Summary Sentience

Why Arctic Methane?


last update of this page - 12/18/11



The catalysis for the OpenToInfo website's current focus on Arctic methane is that, relative to Arctic methane and global warming (radiation entrapment), much is a known unknown. When Arctic methane was anticipated to not become a significant issue until the next century (at the earliest), the pragmatic orphaning of its study had a certain scientific rationale: with limited funding, the known unknown regarding anthropogenic carbon dioxide needed to be studied and resolved first. After all, the conventional 'wisdom' was that the Arctic ice cap was not threatened until the latter half of this century (again, at the earliest!). These perceptions have turned out to be wrong; big time wrong; dead wrong. The neglected investment in studying and understanding the threat Arctic methane constitutes has unintended consequences. Today, at a time when pseudo-science is competing effectively with real science for public trust, science's known knowns regarding Arctic methane are complimentarily constraining thinking that could grasp the importance of the known unknowns . . . and to quote Donald Rumsfeld, the unknown unknowns. An ongoing updating of this website concerning methane is an attempt to redress this situation by evaluating, at a rudimentary level, how likely it is that the climate system has already tipped into klimakatastrophe. The USCCSP SAP 3.4 on abrupt climate change concludes that Arctic climate change will result in increased chronic emissions of methane from Arctic permafrost and methane hydrates. The assumption is that this will likely happen slowly, with large interannual variability superimposed on top of it (as with Arctic sea ice loss). According to Ed Dlugokencky of NOAA, the detection of this signal will take time with the existing surface air sample monitoring network. There is, however, satellite data to analyze and, direct observations of changes in thermokarst activity and continental shelf methane hydrate destabilization by the scientists who have made such studies their careers, to consider for determining the presence--or the reliability of the presence--of such a signal.

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Sentience (wisdom):

Today, while 'sentience' is not a common word for wisdom, it can be observed that it is not a common motivator of human personal and social behavior in the face of klimakatastrophe. Is the concept of klimakatastrophe more than can be emotionally grasped by our species and therefore something we can be observed as lacking? The failure of wisdom to motivate personal and social behavior is due to the motivational role fear plays in our lives. This controlling fear masquerades as greed. In turn, a permutation of greed masquerades, insidiously, as piety. Given that since the '80s 'greed' has been 'good,' and piety, among the privileged, has long been greed's "invisibility cloak," can it be surprising that we're a society that feels it is sapient regarding its thinking about what can solve anthropomorphic greenhouse gas generation, and really not be wise? It can be observed that, conservative and liberal, we share an economic meme that informs a piety that exempts the individual from rational reason and moral integrity; from the responsibilities which justice demands--and which love requires.

The rational truth of our condition, understood as sentience or not, is, as Einstein observed: that the thinking that creates a problem cannot be used to solve it. In this time of anthropogenic climate change, and among the privileged, it is greed and piety that are obstacles to clear-headed thinking; to feeling what is wise; to do what is worthy of our specie's name--homo sapiens--be wise.

Global capitalism, funded by fractional reserve banking utilizing publicly guaranteed fiat currencies 'coined' in the debt of that same guaranteeing public, is an oxymoron. On a planet of finite resources, global capitalism is an economic system that is a Ponzi scheme of incalculable stupidity. Whether ones morality is based on denying global warming (so it can feel right to shrink government so capitalism can be 'freed' to satiate our greed--our fear), or ones morality is based on a pious profession about fixing climate change while trusting for ones wealth the largess of capitalism (i.e. preserving capitalism's proffered sense of economic security), both are obstacles to us as a society being able to think about the solution to klimakatastrophe; to feel trust in what sentience demands.

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The science concerning Arctic methane is woefully inadequate, relative to the threat klimakatastrophe represents for humanity. Even so, the science is also abundant relative to this threat, particularly if an interdisciplinary approach is taken for considering what is known. A psychological challenge that affecting an interdisciplinary collaboration faces is that Arctic methane is the feedback in global warming that ends what passes for 'hope': our wishful thinking. Who would choose, as a career, that of being the harbinger of 'hopeless' news? Could such a career choice even find funding within the dominate culture we've created together? In addition, motivated reasoning effects human thinking, and undergird moral memes--and even science is not exempt from its influence. Ironically, if the reality science has to reveal is too painful, humanity appears to be well adapted to not see it; to avoid seeing it, through personal and social expressions of motivated reasoning.

That stated, here is some of what is known. Cryospheric science has concluded, given current carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, that it is too late to save the Arctic ice cap as a year around phenomenon. Land-based study of permafrost is observing a positive feedback dynamic causing permafrost loss due to the warming that the loss of albedo enables. This warming is activating methane and carbon dioxide releases from previously inactive, frozen, carbon-rich soils and expanding wetlands. Ocean-based permafrost studies, relative to the destabilization of methane hydrates (clathrates), note that, in general, the permafrost capping methane hydrate deposits is within a degree or so of thawing. In some areas this warming is already progressed sufficiently to begin clathrate thawing. Oceanography, having identified, in addition to currents, the circulation dynamics by which heat is transferred down the water column, in sea water, concludes that for the shallow waters of the Arctic, ocean-bottom permafrost will, with time, be history. While current surface air sample collections sites are inadequate for immediately detecting the Arctic's contribution to increases in atmospheric methane, satellite observations of higher levels of the atmosphere can quantify that contribution of atmospheric methane. The Arctic contributes ~30% of the observed 7% increase in atmospheric methane. And this is ater almost a decade of it tabling (i.e. 2% of the increase). Metrology has noted changes in the Arctic weather relative to precipitation, cloud cover and type. There is significant warming of the Polar Cell's atmosphere at all levels. Oceanographers are measuring changes in the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Medorical Overturning, which metrologists also observe being reflected in changes in the upper tropospheric wind currents. In the winter of 2009-10 there was a significant change in the dynamics of the Polar Jet.

Within any one of these sciences, it is not within the purview of that particular science's field of study to conclude that the observed changes, relative to its area of study, constitutes proof of klimakatastrophe having arrived. The science of climate modeling come as close as any for being a field of study capable of such a determination; that links all the relevant sciences. But it too is currently an inexact science, especially when the Arctic is modeled. Some things are not understood sufficiently to be confidently modeled.. Modeling the complex and interdependent dynamics that is climate makes rocket science look like child's play, The latest model updates do not know how to best model Arctic methane's roles.

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The links here are to video, audio, and written IT sources that relating to Arctic methane. If the link is a search I will try to remember to periodically record the number of hits the search generates as an informal metric for assessing social interest/awareness concerning methane in the Arctic. When, in your own searches, you stumble on a good resource, or, if from your studies you know of such, please forward the URL so that it can be added to this list.

Selected (i.e. stumbled on/contributed) Arctic Methane IT Resources





Search Hits/Date
Large-Scale Controls of Methanogenesis Inferred from Methane and Gravity Spaceborne Data      X  
Scientific American Blog: Arctic Sea Ice: What, Why, and Whats Next    

 Until I update this further, this is a link to an earlier version of this page and its sources.        



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Klimakatastrophe is the German 2007 "word of the year" that is a label for the worse case scenario concerning climate change due to global warming; what the environmental, social, and economic results are once tipping points for positive feedbacks are passed. I have chosen to use it at this site, instead of climate crisis, because, as yet, we do not have an English/U.S. word for this condition. Our society, as a whole, effects, variously, a denial of its existence.



links to slide show's navigation page for each of the following "why..."








link to slide show's start