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Op-Ed: Global Warming Causes Methane to Leak from Bottom of Arctic Ocean

By Brad Sylvester     Sep 30, 2008 in Environment
When the environment's equilibrium is broken things spiral out of control and deterioration feeds upon itself. It won’t be 2100 before people start to die because of global warming; in fact, it's already started.
I’ve had saltwater fish tanks for many years, and they have taught me a lesson. That lesson is this, if you let the chemistry of the water, or the temperature, or the amount food in the tank, or any one of more than a dozen other variables get out of balance, then the effect cascades and throws other critical elements out of balance, and the problem can be nearly impossible to correct in time to prevent catastrophic results. Keeping a healthy saltwater aquarium is an intricate dance whose goal is to maintain a delicate balance. Lose your equilibrium and the dance is over. The bigger the tank, the longer it can hide a problem before it shows any obvious evidence. By then, it’s usually too late.
The Oceans Can Hide the Effects of Global Warming
The Earth’s oceans are capable of hiding problems for a long time, but they are finally showing the strain visibly, and it may be too late to restore the planet’s delicate balance. When you think about consequences in terms of a hundred years from now, it’s easy to dismiss them, thinking that they can be addressed later. Until now, most global warming warnings have been delivered in terms like "by the end of this century" we may see severe consequences. Some recent discoveries, however, may be pulling that time table in dramatically.
Wake up and Smell the Methane
In 2005, The National Center for Atmospheric Research predicted that the Arctic permafrost may melt to a depth of 10 feet by 2100. That would release vast amounts of carbon and methane into the atmosphere. Methane, by the way, is 20 times worse than carbon dioxide in terms of contributing to the greenhouse effect. Just three years later, in 2008, as reported in The Independent, Dr. Orjan Gustafsson led a research ship along the northern coast of Russia and reported this “The growing evidence for release of methane in this inaccessible region may suggest that the permafrost lid is starting to get perforated and thus leak methane... The permafrost now has small holes.” He detailed his findings this way, “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.”
Global Warming Feedback Loop
This means that the equilibrium is broken. Melting polar ice results in darker ocean waters absorbing more sunlight, which means warmer ocean waters, which melt the remaining ice faster, and melt the permafrost below the ocean faster, releasing methane and carbon dioxide, which hold more heat in the atmosphere, and so on. There are other factors as well, but you get the point. The cycle is kicking into high gear, and very soon it may be too late to do anything about it. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, when the equilibrium is broken things spiral out of control and deterioration feeds upon itself in an ever accelerating feedback loop. It won’t be 2100 before people start to die because of global warming; it’ll be much sooner.
Global Warming Deaths Climbing
Actually, it’s already started killing people. According to a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), and reported by The Independent, as far back as 2003, about 150,000 people each year were dying because of global warming. That was five years ago. According to the WHO report global warming deaths are caused by things like a longer active season and extended range for the malaria bearing mosquito, malnutrition, and pollution-related disease. It's easy to dismiss those deaths until they start reaching into the United States. How many more years are there until malaria establishes itself in Florida? The answer is fewer than you think.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Global warming, Methane, Arctic, Arctic ocean, Greenhouse effect
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