Thursday, December 17, 2015

Paris Agreement

At the Paris Agreement, nations committed to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

How much have temperatures risen already? As illustrated by above image, NASA data show that during the three-month period from September through November 2015, it was ~1°C warmer than it was in 1951-1980 (i.e the baseline).

A polynomial trend based on the data from 1880 to 2015 for these three months indicates that a temperature rise of 1.5°C compared to the baseline will be reached in the year 2024.

Let's go over the calculations. The trendline shows it was ~0.3°C colder in 1900 compared to the baseline. Together with the current ~1°C rise, that implies that since 1900 there's been a rise of 1.3°C compared to the baseline. This makes that another rise of 0.2°C by 2024, as pointed at by the trendline, would result in a joint rise in 2024 of 1.5°C compared to the baseline.

The situation is even more worse than this. The Paris Agreement seeks to avoid a temperature increase of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. When we include temperature rises from pre-industrial levels to the year 1900, it becomes evident that we have already surpassed a rise of 1.5°C since pre-industrial levels. This is illustrated by above image, earlier added at How much time is there left to act? (see notes there) and by the graph below, from a recent post by Michael Mann, who adds that ~0.3°C greenhouse warming had already taken place by the year 1900. 
~0.3C greenhouse warming had already taken place by 1900, and ~0.2C warming by 1870
Let's add things up again. A rise of ~0.3°C before 1900, a further rise of 0.3°C from 1900 to the baseline (1951-1980) and a further rise of ~1°C from the baseline to date, together that adds up to a rise of ~1.6°C from pre-industrial levels.

In other words, we have already surpassed a rise of 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels by 0.1°C.

The trendline indicates that a further rise of 0.5°C will take place by the year 2030, i.e. that without comprehensive and effective action, it will be 2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels before the year 2030.

Full wrath of emissions yet to come

The full wrath of global warming is yet to come and the situation is even more threatening than pictured above, for the following reasons:
  1. Half of global warming has until now been masked by aerosols, particularly sulfates that are emitted when some of the dirtiest fossil fuels are burnt, such as coal and bunker oil. As we make the necessary shift to clean energy, the masking effect that comes with those emissions will disappear. 
  2. As Ricke and Caldeira point out, the carbon dioxide that is released now will only reach its peak impact a decade from now. In other words, we are yet to experience the full wrath of the carbon dioxide emitted over the past decade. 
  3. The biggest threat comes from temperature peaks. People in some parts of the world will be hit  harder, especially during summer peaks, as discussed in the next section of this post. As temperatures rise, the intensity of such peaks will increase.
    The image on the right illustrates this with a forecast for December 25, 2015, showing extreme weather for North America, with temperatures as low as 30.6°F or -0.8°C in California and as high as 71.5°F or 22°C in North Carolina. 
  4. Feedbacks such as rapid albedo changes in the Arctic and large amounts of methane abruptly released from the Arctic Ocean seafloor could dramatically accelerate the temperature rise. Furthermore, water vapor will increase by 7% for every 1°C warming. Water vapor is one of the strongest greenhouse gases, so increasing water vapor will further contribute to a non-linear temperature rise. The resulting temperature rises threaten to be non-linear, as discussed in the final section of this post.  
Situation even worse for some

Such temperature rises will hit some people more than others. For people living on the Northern Hemisphere, the outlook is worse than for people on the Southern Hemisphere.

NOAA data show that the November global land and ocean temperature anomaly was 0.97°C, while the 3-month global land and ocean temperature anomaly was 0.96°C. The 12-month anomaly on November 2015 on land on the Northern Hemisphere (where most people live) was 1.39°C, as shown on the image below, while the trendline shows that for people living on the Northern Hemisphere, a 1.5°C rise compared to 1910-2000 could be reached as early as in 2017.

Similarly, the outlook is worse for people living in regions that are already now experiencing high temperatures during the summer peaks. As said, as temperatures rise, the intensity of such peaks will increase.

Feedbacks in the Arctic

The image below, from an earlier post, depicts the impact of feedbacks that are accelerating warming in the Arctic, based on NASA data up to November 2013, and their threat to cause runaway global warming. As the image shows, temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than elsewhere in the world, but global warming threatens to catch up as feedbacks start to kick in more. The situation obviously has deteriorated further since this image was created in November 2013.
[ click on image at original post to enlarge ]
Above image, from an earlier post, depicts the impact of feedbacks that are accelerating warming in the Arctic, based on NASA data up to November 2013. The image shows that temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than elsewhere in the world. Global warming threatens to catch up as feedbacks start to kick in more, triggering runaway global warming. The situation obviously has deteriorated further since this image was created in November 2013.

The image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies on the Northern Hemisphere in November.

The image below gives an indication of the high temperatures of the water beneath the sea surface. Anomalies as high as 10.3°C or 18.5°F were recorded off the east coast of North America (green circle on the right panel of the image below) on December 11, 2015, while on December 20, 2015, temperatures as high as 10.7°C or 51.3°F were recorded near Svalbard (green circle on the right panel of the image below), an anomaly of 9.3°C or 16.7°F.

This warm water is carried by the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean, threatening to unleash huge amounts of methane from its seafloor. The image below illustrates the danger, showing huge amounts of methane over the Arctic Ocean on December 10, 2015.

Methane is released over the Arctic Ocean in large amounts, and this methane is moving toward the equator as it reaches high altitudes. The image below illustrates how methane is accumulating at higher altitudes.

Above image shows that methane is especially prominent at higher altitudes recently, having pushed up methane levels by an estimate average of 9 ppb or some 0.5%. Annual emissions from hydrates were estimated to amount to 99 Tg annually in a 2014 post (image below).

An additional 0.5% of methane represents an amount of some 25 Tg of methane. This comes on top of the 99 Tg of methane estimated in 2014 to be released from hydrates annually. 

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


- How Close Are We to 'Dangerous' Planetary Warming? By Michael Mann, December 24, 2015

- Maximum warming occurs about one decade after a carbon dioxide emission, by Katharine L Ricke and Ken Caldeira (2014)

- How much time is there left to act?

During the three-month period from September through November 2015, it was 1°C warmer than it was in 1951-1980,...
Posted by Sam Carana on Wednesday, December 16, 2015


  1. Here is NYC, the temperatures in December have been as high as 64 degrees! Some flowers were even budding in the Queens Botanical Garden! Most of the days have been in the 50s, many times in the mid to high 50s. If anything needed to be done about this runaway train it needed to be done in the 1970s while we still had time. The agreement at the Paris Summit is a waste of time-and ultimately just window dressing in order to give the public a false sense of comfort.

  2. Agreed ProvidenceMine.

    There's another 0.6 degrees C at least in the mid latitude dimming effect by coal based
    aerosols. The jump occurred in the mid 1990's with the rapid industrialisation of China. India is now playing catch up with the opening of a large scale open cut coal mine every month for some years to come.

    1.5 degrees warming would mean 30% of the
    permafrost will have thawed by 2100
    releasing 50 gigatonnes of carbon into the
    atmosphere up to half of which will be
    methane. There's another half a degree.

    Arboreal forests will be well and truly
    respiring more than they are
    photosynthesizing by then and will become
    carbon sources, not sinks.

    1.5 degrees C means the loss of the Greenland ice sheet and thats 7 metres of
    sea level rise in a few hundred years.

    I think we are well past 1.5 C ...

  3. Global Warming is an exponential process. It will get faster and faster as time moves by.
    We are already seeing tipping points being reached and some new unknown ones emerge. By the time we reach the 1.5 warming mark (sooner than you think) many more seen and unseen tipping points will be reached.
    All of these processes work with each other speeding up the acceleration of global warming. Global Warming is not a gradual process.
    Once methane becomes the driving force of global warming, you can expect to see rapid temperature changes. Forget the half of a degree increase in a couple of years. Think more along the lines of several degrees in a few years.
    Currently we are at 1.06 C warming. Multiply the speed in which everything is moving by 2 once we hit the 2 C warming mark or by 3 at 3 C. Glaciers will melt far faster.
    We will see weather patterns never before seen. Two years ago we were shocked to see 2 typhoons travelling together across the Pacific Ocean. Last year we were shocked even more when we saw the typhoons travelling in groups of 3s. I suspect this pattern will continues and at some point all we will see is an unbroken chain of typhoons (12 or more) circling around the Pacific Ocean.No doubt these extreme weather patterns will reach places they have never gone before such as the Arctic or the Antarctic. Wind can speed up the melting of the glaciers significantly.
    Don't listen to the politicians since they don't even understand the science.
    Many scientists do not look at all of the different fields of science. They are trained in only a few of the fields.
    Everything has an effect on the other and it's only through the understanding of all of the various different fields of science that you can get a better picture of just how much time we have left.
    The cold hard truth is that you have to worry about yourself and not the lives of your grandchildren or children. You will see the human extinction.
    And you won't have to wait long.

    1. It's not the cold hard truth, it's self justification. My gf and I live in CO. We refuse to have children, eat organic, boycotted independent FF transport, have solar panels, and make min. Wage. On top of that everytime I get a chance I'm telling ppl regardless of their reactions I continue fighting. The biggest blocks are information and justification. If everyone lived and cared and fought like we do I have NO doubt. I think it's the only chance we have. At the same time I'm invested in solar, fighting for industrial hemp, constantly fighting oil funded propaganda.

  4. Correction on my previous post. The cooling effect of coal based aerosols in the northern hemisphere is 1.7 degrees C.

    At some stage as we slow our use if coal, the comensurate reduction in aerosols will out strip CO2 as the main driver if global warming.

    I think it's too late for any real intervention other than drastic CO2 mining of the atmosphere.

  5. Coal based aerosols cool the biosphere by increasing photosynthesis, Hansen adjusted China's national CO2 legacy dept in one of his recent papers by citing those aerosols.
    Lina Mercado of the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, presents this double-bind, in that, as aerosols are reduced, less diffusion of light reduces photosynthesis,(drawing down 20% less CO2 into biomass). Again, only a carbon negative system like biochar can address this added CO2 burden caused by this double-bind of clean air.

    Soil Biology is our only way to rapidly and massively draw down CO2 from the air to offset our ongoing and past carbon emissions, It Could safely and naturally restore the hydrological cycles by increasing biogenic aerosols and cloud albedo that could readily cool the planet by the 3 watts/m2 needed to offset the now locked in greenhouse warming effects and avoid the Storms of Our Grandchildren.

    The French have lead the way recognizing Soil Carbons' value and committing to build Soil Carbon by 0.40% annually. Putting them on the road to Carbon Negativity before any industrialized country. 25 nations have signed on to 4p1000. 100 of the 196 countries in Paris submitted plans to reduce CO2 via agriculture, forestry and replacing soil carbon into their programmes.

    Canadian Food & Inspection Agency (CFIA), has approved biochar in soil.