Environment

Russian Methane Leaks

Satellite data have detected massive plumes of methane gas leaking from Russia’s Yamal pipeline, which carries natural gas from Siberia to Europe. The Paris-based Kayrros energy consultancy said one leak was gushing 93 metric tons of methane each hour, with the same greenhouse gas effect as the exhaust of 15,000 cars in the United States during a full year.

Radiation Mystery

Russia has denied it is responsible for a cloud of radioactive particles detected at monitoring stations across northern Europe. Officials in Finland, Norway and Sweden say that one of the isotopes, Iodine 131, does not occur in nature and is created by nuclear fission. Cobalt, ruthenium and cesium were also detected in Finland. hile the amount of the radiation is considered tiny and not dangerous, its presence has led some experts to believe it may be from the testing of Russia’s new cruise missiles, which are said to be propelled by onboard nuclear power plants.

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Global Warming

Israel Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rise

Methane emanating from Israel’s natural gas infrastructure is increasing the country’s overall global-warming greenhouse gas emissions by some eight percent and is probably preventing the country from meeting its international obligations on climate change, according to a new report by the environmental advocacy organization Adam Teva V’Din.

The finding contradicts claims by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz that the move to natural gas is helping Israel reach its targets for lowering warming gases.

Pakistan under Threat of Glacial Floods

With more than 7,000, Pakistan has more glaciers than anywhere except the polar regions. But climate change is “eating away Himalayan glaciers at a dramatic rate”, a study published in the journal Science Advances noted.

As glacier ice melts, it can collect in large glacial lakes, which are at risk of bursting their banks and creating deadly flash floods downstream. More than 3,000 of those lakes had formed as of 2018, with 33 of them considered hazardous and more than 7 million people at risk downstream.

Global Warming

Methane Leaks

The powerful greenhouse gas methane is leaking into the atmosphere from industrial sites around the planet at a rate comparable to carbon emissions generated in Germany and France annually, a French data analysis firm notes.

A report by Kayrros points to data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite that reveal more than “100 high-volume emission events.” They are said to release about 22 million tons of methane from gas storage and transmissions facilities each year.

While relatively short-lived in the atmosphere, methane is dozens of times more potent in causing global warming than CO2.

Global Warming

Oil and gas production is contributing even more to global warming than was thought

Among greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide is the most significant contributor to global warming and therefore, public enemy No. 1 when it comes to stopping the climate crisis.

But methane — the main component in natural gas and an even more effective heat-trapping gas — is a close second. Scientists say that atmospheric methane is now responsible for about 25 percent of the human-caused warming we see today.

Now, a new study finds that methane emissions from fossil fuels are between 25% and 40% larger than past research had estimated, revealing that oil and gas production is contributing far more to warming the planet than previously thought.

The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, sheds new light on just how much fossil fuel production and use is changing the atmosphere — and in turn, warming the planet.

Global Warming

Scientists detect methane surge in South Sudan

Scientists think they can now explain at least part of the recent growth in methane levels in the atmosphere. Researchers, led from Edinburgh University, UK, say their studies point to a big jump in emissions coming from just the wetlands of South Sudan.

Satellite data indicates the region received a large pulse of water from East African lakes, including Victoria. This would have boosted CH4 from the wetlands, accounting for a significant part of the rise in global methane.

Global Warming

Fracking Methane

A new study concludes that the recent boom in fracking to extract shale gas, largely composed of methane, is responsible for a surge in the atmospheric concentration of the powerful greenhouse gas over the past decade.

Robert Howarth at Cornell University says he estimates that fracking in the U.S. and Canada is also responsible for more than half of the increase in the global fossil fuel emissions seen over the past 10 years.

His report warns that if shale gas extraction continues to rise, it will make the goals of the Paris climate change agreement even more difficult to achieve.

Global Warming

Satellite spies methane bubbling up from Arctic permafrost

For the first time, scientists have used a satellite to estimate how much methane is seeping into the atmosphere from Arctic lakes. Preliminary data presented this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington DC help to explain long-standing discrepancies between estimates of methane emissions from atmospheric measurements and data collected at individual lakes.

As icy permafrost melts to form lakes, microbes break down organic matter in the thawing ground beneath the water and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Researchers have measured the amount of methane seeping out of hundreds of lakes, one by one, but estimating emissions across the Arctic remains a challenge. Understanding how much methane is being released by these lakes is crucial to predicting how much permafrost emissions could exacerbate future climate change.

The results suggest that previous research over-estimated how much methane was coming from many large lakes, partly because scientists have spent more time studying smaller lakes with relatively high emissions.

In a 2,000-square-kilometre area around the Barrow Peninsula in northern Alaska, for instance, the research team calculated that lakes release an average of 0.6 grams of methane per square metre of water surface each year — which equates to around 141 kilograms of methane per square kilometre. That is about 84% lower than some previous estimates based on measurements at individual lakes, but lines up well with estimates based on atmospheric measurements.

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Global Warming

CO2 Capture

A Swiss company has received a $31 million investment to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an expensive process that uses high-tech filters and fans.

Climeworks AG says it now costs about $600 to extract a ton of carbon from the air, but the company hopes to bring down the cost enough to pull out 1 percent of man-made CO2 emissions by 2025.

Scientists now believe that only a combination of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and extracting existing CO2 from the air can reduce the effects of climate change brought on by the burning of fossil fuels.

Kelp Migration

Undersea kelp forests are being transformed by warming oceans, affecting the species that rely on them for food and shelter.

“The warm-water kelp Laminaria ochroleuca was actually first detected in the U.K. in the late 1940s, but is now a common sight along the southwest coast,” said Dan Smale of Britain’s Plymouth University.

The warmer water and resulting northward expansion of the kelp is causing warm-water fish to move north too.

It’s also allowing the cool-water species they are displacing to migrate into Arctic waters that are rapidly becoming warmer.

Bubbling Lakes in the Arctic

NASA has released videos of bubbling lakes in the remote Arctic tundra, where warming continues to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at unprecedented rates.

The international research team, funded by NASA as part of their Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), recently published their results in Nature Communications. What they found are bubbling lakes as greenhouse gases are released from the previously frozen ground, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions and a warming positive feedback.

The Arctic is one of the largest natural reservoirs of organic carbon, trapped within the frozen soils. If a tree dies, say in the Amazon rainforest, it is quickly eaten (rot) away by bacteria, which respire the same as humans. As bacteria eat the tree they inhale oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Hence, the carbon taken up by the tree through photosynthesis is then released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide for the cycle to start all over again.

However, in the case of the Arctic, when something dies (trees, algae, animals, etc.) they are immediately frozen. This, in essence, stops the carbon cycle as both bacteria and their food are frozen in place for potentially tens of thousands of years. This means the Arctic continues to pack away carbon from the atmosphere and store it in frozen soil, which can be over 250 feet thick.

However, when that soil begins to thaw, the bacteria wake up and find a feast of untouched carbon laid out for them, they begin to eat the carbon, releasing carbon dioxide and methane gas as they do. In the NASA video what you see is the resulting carbon dioxide and methane gases released from the thawing of Arctic lake beds. As the sediment beneath these lakes begins to melt, they become greenhouse gas factories.

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Global Warming

Arctic lakes speed up permafrost thawing, global warming: study

A new study found that a relatively less known process called abrupt thawing might speed up Arctic permafrost’s expected gradual thawing and then the release of greenhouse gases.

The abrupt thawing takes place under a certain type of Arctic lake, known as a thermokarst lake that forms as permafrost thaws, according to the study published on Friday in the journal Nature Communications.

Its impact on the climate is an influx of permafrost-derived methane into the atmosphere in the mid-21st century, which is not currently accounted for in climate projections.

The Arctic landscape stores one of the largest natural reservoirs of organic carbon in the world in its frozen soils. Once thawed, soil microbes in the permafrost can turn that carbon into the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

American and German researchers found that abrupt thawing more than doubles previous estimates of permafrost-derived greenhouse warming.

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Global Warming

US judge throws out climate change lawsuits against big oil

A U.S. judge who held a hearing about climate change that received widespread attention ruled Monday that Congress and the president were best suited to address the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming, throwing out lawsuits that sought to hold big oil companies liable for the Earth’s changing environment.

Noting that the world has also benefited significantly from oil and other fossil fuel, Judge William Alsup said questions about how to balance the “worldwide positives of the energy” against its role in global warming “demand the expertise of our environmental agencies, our diplomats, our Executive, and at least the Senate.”

However, in Monday’s ruling, the judge said he accepted the “vast scientific consensus” that the combustion of fossil fuels has contributed to global warming and rising sea levels.

Fracking Not a Solution to Climate Change

A new, comprehensive study of methane leaks in the oil and gas industry is the final piece of evidence that natural gas is not part of the climate solution. Fracking and consequent natural gas production have been seen as a solution to climate change.

The findings confirm if a coal-fired plant is replaced with a gas-fired plant there is no net climate benefit for at least two decades. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. A very small leakage rate of methane from the natural gas supply chain (production to delivery to combustion) can have a large climate impact  —  enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas for a long, long time.

In November, another study found the methane emissions escaping from just New Mexico’s gas and oil industry are “equivalent to the climate impact of approximately 12 coal-fired power plants.” In January, NASA found that most of the huge rise in global methane emissions in the past decade was in fact from the fossil fuel industry — and that this rise was “substantially larger” than previously thought.

It’s time to acknowledge that fracking is truly part of the climate problem, and likely to become a bigger problem over time as natural gas competes more and more with renewable energy sources.

Global Warming

Oozing Methane Blasts Holes in Siberian Tundra

Escaping methane gas has blown at least two new holes in the Siberian tundra in the past few months, according to eyewitness accounts to the Siberian Times and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Reindeer herders northwest of the village of Seyakha in Siberia’s far north reported seeing an eruption of fire and smoke on the morning of June 28 — an event caught on seismic sensors at 11 a.m. local time, according to The Siberian Times. Scientists visiting the site photographed a fresh crater blown into the banks of a river.

Researchers also discovered a second, previously unknown crater in the Tyumen region of Siberia this month.

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Global Warming

The Larsen C Iceberg Is on the Brink of Breaking Off

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The saga of the Larsen C crack is about reach its stunning conclusion. Scientists have watched a rift grow along one of Antarctica’s ice shelves for years. Now it’s in the final days of cutting off a piece of ice that will be one of the largest icebergs ever recorded.

It’s the latest dreary news from the icy underbelly of the planet, which has seen warm air and water reshape the landscape in profound ways.

The crack has spread 17 miles over the past six days, marking the biggest leap since January. It’s also turned toward where the ice shelf ends and is within eight miles of making a clean break. There’s not much standing in its way either.

“The rift has now fully breached the zone of soft ‘suture’ ice originating at the Cole Peninsula and there appears to be very little to prevent the iceberg from breaking away completely,” scientists monitoring the ice with Project MIDAS wrote on their blog.

Trump Pulls USA Out of Global Climate Change Pact

President Donald Trump is pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement, a worldwide accord that was developed to curb rising global temperatures and limit climate change in the coming years.

“In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord,” Trump said at a news conference on June 1.

The Paris Agreement is designed to slow global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by stepping up investments in “green” technology. Nearly 200 countries agreed on the deal in December 2015 and signed it in 2016. By working together, nations around the world are trying to keep the planet’s average temperature from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above Earth’s average temperature during preindustrial times. However, the agreement has an even more ambitious goal: “to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius [2 degrees F],” according to the United Nations.

The United States’ departure won’t cause the agreement to fall apart, but it will likely weaken it, especially if other countries follow suit. Moreover, countries that remain a part of the agreement might cooperate less with the United States in the future and, in a worst-case scenario, even impose carbon tariffs on the U.S., according to The New York Times.

Methane ‘blowout’

Giant craters on the Arctic sea floor were formed when methane gas previously trapped in ice was released with such force it blew through bedrock, Norwegian researchers say.

A study published in the latest edition of the journal Science says that during the last ice age, a sheet of ice up to two kilometres thick lay on the floor of the Barents Sea off Norway, holding vast amounts of methane in hydrate form — an ice-like mix of gas and water.

According to the researchers, when a warming climate caused the ice sheet to dissipate around 12,000 years ago, the methane concentrated in mounds and then was “abruptly released,” causing the craters.

Methane continues to seep out into the water to this day, Andreassen said, through more than 600 “gas flares” that remain near the craters.

Methane gas in northern waters is also an issue in Canada. This August 2009 photo shows methane gas bubbles in the Mackenzie River Delta in the Northwest Territories.

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Global Warming

Methane Sinks

The ocean floor off Washington, Oregon and California is riddled with deep-sea vents that spew the greenhouse gas methane.

The discovery was made by researchers on the Ocean Exploration Trust’s submersible ship Nautilus. The organization told the National Ocean Exploration Forum in New York that it expects to find other ocean seeps elsewhere.

Methane traps atmospheric heat 40 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide.

Planetary Cameras

A startup company has launched a fleet of tiny earth-observing satellites designed to photograph every part of the world every day to help reveal how the planet is changing.

The company, Planet, has so far put 133 of the satellites in orbit, and says they can be calibrated to observe every single tree on the planet to allow unprecedented visual evidence of deforestation no matter where it occurs.

Planet is currently sharing its data with groups such as Amnesty International, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project and the U.S. government’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Global Warming

Fracking could be behind US methane surge

Startling increases in one of the main pollutants that cause global warming have been unexpectedly discovered over the United States – and the main suspect is the country’s booming fracking industry.

New Harvard University research, drawing on satellite measurements, concludes that US emissions of methane – a much more powerful warming gas than carbon dioxide – have “increased by more than 30 per cent over the past decade”.

The researchers say they “cannot readily attribute” the rise to any particular source but point out that US production of shale gas increased nine times during the same period, while other studies show that many fracking operations are emitting much more methane than has been officially recognised.

If the extraction process proves to be the culprit, it will show that exploiting and burning shale gas has been much more potent in global warming even than using coal, severely undermining energy and climate-change strategies. Both the British and US governments have been banking on shale gas as a relatively clean fuel that would act as a “bridge” to the low carbon economy needed in the next few decades if the world is not to heat up uncontrollably.

Global Warming

Warming oceans are releasing methane

Warming oceans are creating a whole host of problems. From driving schools of fish closer to shores, to disrupting fragile ecosystems, the gradual increase in water temperatures could spell trouble for Planet Earth. Now, long-frozen methane is bubbling up from the ocean depths, adding more greenhouse gases (GHG) to the atmosphere.

The most recent discovery of so-called methane plumes is off the coast in the Pacific Northwest. This is no small matter as methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and could potentially accelerate global warming.

Besides the West Coast, research last year found a huge increase in methane plumes off the East Coast. Given that methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas, this could spell trouble for a planet many already believe is warming.

Methane is 23 times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Methane is suspected for previously causing big and often sudden swings in the Earth’s climate. Much of the methane on Earth is actually trapped, frozen in the ocean, but as oceans warm up, this powerful greenhouse gas could be released. Global warming could thus accelerate.

Essentially, the methane at the bottom of the ocean mixes with sediments and forms a substance called methane hydrate. Methane is able to exist in this form due to high water pressure levels and the cold-temperatures.

A sonar image shows a bubble plume rising from the seafloor off the coast of Washington state.

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