Arctic readings would be off the chart, and indeed they are, according to those published at methane-hydrates.blogspot.com. Just to put in context those values in the chart below, levels of CH4 have historically been much lower, except in times of mass extinction:

Snap 2013-05-27 at 03.28.26

In 2010, methane levels in the Arctic were measured at 1850 nmol/mol, a level over twice as high as at any time in the 400,000 years prior to the industrial revolution. Historically, methane concentrations in the world’s atmosphere have ranged between 300 and 400 nmol/mol during glacial periods commonly known as ice ages, and between 600 to 700 nmol/mol during the warm interglacial periods. It has a high global warming potential: 72 times that of carbon dioxide over 20 years, and 25 times over 100 years,[43] and the levels are rising. Recent research suggests that the Earth’s oceans are a potentially important new source of Arctic methane.[44]

The Earth’s atmospheric methane concentration has increased by about 150% since 1750, and it accounts for 20% of the total radiative forcing from all of the long-lived and globally mixed greenhouse gases (these gases don’t include water vapor which is by far the largest component of the greenhouse effect).[47]  source


These sky high methane emissions are from East Antarctica and appear to be from methane hydrates in the form of free gas bubbling up through the ice sheet. The danger is that such emissions appear to be escalating not only over Antarctica, but also on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and in the Arctic. Just recently, a Russian ice base had to be evacuated due to the thinning ice in the Arctic. This is a foreboding sign of that which is to come.

Like the 350.org which campaigns in vain to stop the inexorable rise in CO2, there is now a similar group for methane emissions, called 1250now.org which aims to keep global CH4 below that level. As they say, the genie is already out of its bottle and such efforts are merely psychological exercises of comforting self-delusionment. At the same time, the heads of industry are just trying to figure out how to exploit the stuff in order to burn it.

I’ve strayed a bit from Hunziker’s original article so getting back to it, he describes how lackadaisical the U.S. government has been in response to such dire climate change warnings like that coming from the National Climate Assessment report which stated the following:

Threats to human health from increased extreme weather events, wildfires and air pollution, as well as diseases spread by insects and through food and water;

Less reliable water supply, and the potential for water rights to become a hot-button legal issue;

More vulnerable infrastructure due to sea-level rise, bigger storm surges, heavy downpours and extreme heat;

Warmer and more acidic oceans.

On the topic of our vanishing water supply and the state of America’s High Plains Aquifer, “one of the world’s great aquifers responsible for about 30% of America’s irrigated land,” Hunziker writes :

The recent extreme drought of 2012 across America’s breadbasket has brought the seriousness of a shortage of water to a crescendo as the Kansas Geological Survey reported that average water levels dropped nearly a third of the total decline since 1996… over a period of only two years! Or, put another way, 1/3 of the total 17-year drawdown of the aquifer occurred in 2 years. This is not a telltale signal of gathering disaster. Rather, the possibility of an impending collapse of the ecosystem is at the doorstep!

But most amusing is the story of GOP sweetheart Sarah Palin and her total flip-flop on the reality of climate change. When she was governor of Alaska back in 2007, she wholeheartedly endorsed taking action to ameliorate the effects of climate change:

At the time, Governor Palin stated: “Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It is also a social, cultural, and economic issue important to all Alaskans… As a result of this warming, coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, retreating sea ice, record forest fires, and other changes are affecting, and will continue to affect, the lifestyles and livelihoods of Alaskans.

But then when she joined McCain’s 2008 presidential ticket, her brain was apparently run through the Republican anti-science indoctrination machine and viola! She instantly became a climate change denier:

…Once Palin joined the Republican ticket, within 12 months, she dismissed climate science as “snake oil.”

…Nowadays, the politicians in Alaska, very much aware of the changes in the polar region, are positioning Alaska as a gateway for shipping traffic and production of oil beneath the increasingly ice-free seas of Arctic waters. And, Palin’s brief legacy of concern about a viciously changing climate evaporated into thin air. Poof… gone!

Money in American politics, like most other places in the world, corrupts absolutely. Money is all that is needed for smarmy politicians to turn their backs on the future of their own children. I hope they can eat all that worthless currency that’s flying off the money presses because real food is going to be hard to come by in the future, especially when the hungry masses are climbing your palace walls to raid your pantry:

According to NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, Kansas will be 4 degrees warmer in winter without Arctic ice, which regularly generates cold air masses that flow southward into the U.S. (You’ve probably heard weather forecasters say the following hundreds of times: People in the middle part of the country had better button up. We’ve got an Arctic Cold Front hitting this weekend and temperatures will drop 15-to-20 degrees overnight.) But, with an ice-less Arctic, this legacy of cool Arctic air serving to regulate the climate in the U.S. will be mostly gone, ineffective.

As follows, the problem for Kansas: Warmer winters are bad news for the wheat farmers’ requirement for freezing temperatures to grow winter wheat, and during summer, warmer days rob Kansas of precious soil moisture, drying out valuable wheat crop. Which means Kansas will increasingly depend upon one of the world’s largest aquifers, which is already drying up in certain locations, even if drought conditions are not present.