Gas hydrates, global warming’s ticking time bomb?

crater 1

Scientists said the Siberian craters were likely caused by explosions from gas hydrates

Observation from space has revealed the dramatic mushrooming of the holes, believed to be caused by methane gas eruptions in melting permafrost due to climate change, scientists revealed today.

A leading Russian expert sounded an alert over safety because one new Siberian crater, surrounded by at least 20 “baby holes”, is just six miles from a major gas production plant.

He predicts up to 30 more are waiting to be discovered.

Scientists are still baffled by the exact processes causing the craters and respected Moscow expert Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky today called for “urgent” investigation of the new phenomenon amid safety fears.

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This picture shows a map of the four craters

Until now, the existence of only three Siberian craters had been established.

“We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,” he told The Siberian Times – referring to the larger holes.

“Five are directly on the Yamal peninsula, one in Yamal Autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr peninsula.

“We have exact locations for only four of them.

“The other three were spotted by reindeer herders.

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Rising temperatures are believed to create ideal conditions for more craters

“But I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them.

“I would compare this with mushrooms.

“When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more.”

Two of the newly-discovered large craters – also known as funnels to scientists – have turned into lakes, revealed Professor Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“It is important not to scare people, but this is a very serious problem.

“We must research this phenomenon urgently to prevent possible disasters. We cannot rule out new gas emissions in the Arctic and in some cases they can ignite.”

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Satellite images of the giant craters that have alerted scientists

The first hole was spotted in 2013 by helicopter pilots 20 miles from a gas extraction plant at Bovanenkovo, on the Yamal Peninsula.

An examination of the area using satellite images, comparing landscapes in the past with the present day, has alerted Russian experts to the prospect that the phenomenon is more widespread than first thought.

Experts are particularly interested in a crater they name B2, which just six miles to the south of the gas field at Bovanenkovo.

Old satellite imagery shows no sign of craters at the site but there now exists a lake, 100 metres by 50 metres, surrounded by 20 smaller holes filled with water.

These mini-craters are just a metre or two in diameter.

And, following the discovery of a funnel at Antipayuta, on the Yamal Peninsula, nearby residents told scientists about seeing a flash of light, possibly as a result of gas exploding.

crater 5

Yamal lake showing signs of ‘degassing’

Professor Bogoyavlensky said: “We need to answer now the basic questions: what areas, and under what conditions, are the most dangerous?

“These questions are important for the safe operation of the northern cities and infrastructure of oil and gas complexes.”

There is already scientific concern that Lake Baikal, the largest and oldest freshwater lake in the world, but well outside the Arctic Circle, could be among the places sitting on a “time bomb” ready to explode.

Scientists have previously said there is growing evidence that rising temperatures is the main catalyst triggering the blasts. Any continued increase – as is predicted by meteorologists – could create the ideal conditions for more craters to be formed.

It is thought permafrost at the sites could have one million times more methane hydrates locked inside than ordinary gas. One expert estimated that the total explosive power of the craters has been the equivalent of about 11 tonnes of TNT.

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Satellite imagery shows signs of craters at a site that previously had none

There are also two tectonic fault lines across the Yamal Peninsula, with another possibility being that the blow-outs are caused by a deadly combination of heat leaving these rifts, a higher than normal air temperature, and the “fire ice” melting.

The professor revealed one picture of a Yamal lake showing signs of what he calls “degassing”.

“This haze that you see on the surface shows gas seeps from the bottom of the lake to the surface,” he said.

“We call this process ‘degassing’.”

He is not sure if this lake, too, was previously a crater “or if the lake formed from another process.

“More important is that the gases from within are actively seeping through this lake.”

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The first mysterious crater spotted by helicopter in the Yamal region of northern Russia. Image via Nature.

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30 thoughts on “Gas hydrates, global warming’s ticking time bomb?

    • The ocean floor off the coast of Northern
      California close to Humboldt County has plentiful deposits of methane hydrates. I believe the TS even did an article or two about them years ago. Oil companies were trying to figure out a way to mine them. Keeping these deposits from turning our ocean into a giant fizzy event, like a shaken soda pop is more a function of pressure than temperature. As long as it is under extreme pressure it wont expand and stays in solid form like ice. They realized that by mining a quantity from a given zone, this procedure could start an unstoppable chain reaction, resulting in the “ice” turning to gas. It is very suspicious to me that these craters formed within 20 miles of a gas extraction plant. Maybe more BS from the global warming crew. Could very well be the result of gas extraction.

      Like

      • it’s not “more BS from the global warming crew.” it was from deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, Professor Bogoyavlensky
        That’s hardly the global warming crew

        Liked by 2 people

      • What better way to deflect attention from another petro producer screwup, than to agree that it must be warming. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But if you believe Uncle Bogoyavlensky wouldn’t cover it up if it were the result of gas extraction in an unstable area you are mistaken. There is BS (Bad Science), and there is just plain old BS, and the Russians are full of both types.

        Like

  1. If you think about it… it gets better (worse).

    Many communities in Alaska (and Northern Canada) are built on permafrost. So far the big problem is when permafrost under buildings melts and the structures collapse (I believe Fairbanks lost a hospital that way).

    But can you imagine large hunks of Wasilla (Sarah Palin’s home town) being blasted off the map? Then they’ll get a much better view of Russia than from their back yards (ever so briefly while flying through the air).

    No doubt the answer (no doubt from Ms. Palin herself) will be commie scientists are trying to undermine American Morale through Global Warming lies.

    What you refuse to know can’t hurt you… right?

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is just the tip of the iceberg, if all that permafrost melts it’s going to be releasing Methane into the atmosphere everywhere it happens and Methane is a worse Greenhouse Gas than C02.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What about even more basic questions Professor B.? What can we do about this? I recycle. I do what I can to reduce, reuse. I try to stay active politically. I live close to work and value the example Ed Begley Jr. provides as a model. How are we to make changes as a society to address problems like the established human-caused climate change?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Next time you’re sitting around the dinner table with family and friends remind them that a 10-day vacation that requires a 20 hour round trip flight consumes over half the fuel used by the average U.S. driver each year. For many, these wasteful junkets represent an entire year of fuel for their car.

    We can gauge our chances of reducing human contributions of C02 when we see people voluntarily restricting consumption of mass quantities of fuel, among other frivolous uses.

    It would help free up the time required to go downtown and demand Eureka’s electric cable cars be restored on H and I Streets.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Mola – I don’t believe the path forward from where we are can be made individually alone, except inasmuch as we as individuals can influence and change our leaders.

    The question was rhetorical. We are going to need to act together to solve this. For every person acting responsibly, by the nature of what we are trying to do, we allow others who may not have the resources we do to act … irresponsibly.

    Obviously framed like that it would be a difficult and elitist (not to mention impossible) to get that message across, but it is a message that has to get across because of …reality.

    I once heard her say, but cannot currently find it, that idea of what one can do individually v what one can do collectively (in my terms, not hers) is what converted Arianna Huffington to the partisan we know today. That epiphany is what I hope to get across, because it’s an important one that Reagan and Rush et. al. have managed to erase from our, sorry, “collective” consciousness.

    What I’m trying to get across, simply, is we are going to need government to make the changes we need to make. That’s why I’ll keep posting that question here in climate change posts b/c I think TE doesn’t get that yet, or at least their rhetoric often misses this and in their fervor to rightfully be upset about this or that high salary, boondoggle, etc, they miss the point that the government is us and the conversation has to change. It has to be re-framed.

    Right now, yours and Mitch’s comments are framed by Rush Limbaugh whether you realize it or not (imho). Obviously you both are right, we have to act responsibly individually and carbon credits are a great and important way for those with money to help sweep twigs over our footprints – like the responsible campers we are trying to be.

    But more important that individual actions, as you seem to allude to, is we need to change policies – policies that would then affect large scale behavior changes.

    Internationally, we are laggards on climate change,so let’s put that aside. Nationally, we are stuck with the red states for now, that conversation is going to take a while. In California we are doing pretty well, but locally is where we can actually make a difference.

    I think this begins with the message and it’s a message that we on the left need to admit to ourselves includes government, bureaucracy, enforcement, all these things that are such an easy target for people to hate.

    Why focus locally? ‘Cause you are right, this is a problem that has to be addressed internationally. The reason is the same you and Mitch and I are motivated to act individually despite knowing this will not have one iota of difference on climate change. We can lead by being the exception to the rule proving that we can change our behavior. That’s how I see the importance of our 150,000 person county.

    It’s the next step toward that cumulative effect that you are talking about and if made, I think it would stand as a powerful example for other rural communities. Change has to start somewhere, why not here?

    If we can change our ways locally, the solutions we would have found would not have come from a wealthy and high-minded liberal elite county. They would have come from a gritty, working-class, and traditionally rural county steeped in it’s past.

    TE, btw, I’m not saying don’t write about the high adminstrative salary, or this or that boondoogle, because those stories are important and sustainability, including financial is critical to good governance. Just know, that when you do, it’s the heart of the argument that got Jim Inhofe to become ranking member of the United States Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Oversight.

    Think about the big picture, realize that 24/7 on FOX, KINS, and KWSW there is a message being broadcast that the nine worst words in the English language is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well said, LMOB. That message is directly from the fossil fuel industry and Koch Bros. in particular, who are disguising their ads as news and their spokesmen as journalists, buying politicians and corrupting government at every level from city councils to the Supreme Court. The problem is personal, local, regional and global and won’t be solved without addressing them all.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Jon,

      You are right that it will take action beyond that of individuals. What you seem to miss is that the individual action is essential to enabling individuals to work towards societal change. One creates the other. That is why so many people who know the petitions are effectively meaningless still do petitions — they want to cause someone to take a personal action, no matter how small, because they know that the way to motivate a person to act in society is to cause them to have taken some related action, no matter how small.

      But clicking, it has turned out, is not a real action. The civil rights movement was based primarily on people who had known discrimination and who were willing to put their lives on the line against it. Once someone was involved in a demonstration and had some racist sheriff hose them down, or release dogs on them, or even just call them names, they were IN. Clicking, apparently if unsurprisingly, does not have the same mobilizing effect.

      It’s not clear to me what would have the same effect around the global warming issue without already being too late; that is the unfortunate nature of global warming, where the system is so huge that once the impacts are great enough to force action, the action that is required may be greater than is even possible. But I do feel confident that any such action would involve people who have FIRST taken actions to change their personal lives in ways that involve real sacrifice, and only then build a movement that will have power over politicians.

      Liked by 3 people

      • News sources that educated us on the consequences of our personal choices would help too. Those cheap toys and electronics from China or products containing palm oil from Indonesia have a very high carbon price that isn’t reflected at the cash register. Unfortunately, the airlines and the manufacturers buy advertising from the broadcasters (even PBS) so there isn’t much educating going on.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mitch, almost if as on que, John Chiv has your back in another (holding back preferred noun) article taking on Bonnie, Mark, unions, government, media and weed (but the latter has to be taken with some salt as he then praises the work of Kym who seems to me to be the pro-weed advocate in the local digital pres).

        This is/was/will be my point. Two teams – pro public and anti-public. It’s that simple. I’m not saying don’t speak your mind, don’t call out authorities when they deserve to be called out. What I am saying is be cognizant of the messages – ie what the Honest Gil Fulbrights for Senate are saying.

        The key to the Red teams message is this. Individuals – pull up your boot straps. The often unspoken corollary to this is “we want to cut back government programs” – and the even more rare – “because we don’t want to pay taxes”.

        That’s the debate as framed by Reagan and Goldwater before him – and given their success since 1980, it’s the debate we are stuck with.

        So when you say this …

        “What you seem to miss is that the individual action is essential to enabling individuals to work towards societal change.”

        I didn’t, here, take a look…

        “Obviously you both are right, we have to act responsibly individually and carbon credits are a great and important way for those with money to help sweep twigs over our footprints – like the responsible campers we are trying to be.”

        “The reason is the same you and Mitch and I are motivated to act individually despite knowing this will not have one iota of difference on climate change.”

        On the importance of individual action, we don’t disagree. Where we disagree seems to be where John Chiv and I disagree as well. Government and it’s influence over the private sector (take the private non-profit electrical codes as one of a thousand examples) should be defended as the critical player it has to be to often work in conflict to what a free market might want to do sans said government.

        That’s what I think you are missing. It seems to me that ones actions have to do with people who have the resources donating these resources to the proper thinkers – whether it’s carbon-credit sites, alternative political thinkers, etc. That has proven to be only slightly more effective than electronic petitions.

        The important effect donating money to righteous causes has had – in my mind – is a kind of stop-gap. This is often a legal measure or less often a political measure.

        But that is not the kind of change climate change, population growth and our cumulative 8 billion strong footprints demand. You know this which is why you sometimes use the past tense when describing what we should have done to prevent climate change.

        Even if we can’t change what we’ve done and our skies contain too much CO2 to be reversed, we’ll still be here as humans, just possibly on a different scale. If that’s true, then now, more than ever, we need to be able to take action, effectively, together.

        Again, the way we do this is through government, bureaucracies, the good-ole boring stuff that we’ve been doing since Lincoln and before. Our challenge as two of the many readers of the TE who get what is happening is to explain this and help figure out what action has to be taken – after one “taken actions to change their personal lives”.

        And I’ll keep asking this .. what action is that – not including individual action as that we both agree on. What action do we take as neighbors, community members and citizens?

        I don’t think this has to involve sacrifice, that’s could be the beauty of public planning for a future for all of us.

        Like

  5. Why ON EARTH does the author say “it’s important not to scare people”? Seems to me we ought to be doing everything possible to terrify people as this is the only way to get them to do anything. I have just decided to hope for an astroid to strike and destroy life on earth to save humanity from the shame of having destroyed ourselves.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Politics by frightening people is not sustainable, and not smart.

      We need to trust people’s intellect because that is how we are going to make the changes we will have to make.

      Take an honest accounting of when and where fear is used in politics, I will not give any hints, and see if the left’s cause is helped or hindered based on the politics of fear.

      What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and I’m not OK using fear when it comes to our friends on the other side of the aisle. Since I’m not, I think it’s only fair, right, and in the long run smart, that we avoid this too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Frightening people with facts to spur them to take action for survival isn’t the same as frightening them with lies to get them to vote against their own best interest, LMOB. That is a false equivalency.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I guess I don’t disagree, but defining lies is very difficult as climate change proves.

        Politics more often than not is about emotion and I think that people are smart enough to tell when fear tactics are being used. Especially if they are inclinded to disagree with the subject.

        I’m not saying the facts on the ground are not scary, I am saying spread the good word as you would to one of your children. Because we understand instinctively that anxiety is not something that will generally help in long term decision-making.

        Good luck with calling Senator Inhofe a liar from our position on the left. That debate is pointless and it won’t change minds, or more importantly, electoral results.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Who said calling Inhofe a liar would do any good? People are changing their minds and they are doing so because they are slowly coming to realize that climate change is already affecting them, even in Texas where drought is destroying communities and property values. With enough time and a bit of luck we might still be able to turn it around before it causes global catastrophes with massive loss of human and animal life, but it isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to happen without people realizing how grave the danger is and how little time we really do have to act.

    Liked by 4 people

    • As I’m sure Jane knows, public opinion on human-caused global warming is very different outside the United States. The rest of the world isn’t still debating it, as if there were anything to debate. Just us.

      Liked by 3 people

    • “Who said calling Inhofe a liar would do any good?”

      Jane – I was referring to this…”frightening them with lies to get them to vote against their own best interest” b/c I do believe Inhofe is lying to his constituents.

      My point is we’d do better with credibility and messaging in the long run if we try to stay away from using fear. Decisions made by fear are almost by definition myopic.

      That, and understanding nature a little, I understand how forgiving it can be and how little we know.

      Be aware, educate, spread the bad news when available. But, again, remember that our children will be here and theirs will be as well. What we are trying to do is our part in making their lives and their decisions less uncomfortable and the results of those decisions more valuable.

      Because what we do today can have that effect.

      Like

  7. Change begins around the dinner table, the workplace break-room, and other places people feel save.

    If we can’t be frank among family and friends, If we can’t hold our loved-ones accountable for their over-the-top wasteful lifestyles, we’re just as guilty as media for failing to point out the obvious.

    When the language of change permeates society, political activism isn’t far off, nor are the leaders eager to follow…if history is any indication…

    The TE has the right idea.

    Our mainstream local reports of local and national issues serve to erase collective memory. Connecting the dots of continuing law enforcement, budgetary, and political abuses is essential for people to gain perspective over time to insure that government is working for them.

    Liked by 3 people

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