26 February 2015

Question place 2015

Time to hang out the shingle again for questions.  What would you like to know about?

In the mean time -- See Dr. Kate Marvel's distressingly accurate description of the peer review process.  Fortunately it isn't always like that.  Unfortunately, it sometimes is, or at least is close.  While you're at it, add her to your regular reading.  See her also at @DrKateMarvel on twitter.

Also, If you need your fellow scientists to be dry & stern & aloof in order to take their work seriously, you are a terrible scientist. @AstroKatie  Scientists are usually passionate about their science.  How that gets expressed, varies.  Some like the dry+stern+aloof approach.  Some like the yippee! approach.  As she also said, versus the dull and inaccurate 'scientists mystified by X' headlines: All headlines about unexplained phenomena should read "Scientists Super Excited to Find New Juicy Juicy Mystery to Gleefully Obsess Over"


Anonymous said...

What's the deal with the geysers in Siberia? How worried should we be?

Robert Grumbine said...

One story with a reasonable survey is http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/02/26/the-siberian-crater-problem-is-more-widespread-and-scarier-than-anyone-thought/

If you live in the area, there's a fair amount to be worried about from the direct effects -- having one of these methane eruptions happen under you would be very bad. Worse than, say, the sinkholes that periodically show up in Florida. In addition to the sinkhole effect, there's the possibility of the methane igniting.

For people outside the area, the concern comes from the fact that methane is a greenhouse gas. On a per-molecule basis, methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, ballpark 25 times stronger if I remember correctly. It isn't normally much of a concern in considering global climate change because it is far scarcer than CO2 (there being about 1000 times as much CO2).

What is disconcerting about these geysers is not their own contribution to greenhouse effect, but the fact that what produced them (thawing permafrost and warming soil) is something which can potentially happen across a huge area -- i.e. much of Siberia (larger than the US or China). On that scale, there's potential for a large contribution to global greenhouse gas levels, on top of what humans are more directly doing in other ways.

So, ballpark, I'd say up your level of concern wrt climate change by 30% for now, and keep your eye out for research on just how large a potential source of greenhouse gases this really is. Area is certainly large, but maybe we're lucky and the biological factors behind this source are rare. Or maybe we're only seeing a tiny portion of what's to come and it's really a lot worse than we currently think.