The Silent Killer: Methane

Methane’s Warming Potential

Thawing frozen soils could unleash a carbon bomb – massive volumes of carbon dioxide and methane frozen in the earth’s soils are a “time-bomb ticking under our feet.” – World Congress of Soil Science, 4 August 2010

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, approximately 23 times more powerful than CO2 over the long term (100 years). In the short term (10 years), methane is 72 to 100 times more powerful than CO2.

Gregory Ryskin, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University, suggests that so much methane accumulated in stagnant seas at the end of the Permian, that when it finally erupted, it spontaneously ignited, creating a worldwide blanket of fire. He suggests that even marine organisms weren’t safe; the rising methane brought up anoxic water from the deep, suffocating them.

From Ryskin’s paper titled Methane-driven oceanic eruptions and mass extinctions: “The consequences of a methane-driven oceanic eruption for marine and terrestrial life are likely to be catastrophic. Figuratively speaking, the erupting region “boils over,” ejecting a large amount of methane and other gases (e.g., CO2, H2S) into the atmosphere, and flooding large areas of land. Whereas pure methane is lighter than air, methane loaded with water droplets is much heavier, and thus spreads over the land, mixing with air in the process (and losing water as rain). The air-methane mixture is explosive at methane concentrations between 5% and 15%; as such mixtures form in different locations near the ground and are ignited by lightning, explosions and conflagrations destroy most of the terrestrial life, and also produce great amounts of smoke and of carbon dioxide. Firestorms carry smoke and dust into the upper atmosphere, where they may remain for several years; the resulting darkness and global cooling may provide an additional kill mechanism. Conversely, carbon dioxide and the remaining methane create the greenhouse effect, which may lead to global warming. “

For a deeper understanding of Ryskin’s methane theories, he suggests to watch this short video in which he discusses methane dangers. [Viewer discretion is advised – this video contains footage of 1986 Lake Nyos Tragedy, where a cloud of CO2 asphyxiated over 1700 people.]

The Real Weapons of Mass Destruction: Methane, Propaganda & the Architects of Genocide | Part I

An investigative report: Part 1: http://bit.ly/dSDwXp

The Runaway Greenhouse Effect – James Hansen

Creative commons photo courtesy of Xavier Donat via Flickr.

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