The MESH steering committee supports the development of a new research initiative that focuses on the contributions of methane to past changes in climate, particularly episodes of rapid change. The role of methane in the global carbon cycle and as an active greenhouse gas has been under appreciated, and yet vast quantities of methane exist as hydrate and free gas in shallow sedimentary reservoirs of permafrost regions and on the margins and slopes of all continents. Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence from the geologic record to suggest that methane may have played a prominent role in past episodes of climate change, particularly the abrupt events. The estimated rates of change associated with at least one of these events, a prominent warming 55 Mya, are comparable to rates of anthropogenic driven change. Given this and other evidence, a coordinated multi-disciplinary effort is required to 1) characterize times when large-scale, rapid changes in methane fluxes occurred, 2) to identify the causes such events, and 3) document the potential impacts on climate and the environment.
To this end, a workshop is being organized to devise an implementation plan for this initiative. With feedback solicited from the scientific community, participants will identify key issues concerning the role of methane in past climate change. For example:
The participants will then develop and recommend potential strategies for addressing these issues.
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