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News Article | October 15, 2015
Site: http://www.techtimes.com/rss/sections/environment.xml

Methane bubbles are coming up from ocean vents off the Washington and Oregon coast, and a new study identified warming ocean temperatures one-third of a mile below the surface as likely responsible. Frozen methane at this depth is believed to transform from a dormant solid to methane gas, a known major greenhouse that has been contributing to climate change. Presented in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, the study found that 168 bubble plumes have been detected in the past 10 years, a disproportionate count of which were found at a critical depth for methane hydrates’ stability. Some 14 were situated at the transition depth, where there are more plumes per unit area than on surrounding areas of the seafloor. According to lead author and oceanography expert H. Paul Johnson, they saw an unusually high number of bubble plumes where methane hydrate would decompose with seawater warming. "So it is not likely to be just emitted from the sediments,” he said, saying it seems to emerge from decomposing methane that has stayed frozen for millenniums. The research sought evidence of bubble plumes off the coast, such as based on research cruise observation, earlier studies, and reports from local fisherfolk. Included in the data are bubble plumes that emerged at least 490 feet tall and clearly originating from the seafloor. Fishing boats first detected some 45 plumes, as their modern sonars chanced upon while seeking schools of fish. Methane, a common fuel source, is a greenhouse gas. While it does not stay as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is deemed initially far more damaging due to its effective heat absorption. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) warned that post-release, methane is 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and that 25 percent of the man-made global warming experienced today is from methane emissions. The methane bubbles act as a potent greenhouse gas, too, if they emerge all the way up and reach the surface, although the study said they seem to be consumed on the way up, with marine microbes converting the gas into carbon dioxide and producing conditions that are lower-oxygen and more acidic in the deeper offshore water. Climate change-related methane emissions have also been reported off the Atlantic coast and in Arctic permafrost. Johnson said that further methane release could exacerbate the current environment effects in Washington and Oregon on local fisheries and biology, such as seafloor slopes – where gluing the sediment slopes in place is frozen methane – becoming destabilized. A study last year from the University of Washington team calculated that methane hydrate decomposition will potentially release about 0.1 million metric tons of methane annually into the sediments off the coast of Washington at the rate the ocean is warming. At present, co-author and oceanography associate professor Evan Solomon is analyzing the chemical composition of bubble plume samples emitted at about 500 meters deep off the Washington coast, seeing whether the gas comes from methane hydrates instead of other sources. The United States government is currently tackling the methane issue. In August this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever rule of directly limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, its leading sources.


News Article | March 10, 2016
Site: http://www.greenbiz.com/

The Environmental Defense Fund's Diane Regas recounts what it took to make headway on the world's biggest retailer's big sustainability goals.


Shaw M.R.,The Environmental Defense Fund | Pendleton L.,Duke University | Cameron D.R.,The Environmental Defense Fund | Morris B.,Environmental Defense Fund | And 9 more authors.
Climatic Change | Year: 2011

Ecosystem services play a crucial role in sustaining human well-being and economic viability. People benefit substantially from the delivery of ecosystem services, for which substitutes usually are costly or unavailable. Climate change will substantially alter or eliminate certain ecosystem services in the future. To better understand the consequences of climate change and to develop effective means of adapting to them, it is critical that we improve our understanding of the links between climate, ecosystem service production, and the economy. This study examines the impact of climate change on the terrestrial distribution and the subsequent production and value of two key ecosystem services in California: (1) carbon sequestration and (2) natural (i. e. non-irrigated) forage production for livestock. Under various scenarios of future climate change, we predict that the provision and value of ecosystem services decline under most, but not all, future greenhouse gas trajectories. The predicted changes would result in decreases in the economic output for the state and global economy and illustrate some of the hidden costs of climate change. Since existing information is insufficient to conduct impact analysis across most ecosystem services, a comprehensive research program focused on estimating the impacts of climate change on ecosystem services will be important for understanding, mitigating and adapting to future losses in ecosystem service production and the economic value they provide. © 2011 The Author(s). Source


News Article | December 26, 2015
Site: http://motherboard.vice.com/

One of the biggest environmental disasters in US history is happening right now, and you’ve probably never heard of it. An enormous amount of harmful methane gas is currently erupting from an energy facility in Aliso Canyon, California, at a startling rate of 110,000 pounds per hour. The gas, which carries with it the stench of rotting eggs due to the addition of a chemical called mercaptan, has led to the evacuation 1,700 homes so far. Many residents have already filed lawsuits against the company that owns the facility, the Southern California Gas Company. Footage taken on December 17 shows a geyser of methane gas spewing from the Earth, visible by a specialized infrared camera operated by an Earthworks ITC-certified thermographer. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released the footage last week, calling it “one of the biggest leaks we’ve ever seen reported” and “absolutely uncontained”: In early December, the Southern California Gas Company said that plugging the leak, which sprang in mid-October, would take at least three more months. Right now, the single leak accounts for a quarter of the state's entire methane emissions, and the leak has been called the worst environmental disaster since the BP oil spill in 2010. “Our efforts to stop the flow of gas by pumping fluids directly down the well have not yet been successful, so we have shifted our focus to stopping the leak through a relief well,” Anne Silva, a spokesperson for the Southern California Gas Company, told Motherboard, adding that the company is still exploring other options to stop the leak. “The relief well process is on schedule to be completed by late February or late March.” Part of the problem in stopping the leak lies in the base of the well, which sits 8,000 feet underground. Pumping fluids down into the well, usually the normal recourse, just isn’t working, said Silva. Workers have been ”unable to establish a stable enough column of fluid to keep the force of gas [from] coming up from the reservoir.” The company is now constructing a relief well that will connect to the leaking well, and hopefully provide a way to reduce pressure so the leak can be plugged. Read about a drilling project nearly twice as deep—15 years and $50 billion later, with not a drop of oil to show for it It’s worth noting that the type of gas involved in this leak is part of what makes it so sinister. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to climate change impact. About one-fourth of the anthropogenic global warming we’re experiencing today is due to methane emissions, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Leaks like the current one in California, it turns out, are a major contributor. In Pasadena, for instance, just 35 miles from the leak in Aliso, investigators found one leak for every four miles: So far, over 150 million pounds of methane have been released by the leak, which connects to an enormous underground containment system. Silva says that the cause of the leak is still unknown, but research by EDF has also revealed that more than 38 percent of the pipes in Southern California Gas Company’s territory are more than 50 years old, and 16 percent are made from corrosion- and leak-prone materials. Right now, relief efforts have drilled only 3,800 feet down—less than half of the way to the base of the well. At that rate, the torrent of methane pouring into California won’t be stopped any time soon. Clarification: An earlier version of this story noted that the gas smells like rotting eggs but did not say why. Methane is an odorless gas; a chemical called mercaptan is added to it to create a foul-smelling odor, in case of leaks like this one.


Web security provider Blue Coat Systems — itself acquired in a $1.3 billion deal by Thoma Bravo at the end of December 2011 — is making an acquisition today: it’s buying Solera Networks, a specialist in big data security, for an undisclosed sum (although we have reached out to the company to ask). The deal is expected to close in the next thirty days. Solera, founded in 2005, had raised just over $51 million in VC funds, including a Series D of $20 million from Intel Capital last January. This looks to be the fourth acquisition for Blue Coat and part of what appears to be a brief shopping spree by the company. Most recently — earlier this month, in fact — Blue Coat bought SSL technology from Netronome for an undisclosed amount. That service, focusing on programmable semiconductor products — will complement the Solera acquisition. The two startups already work together, with Solera integrating its monitoring technology into Netronome’s products to specifically target encrypted traffic. In total, Blue Coat has spent some $268 million on acquisitions, not including today’s deal. The Solera acquisition will add the company’s DeepSee platform to Blue Coat’s security range and will give it the capability to process large data files of network traffic to assess for security threats. “The future of the industry is moving beyond just blocking malware and stopping targeted attacks to also identifying and resolving the full scope of the attacks in real time,” said Greg Clark, CEO at Blue Coat Systems, in a statement. “Retrospective capture and analytics are now an essential component of modern security architecture, and Solera has pioneered this field, creating a DVR for the network that records traffic and allows customers to easily mine that information.” Together the companies will have a user base that covers 75 million users across 15,000 enterprise customers, including what Blue Coat says is 86% of the Fortune Global 500. The company says it rates more than one billion Web requests per day. Solera’s customer base includes the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security and Defense, Hitachi, Qualcomm, Overstock.com, Parsons Corporation and Zions Bank. Steve Shillingford, CEO at Solera Networks, describes the company’s technology as a “security camera” on a network. “Along with the big data security analytics and intelligence needed to see zero-day threats and advanced cyberattacks in real-time, Solera DeepSee provides unmatched security forensics to help enterprises answer critical post-breach questions on the nature of the attack and how to prevent it in the future,” he noted in a statement. The news comes at the same time that Blue Coat has revamped its whole security portfolio into five areas — Security and Policy Enforcement Center (for business continuity); Mobility Empowerment Center; Trusted Application Center (for apps); Performance Center (for IT infrastructure); Resolution Center (for deep security analysis; likely where Solera will reside).

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