Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Seafloor Methane Begins to Melt Off Washington State Coast, Congress in Denial

Mysterious Seafloor Methane Begins to Melt Off Washington State Coast

Researchers probe the oceans off the west coast and see signs of the meltdown of icy methane similar in size to the BP oil spill

Scientific American     December 10, 2014     By Gayathri Vaidyanathan

Warming of the Pacific Ocean off Washington state could destabilize methane deposits on the seafloor and trigger a release of the greenhouse gas to the atmosphere, according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters.
In the worst-case scenario, if oceans warm by up to 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100, the volume of methane release every year by 2100 would quadruple the amount by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the study estimates.

At issue are methane hydrates, which are complexes of methane trapped in frozen ice buried in ocean beds.....

.... The study focuses on the upper continental slope off Washington in a region of the shelf called the Cascadia margin. The ocean has been warming there, possibly due to a current carrying water from the Sea of Okhotsk that occurs between Russia and Japan. The sea has been warming over the past half-century..

Using temperatures of the ocean up to a depth of 200 meters recorded between 1970 and 2013, the scientists modeled the amount of methane that has been released historically. The preliminary estimates suggested 4.35 terragrams of methane per year may have been released along the Cascadia margin. This is equal to the release from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the report finds.

The scientists also projected methane release in the future by assuming the ocean would warm by 0.88 C to 2.4 C by 2100. As the ocean warms, the methane release would quadruple, the study suggests.....    more here

see also:  The Perp in the Greatest Mass Extinction on Earth? Methane


How Congress Snuck Changes to U.S. Environmental Policy into the New Budget Bill

The $1-trillion bill keeps agencies from acting on clean air and water and energy

By Pete Souza (P032110PS-0787) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It took 1,603 pages of legalese to keep the U.S. government running for another year. That is the length of the 2015 Fiscal Year Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which was approved by the Senate on Saturday to appropriate $1.01 trillion dollars for most federal agencies and departments through September 2015. The bill is on Pres. Obama’s desk waiting for his signature.

It is not all about dollars. Congress also loaded the bill with special instructions, called policy riders, which dictate how government funds must be spent. Because the bill was rushed through just before the government ran out of money, and Congressional leaders did not want another government shutdown if the bill did not pass, lawmakers seized the opportunity to tack on controversial riders that might otherwise have been debated.

A lot of those 11th-hour mandates will affect science and environmental policy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, got $8.1 billion. That’s $60 million less than last year and the agency now has to operate at its smallest budget since 1989. But even that money comes with conditions. Although agriculture is a major source of atmospheric methane, Congress forbade the EPA from using its funds to require farmers to report greenhouse gas emissions from “manure management systems.” And the agency is no longer permitted to regulate farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act.

Here are a few of the key riders and their effects in different areas: ....  read more here

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