Monday, December 19, 2011

Shock as Indescribablyoverhyped overhypes something

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and that's obviously the readership they are chasing:

Shock as retreat of Arctic sea ice releases deadly greenhouse gas

Portrayed as some new shock result presented at the AGU, it seems to have been a relatively mundane poster. It's only an Indie "exclusive" because no-one else was prepared to touch it with a bargepole. After a few years of stagnation, the methane concentration has been climbing again (oddly, the Wikipedia page is several years out of date). But it's a long way off being a threat anywhere close to the scale of, say, CO2.

Yes, I know I'm late on this - when I first saw it, I tried to check the AGU site to see what had been presented, but it was down.

Meanwhile, the Indie is on to the next looming catastrophe - and in these days of on-line access, it doesn't even serve as a decent chip wrapper.


crandles said...

seems as badly hyped if not worse. :(

William M. Connolley said...

> oddly, the Wikipedia page is several years out of date

Be fair, someone cared, it does say "Global average methane concentrations from NOAA measurements for 1984-2005.[dated info]"

Vinny Burgoo said...

For a disturbing glimpse into the minds of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, see the recent back-and-forths at Crisis Forum, which initially was a place where sciencey sociologists could more or less privately scare themselves silly by pontificating impenetrably about Climageddon but in the last year or so has been invaded by out-and-out nutters such as the UFOlogist and Arctic methane expert Graham Ennes (AKA 'Omega Institute'):;6ad0a9a2.1112

I was so impressed (and surprised) by the way one of the old-school members of the forum responded to the latest bollocks by such people that, last week, I joined the forum myself. (It's stupidly easy.)

So I'm their latest nutter.


Steve Bloom said...

Yeah, when I tried that all I got for my trouble was a greasy screen. :)

Steve Bloom said...

Arctic methane releases have the potential to be truly big trouble. The fact that they're largely Pleistocene deposits and we're now on course for mid-Pliocene temperatures (if not worse) means that it's more a matter of when than if. Given how radically the view of land permafrost has changed over just a few years, studies assuming that nothing similar will happen to the East Siberian shelf formations (most recently Dmitrenko et al., which I just finsihed reading) reassure me very little (especially as Semiletov et al, who despite being obviously somewhat panic-prone are, you know, trained observers who've been collecting data there first-hand for years and state that there's been a marked increase in "pingo-like" structures in the permafrost).

That said, "ou est le trend?" is a more than fair question. The NSF thought this was important enough to cough up some major grants to methane-in-water experts Joye and Leifer to join the effort, and it looks as if the scale of the annual observing campaigns has also been expanded, so now this spring we can look forward to a paper comparing last year to this year. (Sounds like the pre-2010 obs weren't large-scale enough.) If it's a really big trend, it should be apparent enough. If a more subtle but still large trend, a few more years will be needed.

In particular, I'm looking forward to hearing about the fate of the methane in the direct vicinity of those reported km-wide plumes, which will probably be a good indicator as to whether microbial activity can keep things tamped down.

Re Connor's article, what I thought was peculiar was the lack of any discussion of trend data (and noting that there are a number of different trends involved). He's a sufficiently bright and experienced reporter to have known that it's the key question. Perhaps they shut him up by promising an exclusive on the paper? Or maybe they just told him they were still in the early stages of analyzing the data and didn't have anything more specific than their seat-of-the-pants assessment.

I couldn't locate the poster on the AGU FM site, so I'll email Shakhova with a request for it.

EliRabett said...

Well, thee and the Weasel have a distressing tendency to be among the cool kids, and cool kids never admit that there is a serious problem. Nohow. Ain't cool to be worried

Maybe there are things you don't know?

James Annan said...

Just cos I is cool don't mean I is wrong though.

More seriously, the world is full enough of single-issue fanatics who insist that their pet problem happens to be the world's biggest, and logic dictates that at least n-1 of them are wrong.

crandles said...

Maybe it is possible to have methane article which isn't over-hyped? This looks to me to be a lot better:

EliRabett said...

Not necessarily. There are enough threats that m can be large (for example, let's shoot the idiots who genetically engineered H1N1 so it could spread among humans).

Hank Roberts said...

> let's shoot the idiots

Hey, who knew it would be stupidly, idiotically, almost casually easy to change H1N1 into something blowing in the wind?

Betcha there are other things way too easy to do. But who knows 'til they try it.

There's a warning that should accompany all such stories.

"Kids, don't try
this at home.
It might work."

You want the Fermi Paradox explained, one possible story:

For any species, once that species invents the basics like fire and corporations, and moves on to trying out other clever ideas, the future becomes effectively more and more a mine field.

How carefully are we stumbling?

James Annan said...

I hope Eli is (perhaps reluctantly) prepared to agree that I might have a point, now RC has said much the same in longer form.