Significant news is coming out of the Arctic these past few weeks - and none of it bodes well for the future of the Earth. In fact, for climate scientists and environmentalists, worst case scenarios are now playing out in real time - mainly revolving around the release of methane gas and how abrupt climate change is literally unfolding before our eyes.
Methane gas at room temperature and standard pressure is both colorless and odorless. It is a gas that is 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The gas is formed when methane clathrates (hydrates) melt and then the gas is released into the atmosphere. For millions of years, methane clathrates have laid frozen and undisturbed under layers of frozen permafrost in large areas around the world, much of it trapped under the Arctic ice sheets. As the Arctic ice disappears (which is happening in real-time right now as you read this) this powerful gas which has the ability to super-heat the planet is being released into the atmosphere. The results of an upcoming unchecked methane release will be nothing short of catastrophic to life here on earth. As the Arctic ice melts:
"This has the potential to release vast quantities of methane trapped by ice below the surface - billions of tonnes of methane. World-wide, peat bogs store at least two trillion tons of CO2. This is equivalent to a century of emissions from fossil fuels."
Has the cycle that has now began mean game over for earth and its inhabitants? Is it now too late to stop the inevitable release of methane gas which will be the game changer for all of us? Have we lingered too long to address the growing threat of climate change and the consequences of that inaction? Recent reports and new evidence support that we have now entered into a vicious feedback cycle of climate change:
A recent report at the Arctic News Blogspot documents that as of this month (March 2013) a record methane level has been reached in the Arctic:
"Methane levels for this period are at record highs in the Barents and Norwegian Seas, i.e. the highest levels ever recorded by IASI, which is is short for Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer, a Fourier transform spectrometer on board the European EUMETSAT Metop satellite that has supplied data since 2007."
Another dire analysis of the Arctic climate system was made on March 20 by Paul Beckwith, Climatologist and part-time professor. Beckwith goes on record to say:
"For the record; I do not think that any sea ice will survive this summer. An event unprecedented in human history is today, this very moment, transpiring in the Arctic Ocean. The cracks in the sea ice that I reported on my Sierra Club Canada blog and elsewhere over the last several days have spread and at this moment the entire sea ice sheet (or about 99% of it) covering the Arctic Ocean is on the move. Clockwise. The ice is thin, and slushy, and breaking apart."
Beckwith goes on to say, "This is abrupt climate change in real-time. Humans have benefited greatly from a stable climate for the last 11,000 years or roughly 400 generations. Not any more. We now face an angry climate. One that we have poked in the eye with our fossil fuel stick and awakened. And now we must deal with the consequences. We must set aside our differences and prepare for what we can no longer avoid. And that is massive disruption to our civilizations."
On March 18, 2013 Climate Central reports on the unusual extreme temperatures and weather patterns observed between March of 2012 and March of this year. "To put that weather in context, consider that by March 19, 2012, more than 2,200 warm-temperature records had been set or tied across the U.S. That is about 1,000 more than had been set or tied so far this March." Extreme weather events are on the rise with no letting up in sight.
On March 19, 2013 Scientific American published an article on the exploitation of methane gas and its effects on the climate. Green blogger Mat McDermott warns, "Developing methane hydrates would be “game over for the climate."
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration recently released data showing that February 2013 marked the 336th consecutive month that global temperatures rose above the 20th century average. Further investigation leads climatologists to believe that a permanent and irreversible change has taken place to the jet stream due to Arctic ice loss: A report from 2012 cites evidence of the relation between the Arctic ice loss and extreme weather events.
"Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann points to the recent Northeast storm that dumped more than 30 inches in some places. He said it was the result of a perfect set of conditions for such an event: Arctic air colliding with unusually warm oceans that produced extra large amounts of moisture and big temperature contrasts, which drive storms. Those all meant more energy, more moisture and thus more snow," he said.
With evidence of real-time climate change happening as we read this, the question begs to be answered: Have we now set in motion an unstoppable series of events that are leading to a severe and abrupt change of our climate? Have we finally pushed the envelope to a point where the game has changed and we no longer have any plays left on the field?
And if so, is this now about survival of the fittest and adaptation - and is there a possibility that there will no longer even be a field to play on?
(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer and art educator living in the San Francisco Bay Area. With over 1 million online readers, Dorsi's passion is to help children unlock their creativity and imagination and to also spread the word about the effects of world-wide climate change)