Beware the Melting Permafrost

What happens if and when Siberia’s permafrost melts away? Behold the release of methane: “The Russian scientist shuffles across the frozen lake, scuffing aside ankle-deep snow until he finds a cluster of bubbles trapped under the ice,” reports Arthur Max of the Associated Press. “With a cigarette lighter in one hand and a knife in the other, he lances the ice like a blister. Methane whooshes out and bursts into a thin blue flame.” Here’s how Katey Walter Anthony, a researcher at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, puts it: “If permafrost were to thaw suddenly, in a flash, it would put a tremendous amount of carbon in the atmosphere. We would feel temperatures warming across the globe. And that would be a big deal.” [%comments]


Why don't we just look back in time when it was far warmer and see what happened then so that we can prepare for it? I mean argue about it? I mean fly around and do nothing but appear to do something to the public using public funds?


About time, I'm already fed up with the winter and we're only in November. Get that gas up in the air as fast as possible.




Someone recently wrote, "Nature doesn't do Bail-outs".

Mark Goldes

A surprising new strategy can speed supersedin?g fossil fuels..

The new 11 year sunspot cycle has begun. NASA estimates that any one of four anticipate?d "extreme" solar storms could cause New York, Washington?, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle and most of the Eastern U.S., as well as many other metropolit?an areas, to lose grid electricit?y, possibly for weeks.

On-site renewable energy has become a wise insurance policy - as well as a practical way for disruptive technologi?es to start to supersede the need for imported oil!

See: www.aesopi??nstitute.?o?rg for an overview - and an outline of preventati?ve actions.

Three Coronal Mass ejections (CME) have been born so far this year. One came close to Earth. Should a strong CME strike Earth's geomagneti?c field, NASA estimates huge areas might suffer collapse of the power grid.

More than 500 sunspots that could produce a CME are anticipate?d in this cycle. NOAA estimates four such "extreme" events are likely during the current 11 year cycle.

100 of those sunspots are forecast to trigger CME events categorize?d as "severe" by NOAA during the next decade.

In the U.S., NASA estimates a strong geomagneti?c storm could cause 130 million people to suffer a long-term shortage of electricit?y. The cost is estimated to be $1-2 trillion the first year. Roughly the combined price tag, to date, of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanista?n!

The catastroph?ic potential can generate much greater public support for green energy.



Overall quality of life for the human race would likely be better if temperatures were warmer.

Let's just get Al Gore out there, all his hot air will melt the ice pretty quick and we can stop worrying and start enjoying the warm weather.


FEED BACK LOOPING. the word that will define the next thousand years of History. We will be forever demonized in the history books and thousands of years of human history will pass before Nature is recalibrated.. forever losing the diversity of life.

We will be the most hated generation in history for thousands of years

Its not the end of the world, but sudden warming events will degrade bio-diversity at such a quick rate, the entire ecosystem will be effected and will re-calibrate.. Prepare for sudden plagues of insects,disease,extreme weather and extinction that will make the Black Plague look like a Christmas Party.

Eric M. Jones

It takes a special sort of person to see this objectively. But they couldn't find one, so this is my opinion:

I will drive a green car made of aluminum foil so that a third-world family can have more children. It's only fair.

For those AGW people out there: Question: How much has the average sea-level risen in the last century? Answer: Somewhere between zero and 3 cm. Why so little? NOBODY KNOWS!

I agree it is a shame that many larger creatures will go extinct, as 99.9% of species have through time. Nobody has a good idea what to do about it. Actually, nobody has any idea if it is a bad thing. California condors fed on mammoths. It's had to see the value in preserving condors, as much as one might want to.

What will mankind look like when the Sun goes out? Well, we were green slime five billion years ago, and we will be as different five billion years from now. An exciting future awaits.





Still fat from Thanksgiving leftovers I am too bloated to attack my over-fed peers but scientifically speaking, Santa needs more multi-year ice to store his toys for Christmas and this year there appears to be about 22,000 square miles as compared to 360,000 square miles back in the good old days of the 1970s, the era of leaded gasoline.

To make matters worse, the growing population requires more multi-year ice for Santa, not less.

What happens if there is so little multi-year ice at the North Pole that Santa has to move to the Himalayas? More jobs going to India...

Rodney Smith

I am amazed at the ignorance of those calling for a warmer world as it "would be better for humans". Traciatim's comment about looking to previous warmer eras seems to be a good idea--hmmmm dinosaurs the dominant life form? Humans should not be wishing for climate change of the magnitude that forces biological regime changes because we might get pushed off the table along with 70% of the rest of the species while new life forms emerge. Another factor to consider is our ever shrinking world days of food stored statistic--yes we have staved off some starvation with just-in-time delivery, however we do so at the cost of less inventory cushion for food shortages. Climate change for long term better or worse almost always wreaks havoc with current food production. Check out the US Department of Defense Joint Chiefs of Staff sudies on climate change to see what that conservative body thinks of climate change risk--they have concluded that it is a graver threat to world peace and national security thaan terrorism.


Conrad Sinclair

A large release of methane will create a disastrous posative feedback loop. We must study and attempt to predict the effects of this cataclysmic event so that we can either stop it from occurring, or counter act once it does.

Perhaps, in true Freakonomics fashion, we should invest more into potential geoengineering projects...


Food shortages have been shown to be a problem with logistics/distribution/affordability, not production.

Modern countries make more food with less.

Not sure about in the dinosaur era, but 1 million years is a time scale that I'm willing to take a chance on.


"If permafrost were to thaw suddenly, in a flash, it would put a tremendous amount of carbon in the atmosphere."

Wait, are we talking about methane or are we talking about carbon dioxide?


"Why don't we just look back in time when it was far warmer and see what happened then so that we can prepare for it?"

Fair point - but the difference this time is the rate of change - what happened over hundreds of years, allowing slow adaption, in the past could this time take place ove 50 years...


Who farted and froze it in the ice? That's just weird...


Yeah, and if pigs could fly we could shoot bacon out of the sky. Why does anyone pay attention when somebody starts out with a total unreasonable premise ("If permafrost were to thaw suddenly...")? Permafrost will never thaw suddenly over large areas "in a flash" because it takes a large amount of heat energy to melt ice. Sufficient energy is just not available to cause rapid melting.


People always wait until the last minute to do anything, so let's just accept that if the globe warms up and the polar ice caps melt, we are doomed. Relax and be happy, everyone. There is no way we can avert this crisis, which will almost certainly attack the globe. It has happened many times before in the Earth's history, and it is going to happen again, and sooner, because our CO2 problem will never be solved. We're too selfish.

Matthew Miller

I'm a little shocked that this is still news. It's been a known threat since at least 2007, if not earlier. Climate change was never about CO2 emissions--it was about the feedback loops CO2 enabled: 1) Rising temperatures melts permafrost releasing methane; 2) Retreating glaciers shrink glacial cover, reducing the amount of sunlight that is reflected back into space; etc.


Who is so stupid at this point not to understand the challenge of climate change- immediate and thorough cessation of environmental degradation- probably meaning the end of the consumer economy as we know it- or face the awesome prospect of being annihilated in our own lifetimes?

AGW deniers and skeptics, please understand there is no rationale for your position except ignorance born of a desire to maintain the status quo. Your lifestyles must change or we will all die.

The massive urbanification of world populations, with the economic carrot and stick regime pushed by the WTO and UN development authorities have done enormous damage by characterizing "subsistence" economies as backward and illegitimate. Now we face the impossible task of facing up to the promise to billions of a turkey in every pot and a car in every garage. The first world cannot deliver on this dream without liberating so much CH4 and CO2 to make life all but unlivable on this planet.

The crass anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-environment, and anti-facts anti-AGW crowd are so far in the wrong as to be unethical. Theirs is an anti-social, anti-life viewpoint that is pathological.

Skeptics imply that respected scientists with no axe to grind are just fear-mongering, simply getting their rocks off with outlandish ideas, for their own self-benefit, for the financial benefit of their research institutions.

Meanwhile the avalanche of data continues to paint an ever-greater catalog of clear and present danger.