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When the Oceans Burst Into Flames

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ALASKA – September 26, 2018

Recently, the Washington Post published an article about a well-known expert on Arctic ecology, Katey Walter Anthony, who has studied some 300 lakes across the tundras of the Arctic. Sitting on the mucky shore of her latest discovery, the Arctic expert said she’d never seen a lake quite like this one.

Set against the austere peaks of the Western Brooks Range, the lake, about 20 football fields in size, looked as if it were boiling. Its waters hissed, bubbled and popped as a powerful greenhouse gas escaped from the lake bed. Some bubbles grew as big as grapefruits, visibly lifting the water’s surface several inches and carrying up bits of mud from below.

This was due to methane.

As the permafrost thaws across the fast-warming Arctic, it releases carbon dioxide, the top planet-warming greenhouse gas, from the soil into the air. Sometimes, that thaw spurs the growth of lakes in the soft, sunken ground, and these deep-thawing bodies of water tend to unleash the harder-hitting methane gas.

In 2010, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks posted a video of the media-savvy ecologist standing on the frozen surface of an Arctic lake, then lighting a methane stream on fire to create a tower of flame which was nearly as tall as her. The video got nearly half a million views on YouTube.

Now, in the Arctic’s August warmth, she has come back to this isolated spot with a small research team, along with her husband and two young sons, to see what secrets Esieh Lake might yield. Was it simply a bizarre anomaly? Or was it a sign that the thawing Arctic had begun to release an ancient source of methane that could worsen climate change?

One thing she was sure of: If the warming Arctic releases more planet-warming methane, that could lead to. . . more warming. Scientists call this a feedback loop.

More information about the article can be found at this link:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/arctic-lakes-are-bubbling-and-hissing-with-dangerous-greenhouse-gases/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.73082dd32b52

With all the shortcomings of the USGS, which is constantly hiding something, it remains the most developed and perhaps the only such service on the planet. Without the USGS, millions of  home-grown  volcanologists wouldn't have access to crucial data on a daily basis.

However, regarding the release of methane in the lakes of Alaska, USGS has most kept silent, What might be happening in this regard in other parts of the world, no one really knows, as there are no analogues of USGS anywhere else in the world. How much methane is released in the oceans, scientists also have not said. But, even on the basis of such fragmentary information as the Washington post article the whole picture is becoming clear: the Arctic actively allocates methane. Moreover, it began recently, otherwise the locals would have known about Esieh Lake, and other similar lakes. What does that mean?

The source of methane in Esieh Lake is the so-called methane hydrates. Methane hydrate is a crystalline solid that consists of a methane molecule surrounded by a cage of interlocking water molecules (see image at the top of this page). Methane hydrate is an "ice" that only occurs naturally in subsurface deposits where temperature and pressure conditions are favorable for its formation. These conditions are illustrated in the phase diagram on this page.

If the ice is removed from this temperature/pressure environment, it becomes unstable. For this reason, methane hydrate deposits are difficult to study. They cannot be drilled and cored for study like other subsurface materials because as they are brought to the surface, the pressure is reduced and the temperature rises. This causes the ice to melt and the methane to escape.

Several other names are commonly used for methane hydrate. These include: methane clathrate, hydromethane, methane ice, fire ice, natural gas hydrate, and gas hydrate. Most methane hydrate deposits also contain small amounts of other hydrocarbon hydrates. These include propane hydrate and ethane hydrate.

Four Earth environments have the temperature and pressure conditions suitable for the formation and stability of methane hydrate. These are: 1) sediment and sedimentary rock units below Arctic permafrost; 2) sedimentary deposits along continental margins; 3) deep-water sediments of inland lakes and seas; and, 4) under Antarctic ice. With the exception of the Antarctic deposits, methane hydrate accumulations are not very deep below Earth's surface. In most situations the methane hydrate is within a few hundred meters of the sediment surface.

In these environments, methane hydrate occurs in the sediment as layers, nodules, and intergranular cements. The deposits are often so dense and laterally persistent that they create an impermeable layer that traps natural gas moving upwards from below.

In 2008, the United States Geological Survey estimated the total undiscovered gas hydrate resource for the Alaska North Slope area. They estimate that the total undiscovered natural gas resource in the form of gas hydrate ranges between 25.2 and 157.8 trillion cubic feet. Because very few wells have been drilled through the gas hydrate accumulations, the estimates have a very high level of uncertainty.

Methane hydrates are sensitive sediments. They can rapidly dissociate with an increase in temperature or a decrease in pressure. This dissociation produces free methane and water. The conversion of a solid sediment into liquids and gases will create a loss of support and shear strength. These can cause submarine slumping, landslides, or subsidence that can damage production equipment and pipelines.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. Warmer Arctic temperatures could result in gradual melting of gas hydrates below permafrost. Warming oceans could cause gradual melting of gas hydrates near the sediment-water interface. Although many news reports have presented this as a potential catastrophe, USGS research has determined that gas hydrates are currently contributing to total atmospheric methane and that a catastrophic melting of unstable hydrate deposits is unlikely to send large amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

It is believed that if a sudden release of only 5% of hydrates from the bottom of the inlets of the Arctic ocean occurs, the methane content in the atmosphere will increase in 12 times, that would be the equivalent of doubling the current CO2 level in the atmosphere.

In fact, such methane released are likely more widespread and in much larger volumes. The consequences could be the basis for a plot for a post-Apocalypse novel, because the explosive release of large amounts of methane would mean that the OCEANS will literally BURN. And after all the oxygen in the earth is burned, life on the planet as we know it, will cease to exist.  All that is left will be the bacteria that feed on hydrates, and worms, feeding on these bacteria.

Author: USA Really