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Sunday, December 13, 2015

THE VENUS SYNDROME: The Novel

I have long threatened to extend my concept of The Venus Syndrome into a novel.  I continue to see all the United Nations gatherings on climate change wasting a lot of time and money.  The Paris Conference of the Parties (COP) is #21 (here to the right they are rejoicing their toothless efforts), and #22 will occur in Morocco next year.  The 1997 COP#3 in Kyoto was fabulous, ending with a real Protocol agreement.  However, the USA, China and India ignored it.  Paris?  Yes, success with 40,000 participants.  I shuddered at that carbon footprint.

Thus, I thought, way back maybe a decade ago, why not write a best-selling novel to scare decision-makers to begin to take effective steps to control global warming, inspire Steven Spielberg to direct a blockbuster movie, resulting in children's lunch pails adorned with THE VENUS SYNDROME, and convincing governments to work together to solve this problem.  Dreamer!

Well, anyway, here is a one-pager on my novel, THE VENUS SYNDROME:

The previous two posting provided the science and politics of global warming. Today, we enter the realm of the unknown, the future. Remember, now, there could be twice as much energy content in methane trapped at the bottom of the ocean than all the known coal, oil and natural gas deposits.
What happens to gas in melting ice? What happens to gas and ice in water? Well, the latter floats to the surface and the gas mostly enters the atmosphere. What if a combination of circumstances jiggles all the marine methane hydrates to the surface? You can add Arctic tundra to this mix, as it is melting and more and more beginning to shed methane. What if there is a worst case scenario of coincidences?  A sudden cascade of methane into our already toxic atmosphere? Such is my tale from the future--THE VENUS SYNDROME, a doomsday concept I introduce to the general public a dozen years ago:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) met last month in an emergency session to declare that the permafrost of the U.S., Canada and Russia was indeed, melting, and the 10.4°F (5.8°C) temperature rise by 2100 will now occur by 2050. 




The International Arctic Research Center (IARC) of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks reported that the northern ecosystem holds one fourth to one third the world's soil carbon, and much of it is carbon dioxide and methane trapped in the ice. Over the past 200 years, the atmospheric concentration of methane has tripled. Now, this ice is thawing with the deeper solid turning into slush, and, the expectation is that the effect of methane on global climate warming will in a few years exceed that of carbon dioxide. A 2°C increase in permafrost temperature amplifies methane flux by 120%, and there is a real danger that taliks, or thawed permafrost, are disintegrating, to further accelerate the effect.
The IARC also will soon release the results of a joint Russia-U.S. cruise investigating methane plumes found in the East-Siberian Sea. The speculation is that methane gas hydrates are melting at the bottom of the sea. As there is one million times more natural gas (methane) in these permafrost reservoirs than the normal methane annually released from the northern ecosystem, the implications are frightening.  Some call this THE METHANE BOMB.
Nearly two decades ago it was reported that 50% of Russia and Canada, 80% of Alaska, 20% of China and all of Antarctica is underlain by permafrost. In northern Siberia this permafrost is about a mile thick.  These formations are all now melting.
Both the north terrestrial and magnetic North Poles have been over water for the past couple of months, with the seafloor 13,000 feet (4000 meters) below. Normally, only half the ice melts. As of today, there is no ice in the Arctic around the poles.
Thus, October 21, 2020 was a bad day for Planet Earth, in fact, the worst day ever for Homo sapiens since Mt. Tubo erupted 71,000 years ago, dropping our human population to 15,000 or so. You would have thought that the longest day of the year should also be the warmest.  But, for the Pacific coastline of the USA, and much of the Americas, this high occurs around the end of October:

California is particularly suffering, as the drought is now into the fourth year and the state is burning.  In 2015 forest fires took away 10 million acres for the first time.  At this moment, 20 million acres are black or red.  Santa Ana winds buffeting Southern California the past month saw temperatures hit 120 F and winds reaching hurricane force at 75 MPH. 
But for confounding reasons, the temperature rose to 110°F in Washington, D.C., breaking the record set last year by 2°F. And so late in the year, too! However, the temperature itself was not the problem--it was more the accumulation of the past seven years being the hottest for the entire globe, beginning in 2014.  Global climate warming was not only happening, but getting progressively worse. 
Hurricane Vickie was storming to the District. Only six Category 5 hurricanes have hit the U.S. Mainland (Camille in 1969, Andrew in 1992, Otto in 2016, Rafael in 2018 and Sebastien last year--note the recent trend), but already three have struck this year (Dolly in May and Teddy last month). However, Hurricane Wilfred, churning in the Gulf of Mexico, and seeking New Orleans, has the lowest minimum pressure ever of 878 mb (millibars, with the previous low being an unnamed 1935 hurricane at 892 mb), with sustained winds of up to 230 miles per hour. The Army Corps of Engineers warned that funds were not made available to sufficiently shore up the dikes beyond Category 3 after Katrina, so only the worst is anticipated. 
Of particular concern to scientists, though, is that the thermohaline circulation might have stopped today. These currents kept certain coastal regions cool and others warm. They also helped maintain the marine methane hydrate (MMH) deposits below critical temperature. Expected now is a steep increase in ocean temperatures in many of those shelf areas heavy in MMH deposits.
This positive feedback of more methane further heats the atmosphere, which only increases the rate of this gas escaping into the atmosphere. All this heat finally resulted in portions of the ocean going hyper-critical with respect to temperature, and the danger point for runaway water vapor (which normally accounts for up to 85% the Greenhouse Effect--that aqua portion is the composition of water vapor) was finally exceeded on this October day in 2020. Water vapor, as prevalent as it is, has not in the past been considered a danger, mostly because there is so much of it  the concentration has been stable and there is nothing we can do about it anyway. Suddenly, this is a major issue. But that in itself was not the trigger, for it should have taken many millennia to get to anything like the Venus Syndrome.
The problem was that this critical condition occurred over portions of the warmer Pacific, which sat over huge deposits of marine methane hydrates (MMH). It was purely coincidental that a mega earthquake off Peru with a Moment Magnitude of 9.4 happened, triggering a destabilization of the nearby hydrates, beginning the release of copious amounts of methane into the atmosphere. A major tsunami is expected to hit the Pacific Rim, but that has now become a minor irritant, for rather suddenly, a dozen other volcanoes along the Ring of Fire went off, not an unusual occurrence, actually, for something similar occurred seven years ago.  The problem was that these eruptions mostly blew up in the midst of huge reservoirs of methane clathrates.  Within an hour, more methane escaped into our atmosphere that normally takes a century.
Thus, in a matter of 24 hours, Planet Earth had its hottest day in modern history, a sudden influx of methane from the ocean, and an atmosphere where methane superseded carbon dioxide as the primary agent for global warming. We're not quite sure how this excess water vapor was affecting the process, but it can only be bad. The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt stopping was particularly ominous, for the ocean surrounding these MMH beds would further warm. 
It had to take the Global Warming equivalent of a Perfect Storm to catalyze an expedited Venus Syndrome: 
  • portions of the ocean surface at critical positive feedback temperature; 
  • enhanced water vapor influx;
  • cessation of the cooling currents, warming the marine methane hydrate (MMH) deposits; 
  • the largest recorded undersea earthquake, 
  • where the resultant tsunami sufficiently lowered the sea level over the MMH deposits near the coastlines, 
  • combined with a cataclysmic series of undersea volcanic eruption,
  • suddenly tipping the dynamic equilibrium pressure-temperature conditions, stimulating enormous amounts of methane to the surface. 

Scientists at the International Marine Methane Hydrates Research Institute at the University of Hawaii calculated that one teraton, a million times a million, of methane will be released into the atmosphere just this year. The early Eocene, 55 million years ago, experienced a similar event, resulting in a temperature rise of about 16 degrees Fahrenheit across the now populated regions of the world.  Scientific speculation that this extinction period took 10,000 years to unfold was recently expunged by clear evidence that a sudden temperature rise of 10 F was experienced in a matter of months.
Unable to wait for the 100,000 delegates anticipated to convene in New York City next month for the Conference of the Parties 26, an emergency session of the United Nations, panicked by these developments, was called for this last day of October with a wary eye on Valerie.  While COP21 in Paris drew 150 heads of state, everyone was here today. Members of the IPCC were summoned to share the bad news. Computer models over the past week were refined for the most probable case scenario, and the terminal report was presented to the General Assembly at 10AM this morning, already at 102°F outside, with a dangerous hurricane approaching.  The delegates and world leaders were stunned by the devastating news. 
The chairman of the IPCC reported that we had reached and tripped over the tipping point. THE VENUS SYNDROME had begun, and, now, could probably not be stopped. Humanity at large, and most of life, would cease to exist within a century, providing a short period to develop solutions for survival.  But what are the odds?
A long long time ago, according to Greek mythology, there was a very beautiful princess of Troy by the name of Cassandra. Her younger brother Paris was the character who kidnapped Helen, the wife of the King of Sparta, and brought her to Troy. Apollo, son of Zeus, fell in love with Cassandra and gave her the power to know the future if only she were to marry him. She was given that power, but refused to marry him, so Apollo put a curse on her predictive capabilities, and doomed her to despair, for while her powers remained, no one would believe her.  
Sometimes I feel that I have Cassandra's curse:  I can predict the future, but no one listens to me.  So I'll try one more time, for life on Planet Earth has managed to survive for 3.5 billion years.  
Under the above worst case conditions, will we become just another Planet Venus, or survive in microscopic form, or perhaps even as Homo sapiens? Can the release of air pollution particulates and sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere turn things around?  Should we send pioneers into outer space to preserve our species? There is a myriad of instant geoengineering options to consider.  (Click on map to see options.)
A breakthrough?  The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Project being diligently pursued by that Institute near Stanford announced that they recently detected  complex signals from an apparently advanced civilization in the Orion constellation. The data is being interpreted, but will world governments now provide mega-funds for CONTACT II?
Well, that was the introduction to THE VENUS SYMBOL, the novel.  This will be a disaster story with parallel paths on how to SAVE PLANET EARTH AND  HUMANITY.  When will it be published.  Stay tuned.

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