Jim's Blog

Giant Craters Discovered on Arctic Ocean Floor : A Well Thought Out Scream by James Riordan

You’ve no doubt heard about the meth epidemic.  While fast paling in comparison to the killer opiate epidemic sweeping America, we’ve all seen enough pictures of toothless hillbillies arrest for stealing fertilizer (yes, that’s what I said), to know that meth is bad.  Turns out the Arctic Ocean is having its own share of meth problems.  A study published in the latest edition of the journal Science says that during the last ice age, a sheet of ice up to two kilometres thick lay on the floor of the Barents Sea off Norway, holding vast amounts of methane in hydrate form — an ice-like mix of gas and water.  Giant craters on the Arctic sea floor were formed when methane gas previously trapped in ice was released with such force it blew through bedrock, Norwegian researchers say.

According to the researchers, when a warming climate caused the ice sheet to dissipate around 12,000 years ago, the methane concentrated in mounds and then was “abruptly released,” causing the craters.  “To disturb the bedrock that much, we feel pretty certain that it’s not something that can be done by gas bubbles just seeping up. It must have been a catastrophic event,” said lead author Karin Andreassen, a professor at the Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate at the Arctic University of Norway.

icebergWhen Karin Andreassen set out for the Barents Sea, she knew she would find a lot of methane. The cold, shallow body of water just north of Norway meets Russia is home to oil and gas fields, and methane—the main component of natural gas—naturally seeps out of the seafloor here. Andreassen, a marine geologist at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, also knew from surveys in the 90s that she’d find some underwater craters.

But she did not expect to find so many craters (hundreds!) and so many huge ones (half a mile wide). “They were giant,” she says, “And they were next to these huge mounds.” The mounds ended up being a clue to the craters’ origins. In a new study, Andreassen and her colleagues lay out a unified theory for how the craters and mounds formed as the Barents Sea itself changed over thousands of years. It all goes back to methane.

Methane can form deep underground, where heat and pressure transform ancient organic material into methane gas. Fifteen thousand years ago during the Ice Age, when the Barents Sea was not yet a sea but an ice sheet, methane that migrated up through bedrock would have hit solid ice. It couldn’t go anywhere so it froze in place as methane hydrate. But as ice sheets melted to form a now liquid Barents Sea, the hydrates also began to turn back into methane gas. Pressure from this gas lifted the seafloor to create the giant mounds. With enough pressure, the mounds could blow, creating those giant craters.

Andreassen looked at the Barents Sea, but the same thing may have happened in other places when ice sheets retreated at the end of the Ice Age. Scientists have also found pingos in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and craters in the North Sea west of Norway.

picture of pockmarks in the Beaufort SeaLike the craters observed in the Norwegian study, there are “pockmarks” that are actively releasing gas in areas of the Beaufort Sea, which stretches across the coasts of the Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory, Dallimore said.

But unlike the “blowout” the Norwegian researchers believe formed the craters in the Barents Sea, the Beaufort Sea pockmarks developed with a slower release of gas that weakened the sediments on the sea floor, Dallimore said. Ancient methane ‘burp’ points to climate change 110 million years ago

And something similar may also be happening on land. In 2014, a number of huge craters appeared in Siberian. It was one of the hottest years on record in Siberia, and permafrost was melting. The craters were also found in areas rich in natural gas, and satellite imagery revealed mounds along with more craters. Russian scientists found clods of dirt that looked like they had been thrown from the craters. Irina Streletskaya, a geographer at Lomonosov Moscow State University who studied one of the craters, wrote in an email that she thinks trapped methane explains both the Barents Sea and Siberian craters.

New craters may be forming in the Barents Sea today, too. The smaller craters, says Andreassen, maybe the younger ones. But the bigger potential threat to climate change is not small methane blow-outs in the Barents Sea; it’s massive blow-outs that could happen in areas currently covered by ice. If ice sheets keep retreating in places like Greenland and Antarctica, it could leave more land bare and release long pent-up reservoirs of methane.

Methane continues to seep out into the water to this day, Andreassen said, through more than 600 “gas flares” that remain near the craters.

Methane gas in northern waters is also an issue in Canada, Scott Dallimore, a research scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, told CBC News.

Scientists studying the release of gas into the ocean agree it has critical environmental implications.

“It adds on to the acidification of the ocean and changing of the chemistry of the ocean and the ecosystems of the ocean,” Andreassen said.

Whether the phenomenon also pushes greenhouse gases out of the water and into the atmosphere is an area requiring further research, the Norwegian study says.  Are there really 7,000 Siberian methane bubbles ready to explode?  At this point, it doesn’t appear the methane rising from the floor of the Barents Sea is reaching the air, Andreassen said.

That could be due to the depth of the Barents Sea, Dallimore said, because when methane is released as a gas, the bubbles rapidly dissolve into the ocean. The deeper the water, the further the bubbles have to travel, so the methane is more likely to dissolve by the time it reaches the surface.  But the Beaufort Sea shelf is more shallow, he said, so it’s possible for methane bubbles to reach the atmosphere.

“It’s a topical concern,” Dallimore said, noting that there is a program that assesses these types of potential “geohazards” in Canada, but more study is needed.

crater with ice and snow

 

This study adds to existing uncertainty about the behavior of methane trapped near the poles. Methane is worrying because it can have an accelerating effect: As ice and permafrost melt, they release more methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, which makes the Earth warmer, so more ice melts, and more methane is released and so on. Scientists have mostly studied the gradual and continual seeping of methane in places like the Barents Sea. In those cases, microbes in the water use up the methane before it reaches the atmosphere, so it’s not a huge concern. But how much methane is being released in these blow outs, and does it work any differently? Carolyn Ruppel, who studies gas hydrates at the U.S. Geological Survey, poses the question this way, “If you’ve got a huge burp of methane, can that methane get to the sea-air interference before it can be destroyed by microbes in water column?”

The answer will likely lie in ice cores taken about 12,000 years ago, when the Barents Sea ice sheet melted. If the retreating ice sheet really did release a burst of methane into the atmosphere, you’d find it in the ice cores. Andreassen says they are now looking into such a study.  And if polar ice keeps melting, well, we’ll eventually see if the consequences for ourselves.  So, just another concern to add to your worry sheet.

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The Author

James Riordan

James Riordan

Rare is it that any author will have one of his books described as the definitive work on a particular subject, but such a distinction has been bestowed by critics on no less than four books written by James Riordan. The New York Times Bestseller Break on Through, Riordan’s biography of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, has not only been called “the most objective, thorough and professional Morrison biography” by the Times Book Review but also named as one of the Ten All Time Best Rock Biographies by Amazon.com. Riordan’s The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco) was called “One of the best how-to books ever written” by the Los Angeles Daily News and “The ultimate career book on the music industry” by Recording, Engineer & Producer. Critics described Riordan’s The Bishop of Rwanda as “one of the most important books you’ll ever read.” and The Coming of the Walrus, Riordan’s novel about the 60s as “the definitive book on the era” and “a hilarious tale of a harrowing search for the greatest truth of all”. With the release of A Well Thought Out Scream and Madman in the Gate, Riordan pushed the boundaries again with poetry/song lyric books that contain hundreds of stunning, beautiful and poignant images from artists and photographers from all over the world. In the summer of 2013 a new edition of The Coming of the Walrus was released to rave reviews followed by The Kill Switch. The author of thirty-three books, James Riordan’s career began in the music industry where as a songwriter, manager, producer and concert promoter he worked with several well known artists. In 1976 he began writing a newspaper column, Rock-Pop, which he later syndicated. Riordan soon became one of America’s premier rock journalists with articles reaching millions of readers including those of Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Circus, Musician, and newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and The Kansas City Star. His reputation for relating on a one-to-one level soon led to interviews with George Harri-son, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Mandrell, Crosby, Stills & Nash and countless others. His first book, The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco in 1980) became the largest selling book ever written about the music business. The guide to “succeeding in the music business without selling your soul” was praised by Variety ,The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Las Vegas Sun, The Minneapolis Tribune, Billboard, Record World and many more. The Platinum Rainbow became an industry-wide phenomenon and interviews with James Riordan were aired on over 1200 radio stations and numerous television talk shows. Next Riordan collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winner Jason Miller on a mini-series for network television (The Irish) and a movie of the week for CBS (Bless Me Father). In June 1991, William Morrow & Co. published Break On Through to outstanding sales and reviews. Riordan worked as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s film of Morrison’s life, The Doors, which led to his writing Stone’s biography. Published by Hyperion /Disney in December 1995, Entertainment Weekly called STONE “an unflinching biography... enough spectacle to fill a month of daytime-TV talk shows.” The New York Post said reading the book was like “the sensory overload of watching all of Oliver Stone’s movies back to back.” Riordan was interviewed by Inside Edition, People Magazine, The Tom Snyder Show, and many others. From 1997-2000, Riordan created and co-starred in a local television program, Kankakee Valley Prime Time, which won six Crystal Communicators, three Tellys, and earned Riordan a Chicago/ Midwest Emmy Nomination for Writing the program. In the summer of 1999, James Riordan wrote, directed and starred in Maddance, an hour long dramatic project which won Crystal Communicators for Drama, Writing, Acting and Directing. On April 9, 2000, James’ 16 year old son, Jeremiah, was killed as a passenger in an accident that involved three drunk drivers. Shortly after this, James founded Make it Stick which works to warn teens of the dangers of substance abuse and publishes a magazine distributed to high school students. In 2001, he founded Jeremiah’s – A Place to be Yourself to give teens a place to hang out away from the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Force to close by its incredible growth rate, Jeremiah’s was recognized as one of the fastest growing and most successful teen centers in the United States. In 2004, Toastmasters International named Riordan Communicator of the Year for Central Illinois, the YMCA gave him their Service to Youth Award and the United Way named him the Outstanding Volunteer of Kankakee County. Returning to writing, Riordan went to Africa to write The Bishop of Rwanda, (with an intro by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren). In November of 2006, Harper Collins released a new edition of Break On Through followed by The Coming of the Walrus (Image Workshop) in December and The Bishop of Rwanda (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) to rave reviews (“Powerful …plumbs the depths of God’s forgiveness and finds no bottom – Publisher’s Weekly). In 2011, he won the Pledge For Life Harold Award for his work with area youth. In the summer of 2012, Lee and Shane Stanley (Gridiron Gang) optioned Maddance as a feature film followed by Apothecary Films optioning The Kill Switch in 2013 and Omni Films optioning Final Service to film in May. Riordan joined the staff of the Mancow Syndicated Television and Radio show in January of 2014 and is now seen and heard across America on a weekly basis. His biography is included in Who’s Who in Entertainment , Who’s Who in Poetry and Contemporary Authors of America. James Riordan – Works Books The Kill Switch, novel with Andrew Dahlmaine, Stonegate Ink, 2013 The Coming of the Walrus, Trade Paperback Editn, Image Workshop 2012 Springboard To Heaven ( Jojo Sayson Adventure), Image Workshop, 2012 The Elijah Collection, novel collection with Bill Myers, Zondervan, 2011 The Well Thought Out Scream (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 Madman in the Gate (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 The Deadly Loyalty Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Ancient Forces Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Enemy Strikes with Bill Myers (Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 Deception with Bill Myers (Book 2 Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 The Bishop of Rwanda (Finding Forgiveness) Thomas Nelson, March 2007 Paperback Edition May, 2012 The Coming of the Walrus (What Really Happened in the '60s) IW, 2006 Break on Through (The Life & Death of Jim Morrison), Morrow, 1991. (New York Times Bestseller, Published in 5 languages, Hardcover, 5 Paperback Editions, Harper Trade Paperback November, 2006) Stone (The Controversies, Excesses & Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker), Disney/Hyperion,1995. (Published in 3 languages, Hardcover, Paperback Edition). Making It in the New Music Business, Writers Digest Books, 1987, (Second Edition, Revised and Updated 1991, Two Hardcover Editions) The Platinum Rainbow (How to Succeed in the Music Business Without Selling Your Soul) 250,000 copies with Bob Monaco, Swordsman Press, 1980, Twenty-Three Editions, Revised 1988) 25 Year Anniversary Edition, 2005 Capture the Wind (Microphones) w.Tom Lubin, Literary Mouse Press,1989 Private Biography of Russ Kalvin, founder of Kalvin Corp., 1990 Private Biography of Steve Stefano, founder of Joico Hair Products, 1993. Mystery of the Invisible Knight (Book 2 in the BloodHounds Series) with Bill Myers, Bethany House,1997. Matters of the Heart (The Life & Times of Edgar Cullman), Culbro, 1997. The Curse (Book 7 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1997. The Undead (Book 8 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1996. The Scream (Book 9 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1998 The Ancients (Book 10 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1999. The Cards (Book 11 Forbidden Doors Series) with Bill Myers, Tyndale,2000 Films Final Service, co-written with Gary Moore and based on his book, Omni Productions, to be filmed in May, 2014. Maddance, Writer/Director/Lead Actor, Search Engine Films, Simmcomm, 1999. (Winner of 4 Crystal Communicators including Best Drama, Screenplay, Director, Male Actor – Austin, TX.1999) Performance (The Life of Ingrid Bergman), Screenplay, Lancit Productions 1998. Returned to Author when film division closed)Rewritten2009 Shadowdancers, Story & Screenplay, Story with Bill Myers, 1997 Dr. Babylon, Story 1996. Air Guitar, Story & Screenplay, 1994 The Platinum Rainbow, Story & Screenplay, 1993 Television/Video Kankakee Valley Prime Time, Writer, Director, Producer, 1997-2000. (Nominated for Midwest/Chicago Emmy for Writing, 1998, 3 Telly Awards, 4 Crystal Communicators 1998-2000). Angels Among Us (The Amtrak City of New Orleans Train Disaster, Co- Producer, (Telly Award, 2000). River Valley Sports Authority, Producer, 1999-2003. I Hate The World (Hypnoises Music Video), Writer/Director/Producer, Crystal Communicator for Best Music Video Concept, 1998). The United Way (Video) Crystal Communicator for Best Video for a Charitable Organization, 1998.

If it isn't money and it isn't fame and it isn't sex... then what... God?

— James Riordan, 2000

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