Scientists have discovered that the same massive release of methane into the atmosphere that caused sudden climate change 14,000 years ago has already started to happen again.
At that time, there was a sudden, devastating change in earth?s climate. It took place when dramatic drops in temperature followed an equally dramatic temperature spike. Naturally occurring global warming had been taking place for some time, when a massive release of methane into the atmosphere sped the process up, causing a worldwide spike in temperatures.
This caused a devastating acceleration in global warming, triggering warming processes that melted most of earth's polar ice and raised sea levels world-wide, engulfing coasts and drowning islands. Art Bell and Whitley Strieber, in their book the Coming Global Superstorm, identified this methane release as one of the key triggers of the dramatic heating that led to the subsequent climactic chaos that broke out during that period.
Santo Bains of Oxford University?s Department of Earth Sciences led a team of geologists through three years of research in the badlands of Wyoming. They also took samples from the ocean floors off Florida and Antarctica. Their study confirms work by Russian, French and US scientists studying ancient air bubbles trapped in Greenland and Antarctic ice-cores. This data all show that global warming at the end of the last Ice Age 14,000 years ago was also associated with a huge and very rapid increase of methane into the atmosphere.
Methane retains far more heat in the atmosphere than does carbon dioxide. Large amounts of methane are trapped in and below the permafrost in the Arctic. Also, sediments in sea beds worldwide contain vast quantities of methane hydrates and trapped methane gas. Cold temperatures keep them stable, but permafrost melt is already beginning to release methane, and the hotter the arctic gets, the more methane will enter the atmosphere.
This is the same process that took place 14,000 years ago.
In addition, as global warming raises sea levels, large areas of Siberian and other permafrost areas will be flooded, releasing yet more methane. Global warming will then become a self-feeding cycle, unstoppable by any form of human intervention.
The major natural cause of massive methane escape comes from buried ocean reserves. When underwater landslides expose previously buried gas-bearing sediments, pressure is reduced in an instant and the gas escapes into the atmosphere. Scientists are only now beginning to realize that global warming can increase the rate of these marine landslides. Because global warming creates a warmer and wetter world in which floods are more likely to occur, the volume and flow of many rivers will increase, and increased river flow creates larger expanses of methane-producing swamps.
?The new evidence clearly shows methane was deeply involved in the very rapid global warming at the end of the ice age,? says Professor Euan Nisbet, of the University of London. ?By studying that event, we may well be able to understand the effect of future global warming on the Arctic.?
There is another major factor which has been left out of most global warming predictions. Although most areas of the world will become wetter as global warming continues, one key area, the Amazon Basin, could become drier, according to a British Meteorological Office study. As a result, the jungle would be unable to survive and would begin to die. This would accelerate global warming in two ways.
First, as the jungle dries up, it would become flammable and vulnerable to massive forest fires caused by lightning. This would release up to 150 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Second, the destruction of the jungle and its replacement by savanna grassland would reduce the planet's ability to absorb CO2 more profoundly than scientists had realized.
Four Brazilian biologists, led by Dr Antonio Nobre of Brazil's National Institute for the Study of the Amazon, have made the surprising discovery that the number of plants in the Amazon jungle has been increasing in response to human CO2 emissions. Thus the Amazon is reducing the rate of global warming much more than science realized. If the jungle disappears?and climatologists warn that could happen between 2050 and 2100?its disappearance would have an even more bigger effect than we?ve planned for.
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