Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble!

by Kiko Matsing

Methane bubbles in Arctic seas stir warming fears (Reuters)

Large amounts of a powerful greenhouse gas are bubbling up from a long-frozen seabed north of Siberia, raising fears of far bigger leaks that could stoke global warming, scientists said.


Here we go again. This is the kind of sensationalized reporting that makes the public even more suspicious of the science of climate change. Journalists need to learn the use of appropriate tone. The public is fatigued with the alarmist language used to report environmental issues–especially after the fallout of the Climategate emails.

Shakhova’s study said there was an “urgent need” to monitor the region for possible future changes since permafrost traps vast amounts of methane, the second most common greenhouse gas from human activities after carbon dioxide.

Aha! Here it is! Give us more grant money so we can watch Arctic sea bubble. Really, this is more important than cures for tropical diseases, sanitation, clean water. It’s about saving the planet!

The Heat Over Bubbling Arctic Methane (NY Times)

One of the great challenges in assessing the meaning of changes in Arctic climate and other environmental conditions is putting today’s observations in long-term context. This is as true for the bubbling emissions of methane from the frozen, but warming, sea bed as for sea ice around the North Pole. Two recent studies of methane emissions from frozen sea-bed sediments, including one published in Science and described in The Times today, found substantial bubbling flows of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, were reaching the atmosphere. In its news release, the National Science Foundation, which helped underwrite the research, described the emissions as taking place “at an alarming rate.”

But are these emissions new, or simply newly observed? Does this mean that the Arctic system is coming unglued, and that a great outpouring of this heat-trapping gas is about to upend the global climate system?

Methane Releases From Arctic Shelf May Be Much Larger and Faster Than Anticipated (NSF Press Release)