Some climatologists explain this warming by methane discharges into the atmosphere. This methane hypothesis was reviewed by the specialists of the Obukhov Insititue of Atmospheric Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, under the guidance of Academician Georgy Golitsyn. According to the researchers’ opinion, quick (in terms of geology) methane-based warming is possible in principle, although it requires considerable methane streams from the interior of the Earth.
Within the long history of the Earth, its climate has changed a lot of times. The orbit parameters changed, continents and oceans shifted on the planet, big asteroids fell down on the Earth and volcanoes began to erupt. In the last decade of the 20th century, scientific community started to discuss one more possibility for climatic changes, which are long-term in terms of human history and quick in terms of geological time scale. This is the so-called “methane catastrophe” – discharge of large quantity of methane from gas hydrates located in the interior of the Earth. As a result, the climate got warmer within 15-30,000 years, which noticeably changed the late Palaeocene world. However, many researchers assume that the reason for global warming was quick increase of carbonic acid gas concentration in the atmosphere. So, what is to blame: carbonic acid gas or methane?
In 1750 during the pre-industrial epoch, the terrestrial atmosphere contained approximately 1,85 Gt of methane. To explain the warming that occurred 55 million years ago, the methane concentration would have increased by over a hundred times as compared to pre-industrial levels, and the carbonic acid gas concentration by only six times. As there was a sufficient quantity of methane in the interior of the Earth, estimated at between 700 and 30,000 Gt, it is possible that between 1,000 and 2,000 Gt was discharged from the interior of the Earth, of which 400 Gt fell on the Arctic permafrost zone.
Due to the molecular mass difference, carbonic dioxide formation requires 2,75 times more carbon than formation of the same quantity of methane, and as methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than carbonic dioxide, its potential would be 21 times higher than a similar potential of carbonic acid gas. If different absorbent properties of greenhouse gases are taken into account, then greenhouse warming due to methane concentration would have required six times less carbon than the warming due to carbonic acid gas, and, accordingly, much smaller discharge of carbon from the planet interior would have been sufficient.
There are other arguments in favor of the “methane” hypothesis. As the methane concentration in the atmosphere increases, its stability also grows. Thus, in the pre-industrial epoch, the methane molecule lifespan in the atmosphere was 8,4 years, in contemporary conditions - about 10 years, but 55 million years ago, during massive gas discharges, it could exceed 40 years. Besides, in case of high concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the water vapour concentration also grows, which increases the greenhouse effect. To achieve the same increase of surface temperature (taking into account the water vapour influence), twice lower methane content in the atmosphere (and less discharge from gas hydrates) would have been sufficient. According to the Russian researchers’ estimates, during the warming period, the annual methane stream into the atmosphere should have been 25 Gt, if the methane molecule lived for 10 years, and 6 Gt, if its lifespan was increased up to 40 years. (In the contemporary world, the major methane leakage from the interior of the Earth occurs owing to natural gas production and makes about 600 Mt per year, and the atmosphere contains 4,6 Gt of methane).
The above estimates demonstrate that quick (in terms of geology) methane-based warming is possible in principle, although it requires considerable methane discharges. Probably, volley methane discharges in the geological past could be the trigger to launch the “quick” warming process. According to the recent palaeontological data, the methane concentration growth normally passes ahead of the temperature growth. Such mechanism explains why some warmings in the history of the Earth had happened earlier than the carbonic acid gas concentration increased.
Nevertheless, the Russian researchers point out that detailed review of the greenhouse phenomenon at the Palaeocene/Eocene border has not been finished yet. It requires further investigation with involvement of geological, geochemical and paleoenvironmental records and contemporary climatic theory models.
Nadezda Markina | alfa
Research sheds new light on forces that threaten sensitive coastlines
24.04.2017 | Indiana University
NASA sees the end of ex-Tropical Cyclone 02W
21.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.04.2017 | Life Sciences