by Robert Hunziker
Photograph Source: Mikenorton
The East Siberian Arctic Shelf ("ESAS")
is the epicenter of a methane-rich zone that could turn the world
upside down (Extensive
Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East
Siberian Arctic Shelf).
Still, the ESAS is not on the radar of mainstream science, and not
included in calculations by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change), and generally not well understood.
It is one of the biggest
mysteries of the world's climate puzzle, and it is highly
controversial, which creates an enhanced level of uncertainty and
casts shadows of doubt.
The ESAS is the most extensive continental shelf in the world,
...all-in equivalent to
the combined landmasses of,
The region hosts massive
methane (CH4) in frozen
subsea permafrost in extremely shallow waters, enough CH4
to transform the "global warming" cycle into a "life-ending" cycle.
As absurd as it sounds,
it is not inconceivable.
Ongoing research to unravel the ESAS mystery is found in very
few studies, almost none, except by
Natalia Shakhova (International
Arctic Research Center -
IARC, University of
Alaska/Fairbanks) a leading authority, for example:
"It has been
suggested that destabilization of shelf Arctic hydrates could
lead to large-scale enhancement of aqueous CH4, but
this process was hypothesized to be negligible on a
decadal-century time scale.
continental shelf of the Arctic Ocean (AO) has not been
considered as a possible source of CH4 to the atmosphere until
Source: Natalia Shakhova, et al
Understanding the Permafrost-Hydrate
System and Associated Methane Releases in the East Siberian
Shakhova's "until very
recently" comment explains, in part, why the IPCC does not include
ESAS methane destabilization in its calculations.
research has unearthed a monster in hiding, but thankfully, mostly
in repose… for the moment.
warning signals are clearly noticeable:
ESAS is rumbling,
increasingly emitting more and more CH4, possibly in
anticipation of a "Big Burp," which could put the world's lights
out, hopefully in another century, or beyond, but based upon a
reading of her latest report in Geosciences, don't count on it
taking so long.
Shakhova's research is
highlighted in a recent article in Arctic News:
Will We Die?"
"Imagine a burst
of methane erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean
that would add an amount of methane to the atmosphere equal
to twice the methane that is already there."
Horror of horrors, the
resulting equation is disturbing, to say the least, to wit:
Twice the amount of
CH4 that is already in the atmosphere equals a CO2e
dioxide equivalent) of 560 ppm, assuming CH4
is 150xs the potency of CO2 in its initial years.
And, adding that new
number to current CH4/CO2e of 280 ppm to
current CO2 levels of 415.7 ppm, according to
readings at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, equals total atmospheric CO2
of 1256 ppm.
In other words, if ESAS
springs a big fat leak, the Big Burp, which would only
be <5% of the existing frozen methane deposit, it is possible that
atmospheric CO2e would zoom up go as high as 1256 ppm.
A recent third-party
study, also referenced in the aforementioned Arctic News article
d/d June 10th, concluded that at 1200 ppm atmospheric
CO2 global heating cranks up by 8°C, or 14.4°F,
within a decade.
(Source: above mentioned 'Arctic News - June 10, 2019')
Truth be known, that
scenario is not problematic, it's catastrophic and too far along to
be classified as a problem.
After all, problems can
be fixed; catastrophes are fatal.
According to Shakhova's research, as referenced in Geosciences/2019:
potentially increase by 3-5 orders of magnitude, considering the
sheer amount of CH4 preserved within the shallow ESAS
seabed deposits and the documented thawing rates of subsea
permafrost reported recently.
The purpose of this
paper is to introduce the ESAS permafrost-hydrates system, which
is largely unfamiliar to scientists."
(Side note: 3 orders of
magnitude is equivalent to 1,000, i.e., a large methane release.)
More from Shakhova:
"Here we present
results of the first comprehensive scientific re-drilling to
show that subsea permafrost in the near-shore zone of the ESAS
has a downward movement of the ice-bonded permafrost table of
~14 cm (6 inches) year over the past 31-32 years…
studies show that in some areas very recently submerged
permafrost is close to or has already reached the thaw point."
Shakhova's studies are
based upon marine expeditions, including drill campaigns that
..and not based solely
upon "climate models" calculated on desktop
In conclusion, as the world community continues to accept the
reality of climate change as an existential threat,
which fact is emphatically spotlighted by the likes of,
...it is important to
emphasize the timing factor.
knows 100% for certain how the climate crisis will turn
out, but there is pretty solid evidence that the issue, meaning
several ecosystems which are starting to collapse in unison, is
accelerating, by a lot.
So, there is not much
time left to do something constructive,
assuming it's not already too late. Speaking of which, a small
faction of climate scientists has already "tossed in the towel."
After all, it's not that hard to understand their point of view as
many ecosystems have already hit tipping points, which means no
turning back, no fixes possible, but still, (and, here's the
great hope) nobody really knows 100% for
sure how all of this will play out.
Nevertheless, in a perfect world that really/truly "follows the
science" a Worldwide All-In Coordinated Marshall Plan to do
"whatever it takes" would already be in a full-blastoff mode.
But… It's not!