Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Methane seeps in Santa Barbara, rising gas in Russia: could it sink the atmosphere?

Seeps in Santa Barbara aren't just about tarballs - and seeps aren't just in Santa Barbara. They matter to surfers as well as climate scientists.

Last year, around this time, I went to Santa Barbara and got educated by scientists, energy activists, local environmentalists, and a guy who sells fuel about oil exploration, research and drilling there, not to mention attitudes toward the same. I did three stories - one about the 40th anniversary of the '69 spill, one about a new drilling hearing at the state lands commission, and one about seeps research.

Now comes news from Russian and Swedish scientists that frozen deposits of gas are giving up methane to the sea - and the atmosphere. It's not exactly the same multi-stage process, the way the gas is getting to the atmosphere there - you can see a pretty great picture of what's happening in the melting permafrost embedded in this article here- but it points up the challenge inherent in climate science, to measure present atmospheric factors well and project (using as much science and data as possible) climate impacts accurately. It also points up an increasing interest (and profile) for the methane gas which is 20 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a hundred year period.

UCSB's Ira Leifer has an older site - something about its name Bubbleology may sound like its for kids - but given that a lot of methane can rise through water to the surface at one time, under some circumstances - this is a full-grown scientific problem.

You can also find more about UCSB's hydrocarbon seeps research here.