Worst Case Scenario: Methane Eruption, Deepwater Horizon is America’s Tsunami
War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.
In keeping with the theme of this blog, people should keep in mind that there is a small but real possibility that the Deepwater Horizon blowout could lead to a catastrophe of global proportions the likes of which hasn’t been seen in human history. How likely is it that we are now in the early scenes of a real life version of Armageddon? No one knows, the Deepwater Horizon blowout could trigger a methane eruption that will end civilization as we know it. Well, the end of civilization as we know it in the United States.
Let me explain. Say one has a huge reservoir of gas that has been turned into a liquid by low temperatures and high pressure. If the temperature goes up or the pressure goes down, this liquid starts turning into a gas. And when liquid turns into a gas, it expands, rapidly. To get an idea of how powerful this sort of thing is, this is pretty much what happens when a super volcano erupts and hundreds of cubic miles of ejecta is created. IE the gas dissolved in a huge underground reservoir of magma turns into actual gas and turns cubic miles of rock into vastly larger volumes of pumice and ash. Poof, whole states buried in many feet of ash. A key point here is that these things may start slowly, but once they start the end result is inevitable. IE once something starts relieving the pressure … the pressure starts to drop … and more gas comes out of solution! I mean it’s bad analogy in many sense, but it’s like blowing up a balloon, if you keep blowing it eventually pops … and once the pop has occurred … nothing is going to stop that balloon from exploding.
Well, in the sea floor there are huge reservoirs of frozen methane gas. They are the products of organic decay, but are kept in a liquid state by the cold temperatures and high pressure. And at least one time in Earth’s history they have “popped” and turned into methane gas in a very short time period. And methane gas makes CO2 look like a wimp in the global warming department. In this occasion they heated up the Earth 7 degrees Celsius (13 degrees Fahrenheit.) Yikes. That seems unlikely in this case, but it is possible that we have triggered what will be a methane eruption of historically unprecedented scale.
And a huge methane eruption could be quite exciting to say the least. Worst case scenario: Dozens of cubic miles of water in the Gulf of Mexico will more or less froth into toxic foam. Hundreds of people on ships, planes, and offshore platforms in the area will be dead almost instantly. The tsunamis created when the ocean rushes back in to fill this void will kill hundreds of thousands within hours. Florida will be especially hard hit, but so will parts of Georgia, which doesn’t even have a Gulf Coast! Property damage in the afflicted areas will basically be total. Millions of casualties is not outside the range of possibility.
Thank you. Just doing my job. I’d actually be appalled if it turned out that bad, but sadly the current oil spill reality is appalling enough. This is a slow moving Chernobyl. And this isn’t turtles and pelicans, this is people. Huge numbers of people are trying to clean up this mess without proper protective clothing. Few of them are really volunteers an any real sense of the word. Americans are manning the dikes in the worst ecological disaster in American history, and the government is standing by and letting BP public relations flacks call the shots. We should be declaring a national emergency and sending in the army to help with the clean up, but I guess that isn’t manly enough for General Petraeus and his ilk.
In any event, just how likely is some sort of massive methane generated tsunami? Well, according to BP, the possibility of this happening is “unfounded.” Well, I’m reassured, if BP says it can’t happen, then we have nothing to worry about.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s use is central to illustrating the post, and it is arguably a historically important image. I can’t find the source, but the image is apparently titled: “Backward Flow in Qian Tang Jiang River, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China.” It looks exciting, doesn’t it? In any event this will be my last current events post for a bit, between the wars, the economy, and the gulf oil mess it’s all too depressing lately.)