Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jumping to Conclusions

You’ve probably heard about the mysterious odor in New York City, which is similar to the methyl mercaptan with which natural gas is odorized.

At Whirled View, CKR considers the possibility that the government - or a terrorist group - is conducting a vulnerability test to ascertain the reach of a biological or chemical agent. We know that the government has resumed open-air vulnerability testing in NYC (albeit with odorless agents), so her theory isn't entirely farfetched.

And that's just what's wrong with it, frankly. Someone has to come up with an entirely farfetched theory, and it might as well be me.

Methyl mercaptan occurs naturally in natural gas fields. Suppose the smell in NYC had something to do with this?

According to U.S. maritime industry sources, tanker captains are reporting an increase in onboard alarms from hazard sensors designed to detect hydrocarbon gas leaks and, specifically, methane leaks. However, the leaks are not emanating from cargo holds or pump rooms but from continental shelves venting increasing amounts of trapped methane into the atmosphere. With rising ocean temperatures, methane is increasingly escaping from deep ocean floors. Methane is also 21 more times capable of trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

In fact, one of the major sources for increased methane venting is the Hudson Submarine Canyon, which extends into the Atlantic 400 miles from the New York-New Jersey harbor.
(Link via Peak Energy.)

To be fair, underwater methane venting probably has nothing at all to do with the smell in NYC. But what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t indulge in a bit of ill-informed, irresponsible speculation from time to time?

Meanwhile, the spoilsports at Newsday take the easy way out, and blame New Jersey:
"We think it emanates somewhere between Secaucus and Jersey City," said Charles Sturcken, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection….

[New Jersey Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson] bristled upon hearing that New York officials said they believed the smell came from New Jersey. "It looks an awful lot like jumping to conclusions," she said.


Anonymous said...

Ehhh...methyl mercaptan might occur naturally with natural gas, but not always.

Although Newsday might be onto something: did they bury all that garbage that used to go to Seacaucus? It could be decomposing underground and venting.

But, as you say, someone has to come up with the farfetched theories.



Phila said...

Although Newsday might be onto something: did they bury all that garbage that used to go to Seacaucus? It could be decomposing underground and venting.

Don't know, but it sounds plausible to me. Contrary to anything I implied in this post, I'm perfectly happy to assume that something's awry in New Jersey.

Coeruleus said...

I still think it's the terrrrrists.

Phila said...

At 3:17 PM, Sir Oolius said...
I still think it's the terrrrrists.

I think I saw that photo in a PowerPoint presentation by Lowell Wood...

JMS said...

I am fascinated by this story, but it seees possibly fishy. Not dead fishy, like off the gulf coast, but metaphorically.

One dead canary is enough to clear the mine but it doesn't prove anything.

I'll be keeping eyes open for actual references. This is the kind of odd and terrifying outcomes that one would expect as the globe is tilted.