Sunday, September 24, 2023

September 2023, highest anomaly on record?

The above image shows the temperature in 2023 as a bold black line, up to September 22, 2023, with the temperature reaching an anomaly of 1.12°C above the 1979-2000 mean for that day.

The above image shows the temperature anomaly from the 1979-2000 mean. In blue are the years 1979-2022 and in black is the year 2023 up to September 25, 2023. A trend is added in pink based on 2023 data. 

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Note that 1979-2000 isn't pre-industrial, the anomaly from pre-industrial is significantly higher. 

It looks like September 2023 will be the month with the highest temperature anomaly on record and the year 2023 will be the hottest year on record. 

The question is whether temperatures will keep rising. The current El Niño is still strengthening, as illustrated by the image on the right, adapted from IRI, and there is more to be taken into account. 

Until now, February 2016 has been the hottest month on record. The above image, from an earlier post, shows that February 2016 was 3.28°C (5.904°F) hotter than 1880-1896 on land, and 3.68°C (6.624°F) hotter compared to February 1880 on land. Note that 1880-1896 is not pre-industrial either and that sustained anomalies higher than 3°C are likely to drive humans into extinction. The image adds a poignant note: Looking at global averages over long periods is a diversion, peak temperature rise is the killer!

The situation raises questions. How much has the temperature risen? Will the temperature keep rising? What can be done about it? How can these questions best be answered?

The Paris Agreement mandate

During the UN Climate Change Conference scheduled to be held from November 30 to December 12, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the first Global Stocktake of the implementation of the Paris Agreement will be concluded.

The 2015 Paris Agreement mandate: Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by undertaking rapid reductions in emissions in accordance with best available science.

Many assume that the temperature rise will only threaten to cross 1.5°C above pre-industrial in the second half of this century and that by that time action will have stopped the temperature from rising, with the idea that an increase in carbon sequestration could make up for remaining emissions and avoid dangerous climate change. 

The question is whether such assumptions and decisions are indeed based on best available science, as opposed to political whim. Indeed, politicians are vulnerable to collusion with lobbyists feeding suggestions that there was a carbon budget to divide among polluters to enable polluters to keep polluting for decades to come. Local People's Courts can best rule on such questions, after taking a closer look at points such as the following: 

  • Rise from pre-industrial - While many politicians keep pushing the idea that 1.5°C above pre-industrial hasn't been crossed yet, we may already have crossed 2°C above pre-industrial, as discussed in this analysis.

  • Policy choices - emission reductions are best achieved early, rather than late. Yet, many politicians keep supporting fuel (fossil fuel and biofuels) and envisage burning of fuel to continue well beyond 2050 (combined with BECCS). Instead, when taking into account damage to health and the environment, and the danger of runaway temperature rise, it should be clear that better policies must be implemented soon, such as local feebates, to support better methods and technologies such as biochar, heat pumps and eVTOL air taxis. 

  • Rising emissions - Politicians claim that merely stating to aim for net-zero emissions will suffice to reduce emissions, whereas the evidence shows that energy-related greenhouse gas emissions have started to grow again, following minor Covid lockdown-related reductions in 2020, as illustrated by the image below, from an earlier post
[ Global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions 2000-2022, adapted from EIA ]
  • Carbon sink loss - Carbon sinks have long been taking carbon out of the atmosphere, but they are struggling and many may turn from sinks into sources and instead add carbon to the atmosphere. In 2023, nearly 2bn tons of carbon is estimated to have already gone up into the atmosphere in Canada up to now due to forest fires, far exceeding annual emissions tied to Canada’s economy (i.e. 670m tons). As temperatures rise, trees become more vulnerable to diseases and insects such as bark beetles. A 2020 study shows that at higher temperatures, respiration rates continue to rise in contrast to sharply declining rates of photosynthesis. Under business-as-usual emissions, this divergence elicits a near halving of the land sink strength by as early as 2040. As temperatures rise, soils and vegetation will lose moisture to the atmosphere. The Land Evaporation Tipping Point can get crossed locally when water is no longer available locally for further evapotranspiration from the soil and vegetation, with the rise in land surface temperatures accelerating and vegetation decaying accordingly. Higher temperatures result in more extreme weather events, such as fires, droughts, storms, flooding and erosion, that can all contribute to further decrease the terrestrial carbon sink. The ocean is also struggling as a carbon sink, in part because increased river runoff and meltwater lowers alkalinity levels. Furthermore, warmer water holds less oxygen and is becoming more stratified and thus less able to supply nutrients to help plankton grow and store carbon

  • Hydroxyl loss - There is a danger that hydroxyl, the main way that methane gets broken down in the atmosphere, is declining or getting overwhelmed by the rise in methane, as described here.

  • Heat sink loss - This recent study and this one warn that AMOC (the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation) is slowing down faster than expected. A recent post warns that this can contribute to more hot water accumulating in the North Atlantic, as opposed to moving to greater depth. The post also warns that, as temperatures rise, less heat gets stored in oceans, because stratification increases and more heat can get transferred from oceans to the atmosphere as sea ice disappears. There also are indications that, over time, proportionally more heat is remaining in the atmosphere, while less heat gets stored on land. All this results in a hotter atmosphere. 
  • Albedo loss - Loss of sea ice, loss of snow cover and warming oceans causing fewer bright clouds combine to reflect less sunlight back into space, as discussed here and here
  • [ Two out of numerous feedbacks ]
    Feedbacks - Important also is the accelerating rate of change. In many respects, we're in uncharted territory and changes are occurring faster than ever in Earth's history, which should be reason for caution and even more reason to plan ahead!

    The danger is growing that feedbacks are kicking in with ever greater ferocity, i.e. non-linear change. The image on the right, from an earlier post, illustrates how two self-reinforcing feedback loops can contribute to accelerate the Arctic temperature rise.

    [ click on images to enlarge ]
  • [ see the Extinction page ]
    Tipping Points - An even more dramatic form of non-linear change occurs when tipping points get crossed, and the consequences can be catastrophic for the entire world.

    The above image, from an earlier post, illustrates the danger that, as the latent heat and seafloor methane tipping points get crossed, the ocean temperature will keep rising as huge amounts of methane get released in the Arctic.

    It is essential to assess the danger of events and developments such as heat reaching and destabilizing methane hydrates contained in sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, as discussed in many earlier posts such as this one.

    Seafloor methane is one of many elements that could jointly cause a temperature rise of over 10°C, in the process causing the clouds tipping point to get crossed that can push up the temperature rise by a further 8°C, as illustrated by the image on the right, from the extinction page

    Ominously, very high methane levels continue to be recorded at Barrow, Alaska, as illustrated by the NOAA image below.


Alarms bells have sounded loud and clear, such as here, warning that the temperature rise could be more than 3°C as early as in 2026. The precautionary principle should prevail and the looming dangers should prompt people into demanding comprehensive and effective action to reduce the damage and to improve the situation. To combat rising temperatures, a transformation of society should be undertaken, along the lines of this 2022 post in combination with a declaration of a climate emergency.


• Climate Reanalyzer

• The International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University Climate School 

• Paris Agreement

• International Energy Agency (IEA) - Global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions 2000-2022

• NOAA - Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, United States

• Transforming Society

• Climate Plan

• Climate Emergency Declaration

Monday, September 18, 2023

A climate of Insanity

by Andrew Glikson

As the emission of greenhouse gases continues, new fossil fuel projects are subsidized, global warming accelerates, bushfires and floods engulf the planet, climate science is ignored, climate change projections are kept away from the public eye, nations invest in killer submarines rather than water spraying aircraft and other fire-fighting equipment, politicians talk about clean coal, radioactive waters are spilled into the ocean, nuclear weapons are readied for a MAD scenario, the media reports sugar-coated semi or untruths, politicians routinely betray their original pledges and playboy billionaires fire rockets at space with plans to settle on Mars.

Inherent in the nature of insanity is the fact that those inflicted by it are unaware of their mental state, nor are crowds of people or for that matter political parties, and business elites, leading populations to catastrophe, from the scale of Jonestown all the way to Auschwitz and Berlin to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Which has now reached a planet-wide scale. According to NASA former chief climate scientist James Hansen, the global temperature in the current El Niño is exceeding the previous El-Niño (2015-16) temperature rise rate of 0.18°C per decade, reflecting the current increase of the Earth Energy Imbalance (EEI) and accelerated heating. The change is in part due to reductions of the cooling effect of human-emitted aerosols (Figure 1). 

Figure 1. Global temperature (relative to 1880-1920 mean for each month) during the El Niño origin year for the 1997-98, 2015-16 and 2023-24 El Niños. The impact of El Niño on global temperature usually peaks early in the year following the year when the El Niño originated. Hansen et al., 2023.

Despite consequent acidification of the oceans, atmospheric geoengineering using sulphur aerosols, reflecting solar radiation, is touted as a last defence from extreme temperature rise. To date, no effective method has been applied to a drawdown of greenhouse gases on a scale required to compensate for the emissions and rise in atmospheric CO₂ (Figure 2). 
Figure 2. Source:

Energy-related greenhouse gas emissions have started to grow again, following minor Covid lockdown-related reductions in 2020 (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions 2000-2022, adapted from EIA.

A rise to a mean global temperature to 3°C and 4°C this century is projected by the IPCCPossibly even before such temperatures are reached, the flow of cold ice melt water from Greenland and Antarctica could lead to transient regional to global temperature reversals (Hansen et al., 1998; Bronselaer et al. 2018). These authors state: “Meltwater from the Antarctic Ice Sheet is projected to cause up to one metre of sea-level rise by 2100 under the highest greenhouse gas concentration trajectory (RCP8.5) considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, the effects of meltwater from the ice sheets and ice shelves of Antarctica are not included in the widely used CMIP5 climate models, which introduces bias into IPCC climate projections.” (Figure 4)

Figure 4. (a) Model surface air temperature (°C) change in 2055–2060 relative to 1880–1920 for modified
             forcings representint the rise of temperatures in the tropics and decline in subpolar latitudes.
           (b) Surface air temperature (°C) relative to 1880-1920 for several ice melt scenarios, representing stadial
        (cooling) episodes related to the effects of ice melt (Hansen et al., 2016) and associated changes.

According to Hansen et al. (2012) “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”.

The habitability of Earth and the future of life are issues that are to a large extent avoided by the largely privately-owned corporate media and even by state media, occupied as they are by advertisements, sports contests, fashion parades, cooking shows and popular frenzies such as recently generated by the kissing of a football cup winner.

Is there a way out for humanity and much of nature?

If the multiple $trillions spent by Sapiens on the military and war were directed to environmental defence, including drawdown of atmospheric greenhouse gases, the possibility exists?

A/Prof. Andrew Y Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate scientist

Andrew Glikson
The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
The Event Horizon: Homo Prometheus and the Climate Catastrophe
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
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
The Fatal Species: From Warlike Primates to Planetary Mass Extinction
The Trials of Gaia. Milestones in the evolution of Earth with reference to the Antropocene

Friday, September 15, 2023

Seafloor methane tipping point reached

The bold black line at the top of the image below, adapted from Climate Reanalyzer, shows extremely high sea surface temperatures up to September 13, 2023, much higher than in any previous year on record.

The image below, created with NASA data, shows why these extremely high sea surface temperatures are so worrying. The image shows monthly mean global surface temperature anomalies (open ocean) vs 1901-1930. The ochre trend, based on January 1900-August 2023 data, indicates the latent heat tipping point was crossed in 2021 and the seafloor methane tipping point could be crossed in 2033. The red trend, based on August 2008-August 2023 data and better reflecting variables such as El Niño, indicates that the seafloor methane tipping point could be crossed late 2023. Data show the seafloor methane tipping point was reached in August 2023.

The latent heat tipping point is estimated to correspond with a sea surface temperature anomaly of 1°C above the long term average, 1901-1930 on the above image, as discussed in earlier posts such as this one.

Sea ice constitutes a latent heat buffer, consuming incoming heat as it melts. While the ice is melting, all energy (at 334 J/g) goes into changing ice into water and the temperature remains at 0°C (273.15K or 32 °F). Once all ice has turned into water, all subsequent energy goes into heating up the water, and will do so at 4.18 J/g for every 1°C the temperature of the water rises. 

Once Arctic sea ice has become very thin, ocean heat that was previously consumed by melting the sea ice, no longer gets consumed by melting of the sea ice, and further incoming heat instead gets absorbed by the Arctic Ocean, rapidly pushing up the temperature of the water of the Arctic Ocean. 

The latent heat tipping point has meanwhile been crossed. Loss of this buffer is linked to the seafloor methane tipping point, i.e. the point where additional heat reaches the seafloor and destabilizes hydrates contained in sediments at the seafloor. This tipping point comes with multiple self-reinforcing feedback loops, such as explosive growth in methane volume setting off further destabilization, rapid rise of Arctic temperatures, loss of permafrost and loss of albedo, and release of further greenhouse gases.

Crossing of the seafloor methane tipping point will occur later than crossing of the latent heat tipping point, i.e. the seafloor methane tipping point corresponds with a higher ocean temperature anomaly, estimated to correspond with a sea surface temperature anomaly of 1.35°C above the long term average.

The current situation is particularly precarious in the Arctic, as the North Atlantic Ocean is very hot and the Gulf Stream keeps pushing hot water toward the Arctic Ocean, while Arctic sea ice has become very thin and the latent heat tipping point has been crossed.

As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, more heat can reach sediments located at the seafloor, since much of the Arctic Ocean is very shallow and sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean can contain vast amounts of methane.

The danger is that additional heat will destabilize hydrates in these sediments, leading to explosive eruptions of methane, as its volume increases 160 to 180-fold when leaving the hydrates, and resulting in huge eruptions of methane both from the destabilizing hydrates and from methane that is present in the form of free gas underneath the hydrates.

[ from earlier post, click on images to enlarge ]

The above image, from an earlier post, illustrates that warnings have been given before about the danger of these two tipping points getting crossed in the Arctic. In the above image, the trends are based on annual sea surface temperature data for the Northern Hemisphere. The seafloor methane tipping point is estimated to correspond with ocean temperature anomalies reaching 1.35°C above the long term average.

The image below further illustrates the high sea surface temperatures in and around the Arctic Ocean, with the red to yellow colors indicating temperature anomalies above the 1981-2011 average, and the green circle marking a sea surface temperature anomaly near the North Pole of 0.4°C on September 13, 2023.  

The image below illustrates how incoming ocean heat that previously was consumed in the process of melting of the sea ice, is now causing the water of the Arctic Ocean to heat up, with more heat reaching the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, which has seas that in many places are very shallow.

[ Latent heat loss, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page ]
Further adding to the danger is that destabilization of methane hydrates can cause huge amounts of methane to erupt with great force from the seafloor in the form of plumes. Consequently, little of the methane can be broken down in the water by microbes, while there is very little hydroxyl in the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean to break down the methane that enters the atmosphere.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Ominously, very high methane levels continue to be recorded at Barrow, Alaska, as illustrated by the above NOAA image.

The MetOp satellite image on the right shows methane levels, with the magenta color indicating the highest methane levels recorded at surface level (1000 mb), on September 15, 2023 am.

The N20 satellite image underneath shows methane levels at an altitude corresponding with 487 mb on September 10, 2023 am. The magenta color again indicates the highest methane levels recorded at the time.

Note the high levels over the Beaufort Sea and elsewhere over the Arctic Ocean, as well as high levels recorded over oceans in the Southern Hemisphere.

Climate Emergency Declaration

A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding. Life is disappearing from Earth and runaway heating could destroy all life on Earth. At 5°C heating, most life on Earth will have disappeared. When looking only at near-term human extinction, 3°C will likely suffice.

The situation is dire and is getting more dire every day, which calls for a Climate Emergency Declaration and implementation of comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan with an update at Transforming Society.


• Climate Reanalyzer - daily sea surface temperature

• NASA - GISS Surface Temperature Analysis

• Record high North Atlantic sea surface temperature

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Methane eruptions threaten

The above image, adapted from Climate Reanalyzer, shows that on September 8, 2023, the North Atlantic sea surface reached a new record high temperature, of 25.4°C, even higher than the record reached the day before.

The situation is critical! More heat entering the Arctic Ocean threatens to destabilize hydrates and cause huge amounts of methane to erupt and enter the atmosphere.

The image on the right, adapted from NASA Worldview, shows the poor state of the sea ice.

On September 8, 2023, the Polarstern reached the North Pole. The image below shows the research vessel and the sea ice at the North Pole.

The image on the right, adapted from University of Bremen, shows Arctic sea ice concentration and the route followed by the Polarstern. 

The threat is that, as the water of the Arctic Ocean keeps heating up, heat will reach the seafloor and destabilize methane hydrates contained in sediments at the seafloor, resulting in eruptions of huge amounts of methane. 

Erupting from the hydrates occurs at great force, since the methane expands 160 when decompressed, resulting in the methane rapidly rising in the form of plumes, leaving little or no opportunity for microbes to decompose the methane in the water column. Furthermore, the atmosphere over the Arctic contains very little hydroxyl, resulting in methane persisting in the air over the Arctic much longer than elsewhere. 

After months of very high temperatures, the Arctic reached a new record high temperature for the time of year, i.e. 1.52°C on September 10, 2023, an anomaly of 2.25°C.

Meanwhile, global sea ice extent is much lower than in any other year on record for this time of year.

Ominously, very high methane levels continue to be recorded at Barrow, Alaska, U.S. 


The situation is dire and is getting more dire every day, which calls for a Climate Emergency Declaration and implementation of comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan with an update at Transforming Society.


• Climate Reanalyzer - North Atlantic sea surface temperature

• NASA Worldview

• Polarstern reaches North Pole - Research icebreaker at the northernmost point of the earth for the seventh time

• University of Bremen - Arctic sea ice concentration

• Arctic Data archive System

• NOAA - Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, United States

• Climate Plan

• Transforming Society

• Climate Emergency Declaration