Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

SLAM: debunk creationism, pseudoscience, and superstitions. Discuss logic and morality.

Moderators: Alyrium Denryle, SCRawl, Thanas

User avatar
NoXion
Padawan Learner
Posts: 306
Joined: 2005-04-21 01:38am
Location: Perfidious Albion

Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby NoXion » 2012-09-24 08:30am

Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime as a Result of a Spreading Atmospheric Arctic Methane Heat wave and Surface Firestorm

Abstract

Although the sudden high rate Arctic methane increase at Svalbard in late 2010 data set applies to only a short time interval, similar sudden methane concentration peaks also occur at Barrow point and the effects of a major methane build-up has been observed using all the major scientific observation systems. Giant fountains/torches/plumes of methane entering the atmosphere up to 1 km across have been seen on the East Siberian Shelf. This methane eruption data is so consistent and aerially extensive that when combined with methane gas warming potentials, Permian extinction event temperatures and methane lifetime data it paints a frightening picture of the beginning of the now uncontrollable global warming induced destabilization of the subsea Arctic methane hydrates on the shelf and slope which started in late 2010. This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.


OK, this seems pretty fucking bad, but I'm not sure how I'd evaluate its likely veracity. Anyone know of or can give a second opinion?
Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker - Mikhail Bakunin
Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society - Karl Marx
Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value - R. Buckminster Fuller
The important thing is not to be human but to be humane - Eliezer S. Yudkowsky


Nova Mundi, my laughable attempt at an original worldbuilding/gameplay project

User avatar
Mr Bean
Lord of Irony
Posts: 21764
Joined: 2002-07-04 08:36am

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby Mr Bean » 2012-09-24 09:27am

NoXion wrote:
Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime as a Result of a Spreading Atmospheric Arctic Methane Heat wave and Surface Firestorm
This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.


OK, this seems pretty fucking bad, but I'm not sure how I'd evaluate its likely veracity. Anyone know of or can give a second opinion?


I shorted the OP to the important bit, I'm looking through the study now but the problem is the paper at least not in the ten minutes I was looking detailed a mechanism for this runaway methane to come from. There are methane pockets in the earth but there are not vast Methane reserves just waiting to be tapped and for this runaway effect to get started we kinda need large amounts of methane ready to go.
Last edited by D.Turtle on 2012-09-24 01:52pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Fixed the quote tag. - D.Turtle

"A cult is a religion with no political power." -Tom Wolfe
Pardon me for sounding like a dick, but I'm playing the tiniest violin in the world right now-Dalton

User avatar
Guardsman Bass
Cowardly Codfish
Posts: 9136
Joined: 2002-07-07 12:01am
Location: Beneath the Deepest Sea

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby Guardsman Bass » 2012-09-24 11:44am

According to Real Climate, it's extremely unlikely for that to happen:

Could there be a methane runaway feedback?.

The “runaway greenhouse effect” that planetary scientists and climatologists usually call by that name involves water vapor. A runaway greenhouse effect involving methane release (such as invoked here) is conceptually possible, but to get a spike of methane concentration in the air it would have to released more quickly than the 10-year lifetime of methane in the atmosphere. Otherwise what you’re talking about is elevated methane concentrations, reflecting the increased source, plus the radiative forcing of that accumulating CO2. It wouldn’t be a methane runaway greenhouse effect, it would be more akin to any other carbon release as CO2 to the atmosphere. This sounds like semantics, but it puts the methane system into the context of the CO2 system, where it belongs and where we can scale it.

So maybe by the end of the century in some reasonable scenario, perhaps 2000 Gton C could be released by human activity under some sort of business-as-usual scenario, and another 1000 Gton C could come from soil and methane hydrate release, as a worst case. We set up a model of the methane runaway greenhouse effect scenario, in which the methane hydrate inventory in the ocean responds to changing ocean temperature on some time scale, and the temperature responds to greenhouse gas concentrations in the air with another time scale (of about a millennium) (Archer and Buffett, 2005). If the hydrates released too much carbon, say two carbons from hydrates for every one carbon from fossil fuels, on a time scale that was too fast (say 1000 years instead of 10,000 years), the system could run away in the CO2 greenhouse mode described above. It wouldn’t matter too much if the carbon reached the atmosphere as methane or if it just oxidized to CO2 in the ocean and then partially degassed into the atmosphere a few centuries later.

The fact that the ice core records do not seem full of methane spikes due to high-latitude sources makes it seem like the real world is not as sensitive as we were able to set the model up to be. This is where my guess about a worst-case 1000 Gton from hydrates after 2000 Gton C from fossil fuels in the last paragraph comes from.

On the other hand, the deep ocean could ultimately (after a thousand years or so) warm up by several degrees in a business-as-usual scenario, which would make it warmer than it has been in millions of years. Since it takes millions of years to grow the hydrates, they have had time to grow in response to Earth’s relative cold of the past 10 million years or so. Also, the climate forcing from CO2 release is stronger now than it was millions of years ago when CO2 levels were higher, because of the band saturation effect of CO2 as a greenhouse gas. In short, if there was ever a good time to provoke a hydrate meltdown it would be now. But “now” in a geological sense, over thousands of years in the future, not really “now” in a human sense. The methane hydrates in the ocean, in cahoots with permafrost peats (which never get enough respect), could be a significant multiplier of the long tail of the CO2, but will probably not be a huge player in climate change in the coming century.
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
-Jean-Luc Picard


"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."
-Margaret Atwood

User avatar
The Duchess of Zeon
Gözde
Posts: 14566
Joined: 2002-09-18 01:06am
Location: Exiled in the Pale of Settlement.

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby The Duchess of Zeon » 2012-09-24 01:51pm

The mere fact this article claims that a Permian event will result in the extinction of all life on earth when the historical Permian event did not (and in fact a large, pig-like early mammal predecessor ended up dominating the post-extinction world, i.e., a creature a lot like humans!) makes it sound utterly absurd and no one will take it seriously. Who could? Life went on and flowered and prospered again after the Permian.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

Lord of the Abyss
Village Idiot
Posts: 4044
Joined: 2005-06-15 12:21am
Location: The Abyss

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby Lord of the Abyss » 2012-09-24 06:07pm

A global firestorm wouldn't destroy all life on Earth even if it happened. There's life under water and life underground, even deep under the surface.
"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers

User avatar
Korto
Jedi Knight
Posts: 941
Joined: 2007-12-19 07:31am
Location: Newcastle, Aus

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby Korto » 2012-09-25 12:46am

This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.


I'm with Lordy-boy. That's an idiotic claim, made in apparent total ignorance of the absolutely incredible variety of extreme environments colonized, and the sheer tenacity of life. Life in acid? Check. Temperatures above boiling-point? Check. Well below freezing? Check. Lives off volcanic gasses? Check. Haven't even remotely scratched the surface yet? Check.
“I am the King of Rome, and above grammar”
Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor

User avatar
cosmicalstorm
Jedi Council Member
Posts: 1515
Joined: 2008-02-14 09:35am

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby cosmicalstorm » 2012-09-25 02:55pm

To actually sterilize the planet you would literally need to melt the entire solid crust into lava so that is not going to happen. To destabilize our civilization would take far less energy. So I could see this thing destroy what we have built so far, but not sterilizing the entire planet.

User avatar
Broomstick
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 23920
Joined: 2004-01-02 07:04pm
Location: Industrial armpit of the US Midwest
Contact:

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby Broomstick » 2012-09-30 11:38am

cosmicalstorm wrote:To actually sterilize the planet you would literally need to melt the entire solid crust into lava so that is not going to happen.

Oddly enough, that is sort of like what happened in Siberia during the time of the Permian extinction, resulting in the Siberian Traps. OK, it wasn't the whole world, but a substantial area did get covered in molten rock.

Anyhow - although the Permian Extinction may have been the worst extinction event so far it certainly did not wipe out all life on Earth. Major types of life, including land vertebrates, did survive. It no doubt sucked to an unimaginable degree to live through it, but the mere fact this article claims a total life wipe out makes me doubt the veracity of their claims.

But even if the situation was as bad as claimed - massive methane input to the atmosphere and 80 degree average global temperatures - it ignores the fact that there is an entire continent located at the South Pole that would be more moderate in temperature and could act as a refuge for larger lifeforms, and that unlike the critters of the Permian Era we might well have sufficient technology to allow for human survival (granted, at MUCH reduced numbers).
Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid. - Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice


A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

User avatar
cosmicalstorm
Jedi Council Member
Posts: 1515
Joined: 2008-02-14 09:35am

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby cosmicalstorm » 2012-09-30 12:02pm

A massive reduction in the human population within my own lifetime seems a lot more likely. I'm 29 so I would be so pessimistic as to say that I would be honestly surprised if there wasn't at least a disaster so big that it killed tens of millions of humans in a short time at some point in my lifetime. Hopefully not though.

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 26496
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-09-30 12:29pm

Tens of millions, though, is not quite the scale we'd expect from a true civilization-threatening "global disaster" these days. Tens of millions of people die every year anyway, because we live on a planet with seven billion people and almost none of them live more than a hundred years.

Most of them die of what we consider natural causes, granted.

User avatar
Broomstick
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 23920
Joined: 2004-01-02 07:04pm
Location: Industrial armpit of the US Midwest
Contact:

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby Broomstick » 2012-09-30 12:56pm

Just out of curiosity I did some Googling on the number of deaths per year. Looks like we're running around 56 million a year, so yeah, tens of millions of people die every year as part of ordinary life.

Seriously, unless you're talking about half a billion or more deaths in an event, it's not much of a statistical blip.
Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid. - Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice


A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 26496
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-09-30 02:27pm

Well no; depending on where and how it happened it could be a really horrendous disaster. World War One only killed off about 1% of the human race, but the consequences defined most of the bad news of the 20th century.

But life and civilization went on. Somehow.

Lord of the Abyss
Village Idiot
Posts: 4044
Joined: 2005-06-15 12:21am
Location: The Abyss

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby Lord of the Abyss » 2012-10-01 12:59am

Broomstick wrote:
cosmicalstorm wrote:To actually sterilize the planet you would literally need to melt the entire solid crust into lava so that is not going to happen.

Oddly enough, that is sort of like what happened in Siberia during the time of the Permian extinction, resulting in the Siberian Traps. OK, it wasn't the whole world, but a substantial area did get covered in molten rock.

Which reminds me; there was IIRC a limited analogy to a "global firestorm" in prehistory. I recall reading that the Dinosaur Killer impact apparently hit at an acute angle, and as a result sent a horizontal blast & debris wave across the region that is now the Americas. Not a global firestorm, but a continent sized one seems like a good test case. The result was not the destruction of all life in the region; instead, it led to a disproportionate survival of species that spent a lot of time in the water or underground. So I'd expect something similar from the scenario in the OP.
"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers

User avatar
cosmicalstorm
Jedi Council Member
Posts: 1515
Joined: 2008-02-14 09:35am

Re: Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime

Postby cosmicalstorm » 2012-10-01 02:51pm

I'm aware that many humans die from various causes every year. What I was referring to was something like a tsunami, a meteorite impact in the hundred of meters size-range, a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan or something along these lines. Looking back at the history of disasters it seems uncannily possible that something down that alley will happen at some point over the next 40 years. Sorry if I'm going OT now.


Return to “Science, Logic, And Morality”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests