Methane, Midges & Morons

| Wed Dec. 13, 2006 12:56 AM EST

From the AGU (American Geophysical Union) meeting in San Francisco comes word that the frozen fields of methane known as clathrates underlying the seafloor exist at much shallower depths than previously thought. Nature reports that Michael Riedel of McGill University in Montreal and colleagues found methane clathrates off Vancouver Island in only 200 to 400 feet of water—less than half the depth previously predicted, based on our current understanding of the temperatures and pressures required to keep frozen gases stable.

It's ominous because the rapid melting of frozen methane is a feared consequence of global warming, as described in this issue's cover story, The Thirteenth Tipping Point. In a warming world, shallower clathrates would melt sooner, a very bad thing for life on earth.

If you're wondering the extent to which scientists are pouring their efforts into the study of global climate change, from the monumental to the microscopic, check out this study of the changes in midge communities in western American lakes. Also reporting at the AGU, David Porinchu, lead author and an assistant professor of geography at Ohio State University, found that midge species inhabiting western American lakes shifted dramatically as lake temperatures rose the past three decades.

Doesn't matter though to Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, recently deposed chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. According to his Guide to Debunking Global Warming Alarmism:

My skeptical views on man-made catastrophic global warming have only strengthened as new science comes in.

In scientific parlance, that's called skepticitis, a disorder affecting human intelligence in a very bad way for life on earth.