Monday, January 19, 2015

Temperature Rise

Record High Temperatures in 2014

The year 2014 was the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since records began in 1880, writes NOAA, adding the graph below. This graph illustrates that temperatures have risen even when focusing on a relatively short recent period with a linear trendline starting in 1998, which was an El Niño year, whereas 2014 wasn't.

Source: NOAA Global Analysis - Annual 2014
Most Appropriate Trendline

While the purple 1998-2014 trendline serves the useful purpose of dispelling the myth that warming had halted recently, it isn't the most appropriate trendline, since extending this trendline backward to 1880 would leave too many data too remote from the trendline, as is further illustrated by the animated image below.


What about the blue linear trendline that is based on data for all the years from 1880 to 2014? By that same logic, the appropriateness of this trendline must also be questioned. Temperatures in recent years have been well above this trendline. A polynomial trendline seems a much better fit, as illustrated by the image below.


Above image also extends the trendline forward, showing that 2 degrees Celsius warming looks set to be exceeded in 2038, based on the same data.

And while this is a frightening scenario, the picture may well be much too optimistic, because the heat is felt most in the Arctic Ocean, the very location where some of the most terrifying feedbacks are accelerating local warming, as further explained below.

Feedbacks in the Arctic

As NOAA writes, much of the record warmth for the globe can be attributed to record warmth in the global oceans, which reached the highest temperature among all years in the 1880–2014 record.


As above image shows, ocean heat reached a record high in 2014. In other words, it was ocean heat that pushed the combined ocean and land temperature to a record high. Anomalies were especially high in the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below.


Waters close to Svalbard reached temperatures as high as 63.5°F (17.5°C) on September 1, 2014 (green circle). Note that the image below shows sea surface temperatures only. At greater depths (say about 300 m), the Gulf Stream is pushing even warmer water through the Greenland Sea than temperatures at the sea surface.


Since the passage west of Svalbard is rather shallow, a lot of this very warm water comes to the surface at that spot, resulting in an anomaly of 11.9°C. The high sea surface temperatures west of Svalbard thus show that the Gulf Stream can carry very warm water (warmer than 17°C) at greater depths and is pushing this underneath the sea ice north of Svalbard.


Planetary energy imbalance (0.6 W/m2) equals the amount of energy in exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day, 365 days/year (J. Hansen, 16 Jan. 2015). As illustrated by the graph below, most of this excess heat is absorbed by oceans and ice. Some of the heat is consumed by the process of melting ice into water, and 93.4% of this excess heat ends up warming up the oceans.

Graph by Sceptical Science based on study by by Nuccitelli et al.
As the Gulf Stream keeps carrying ever warmer water into the Arctic Ocean, methane gets released in large quantities, as illustrated in the images below showing high methane levels over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (red oval left) and over Baffin Bay (red oval right) with concentrations as high as 2619 ppb.

click on image to enlarge
The threat is that huge amounts of methane will erupt from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean over the coming decades, as illustrated by the image below.

For more on this image, see this post and this page.
Demise of the Arctic sea ice and snow cover is another terrifying feedback. The image below features a NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio screenshot showing decline of multi-year Arctic sea ice area over the years.


Below is a video by Nick Breeze who interviews Professor Peter Wadhams on multi-year Arctic sea ice.


An exponential trendline based on sea ice volume observations shows that sea ice looks set to disappear in 2019, while disappearance in 2015 is within the margins of a 5% confidence interval, reflecting natural variability. In other words, extreme weather events could cause Arctic sea ice to collapse as early as 2015, with the resulting albedo changes further contributing to the acceleration of warming in the Arctic and causing further methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.

click on image to enlarge
As the Arctic continues to warm, the temperature difference between the equator and the Arctic declines, resulting in changes to the jet streams and polar vortex.

One such change is a slowing down of the speed at which the jet streams and polar vortex circumnavigate the globe, as discussed in a recent post.

The image on the right shows that the jet streams on the Northern Hemisphere reached speeds as high as 410 km/h (255 miles per hour) on January 9, 2015. Also note the jet stream crossing the Arctic Ocean, rather than staying between 50 and 60 degrees latitude, where the polar jet streams used to be.

The image below shows winds on January 11, 2015, at several altitudes, i.e. at 10 hPa | ~26,500 m (16.5 mile), high in stratosphere, polar vortex (left, at 250 hPa | ~10,500 m (6.5 mile), jet stream (center), and at 700 hPa | ~3,500 m (2.2 mile), high in planetary boundary layer.

click on image to enlarge
As a result, extreme weather events such as heatwaves and storms can be expected to occur with greater frequency and intensity, as also discussed in a recent post. Heatwaves can heat up the water in the North Atlantic, as it flows into the Arctic Ocean, driven by the Gulf Stream, while heatwaves can also warm up the water in rivers that end up in the Arctic Ocean. Heatwaves can also hit the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean directly, causing rapid sea ice melting, while storms can make the ice break up and be driven out of the Arctic ocean,

Demise of the sea ice and snow cover in the Arctic results in further acceleration of warming, not only due to less sunlight getting reflected back into space, but also due to loss of the buffer that currently absorbs huge amounts of heat as it melts in summer. With the demise of this latent heat buffer, more sunlight will instead go into heating up the water of the Arctic Ocean. For more on the latter, see the page on latent heat.


Above image illustrates some of the self-reinforcing feedback loops that have been highlighted in this and earlier posts. Further feedbacks are pictured in the image below.

from the Feedbacks page
Runaway Global Warming

Above feedbacks are already pushing the temperature rise in the Arctic through the 2°C guardrail.



Based on existing temperature data, global warming on land looks set to exceed 2°C (3.6°CF) warming by the year 2034, but methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean could push up global temperature rise even faster, in a runaway global warming scenario.

click to enlarge image
This raises the specter of human extinction. With no action taken, there appears to be a 55% risk that humans will be extinct by the year 2045, while taking little action will only postpone near-term human extinction by a few years. Only with rapid implementation of comprehensive and effective action may we be able to avoid this fate.


Comprehensive and Effective Action

In conclusion, the situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog at climateplan.blogspot.com and as illustrated by the image below.






Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Edge of Extinction

Guy McPherson
Guy McPherson is convinced that humunity will go extinct soon. Guy estimates that it will happen in 5 to 20 years time.

In the video below, Guy discusses a chain of events causing several degrees warming within a few years time, including failure of the electric grid and subsequent fall in aerosols from fossil fuel burning that now mask warming, and failure to maintain nuclear power plants cooling, causing them to melt down.

These events will cause rapid warming that will accelerate loss of the snow and sea ice in the Arctic and cause massive methane releases from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, both adding even further warming.

Such massive warming will result in widespread crop failure and loss of habitat for humans over a timespan of up to 20 years, while events could all unfold in just 5 years time.

In the video below, Guy discusses that we are on the edge of extinction, episode 1.



Feedbacks
 

Professor Peter Wadhams on albedo changes in the Arctic

Conclusion from a paper presented at the 2008 EGU conference, on background
of a frame from a video interview by Nick Breeze with Natalia Shakhova.



In the video below, episode 2, Guy describes how large releases of methane from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean alone could end civilization, as they will cause crop failure on the Northern Hemisphere and subsequent collapse of civilization. This will in turn cause failure of the electric grid, etc., as described above. So, whatever event comes first, it will trigger the other events, resulting in several degrees Celsius warming within years and loss of habitat for humans.



The image below highlights some of the complexities associated with the necessary cuts in emissions.



Follow Guy McPherson's European Trip March/April 2015



Friday, January 2, 2015

Strong winds threaten to push sea ice out of Arctic Ocean

By Albert Kallio


The lateral viscosity of the thin Arctic sea ice cover continues to lower. In November just one quarter of the high Arctic Ocean basin above 85° north was covered by a thin this winter's ice. This has now doubled, soon covering two quarters. The ice has been pushed away from Russia towards Canada and to the Fram Strait at phenomenal rates.
 
Animation by navy.mil showing 30 days of sea ice thickness, up to January 1, 2015
This is increasingly suggesting that the remaining half in front of the Fram Strait will be sucked into the Atlantic Ocean soon. The dark blue ice is newly formed crushed ice behind the North Pole (pack ice). We may well be in course to the first recorded ice free season in the Arctic Ocean. In addition, the rear is pushed from behind Canada to the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

Animation by navy.mil showing 30 days of sea ice speed and drift, up to January 1, 2015

We need to act, now. I think we need to monitor this development almost on daily basis. I am curious to see how the ice may behave after the last remainders of the second quarter are sucked into the Atlantic Ocean and the newly forming sea ice will face the force of the Atlantic waves. That could mean extremely highly fractured sea ice across the Russian side by the return of spring 2015 sunlight.

I think we are witnessing a historic transition right now with no ice in the summers.



Friday, December 26, 2014

Year 2014 Pictures Dire Situation

The year 2014 is shaping up to be the warmest year on record and the heat is felt most strongly in the polar regions and in the oceans. 

Surface Temperatures






Above images show that the Arctic is experiencing accelerating warming. This is causing jet stream changes, resulting in more extreme weather events. Besides creating havoc around the globe, such extreme weather events can further speed up warming of the Arctic Ocean and subsequent release of methane from its seafloor, as described in more detail in a recent post

Ocean Heat

The primary driver of methane release from the Arctic Ocean seafloor is ocean heat. NOAA analysis shows that the global ocean surface temperature for the year-to-date (January through to November 2014) was 1.03°F (0.57°C) above average, the warmest such period on record. The anomaly is even more pronounced in the Norther Hemisphere, as illustrated by the image below.


Ocean temperatures can show much higher anomalies locally, as illustrated by the image below. The high sea surface temperatures near Svalbard give an indication of how warm the ocean current is below the surface.

2014 SST anomaly near Svalbard (green circle) Aug 26: 7.3°C, Sep 26: 6.7°C, Oct 26: 5.9°C, Nov 26: 4.2°C, Dec 26: 3.7°C
The danger is that ocean temperatures will continue to rise, especially in the North Atlantic, and that the Gulf Stream will keep carrying ever warmer water from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean, where it will destabilize methane hydrates contained in sediments under the seafloor.

Methane

Methane levels are already exceptionally high over the Arctic, as illustrated by the recent NOAA image below. Since end October 2014, huge quantities of methane have erupted from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. As said, the primary driver of methane release from the Arctic Ocean seafloor is ocean heat. Water temperatures off the coast of North America get very high in July and it takes a few months for ocean currents to carry this heat to the Arctic Ocean. Further reasons why methane levels over the Arctic suddenly get very high from the end of October are discussed in this post.

The Gulf Stream will keep carrying water into the Arctic Ocean that is warmer than the water already there. These methane eruptions will therefore continue into the new year, threatening to further accelerate warming in the Arctic and cause even more extreme weather events, wildfires and further emissions in the year 2015, in a spiral of runaway warming. 



The combination image below shows the strength at which methane is erupting from the Arctic Ocean seafloor. On December 25, 2014, methane lights up the northern sky like a Christmas tree. The image shows levels at 6 km (19,820 ft) altitude, as recorded by, from top to bottom, MetOp-1 am (up to 2277 ppb), MetOp-1 pm (up to 2295 ppb) and MetOp-2 am (up to 2336 ppb).


MetOp-2 records for December 25, 2014, pm, are incorporated in the animation below, showing methane concentrations reaching levels of up to 2284 ppb at an altitude of 6 km (19,820 ft) and reaching even higher levels of up to 2329 ppb at an altitude of 9.3 km (30,570 ft).


The troposphere is deepest at tropical latitudes, where it reaches altitudes of up to 20 km (12 mi), and rather shallow at the polar regions, where it only reaches altitudes of some 7 km (4.3 mi) in winter. For high concentrations of methane to show up over the Arctic Ocean at such a high altitude is a further indication of the strength of these methane eruptions.

Furthermore, the methane that shows up in the atmosphere is only a fraction of the methane that is erupting from the seafloor, as part of the methane will be broken down by microbes as it rises up through the water and gets stuck under the sea ice.

Arctic Sea Ice 


Sea ice only 1m thin at North Pole.
Click on image to enlarge.
The above Naval Research Laboratory animation shows that, while sea ice is now covering the entire Arctic ocean, it is in many places only about one meter thin or less. The December 20, 2014, image on the right shows 1m thin sea ice at the North Pole.

Meanwhile, huge chuncks of thick sea ice are moving along the edges of Greenland and Ellesmere Island into the Atlantic ocean.

An exponential trendline based on sea ice volume observations shows that sea ice looks set to disappear in 2019, while disappearance in 2015 is within the margins of a 5% confidence interval, reflecting natural variability.

In other words, extreme weather events could cause Arctic sea ice to collapse as early as 2015, with the resulting albedo changes further contributing to the acceleration of warming in the Arctic and causing further methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.

Demise of the sea ice and snow cover in the Arctic results in further acceleration of warming, not only due to less sunlight getting reflected back into space, but also due to loss of the buffer that currently absorbs huge amounts of heat as it melts in summer. With the demise of this latent heat buffer, more sunlight will instead go into heating up the water of the Arctic Ocean. For more on the latter, see the page on latent heat

Feedbacks


Above image illustrates some of the self-reinforcing feedback loops that have been highlighted in this post. Further feedbacks are pictured in the image below.

from the Feedbacks page


Situation Calls For Comprehensive And Effective Action

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.





Sunday, November 30, 2014

Another Heatwave Hits Arctic

As parts of Canada, Greenland and Russia are hit by -40 degrees temperatures (anomalies at the bottom end of the scale), parts of the Arctic are experiencing temperatures above freezing (anomalies at the top end of the scale), as illustrated by the image below.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
Temperatures in the Arctic are much higher than they used to be and this situation further accelerates warming in the Arctic, due to a number of feedbacks.

One such feedbacks has been coined the ‘open doors feedback’. Indeed, the situation is much like leaving the fridge door open. This allows cold air to more easily move out of the fridge, i.e. the Arctic, resulting in the cold temperatures over North America that have received extensive news coverage in the media. At the same time, warm air can move more easily into the fridge, i.e. the Arctic, and this is one of the reasons why the Arctic is hit by temperatures that are so much higher than what used to be normal.

The situation has been described in a number of earlier posts such as this one, as well in a recent interview with Jennifer Francis. As the Arctic warms more rapidly than the rest of the world, there's less temperature difference between the Arctic and the equator, resulting in the jet stream going around the globe at a lower speed with more elongated loops.

The left chart on above image shows such an elongated loop going north along the east coast of Greenland, then bending before Scandinavia and moving over the north of Greenland, then going around the North Pole and moving back to Scandinavia. This loop is not very visible on the chart, because the jet stream moves faster along straight tracks, and this chart highlights wind speed more than it highlights the path of the jet stream. Yet, the shape of this loop is very important, as it traps warmer air north of Greenland.

BTW, a weaker jet stream also elevates the chance of heat waves elsewhere, which can indirectly warm up the Arctic. Examples of this are heat waves over the Gulf Stream as it crosses the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in warmer water being carried into the Arctic Ocean, and heat waves over Siberia and North America, resulting in warming up of rivers that end in the Arctic Ocean.

Anyway, to get back to the current heatwave, there are a number of reasons why temperatures in the Arctic are so high at the moment. One of the biggest reasons is ocean heat, which has reached very high levels, especially in the North Atlantic, while the Gulf Stream keeps transporting warmer water from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean (i.e. water that is warmer than the water in the Arctic Ocean). This warms up the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, resulting in methane erupting from the seafloor, with a strong immediate local warming impact in the Arctic, thus further accelerating warming in the Arctic in another one of these self-reinforcing feedback loops, as pictured in the image below.



Further feedbacks that accelerate warming in the Arctic are discussed at the feedbacks page.

Without effective and comprehensive action, these feedbacks threaten to lead to runaway warming, i.e. abrupt climate change causing mass death and destruction, and resulting in extinction at massive scale, as depicted in the image below and as described in this earlier post.



In conclusion, the situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

IPCC too conservative?



Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 5th Assessment Report (AR5), stating that: "Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise. Many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped. The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes increase as the magnitude of the warming increases."

That does sound scary. So, what would happen if the IPCC's projections are too conservative? Could humans, together with many other species, go extinct within the next few decades? What are the risks that this could eventuate? Below follows an assessment using graphics by Sam Carana.



1. Ocean Heat

Below is what the IPCC says:


Below is a graph produced by Sam Carana, based on NOAA data. For more background, see this earlier post.




2. Sea level Rise

The image below shows what the IPCC says.


If ocean heat will continues to rise as pictured in the image by Sam Carana, then thermal expansion alone will cause more sea level rise than foreseen by the IPCC. Furthermore, extensive melting on Antarctica and Greenland can result in additional sea level rise. Below is a sea level rise graph produced by Sam Carana, based on NASA/GSFCs data, as discussed in this earlier post.




3. Arctic Sea Ice

The image below shows what the IPCC says.


If ocean heat will continues to rise as pictured in the image by Sam Carana, then Arctic sea ice will disappear much earlier than anticipated by the IPCC. An exponential trendline based on sea ice volume observations shows that sea ice looks set to disappear in 2019, while disappearance in 2015 is within the margins of a 5% confidence interval, reflecting natural variability.


A linear trend would be inappropriate, given the growing impact of feedbacks that can each be expected to reinforce sea ice decline, while there can also be interaction between these feedbacks, further accelerating sea ice decline. Albedo change is one such feedback, but there are numerous other ones, such as storms that have more chance to grow stronger as the area with open water increases.

In conclusion, an exponential trendline is more appropriate than a linear trendline, as also illustrated by above comparison, which shows that a linear trendline has 9 years fall outside its 95% confidence ionterval, versus 4 years for an exponential trendline. as discussed at the FAQ page.

Rapid decline of the snow and ice cover on the Northern Hemisphere is furthermore supported by rapidly rising surface temperatures over the Arctic, as well as greater intensity of heatwaves. Below is what the IPCC says on this.


Before further discussing surface temperatures, let's look into one of the feedbacks that could hugely increase temperatures, methane.



4. Methane

The IPCC appears to underestimate of the amount of methane that is contained in sediments under the Arctic Ocean and prone to be released as temperatures rise, as discussed in this earlier post and in this earlier post.

The image below, based on data from the IPCC and the World Metereological Organization (WMO), with an added observation from a NOAA MetOp satellite image, illustrates the recent rise of methane levels and the threat that methane levels will continue to rise rapidly.



When looked at from a longer range of years, above image fits in the black square on the image below.



As ocean heat keeps increasing and warming in the Arctic keeps accelerating due to feedbacks such as Arctic sea ice decline, huge methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean threaten to push up methane levels even further. The image below shows exponential rise based on data of East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) releases alone, as discussed in an earlier post.


Non-linear rise is supported by the fact that methane's lifetime increases as more methane enters the atmosphere.




5. Surface Temperatures

The IPCC expects that, worst case, global average temperature could rise by 13 degrees Celsius by 2300, as illustrated by the image below.


The situation could be much worse than foreseen by the IPCC, due to the non-linear way feedbacks can hugely increase temperature rises.




The threat is that such rapid temperature rises will appear at first in hotspots over the Arctic and eventually around the globe, while also resulting in huge temperature swings that could result in depletion of supply of food and fresh water, as further illustrated by the above image, from an earlier post, and the image below, from another earlier post.


The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.