ARCTIC SEA ICE —Tundra Wonder, Methane Blunder—

Smoking HillsSometimes, as my mind’s eye wanders over the Arctic Ocean, I am drawn ashore to contemplate wonders of the Tundra. I try to avoid politics, as the wonders are more wonderful when simply appreciated in the light of Truth, but Climate Alarmism is a sort of whirlpool that sucks you in, even when it is basically a comical shtick.

For example, along the coast of the Northwest Territories are the “Smoking Hills” of Franklin Bay, which appear over and over in the Facebook images sent by sailors attempting the Northwest Passage.  The sailors always seem jarred by the image (and scent). Often they have been cluttering their log with editorial comments about how beautiful the arctic is, and what cads humans are to destroy the pristine beauty of nature with Global Warming caused by burning coal. Then they come across a stretch of coast which is in essence Mother Nature’s Strip Mine, miles and miles of exposed lignite, black stripes in the sedimentary stripes of seaside cliffs. In places the lignite has spontaneously ignited and has been burning for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, without the slightest effort on the part of Mother Nature to install smokestacks or put scrubbers in those stacks.smokinghills 2In the above picture the red areas are stone after the coal has been burned out, and the black is unburned lignite. Besides the current fires there is evidence of fires that burned long ago and went out. This is not a geologically recent occurrence, so don’t try to blame Eskimos who were careless with campfires.

In any case, even if you went to the arctic to get away from ever having to even think about the issue of coal fired power plants, the issue gets shoved in your face, and you find yourself forced to rethink some of the ideas doled out like pablum in the Alarmist shtick. In this case the simplistic idea is that man burns fossil fuels and nature doesn’t.

In another case one might think man leaks oil and nature doesn’t, and then see natural slicks in the Gulf of Mexico or tars oozing up from earthquake faults off the California coast.

Even as I type my daughter has bought a new “pink” salt, which is supposedly more healthy as it is from up in the Himalayas, and that makes me think about how that salt got way up there, and what happened to all the fossil fuels when the subcontinent of India was sent smashing into Asia by continental drift.

The problem with some people is they don’t think very deeply about the lollipop shticks they get handed and asked to suck upon. It doesn’t take much thought to realize Nature is the original recyler,  plowing the ocean floor down in geological subduction zones, and creating huge mountain ranges with fossil seashells at the tops.

Over at “Watts Up With That” there was a guest essay by Larry Kummer about the Alarmist shtick involving Methane. Initially I wasn’t interested because the alarmism involved is so soundly refuted that not even the IPCC thinks it is worth freaking out about, (and the IPCC freaks out about stuff grandmothers laugh at).  (I couldn’t ever take the Methane Fear seriously, because I have seen plenty of evidence it was much warmer in the arctic in the past, and if there weren’t uncontrollable methane releases back then I don’t see why they should occur now. )

Ordinarily I would have skipped the post, as the issue usually bores me, however the Alarmist cartoon at the start intrigued me, for it suggested that some Alarmists are so sold on the idea of a “Methane Monster” that they even see the pro-Global-Warming IPCC as “deniers.”  .


I fully intended to only skim the article, but discovered a portal to another tundra wonder, found in this paper:

In a nutshell the paper states there are two sorts of arctic soil, one which is frozen ooze that is rich in carbon and might be expected to burp up some methane if warmed, but a second more-common soil which holds little carbon, as it is the sort of till one associates with glaciers and glacier-scraped landscape. (Glaciers largely transport topsoil far away to terminal moraines and out-wash streams. After a glacier departs the landscape is usually denuded of topsoil. This means it holds no organic carbon and can brew no methane. It also is devoid of compost, and can’t grow much. However a bacteria inhabits the surface of such soil that can snatch methane from the air, and enrich its own habitat.

That was what grabbed my mind’s eye. Perhaps it was because as a farmer I’m interested in enriching soils, but my mind highlighted the paper’s suggestion that, where the soil lacks carbon, nature has found a way to enrich the soil, using bacteria that gobbles methane. The paper went on to to state that the warmer it gets, the livelier that bacteria gets, and the more methane it gobbles. (IE: warmer temperatures mean less methane in the air; the exact opposite of what Methane-hysteria predicts.)

This shows how little the more hysterical Alarmists understand the Earth they claim to be the protectors of.

The old time farmers knew of two basic ways to enrich soil. The first involved sweat and toil, and lugging manure from the stables and spreading it in the fields. The second was a heck of a lot easier, because all you needed to do was give the field a rest. It was called a “fallow” field.

A fallow field shows nature’s ability to enrich a landscape without any help from humans. You’d think Alarmists would get this concept, considering they portray man as the raping, robbing bad guy, and nature as the giving good guy. However they don’t see nature will not allow a natural thing like methane to go to waste. Nor will nature allow a natural thing like crude oil seeping up from earthquake faults in California to go to waste. Nature gobbles the substances up, and they becomes part of the food chain, which involves all sorts of stuff eating, being eaten, and, in the end, turning to manure which enriches the soil.

Nature can take a most sterile landscape and make it verdant. The second a glacier recedes nature gets busy on the barren landscape, starting with lichen and progressing through tundra to taiga to the rich farmlands of Ohio.

In essence nature is guilty of altering its environment even more than man. Nature does not care a hoot about the current ecosystem. It improves upon it. However Progressives fail to understand this natural progression.

The arctic landscape is amazing, for it shows nature tested to its limits, and how nature will not stand for the status-quo of a sterile ecosystem, but enriches it. Besides the micro-critter in arctic soil that craves methane, there are some amazing micro-critters that live out on the even more hostile environment of the sea-ice. Not only is there a sort of slime that discolors the bottom of sea-ice, but there is a micro-critter that loves extremely salty brine.

When the ice flash-freezes in the fall, salt is exuded from the ice and sinks down through the ice as little teardrops of very salty water, boring wormholes downwards. Within these extremely salty down-elevators are micro-critters who are not satisfied with the brine, and adjust it to their liking. Unlike Alarmists, they do not want to make a Natural Park of the status-quo, and fundamentally alter the brine, so it is chemically different when it exits the ice at the bottom of the sea-ice.

Not all these micro-critters make it down into the sinking brine. Some are sucked up by the brine on top of the ice, which is sponged up by a phenomenon called “ice-flowers”, and then pulverized by winds and blasted to powder.  This powder is whipped about by winds so cold nothing melts or sticks, and the powder winds up as a sort of haze in dark, arctic midwinter skies, and some is swept to the top of the stratosphere. There, because the bromine in micro-critters turn into bromine-monoxide, it contributes to ozone depletion, and  to ozone holes.

Now, if an Alarmist hears of a ozone hole in the arctic, do you think they will blame micro-critters, or man?  It makes me wonder. Alarmists want to be the protectors of nature, but  if you actually don’t have a clue how nature works, how can you protect it?

I don’t want to continue down this path. It is too political. Instead I’ll turn my face to the sunrise, and contemplate some ice flowers on flash-frozen ice.Ice flowers IMG_1496.


15 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA ICE —Tundra Wonder, Methane Blunder—

  1. Caleb, another great and thoughtful post! I’m going to reblog it. You echo some of my very own thoughts on the methane flap, and I even learned some things I did not know. What a stunning pic of the ice-flowers! Truth is indeed Beautiful! -Andrew

    • Glad you liked it!

      Nature is indeed beautiful, even when it mugs me with winter blasts. One thing I have learned at my Childcare is to let the children learn things for themselves. Often Nature is a better teacher than I am.

      At schools some teachers make children afraid nature will break if they touch it. I let the kids run around outdoors, only occasionally stepping in to tell them to stop torturing a frog, or some such thing. Rather than afraid they will break Nature, they learn Nature has room for them, and on sunny, summer days is a great friend.

  2. Reblogged this on lectrikdog and commented:
    A few things to consider on this well reasoned post from Caleb at If you think the Earth, or the Arctic is in trouble, maybe you should read this, and think again.

    • cfgjd-
      Oceans hold about 93% of CO2 on the planet, and when the cold CO2 rich Deep seawater is heated by seafloor volcanism CO2 fizzes out and rises to the surface (like with a warmed can of soda pop) to join the atmosphere. CO2 ups and downs still lags behind Temperature ups and downs by a few hundred years.
      I was thinking about those Ice-Flowers, they are evidence that not only can ice melt from below, but also forms from below! I imagine that they can form thick enough and dense enough to begin new ice sheet formation. Couple that with above surface cryo-precip., and it can in short order become sturdy enough to hold a man, or a Polar bear. To say nothing of increased albedo- oops I said it.

      • I’m inclined to see the sun as being the boss of when we get warmer or colder. The debate about trace gasses is interesting, but at times it seems we are “straining over a gnat and swallowing a camel.”

        I saw a wonderful video of a deep sea vent that likely would interest you. The vent was exuding CO2, but the pressure was so huge down that deep that the CO2 was liquid, like it is in a CO2 fire extinguisher. It was dribbling away as a trickle over the sea bottom. All the life forms by the vent were happily thriving, as apparently they didn’t get the memo about ocean “acidification”.

        The ice in that picture of snow flowers is so thin that when the wind blows you can see ripples. (Temperatures are so cold the ice will swiftly be thick enough to hold up a man.) The “flowers” are basically hoarfrost, formed when moist air becomes supersaturated. They can happen on fresh water, but are more common on the Arctic Ocean, because the salt gets exuded as the ice forms and this creates a damp layer of brine on top of the ice, which is good at creating the layer of supersaturated air necessary for hoarfrost.

        The “flowers” seldom get much bigger than golf balls and are extremely fragile. They are such good wicks they can suck up the brine and be four times saltier than salt water. Then when winds of -40 degrees blow, they turn to dust. The water sublimates away into the air, so you then have a dust of pure salt blowing about in temperatures so cold the salt can’t melt the ice. Here and there there can be little drifts of salt on top of the sea-ice. Think about that, when you design your next computer model that attempts to predict melting. I sure wouldn’t want the job of figuring out where the salt is, when the spring sunshine first starts to hit the ice.

    • I think that is a good question, cfgid, and I have no answer.

      I have seen a cool satellite animation showing where the methane is above or below normal on earth, and there seemed to be a swirling hot-spot over central Russia. It was bright scarlet where the rest of the world was blues, greens, and at most pale yellows. Oddly, that is the same location where the jet stream dipped and temperatures have been well below normal for most of the year, so it is hard to involve Global Warming. It seems, however, that whatever those Russians are up to must be a major contributor to any increase in world-wide levels.

      If you have time to do any research and find out anything interesting, I’d like to hear about it. Thanks for your interest in my post.

      • You’ve probably seen this
        Soviet Geologists were drilling here in 1971, and tapped into a cavern which swallowed the rig. They decided to burn off the Methane, thinking it would just take a little while. It’s been burning ever since.
        Petroleum geologists have found that Coal, Gas, and Oil are often found co-located to each other. With Coal usually at the top layers, and Oil and Gas found below the Coal, often in alternating layers.
        It is also a pretty fair bet that Methane can be(and likely is) produced in the Earth’s mantle through non-biological processes. But is also produced biologically.
        “Our results show that hydrocarbons can form from non-biological material and be stable, deep within the Earth,” says Scott. Because the mantle makes up 80% of the planet’s volume, “much more carbon in the Earth could be in the form of hydrocarbons than we previously imagined”, he adds. The team’s work will appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.
        ‘Earth’s Mantle Can Generate Methane’
        Primordial Helium He3 has been found leaking up from the mantle in a fault zone in L.A. West of the San Andreas fault zone.
        If He3 can make it’s way up from the mantle, then Methane can too.

  3. another learning day for me caleb, thank you once again for providing a detailed insight into some more natural processes. i have to echo the sentiments of lectrikdog above, those three images are stunning ,particularly the final one. the other one is hilarious 🙂

    • Thanks. I like to share interesting stuff I stumble across, which is an attribute not everyone has always appreciated, especially my teachers at school, because I always found things to study that struck me as more fascinating than what I was suppose to be studying. However now that I’m an old dog I suppose that sort of person feels I can’t be taught any new tricks, and I’m allowed to wander more. Yippie!

  4. Caleb,
    I found a Deep Sea Vent video that had liquid CO2 coming out along with mineral ‘smoke’, but the CO2 was liquid bubbles that didn’t sink to the bottom, but were rising. (?) So now I’m wondering… This video, Shows water being injected into a pressure cell. Then CO2 gas is pumped in until enough pressure builds to form a layer of liquid CO2 ON TOP of the water. The cell is then heated to raise the pressure further until nearly all of the liquid CO2 is forced into the water as a supercritical fluid. Late in the video, the cell is opened to vent the CO2 and the water fizzes violently as the CO2 liquid in the water mixture evaporates back into the gas state. Ergo, CO2 liquid in water under sufficient pressure is A) more buoyant than water, and B) is water soluble (forming Carbonic Acid). I wonder if what you saw in that video ‘dribbling down to the seafloor’ was Methane forming into Methane Clathrates, which can look like a slushy, liquidy substance. Kind of a loose formation of ice-like crystals I have seen it in other videos. At any rate, I think you may have your interest piqued to read this one:
    I’ve reblogged it at lectrikdog. Andrew 😉

  5. Love your description of the fishing trip, looks like a beautiful river. Used to race white water slalom kayaks so know all about eddies and yes have also noticed how wisps of cloud look just like swirls of drifting ice. The thin wisps of cloud obviously melt away and form a lot easier.

    How long can the overall melt continue with the sun leaving and the air cooling so fast..

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