Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Temperatures threaten to become unbearable

Many people could face unbearable temperatures soon. 

Temperature anomalies on land in the Northern Hemisphere (red) are spread out much wider and they are more than 0.5°C higher than global land+ocean anomalies (blue).

The pale green and grey trends are both long-term trends based on January 1880-August 2020 NOAA data. The short-term red and blue trends, based on January 2013-August 2020 NOAA data, are added to show the potential for a rapid rise. How could temperatures possibly rise this fast? 

A rapid temperature rise could eventuate by 2026 due to a number of contributing factors:
• crossing of the latent heat and methane tipping points
• moving toward an El Niño 
• entering solar cycle 25
• changes in aerosols
• feedbacks kicking in more strongly as further tipping points get crossed.

Crossing the Latent Heat and Methane Hydrate Tipping Points

The image below, updated from an earlier post, shows two such tipping points.

The August 2020 ocean temperature anomaly on the Northern Hemisphere was 1.13°C above the 20th century average. The image shows a trend based on January 1880-August 2020 NOAA data. The latent heat tipping point is estimated to be 1°C above the 20th century average. Crossing the latent heat tipping point threatens to cause the methane hydrates tipping point to be crossed, estimated to be 1.35°C above the 20th century average.

Keep in mind that above images show temperature anomalies from the 20th century average, which is NOAA's default baseline. As an earlier analysis points out, when using a 1750 baseline and when using ocean air temperatures and higher Arctic anomalies, we may have already crossed both the 1.5°C and the 2°C thresholds that politicians at the Paris Agreement pledged would not get crossed.

Natural Variability - El Niño and Solar Cycle

Currently, we are currently in a La Niña period, which suppresses air temperatures.

Only a thin layer of sea ice remained left in the Arctic, with extent almost as low as it was in 2012 around this time of year, as discussed in the previous post. As air temperatures dropped in September 2020, Arctic sea ice extent started to increase again about September 15, 2020. This made that a patch of sea ice remained present at the surface of the Arctic Ocean, despite the dramatic thinning of the sea ice. 

When an El Niño event returns, conditions will get worse. 

How long will it take before we'll reach the peak of the upcoming El Niño? NOAA says
El Niño and La Niña episodes typically last nine to 12 months, but some prolonged events may last for years. While their frequency can be quite irregular, El Niño and La Niña events occur on average every two to seven years. Typically, El Niño occurs more frequently than La Niña.
The temperature rise is strongest in the Arctic, as illustrated by the zonal mean temperature anomaly map below. The map has latitude on the vertical axis and shows anomalies as high as 4.83°C or 8.69°F in the Arctic. The North Pole is at the top of the map, at 90° North, the Equator is in the middle, at 0°, and the South Pole is at the bottom, at -90° South. And yes, NASA's default baseline is 1951-1980, so anomalies are even higher when using a 1750 baseline. 

So, what could make the difference next year is an upcoming El Niño. Solar irradiance is also on the rise, in line with the 11-year Solar Cycle.

Above image shows a NOAA graph depicting the current Solar Cycle (24) and the upcoming Solar Cycle (25). 

In 2019, Tiar Dani et al. analyzed a number of studies and forecasts pointing at the maximum in the upcoming Solar Cycle occurring in the year 2023 or 2024.

The analysis found some variation in intensity between forecasts, adding images including the one on the right, which is based on linear regression and suggests that the Solar Cycle 25 may be higher than the previous Solar Cycle 24. 

In 2012, Patrick (Pádraig) Malone analyzed factors critical in forecasting when an ice-free day in the Arctic sea first might occur. 

Patrick concluded that once solar activity moved out of the solar minimum, Arctic sea ice extent would start to crash. Accordingly, a Blue Ocean Event could occur as early as 2021, as illustrated by the image below.  

Further Tipping Points and Feedbacks

Further tipping points and feedbacks can start kicking in more strongly as one tipping point gets crossed. At least ten tipping points apply to the Arctic, as discussed in an earlier post and it looks like the latent heat tipping point has already been crossed. 

Ocean heat is very high in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific, and heat continues to enter the Arctic Ocean. 

Arctic sea surface temperatures and air temperature are now high since ocean heat, previously consumed by sea ice, is now coming to the surface where the sea ice has disappeared.

As above image shows, sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic Ocean on September 14, 2020, were as high as 9.3°C or 16.8°F (at the location marked by green circle), compared to the daily average during the years 1981-2011. 

These high sea surface temperature anomalies occur at locations where the daily average during the years 1981-2011 was around freezing point at this time of year.

Part of this ocean heat is rising into the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean, resulting in high air temperatures that in turn prevent formation of sea ice thick enough to survive until the next melting season. The image on the right shows a forecast of Arctic air temperatures (2 m) that are 5°C higher than 1979-2000 (forecast for October 5, 2020, 18Z run Sep 26, 2020 06Z). 

Methane Danger is High

Ominously, peak methane levels of 2762 parts per billion (ppb) were recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite on the morning of September 20, 2020, at 586 milibar (mb), as above image shows.

Mean methane levels of 1925 ppb were recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite on the morning of September 20, 2020, at 293 mb, as above image shows.

Peak methane levels of 2813 ppb were recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite on the afternoon of September 30, 2020, at 469 mb, as above image shows. 

Methane has been rising most at higher altitudes over the past few years. On September 26, 2020 pm, the MetOp-1 satellite recorded a mean global methane level of 1929 ppb at 293 mb, which is equivalent to a height of 9.32 km or 30,57 ft, i.e. in the lower stratosphere over the North Pole (the top of the troposphere over the Equator is higher, at about 17 km).

Why methane is so important

As illustrated by the image on the right, from an earlier post, high methane levels could be reached within decades, and such a scenario could unfold even without sudden big bursts, but merely due to a continuation of a trend based on data up to 2014. This would obviously result in a huge rise in global temperature. 

A huge rise in global temperature would eventuate even earlier in case of a big burst of methane erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. 

Methane's initial global warming potential (GWP) is very high. For the first few years after its release, methane is more than 150 times as strong as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide, as discussed in an earlier post.

How high are current methane levels? NOAA's May 2020 level for methane was 1874.7 ppb

Using a GWP of 150, this translates into 1.8747 x 150 = 281.205 ppm CO₂e. 

NOAA's figures are conservative, given that NOAA measures methane at marine surface level. 

Anyway, when using this conservative NOAA methane figure of 1874.7 ppb which at a GWP of 150 results in 281.205 ppm CO₂e, and when using an additional 413.6 ppm for recent carbon dioxide levels (NOAA's global May 2020 CO₂ level), these two add up to 694.805 ppm CO₂e, which is 505.195 CO₂e away from the cloud feedback tipping point (1200 CO₂e) that can, on its own, raise global temperatures instantly by 8°C. 

This is illustrated by the image on the right, an update from an earlier post

An additional eruption of methane from the Arctic Ocean into the atmosphere of 505.195 CO₂e translates into 505.195 / 150 = 3.368 ppm or 3368 ppb of methane. 

If the current amount of methane in the atmosphere is about 5 Gt, then 3368 ppb of methane corresponds with an amount of methane just under 9 Gt.

Coincidently, a peak level of 3369 ppb was recorded on August 31, 2018, pm. Granted, there is a large difference between a local peak level and a global mean level, but then again, a much smaller burst of methane can trigger the clouds feedback.

Even a relatively small burst of methane could trigger the clouds feedback, given that it will cause huge heating of the Arctic both directly and indirectly, in turn triggering further eruptions of methane from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.

Huge direct heating of the Arctic could occur due to methane's high immediate GWP and its even higher Local Warming Potential (LWP) given that the release takes place in the Arctic, while huge indirect heating of Arctic would occur due to the resulting decline of sea ice and of much of the permafrost on land.

Even a relatively small burst of methane could cause not only albedo losses but also releases of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and further fast feedbacks such as a rise in clouds and water vapor, especially over the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image on the right, from the extinction page and an earlier post.

Importantly, the initial trigger to a huge temperature rise by 2026 could be an event that is typically categorized under natural variability, such as an El Niño, increased solar irradiance or a storm causing a sudden large influx of hot, salty water into the Arctic Ocean and causing an eruption of seafloor methane. Indeed, a seemingly small forcing can result in total collapse that takes place so rapidly that any political action will be too little, too late.

The video below illustrates the importance of the Precautionary Principle. The video shows how a seemingly small bump by a forklift causes all shelves in a warehouse to collapse. 

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


• NOAA Global Climate Report - August 2020

• Multivariate El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Index Version 2 (MEI.v2)

• What are El Niño and La Niña?

• NOAA ISIS Solar Cycle Sunspot Number Progression

• Multiple regression analysis predicts Arctic sea ice - by Patrick Malone (Pádraig) Malone 

• Prediction of maximum amplitude of solar cycle 25 using machine learning - by Tiar Dani et al.

• NOAA - Trends in Artmospheric Methane 

• Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide - global

• When will we die?

• A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?

• Most Important Message Ever

• Blue Ocean Event

• Record Arctic Warming

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade

Friday, September 11, 2020

Forest fires cause high emissions in Oregon

The image below shows a forecast of very high carbon monoxide levels in Oregon, as high as 86,299 ppb on September 11, 2020, 21:00 UTC.

The map below shows the location of these peak levels at the red marker.

On September 12, 2020, a horrifying peak level of 126,728 ppb is forecast to occur at that same spot at 21:00 UTC.

As the image below shows, sulfur dioxide levels are forecast to be as high as 5056.4 µg/m³ on September 12, 2020, at 23:00 UTC.

On September 13, 2020, very high carbon dioxide levels are forecast to cover a huge area, with peak levels as high as 82,715 ppb at 07:00 UTC, as the image below shows.

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


• Climate Plan

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The unthinkable consequences of global warming

The unthinkable consequences of global warming
by Andrew Glikson

“We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet”. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber 2009.

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a different planet than the one that humanity knows. The paleoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per yearJames Hansen et al. 2012.

Humanity is fast reaching our moment of truth. What Hansen, Schellnhuber and others have warned us is based on evidence consistent with the basic laws of science, the discipline which, contrary to medieval superstition, is founded on direct observations, calculations and on reason.

Figure 1. The change in state of the planetary climate since the onset of the industrial age in the 17ᵗʰ century.
To elaborate on the nature of the threat humanity and nature are now facing:
A. The rise in greenhouse gas levels (Figure 1) and temperatures at the Earth surface, rising by more than 1°Celsius since 1880, has been underestimated. This is because the temperature values take little account of the masking effects of sulphur dioxide and other aerosols, which transiently mitigates global temperatures by at least ~ -0.5°C. The actual rise could already be as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius, the upper level recommended by the Madrid climate conference. On present trends temperatures will rise to above 2 degrees relative to pre-industrial levels Celsius by 2030. Further temperature rises are likely to be irregular and affected by the flow of ice melt water from melting ice sheets into the oceans by mid-century.

B. The rise in temperature of large ocean regions, with much of the warming occurring to ~800 meter deep levels, reduces the ocean’s ability to absorb CO₂. This means that more CO₂ is trapped in the atmosphere, causing further warming. Also, as ocean temperatures rise, the oceans are depleted in oxygen, which leads to increased production of methane and hydrogen sulphide, which are poisonous to marine life.

C. Models projecting global warming as a linear trajectory, as outlined by the International panel of Climate Change (IPCC), take only limited account of the weakening of climate zone boundaries, as temperatures rise in the polar regions, notably the circum-Arctic jet stream. The weakening of the boundaries allows penetration of warm air masses from the south, as expressed by fires in the Tundra and the Arctic. Conversely, the injection of freezing air masses from the Arctic into North America and Europe (The so-called Beast from the East) provides further evidence for the weakening of the Arctic boundary. These are likely to produce more violent winter storms and heavier snowfalls, forming direct results of global warming. Cooling of large surface areas of the ocean by ice melt water flowing from Greenland and the Antarctica, and accumulation of warmer water in depth, lead to irregular warming trends, with a consequent three-fold rise in extreme weather events (Figure 2), especially where high temperature and cold air masses collide.
Figure 2. The number (bars, left axis), type (colors), and annual cost (right vertical axis) of U.S. billion-dollar disasters from 1980-2018. Running annual cost (grey line), along with the 95% confidence interval, and 5-year average costs (black line).The number and costs of disasters are increasing. Inland flooding (blue bars) and severe storms (green bars) are making in increasingly large contribution to the number of U.S. billion-dollar disasters.  
D. An estimated 1,400 billion tons (400 GTC) of carbon is embedded in the world’s permafrost, mostly in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, from where large amounts of carbon are released under the fast warming conditions. By comparison, the atmosphere presently contains 750 billion tons of carbon. Should a large part of the existing permafrost thaw, Earth could experience dramatic, fast and very dangerous warming. Huge amounts of methane (CH₄), the gas considered responsible for mass extinctions in the history of Earth about 251 million years ago (Permian -Triassic boundary) and 56 million years ago (Paleocene-Eocene boundary), are being released from melting permafrost and Arctic sediments, raising the atmospheric concentration of the gas by more than three-fold (from <600 to 1800 parts per billion) (Figure 3). Temperature rises during the PETM event are estimated as 5 to 8 degrees Celsius. When emitted the warming induced by methane is more than 84 times that of CO₂, declining to 25 times over some 20 years. The release to the atmosphere of a significant part of the stored carbon (permafrost ~900 billion ton carbon [GtC]), peatland 500 GtC and vegetation prone to fires (650 GtC), is sufficient to shift most of the Earth’s climate into a tropical to hyper-tropical state.
Figure 3. Global reserves and growth in the release of methane 1988-2019
E. The 2019-2010 wildfires in Australia have unleashed about 900 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to nearly double the country's total yearly fossil fuel emissions. As the planet warms, wildfires become more frequent and accelerate the warming process.

F. Sea level rise will flood the very regions where civilization has emerged, low river valleys, delta and coastal planes, which are also vital to food production. This is estimated to displace 100 million people initially, and more over time as major coastal cities are flooded.

G. The rising energy levels in warming regions of the Earth, notably tropical island chains such as the Caribbean and the Philippines, generate devastating tropical storms known as cyclones and typhoons. These wreak havoc on coastal regions of southeast North America, India, southern Africa, the Pacific and Australia.

H. Rising heat levels in tropical, subtropical and intermediate Mediterranean climate zones may render large areas unsuitable for agriculture and are physiologically difficult for humans to live in as “heat bulb” conditions set in.
An outline of the migration of climate zones in Australia and the southwestern Pacific is given in Figure 4. Further to NASA’s reported mean land-ocean temperature rise to +1.18°C for March 2020 relative to 1951-1980, large parts of the continents, including Siberia, central Asia, Canada, parts of west Africa, eastern South America and Australia, are warming toward mean temperatures of +2°C and higher. The rate exceeds that of the Last Glacial Termination (LGT) during 21–8 thousand years ago and earlier warming events. These includes the Paleocene-Eocene hyperthermal event (PETM) (about 55.9 million years ago [Ma]) and the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (K-T) (64.98 Ma) impact event. The relationships between the global warming rate and the migration of climate zones toward the poles are portrayed in detail on global climate maps (Figure 4).
Figure 4. The migration of the northward into southern Europe. Note the drying up of Spain,
Italy, Greece and Turkey and the increased in precipitation in Northern Europe.
In the 20th century the Earth climate has reached a tipping point, namely a point of no return. Global CO₂ and other greenhouse gases rise have reached a large factor to an order of magnitude higher than those of the past geological and mass extinction events, as have the rate of warming, the shift of climate zones and the rate of extreme weather events (Figure 2). Given the abrupt change in state of the atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere-land system, accelerating since the mid-20ᵗʰ century, the terms “climate change” and “global warming” no longer reflect the extreme scale and rate of these shifts.

Time is running out.

Andrew Glikson
Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate scientist
ANU Climate Science Institute
ANU Planetary Science Institute
Canberra, Australia

The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia