CRUCIAL GLOBAL WARMING FACT #4:

 

THAWING OF TUNDRA AND PERMAFROST IS RELEASING GIGA-TONS OF METHANE,

WHICH IS 25-28 TIMES WORSE THAN CO2, AT TRAPPING HEAT

 

 

     The FOURTH absolutely crucial, critical, earth-changing fact about global warming and climate change, which any voter (and any candidate for Congress) should know about, is this:

 

            As the arctic regions get warmer, the land regions that commonly are called "tundra" and/or "permafrost", have already begun melting, at huge scales, and will continue melting at even faster rates, in the future. This is already being seen in very large areas in Siberia, the northern Scandinavian countries, and the northern parts of Canada.

            And, here is the critical problem which is being made even worse (and potentially catastrophic), by the melting of large areas of tundra and permafrost: those melting areas are beginning to release, into the atmosphere, HUGE quantities (usually expressed in GIGA-tons) of methane.

          For those who might need a brief refresher, methane is a gas, under normal unfrozen conditions. It is the absolute lightest `organic’ molecule (defined as, having at least 1 carbon atom), as well as the absolute lightest `hydrocarbon’ (defined as, having no atoms other than carbon and hydrogen). It has only 1 carbon atom, surrounded by four hydrogen atoms, so its formula is CH4. It is (by far) the largest and most important gas in `natural gas’ (which also contains much lower quantities of ethane and a few other small organic molecules), which is one of the main fuels used for heating buildings, and for generating electricity.

            Why does the unfreezing – and release into the atmosphere – of multi-GIGA-ton quantities (the prefix `giga-’ refers to a billion units, so a `giga-ton’ is a billion tons) of methane gas – which, for millions of years, has been "locked" into the dead grasses, hard-frozen mud and ice, and other materials that make up tundra and permafrost – create even more serious problems, for global warming?

            The answer is because of each and both of two factors:

            (i) when measured on any equal weight basis (e.g., pound-for-pound, ton-for-ton, etc.), methane gas is much-much-much "more potent" (also known as, more powerful, more effective, more dangerous, more destructive, or any similar terms) than carbon dioxide (i.e., CO2, the "classic" greenhouse gas), when it comes to trapping and holding in "infra-red" radiation (which is exactly the same type of heat-carrying radiation described in the "Crucial Fact #1" section).

            (ii) Each molecule of CO2 in the atmosphere is likely to last thousands of years (it is a VERY stable, low-energy molecule, and therefore, about the only thing that can change it into something else, is when a plant, algae cell, or other organism grabs it, and uses photosynthesis (as an energy source) to break the carbon out of the CO2, and place that carbon in a larger organic molecule. By contrast, CH4 (methane) is a relatively unstable, high-energy molecule, so it can be converted into other things, in a much wider variety of chemical reactions, without needing plants or photosynthesis. As a result, each molecule of CH4 typically will last only about 10 years, in the atmosphere, compared to a thousand or more years, for a molecule of CO2.

            To deal with that complicating factor, scientists have adopted comparison numbers, called "Global Warming Potential" (GWP) ratios, to help them factor in all of the variables that will affect how much "damage" (in terms of, `contributing to unwanted global warming') a ton of CH4 (or any other `greenhouse gas') will ultimately inflict on the environment, compared to a ton of CO2 which reaches the atmosphere. The estimates that have emerged, from those studies, is that each ton of CH4 which is released into the atmosphere will cause about 25 to 28 times as much "global warming damage", as each ton of CO2 which is released into the atmosphere. More information is provided by sources such as the U.S. EPA (www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases) and the "Global Carbon Project" (www.globalcarbonproject.org/methanebudget/20/files/GCP_MethaneBudget_2020_v2020-07-15.pdf).

          When a heated planetary surface (either land, or water) tries to send infra-red radiation (which, again, carries heat energy) out into deep space, as a way of maintaining a normal, healthy, and stable temperature and climate, methane gas is like an extra-super-hyper version of CO2, on steroids and amphetamines. Methane is bad, bad stuff, once it reaches the atmosphere. Melting permafrost and tundra regions have already released multiple giga-tons, of that really bad stuff. And, as things grow worse, the quantities and weights of the "even more" methane gas that will be released into the atmosphere, every year, will grow even larger, and will threaten (quite seriously, and realistically) to create yet another "runaway" (or `self-reinforcing’, `self-accelerating’, etc.) crisis, of the same type described above.

            In other words, as the far-northern arctic regions get warmer, they will begin releasing even more methane gas, at even faster rates than are occurring now.

            And, as even MORE of that methane gas is release, causing it to trap even MORE heat, the rates of additional warming, in those northern regions, will become even faster.

          And, as those rates of additional warming grow even faster, they will accelerate and drive the release of even still more methane gas – which will then cause even still more faster global warming. Each part of that "runaway" cycle will make the other part even worse, with no end in sight, until pretty much ALL of that methane has been unfrozen, and unlocked, and then released as free gas, into the atmosphere.

            About all one can say, realistically, is, “Ummm . . . that does NOT look good, for us.”

 

CRUCIAL GLOBAL WARMING FACT #5:

 

GREENLAND ALREADY HAS LOST 5.5 TRILLION TONS OF ICE SINCE 1970

 

     The FIFTH crucial, critical, earth-changing fact about global warming, which any voter, and any candidate for Congress, should know about – even if they do not memorize or remember any of the numbers below – is this:

            The Greenland ice sheet is being destroyed. It is being dismantled. It is being wrecked. The water that it once held, is now running off of the surface of Greenland, and into the oceans, in the form of "ice-melt" rivers which simply did not exist, twenty years ago.

            A first number might help people understand just how incredibly fast this is happening: on a single day, in August 2021, a complex and coordinated set of measurements were taken, by multiple teams, at multiple locations (including unmanned locations, with various sensors coupled to data transmitters), all around Greenland, to get the best actual measurements the researchers could get, to see just how fast the Greenland ice sheet is being destroyed.

            Their measurements indicated that on just that one, single, specific day, nearly 20 billion tons of water, which had melted, ran off of the Greenland ice sheet, and entered the ocean.

            As a brief aside, the actual number set forth in the websites and reports, was 18 billion tons of water lost, from Greenland, on that one day in August 2021. However, researchers in Greenland use metric weights, rather than the “English” system. Since a kilogram is equal to about 2.204 pounds (i.e., English pounds), a metric ton is only 1000 kilograms; but, that number translates into about 2204 pounds. So, any measurement which is reported in metric tons, must have another 10% added to it, to convert it onto the “English” tons that American voters know about, and understand. Therefore, 18 metric tons is equal to 19.8 English tons; and, all tonnages referred to herein have been converted into English (American) tons (i.e., 2000 pounds).

            Another number describes the total amount of ice that has been lost, and dumped into the ocean, from the Greenland ice sheet, over the past few decades. There are several ways to write this number; and, several of those ways are listed below, in the hope that at least ONE of those numbers will somehow land, and stick, in the minds of at least some voters, and some candidates for Congress:

            Version 1: FIVE AND A HALF (5.5) TRILLION TONS of water have already melted from the Greenland ice sheet, and have been added to the oceans on this planet, since about 1970;

            Version 2: FIVE AND A HALF . . . THOUSAND . . . GIGA-TONS (i.e., five and a half THOUSAND units, with A BILLION TONS, IN EACH AND EVERY UNIT) have already melted from the Greenland ice sheet, and have been added to the oceans on this planet;

            Version 3: FIVE AND A HALF . . . MILLION . . . MEGA-TONS (i.e., five and a half MILLION units, with a MILLION TONS in each and every unit) have already melted from the Greenland ice sheet, and have been added to the oceans on this planet.

            And now, here is another fact: if anyone does a Google IMAGE search which combines "Greenland" with "rocks", most of the pictures that will appear, will shows rocks and mountains that are unusually dark shades of gray; many of them can fairly be described as "almost black." There are some pictures of lighter-gray rocks, mostly with unusual swirls and other patterns showing on their surfaces, but almost none of those also show a segment of sky, to help a viewer "calibrate" what that photographer did, when taking that picture; so, it is likely that some photographers who took those pictures had adjusted their camera settings, to make those rocks appear lighter-colored, to emphasize the swirls or other patterns on their surfaces.

            The fact is, Greenland contains the most ancient rocks that have ever been discovered, on this planet. Almost all of its surface layer is classic "igneous" rock, in the granite and basalt categories, created directly by the cooling of lava (or "magma"), as the surface of the planet cooled down and solidified, very early during the formation of the planet. As a result, the rocks which are being exposed, as the Greenland ice sheet melts, are darker than most of the land areas in most other parts of the world. Therefore, as soon as the unusually dark rocks in Greenland are exposed to sunlight, by the loss of snow and ice cover, they begin grabbing and absorbing heat energy carried by sunlight, at exceptionally high rates.

            And, so, the rates at which the Greenland ice sheet will melt, and run off the rocks, and into the ocean, will continue to grow faster, and faster, and even faster than that, as more and more of its snow and ice cover is lost. In other words, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet poses yet another "runaway" (or self-reinforcing, self-accelerating, or similar terms) condition, which will speed itself up, and occur at even faster rates, the more it continues to happen.

 

            Okay, then . . . this is where the discussion of snow and ice cover, and albedo, will stop, even though it hasn't yet even touched on Antarctica.

            Why not get into Antarctica, as well, here and now?

            Because, to most voters in the United States, Antarctica seems VERY remote, and VERY far away (and, VERY cold, as well). So, any warnings or dire predictions about things like the Thwaites glacier (also called "the doomsday glacier", for a good reason that most politicians do NOT want to know about, or have to discuss in public) have not yet really begun happening – or, at least, not to the same levels as in the northern arctic, where total and undeniable losses of ice and snow cover over huge areas have already happened, and can be described, factually and accurately, without having to wait for anything else to happen. By contrast, the gradual melting and dismantling of Antarctica must be described, mainly in terms of what MIGHT happen, someday, if the world continues to grow warmer; and, those types of warnings have not yet become facts, the way that each and every one of the facts listed above is already – and undeniably – happening.

            And, as another brief aside, from a long way away . . . the Great Barrier Reef, off the Pacific coast of Australia . . .  surely you’ve heard of it? Well, in case you have NOT heard, it is dying. Rapidly. VERY rapidly. Over just the past 10 years, it has become about 70% dead, because the water surrounding it has become too hot for the types of coral that used to thrive there. It took hundreds of millions of years for corals to build it, and until recently, it was called the largest living thing that has ever existed on the face of this planet, and the only living thing that can be seen readily from space. But, gosh . . . global warming has managed to pretty much kill it, in only about 10 years. If anyone would like to watch it happen, there are videos showing it, at places like youtube.com/watch?v=gW789yyt7q0, and youtube.com/watch?v=i8CnA2fKpvI.

            And, oh yes, the Amazon forest, too. It has been called `the lungs of the earth', and with good reason. Well, it is being actively destroyed, usually by clear-cutting and fires (mainly by people who want to grow cattle on that land, even though that type of soil will not support cattle for more than just a year or two). In addition to that outright and direct destruction, scientists also have begun to realize that its `resiliency' (i.e., its ability to repair damage that it has suffered) also is being severely damaged, and impaired, to a point where scientists have begun to suggest, in complete seriousness, that within a few centuries, or possibly only within a few decades, huge portions of it may turn into the type of dry and even semi-arid grassland which, in Africa, is called `savannah'. And, if THAT happens, it likely would become a catastrophe for pretty much every type of vertebrate animal that is alive today. This planet has already firmly and irreversibly entered `The Sixth Great Extinction Event' in its history, which humans know about. If humans destroy the Amazon rainforest, and turn it into semi-arid grassland (instead of a rainforest which, today, holds on to unimaginably huge quantities of carbon), that might actually and seriously lead to insects, jellyfish, and other `non-vertebrate' animals becoming some of the most advanced and important forms of life that would remain alive, on this planet.

           And, some people might feel short-changed because this account doesn't get into the droughts and wildfires that are wreaking so much havoc in the American West. Since droughts and wildfires have always been part of nature (at least, since the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago),  it's very, VERY hard to somehow convince Republicans -- especially Republican members of Congress -- that THESE fires, and THESE droughts, are somehow "different" from all the ones that have happened before.  So, all I can do, on that front, is offer up a couple of pictures, in the hope that they might create some sort of visual impression which will create a memory that might linger for more than two minutes.

          I've chosen these, because they are NOT located in the already-generally-dry Southwest, in a state like Arizona or Utah. Instead, these pictures are of Lake Oroville, which is more than 100 miles NORTH of San Francisco, which is already considered part of NORTHERN California. That lake is about halfway between San Francisco, and Oregon. Here is what Lake Oroville looked like, in happier, healthier days:

 

 

 

 

 

But, here is what it looks like, today:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

          How can ANYONE look at these kinds of pictures, and NOT realize that something is very, VERY seriously wrong? I certainly can't; so, all I can suggest is, go ask some Republicans. Especially some Republican members of Congress. Or, Republican candidates for Congress. THEY are the ones who are refusing to face up to the reality of what is actually happening, these days, because of global warming. If some debate moderators would show an audience some pictures like these, and then ask any Republican candidates for Congress, "Do you see any problems, here?", perhaps they might get at least some vague deflections about promises to maybe do something, some day . . . maybe. Or, they might get to see and hear some really useful -- and really helpful -- sidesteps and dance moves, about how it should be private enterprise, rather than any sort of government programs, that should be used to solve these kinds of problems.

            Anyway . . . the NEXT page will move on, to a different set of facts, mainly about the threats that global warming poses to nice, warm, comfortable coastlines . . . coastlines where lots and lots of people (about THREE BILLION people, for anyone who wants an advance peek at THAT number) live . . . and prefer to live . . . at least for now.

LAKE OROVILLE-HAPPIER TIMES.jpg
EMPTY LAKE OROVILLE.jpg
LAKE OROVILLE DROUGHT.jpg
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