Subcap Methane Feedbacks. Part 3: Methane from beneath the ice

Originally posted at Skeptical Science

The previous two parts (one here and two here) of this series examined the evidence for seeps of geological methane through the cap provided by permafrost and looked at estimates of the magnitude of such seeps in relation to other sources of atmospheric methane. In this section, we will look at the emerging evidence for actual and potential methane releases related to glaciers and ice sheets. The sources of this methane are varied: fossil methane released through reactivated fractures; organic matter once buried and now exhumed; and possible methane hydrates lurking under the big ice sheets.

Continue reading

DeConto et al: Thawing permafrost drove the PETM extreme heat event

Originally posted at Skeptical Science

Sudden spikes in global temperatures that occurred 50-55 million years ago were caused by thawing of permafrost in Antarctica and northern high latitudes, according to recent research. The trigger for this sudden destabilization was a variation in orbital configurations that resulted in warmer polar summers. This model also provides an analogue for the releases of carbon from modern permafrost caused by current man-made global warming. Modern permafrost volumes are smaller than the estimates for those of 55 million years ago, but will nevertheless amplify the climatic effect of fossil fuel consumption and will provide continuing warming feedbacks for centuries after human emissions cease. Continue reading