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Put the gun down, and step away
September 24, 2008 9:15 PM   Subscribe

The clathrate gun hypothesis has been discussed previously, but now might be a good time to start considering it less hypothetical. [via]

It's also a great band name, though Single Gun Theory kind of got there first.
posted by 5MeoCMP (50 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
They were looking here (sorry, tiny map).

here are some blog entries from the Chief Scientist on the Yacob Smirniskyi, Igor Semiletov.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 9:26 PM on September 24, 2008


Oh, and hey: more.

A Google translation (Swedish->English) of more blog posts from the research vessel in which they describe finding the columns of methane bubbles on the morning of their last day.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 9:33 PM on September 24, 2008


The economy is currently melting down. I demand this post be deleted. Only one disaster at a time, please!
posted by mrnutty at 9:35 PM on September 24, 2008


Oh shit.
posted by breath at 9:39 PM on September 24, 2008


I had no idea about this, which somehow makes me feel deeply ashamed of myself. And for that, in some twisted way, I thank you.

On the topic of global warming itself even, just today an adviser was talking to me about the pervasive skeptical thoughts on it in the academic community as few as five years ago. But then he started talking about how we'll probably live to see the extinction of the polar bears and I couldn't help thinking how, on top of everything else going on recently, we're pretty much going to hell in a handbasket.

What? Oh, right.. right... methane, that's what I meant to talk about. Maybe some massive release will help speed things along a bit?
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:42 PM on September 24, 2008


I insist that John McCain cancel his campaigning to wrestle all the methane back to the sea floor.
posted by argybarg at 9:42 PM on September 24, 2008 [10 favorites]


a friend recently told me (when i was bemoaning the awful state of the environment/economy/population) that every generation thinks the world is about to end. except, every now and again it does, doesn't it.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:56 PM on September 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Doomed. Dooooooomeddddddddd. Doooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmeeeeddddddd.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:04 PM on September 24, 2008


If Mother of Storms is at all accurate, we're up shit creek. In the book the methane was released by a bomb, so hopefully it will be a bit slower. He predicted hurricanes that were powerful enough to cross over Central America and gain more power in the Pacific. Real horrific wrath of god type storms, that were essentially permanent.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:12 PM on September 24, 2008


the Light Fantastic: The Doom Song
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:12 PM on September 24, 2008


Hey, what's that smell?
posted by mwhybark at 10:15 PM on September 24, 2008


doctor_negative: the thing that scares me most is talk like this:
The consequences of a methane-driven oceanic eruption for marine and terrestrial life are likely to be catastrophic. Figuratively speaking, the erupting region "boils over," ejecting a large amount of methane and other gases (e.g., CO2, H2S) into the atmosphere, and flooding large areas of land. Whereas pure methane is lighter than air, methane loaded with water droplets is much heavier, and thus spreads over the land, mixing with air in the process (and losing water as rain). The air-methane mixture is explosive at methane concentrations between 5% and 15%; as such mixtures form in different locations near the ground and are ignited by lightning, explosions and conflagrations destroy most of the terrestrial life, and also produce great amounts of smoke and of carbon dioxide. Firestorms carry smoke and dust into the upper atmosphere, where they may remain for several years; the resulting darkness and global cooling may provide an additional kill mechanism. Conversely, carbon dioxide and the remaining methane create the greenhouse effect, which may lead to global warming. The outcome of the competition between the cooling and the warming tendencies is difficult to predict.
Taken from this paper
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:16 PM on September 24, 2008


WOO Single Gun Theory!!

Sorry, I'm getting to be over all this apocalypse, but SGT are awesome.

(yeah yeah, your favourite climatic disaster sucks...)
posted by pompomtom at 10:19 PM on September 24, 2008


Two things rub me the wrong way about this:
1. It trivializes human causes of global warming
2. It kind of, sort of suggests that drilling all the natural gas out of the ocean is a good idea
posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


So THAT is where god is going to get all the fuel for the fire and brimstone.

I knew he had something tricky up his sleeve, that sneaky devil.
posted by shunshine at 10:28 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: The human causes could be thought of as the finger on the trigger. Certainly, pulling the trigger isn't a trivial act.

And drilling all that natural gas out still isn't a good idea. What's going to happen to it? Where's all that carbon going to go? Are we going to put it in bottles and, I dunno, just sit on it? Nope. It'd go into the atmosphere, and we'd just be further along the track.

So, what's to be done? Honestly, I think it's about fucking time we got on and built some off-world colonies (the chance to begin again, in a golden land of opportunity and adventure)
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:31 PM on September 24, 2008


Well, sexyrobot, honestly, given everything I read lately, your very simple statement is the only thing that keeps me sane. I repeat it like a mantra almost every single time I read any story like this. Honestly, though, sometimes it feels like putting a newspaper over your head in a hurricane. Without being a scientist, I'm old enough to remember reading about all of this stuff starting in the early 90s, and bit-by-bit, year-after-year, I've watched it all slowly unravel just the way I had read it would... Its pretty fucking scary stuff to see come true. In fact, I remember the first time I read about clathrates was here on Metafilter many years ago. Can't find the exact article, but I could swear it was at least 5 years ago. Now, we're seeing it happen, almost exactly as predicted.
posted by PigAlien at 10:33 PM on September 24, 2008


But seriously...
...mixtures form in different locations near the ground and are ignited by lightning, explosions and conflagrations destroy most of the terrestrial life...

If Palin's pastor was right and we all have to run to Alaska, well, crap. I know he'll totally going to leave us knocking, all conflagratin' at the ark's door.
posted by shunshine at 10:34 PM on September 24, 2008


By the way, I've been thinking for absolutely ages now that humanity needs to start preparing for life underground. With geothermal energy and possibly some other sources we could grow food underground and create a relatively controlled environment and atmosphere. But, the only way to survive is to be prepared. At least the vagaries of weather won't affect us underground. The only thing we'd really have to fear would be earthquakes.
posted by PigAlien at 10:36 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


5MeoCMP, that's really scary.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:37 PM on September 24, 2008


The only thing we'd really have to fear would be earthquakes.

That, and explosive, heavier-than-air gasses leaching through our ceiling hatches.
posted by dontoine at 10:39 PM on September 24, 2008


Death by tiny tetrahedrons.
posted by Tube at 10:49 PM on September 24, 2008


the chance to begin again, in a golden land of opportunity and adventure

It's too bad the oceans won't live, but then again who does?
posted by adamdschneider at 10:49 PM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've heard some actually want to try to mine that methane, since it can be used as a fuel. Fun stuff.

Also, unlike CO2 methane deteriorates over time in the atmosphere, According to Wikipedia the lifetime in the atmosphere is just 9.6 years.

Also keep in mind that we can reverse global warming by dumping particulates into the atmosphere. In fact, researchers have figured out a way to create particles that will hover around the poles, keeping ice from melting. The estimated cost is orders of magnitude less then the proposed wall street bailout, at least according to this TED talk.

But then he started talking about how we'll probably live to see the extinction of the polar bears and I couldn't help thinking how, on top of everything else going on recently, we're pretty much going to hell in a handbasket.

I'm pretty sure polar bears don't actually need ice and glaciers to live. I don't think they'll go extinct.
posted by delmoi at 10:50 PM on September 24, 2008


doctor_negative: yes, it really really is. If you really don't want to sleep tonight, read the rest of that paper.

I will continue to hold out hope that we will be able to survive through this as a species, somehow. The 70% of terrestrial vertebrates that went extinct in the Permian-Triassic extinction event didn't have Science, after all.

The alternative is just to curl up under the bed and start weeping.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:53 PM on September 24, 2008


delmoi: yes, methane deteriorates in the atmosphere -- but while it's there, it's a much, much more potent greenhouse gas.

Re-quoting wikipedia: despite its atmospheric lifetime of around 12 years, it has a global warming potential of 62 over 20 years and 23 over 100 years.

Ok, enough doom and gloom. I'm going to go plant some flowers, drink a beer, and play with my kids. While there's life, there's hope, right?
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:57 PM on September 24, 2008


I saw something on discovery or NGO where some scientist was measuring methane trapped in frozen ice. They'd dig a hole in it and then flick a lighter. And bam, ice on fire.

Pretty damn amazing and scary.
posted by axltea at 11:09 PM on September 24, 2008


"I'm pretty sure polar bears don't actually need ice and glaciers to live. I don't think they'll go extinct."

Yeah, they can tread water for generations if need be.
posted by Naberius at 11:49 PM on September 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is all part of this guy's evil plot for world domination.
posted by homunculus at 12:03 AM on September 25, 2008


did somebody say H2S? mmmmm...hydrogen sulfide. that, in the end is probably gonna be what actually KILLS us all. (think i read about it here...) see, the greenhouse gasses cause the poles to melt, the oceans become depleted of oxygen (most of the O2 in the water is absorbed by colder water near the poles), and anaerobic, H2S-producing bacteria get busy producing mile-wide bubbles of H2S, which turns the oceans purple, the sky orange, and gasses every living thing to death. that is apparently what caused the Permian extinction (AKA the Great Extinction), whose final mineral strata contain whopping craploads of hydrogen sulfide. (the permian extintion is the only event in earth's history where significant numbers of INSECTS perished, btw)

now for the depressing part.

the Permian extinction event isnt the worst in the worlds history. it's the second worst. the worst is happening right now. fortunately, the earth contains more different species now than it ever has, but not. for. long....
posted by sexyrobot at 12:58 AM on September 25, 2008


...oh, and H2S eats ozone for breakfast.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:01 AM on September 25, 2008


Also, unlike CO2 methane deteriorates over time in the atmosphere, According to Wikipedia the lifetime in the atmosphere is just 9.6 years.

Also according to Wikipedia, methane deteriorates by turning into CO2.
posted by vira at 2:46 AM on September 25, 2008


Anyone have one of those flood maps? I want to check again how close I get to beachfront. I mean, assuming we don't all explode first.
posted by poppo at 4:15 AM on September 25, 2008


Yeah, they can tread water for generations if need be.

Or they can, like, live on land.
posted by delmoi at 5:23 AM on September 25, 2008


Oh hmm, reading Wikipedia it does seem like they need ice for the way they hunt for food.
posted by delmoi at 5:28 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, if it makes anyone feel better, the global growth rate of methane in the atmosphere [graph] is actually dropping, not going up. Further, there have been no systematic studies of methane in the Arctic, so what these scientists are seeing could be well within the range of "normal". Finally it takes a while for the world to heat up so nothing dramatic is happening. 5MeoCMP's post about liquid methane causing firestorms and destroying life in Earth is I guess possible, but it would take an earth at least 6 degrees C warmer than it is today, and that would take at least a century under the worse case scenarios - and before that happens we will all mostly be dead anyway.
posted by stbalbach at 6:02 AM on September 25, 2008


stbalbach, that graph ends in 2005. We are talking here about something that was discovered a few days ago:
Yesterday, for the first time, we documented a field where the release was so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve into the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface.
I wouldn't expect the graph to reflect these changes.
posted by splice at 6:21 AM on September 25, 2008


It's even more complicated, spice, because emissions come from multiple sources and the recent 10-year slowdown has been a result of human activiity - namely a slowdown in wetland destruction and economic decline after the fall of the USSR.

NOAA or someone much track methane readings on a daily basis, just as they do for CO2. It would help calm some fears to see that methane levels in the atmosphere are not trending straight up, but remaining steady or going down, as has been the case up to 2005.
posted by stbalbach at 6:41 AM on September 25, 2008


One theory pertaining to purported unexplained disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle features methane eruptions.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:24 AM on September 25, 2008


Aren't there also huge methane sources barely locked into frozen swamps and tundra?
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:45 AM on September 25, 2008


Correct, BrotherCaine: there's massive amounts locked in Siberian permafrost, for example. Guess what's happening there?
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:44 AM on September 25, 2008


I don't care what you say, this was the perfect week to quit sniffing glue.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:39 AM on September 25, 2008


"that would take at least a century under the worse case scenarios - and before that happens we will all mostly be dead anyway"

It will still lead to some cultural changes, obviously. Right now, one of the main reasons people give for not having children is because they don't like them. But going forward, if you really really hate kids, the best thing to do will be to have as many as possible, then sit back and snicker as they go on about what they want to be when they grow up.
posted by Naberius at 10:56 AM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Or they can, like, live on land.

Yep. There are miles and miles of it out there in the Arctic.
posted by c13 at 12:39 PM on September 25, 2008


Oh hmm, reading Wikipedia it does seem like they need ice for the way they hunt for food.

See, I don't think the polar bears are too worried, but I'll bet you there are some really fucking nervous caribou out there right now.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:41 PM on September 25, 2008


I'll bet you there are some really fucking nervous caribou ^barbies out there right now.

---

Reading that googlefish-translated blog was like reading the opening chapters of the Andromeda Strain. Where is your global warming doubt now, Crichton?
posted by mwhybark at 2:12 PM on September 25, 2008


So...should we lie down? Put a paper bag over our head or something?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:49 PM on September 25, 2008


So...should we lie down? Put a paper bag over our head or something?

If you like, yes.
posted by inparticularity at 8:33 PM on September 25, 2008


Clearly we have reached a critical desalination point.
posted by Neale at 9:15 PM on September 25, 2008


I don't care what you say, this was the perfect week to quit sniffing glue.

Liar.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:03 PM on September 25, 2008


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