Extreme Temperature Diary-April 28, 2018/ Topic: Methane…The Big Belch?

Saturday April 28th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😊. Here is today’s main climate change related topic:

Methane…The Big Belch?

Every now and then I stumble upon some climate posts that seem plausible but are overly alarmist. Alarmism as far as the issue of climate change goes is not helpful and will only spur people to throw up their hands with inaction. Usually these involve another greenhouse gas, methane or CH4, which I rarely touch on, but I will  today. Here is the article in question:


To encapsulate this first methane is about 100 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Our planet might already be burning up if it weren’t for the fact that methane doesn’t last nearly as long as carbon in the atmosphere. From Wikipedia: 

Reaction with the hydroxyl radical – The major removal mechanism of methane from the atmosphere involves radical chemistry; it reacts with the hydroxyl radical (·OH) in the troposphere or stratosphere to create the ·CH3 radical and water vapor. In addition to being the largest known sink for atmospheric methane, this reaction is one of the most important sources of water vapor in the upper atmosphere.

CH + ·OH → ·CH+ H2O

This reaction in the troposphere gives a methane lifetime of 9.6 years. Two more minor sinks are soil sinks (160 year lifetime) and stratospheric loss by reaction with ·OH, ·Cl and ·O1D in the stratosphere (120 year lifetime), giving a net lifetime of 8.4 years.[24] Oxidation of methane is the main source of water vapor in the upper stratosphere (beginning at pressure levels around 10 kPa).

Second in order for an “extinction level event” to occur as early as 2026, as suggested by the article, a huge release of methane would need to occur from the Arctic due to positive feedback mechanisms from carbon pollution. Here is a feedback diagram from our alarmist extinction article:  

Quoting from the article: 

“In the Arctic, vast amounts of carbon are stored in soils that are now still largely frozen. As temperatures continue to rise and soils thaw, much of this carbon will be converted by microbes into carbon dioxide or methane, adding further greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”

“In addition, vast amounts of methane are stored in sediments under the Arctic Ocean seafloor, in the form of methane hydrates and free gas. As temperatures rise, these sediments can get destabilized, resulting in eruptions of huge amounts of methane from the seafloor. Due to the abrupt character of such releases and the fact that many seas in the Arctic Ocean are shallow, much of the methane will then enter the atmosphere without getting broken down in the water.”

“What makes the situation so dangerous is that huge eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean can happen at any time. We can just count ourselves lucky that it hasn’t happened as yet. As temperatures continue to rise, the risk that this will happen keeps growing.”

So, the essential question here is how big a threat is methane in the Arctic for a potential extinction “burp?” My general rule is to always turn to Gavin Schmidt’s Real Climate site for true answers. Here’s what we see from Real Climate on the “worst case scenario” involving methane: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/01/an-arctic-methane-worst-case-scenario/

Quoting from RC:

But the methane worst case does not suddenly spell the extinction of human life on Earth. It does not lead to a runaway greenhouse. The worst-case methane scenario stands comparable to what CO2 can do. What CO2 will do, under business-as-usual, not in a wild blow-the-doors-off unpleasant surprise, but just in the absence of any pleasant surprises (like emission controls). At worst comparable to CO2 except that CO2 lasts essentially forever.

This is not to write that there isn’t much danger from increasing amounts of methane going into the atmosphere. Fracking and the natural gas craze of this decade is adding dangerous methane, perhaps more than taken into account by IPCC assessments. Watch this National Geographic video contained in this link so you can judge: https://www.beforetheflood.com/explore/the-crisis/methane-the-ticking-time-bomb/


In any case, I think that humanity will be around long after 2026. I’ll refine forecasts for global warming from methane with time as more studies get published.


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The Climate Guy

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