Methane ice clathrates and climate, the powder keg of the oceans

There are several feedbacks related to climate change that can either slow down or accelerate global warming. Climate change affects these and they, in turn, affect climate change. These include, for example, the earth’s albedo, i.e. the reflectivity of snow and ice in particular, which cools the earth by reflecting the sun’s radiation away. Warming reduces albedo and this accelerates warming. Others are the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, cloudiness, methane released by melting permafrost, etc. The importance of feedback to the global temperature is very large, the thermal forcing can be up to several degrees. One very significant, but little-studied feedback is the methane ice clathrates of the oceans and the areas of the seabed covered by them. They are areas covered by methane ice at the bottom of the oceans on the continental shelves near the coasts at a depth of about 300-500 meters at a temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, which were created when water containing methane froze. About 2500 Gt of carbon has been stored in these methane ice clathrates, i.e. half of the amount of carbon that is and has been in all fossil fuel stores, used and unused, combined. For comparison, all the world’s plant biomass contains about 650 Gt of carbon. This 2500 GB is a huge amount.

As the climate warms, the seas also warm, albeit more slowly than the air. There is still relatively little research information on this, how fast exactly this is, etc., but it is known that the seas have warmed surprisingly quickly. Even a small upward change in sea temperature can decisively lead to the melting of methane ice. If these seabed methane ice clathrates melt, which is enough to increase the temperature of the seabed by a few degrees, the consequences will be catastrophic. Especially since methane is 25 times stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. There are many uncertainties associated with the melting of methane ice clathrates, e.g. how much methane eventually ends up in the atmosphere. However, it can be assumed that the amount is considerable. Now, in the summer of 2022, the devastating forest fires have raged even in Europe much stronger than usual. If methane from methane ice clathrates is released, then this is just the prelude. The worst scenario is that the released methane accelerates global warming so that everywhere on Earth is like in a sauna. In the worst case, the earth will burn and most of the life will die and the land will be completely deserted. So all forests can burn and more than 90% of life can disappear.

There are indications of this in the development history of life on Earth. Methane clathrates have melted at least three times before. At the end of the Permian period and the beginning of the Triassic period, more than 200 million years ago, a terrible wave of extinction occurred, in which most of the species on Earth died out. The earth became widely desertified. This started the Triassic period and gradually the reign of the dinosaurs as the climate gradually returned to normal and stable. This same can happen again. The clathrate gun theory presents other thermal spikes caused by the melting of methane clathrates. We are sort of standing or floating on top of a powder keg. This gunpowder keg is methane clathrates, which, like gunpowder, ”light up easily”. Decision-makers, economic life and individual citizens must wake up now. Climate change is a very serious threat that endangers life on Earth. The biosphere is fragile and cannot adapt to a sudden change in climate. Huge destruction and death can be expected if enough climate action is not taken, and this means very radical actions, such as a transition to completely renewable clean energy and organic farming, electric transport and a vegetarian diet. We still have a chance to save the planet.Please listen to us experts, we have warned what will happen if humanity continues on the path of indifference.


Daniel Elkama


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