Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Greenhouse Gas Levels Keep Accelerating

Carbon Dioxide

Weekly CO₂ levels at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, in May, 2019, reached 415.39 ppm, as above image shows. An ominous trendline points at 420 ppm in 2020.

The daily average CO₂ level recorded by NOAA at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, on May 15, 2019, was 415.64 ppm, as above image shows. The image below also shows hourly average levels from April 15, 2019, to May 15, 2019.

Current CO₂ levels far exceed levels that were common during the past 800,000 years, as the image below shows. CO₂ levels moved between roughly 180 and 280 ppm, while the temperature went up and down by some 10°C or 18°F.

The daily average CO₂ level recorded by at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, on May 13, 2019, was 415.5 ppm and the May 15, 2019, level was 415.7 ppm. On May 14, 2019, one hourly average exceeded 417 ppm.

The situation is dire

This level of 417 ppm is 139 ppm above the CO₂ level in the year 1750 and more than 157 ppm above what the CO₂ level would have been if levels had followed a natural trend. As shown by the inset (from Ruddiman et al.) in above image, a natural trend points at levels below 260 ppm.

Furthermore, methane levels are rising even faster than CO₂ levels. While CO₂ levels did rise by 146% since 1750, methane levels did rise by 257% since that time and there is much potential for an even faster rise in methane levels due to seafloor hydrate releases. Levels of nitrous oxide also keep rising rapidly.

Such a rise in greenhouse gas levels has historically corresponded with more than 10°C or 18°F of warming, when looking at greenhouse gas levels and temperatures over the past 800,000 years, as illustrated by the image below.

Given that a 100 ppm rise in CO₂ did historically cause temperatures to rise by 10°C or 18°F, how much warming would be in line with a 157 ppm CO₂ and how fast could such a rise unfold?

A temperature of 10°C or 18° above 1750 seems in line with such high greenhouse gas levels. This is illustrated by above graph, based on 420,000 years of ice core data from Vostok, Antarctica, and as the post What Does Abrupt Climate Change Look Like? describes.

Why isn't it much warmer now? Why hasn't such a rise happened yet? Oceans and ice are still holding off such a rise, by absorbing huge amounts of warming. Of 1993-2003 warming, 95.5% was absorbed by oceans and ice. However, ocean stratification and ice loss are making the atmosphere take up more and more heat.

There are further warming elements, in addition to the accelerating rise in greenhouse gas levels. Mentioned above is the loss of the snow and ice cover. The domino effect is a popular way to demonstrate a chain reaction. It is typically sequential and typically uses dominoes that are equal in size. A chain reaction can be achieved with solid dominoes each as much as 1.5 times larger than the previous one. The exponential function is discussed in the video below by Guy McPherson. Rather than following a linear order, warming elements can be self-reinforcing feedback loops and can influence each other in ways that multiply (rather than pass on) their impact, which can speed up the temperature rise exponentially.

So, how fast and by how much could temperatures rise? As oceans and ice are taking up ever less heat, rapid warming of the lower troposphere could occur very soon. When including the joint impact of all warming elements, as described in a recent post, abrupt climate change could result in a rise of as much as 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026. This could cause most life on Earth (including humans) to go extinct within years.


Next to carbon dioxide, there are further greenhouse gases. Methane is important, because of its high short-term potency as a greenhouse gas and because methane levels in the atmosphere have hugely risen since 1750, and especially recently, as illustrated by the image on the right.

Carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄) and nitrous oxide (N₂O) levels in the atmosphere in 2017 were, respectively, 257%, 146% and 122% their 1750 levels.

A recent study by Turetsky et al. concludes that, since sudden collapse releases more carbon per square metre because it disrupts stockpiles deep in frozen layers, and since abrupt thawing releases more methane than gradual thawing does, the impact of thawing permafrost on Earth’s climate could be twice that expected from current models.

As said, there also is a huge and growing danger of large abrupt methane releases from clathrates contained in sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.

As illustrated by the image below, methane levels are rising and this rise is accelerating.

The graph shows July 1983 through December 2018 monthly global methane means at sea level, with added trend. Higher methane means can occur at higher altitude than at sea level. On Sep 3, 2018, daily methane means as high as 1905 ppb were recorded at 307 mb, an altitude at which some of the strongest growth in methane has occurred, as discussed in earlier posts such as this one.

The recent rise in methane is the more worrying in the light of recent research that calculates that methane's radiative forcing is about 25% higher than reported in IPCC AR5.

Nitrous Oxide

Next to carbon dioxide and methane, there are further greenhouse gases, of which nitrous oxide is particularly important. Nitrous oxide is up to 300 times as potent as a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide and has a lifetime of 121 years. Several recent studies point at the danger of huge releases of nitrous oxide from permafrost.

According to a 2017 study by Voigt et al., Arctic permafrost contains vast amounts of nitrogen (more than 67 billion tons). Warming of the Arctic permafrost is accelerating, causing rapid thaw of permafrost soils, and this now threatens to cause huge releases of nitrous oxide to the atmosphere. The study concluded that nitrous oxide emissions in the Arctic are likely substantial and underestimated, and show high potential to increase with permafrost thaw.

In the video below, Paul Beckwith discusses nitrous oxide.

In the video below, Paul Beckwith discusses the recent study by Wilkerson et al.

The study by Wilkerson et al. shows that nitrous oxide emissions from thawing Alaskan permafrost are about twelve times higher than previously assumed. A 2018 study by Yang et al. points at the danger of large nitrous oxide releases from thawing permafrost in Tibet. Even more nitrous oxide could be released from Antarctica. The danger is illustrated by the image below, which shows that massive amounts of nitrous oxide were recorded over Antarctica on April 29, 2019.

Depletion of the Ozone Layer

In addition to being a potent greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide is also an ozone depleting substance (ODS). As the left panel of the image below shows, growth in the levels of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has slowed over the years, yet their impact will continue for a long time, given their long atmospheric lifetime (55 years for CFC-11 and 140 years for CFC-12). Since nitrous oxide levels continue to increase in the atmosphere, while the impact of CFC-11 and CFC-12 is slowly decreasing over time, the impact (as an ODS) of nitrous oxide has relatively grown, as the right panel of the image below shows.

[ from an earlier post ]
James Anderson, co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on ozone depletion, said in 2018 that "we have five years to save ourselves from climate change".

Comprehensive Action

In conclusion, while it's important to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases, reducing emissions of methane and nitrous oxide is particularly important. To both reduce polluting emissions and to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans, the Climate Plan recommends feebates as depicted in the image below. As the image also mentions, further lines of action will be needed to avoid a rapid rise in temperature.

[ from an earlier post ]
Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice reached a new record low for April, as illustrated by the NSIDC image below.

In the video below, Guy McPherson describes what threatens to eventuate soon. This is an edit of the April 22, 2019, video in which Guy McPherson was interviewed by Peter B. Collins for the community television station in Marin County, California.

In the video below, Guy McPherson gives a presentation at the Center for Spiritual Living, in Chico, April 28, 2019.

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


• Climate Plan

• Permafrost collapse is accelerating carbon release, by Merritt Turetsky et al. (30 April 2019)

• Permafrost nitrous oxide emissions observed on a landscape scale using the airborne eddy-covariance method, by Jordan Wilkerson et al. (April 3, 2019)

• Can natural or anthropogenic explanations of late-Holocene CO2 and CH4 increases be falsified?, by William Ruddiman et al. (2011)

• Radiative forcing of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide: A significant revision of the methane radiative forcing, by Etminan et al. (2016)

• Magnitude and Pathways of Increased Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Uplands Following Permafrost Thaw, by Guibiao Yang et al. (July 9, 2018)

• Increased nitrous oxide emissions from Arctic peatlands after permafrost thaw, by Carolina Voigt et al.

• We Have Five Years To Save Ourselves From Climate Change, Harvard Scientist Says - James Anderson (January 15, 2018)

• A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?

• Care for the Ozone Layer

• What Does Runaway Warming Look Like?

• Rapid ice loss in early April leads to new record low - NSIDC

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

How long do we have?

The March 2019 temperature is in line with an earlier analysis that 2019 could be 1.85°C warmer than preindustrial and that a rapid temperature rise could take place soon, as illustrated by the image below.

A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions is unfolding. Life is disappearing from Earth and all life could be gone within a decade. At 5°C of warming, most life on Earth will have disappeared. When looking at near-term human extinction, 3°C will likely suffice. Study after study is showing the size of the threat, yet many people seem out to hide what we're facing.

Above image asks 'How long do we have?' The image is created with NASA LOTI data, adjusted 0.78°C to reflect a 1750 baseline, ocean air temperature and higher polar anomaly. Trends are added based on 1880-2019 (purple) and 2000-2019 data (red). The long-term purple trend points at 2025 as the year when 3°C rise from preindustrial could be crossed, while the red trend that focuses on short-term events shows how a 3°C rise from preindustrial could be reached as early as in 2020.

The chart below shows elements contributing to the warming, adding up to a rise of as much as 18°C by 2026.

[ from an earlier post ]
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described at the Climate Plan.

If we accept that crimes against humanity include climate crimes, then politicians who inadequately act on the unfolding climate catastrophe are committing crimes against humanity and they should be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands.


• Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change, by Giovanni Strona and Corey Bradshaw (2018)

• How much warming have humans caused?

• Extinction

• A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?

• Stronger Extinction Alert

• Climate Plan

Sunday, April 14, 2019

As Winds Start To Growl

Late last month, wind patterns over the North Pacific and North America resembled a screaming face.

The Arctic was as much as 7.7°C or 13.86°F warmer than 1979-2000, while in parts of Alaska the temperature anomaly was at the top end of the scale, i.e. 30°C or 54°F above 1979-2000.

On April 14, 2019, wind patterns over the North Atlantic resembled a growling face, as highlighted by the red ellipse on the image.

Temperatures over Greenland were as high as 14.9°C or 58.7°F at 1000 hPa at the spot marked by the green circle.

On the left, the image shows winds at 250 hPa dipping over the U.S., enabling cold winds to descend deep down over North America.

Temperatures in Colorado that day were as low as -13.5°C or 7.6°F, as illustrated by above image.

The map below shows the jet streams stretched out from North Pole to South Pole, while the jet stream is also crossing the Equator over the Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice extent remains at a record low for the measurements at for the time of year. As the image below shows, Arctic sea ice extent was 12.9 million km² on April 14, 2019.

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


• An infinite scream passing through nature

• Arctic Warming Up Fast

• Climate Plan

Monday, April 8, 2019

Blue Ocean Event Consequences

A Blue Ocean Event looks set to occur in the Arctic when there will be virtually no sea ice left. At first, the duration of this event will be a few weeks in September, but as more heat accumulates in the Arctic, the event will last longer each year thereafter.

Indeed, a Blue Ocean Event will come with accumulation of more heat, due to loss of latent heat, as a dark (blue) ocean absorbs more sunlight than the reflective ice, etc. Consequences will extend far beyond the Arctic, as shown on the image below that features Dave Borlace's Blue Ocean Top Ten Consequences.

Dave Borlace goes into more detail regarding these consequences in the video Blue Ocean Event : Game Over?

A Blue Ocean Event could happen as early as September 2019. The image below shows that Arctic sea ice extent on April 7, 2019, was 12.97 million km², a record low for measurements at for the time of year. By comparison, on May 28, 1985, extent was larger (13.05 million km²) while it was 51 days later in the year.

In the video below, Paul Beckwith also discusses the rapid decline of the sea ice and the consequences.

Clearly, the rapid decline of the sea ice has grave consequences. When also looking beyond what's happening in the Arctic, there are further events, tipping points and feedbacks that make things worse. An earlier post contains the following rapid warming scenario:
  1. a stronger-than-expected El Niño would contribute to
  2. early demise of the Arctic sea ice, i.e. latent heat tipping point +
  3. associated loss of sea ice albedo, 
  4. destabilization of seafloor methane hydrates, causing eruption of vast amounts of methane that further speed up Arctic warming and cause
  5. terrestrial permafrost to melt as well, resulting in even more emissions,
  6. while the Jet Stream gets even more deformed, resulting in more extreme weather events
  7. causing forest fires, at first in Siberia and Canada and
  8. eventually also in the peat fields and tropical rain forests of the Amazon, in Africa and South-east Asia, resulting in
  9. rapid melting on the Himalayas, temporarily causing huge flooding,
  10. followed by drought, famine, heat waves and mass starvation, and
  11. collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Importantly, depicted above is only one scenario out of many. Things may eventuate in different order and occur simultaneously, i.e. instead of one domino tipping over the next one sequentially, many events reinforcing each other. Further points should be added to the list, such as falling away of sulfate cooling due to economic changes, ocean stratification and stronger storms that can push large amounts of warm salty water into the Arctic Ocean.

Global sea ice extent is also at a record low for the time of year. Global sea ice extent on April 8, 2019, was 17.9 million km². On April 8, 1982, global sea ice extent was 22.32 million km², i.e. a difference of 4.42 million km². That constitutes a huge albedo loss.

As discussed in an earlier post, this all adds up to further global warming that may eventuate very rapidly. The image below shows how a total rise of 18°C or 32.4°F from preindustrial could eventuate by 2026.

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


• Blue Ocean Event : Game Over? - by Dave Borlace

• Climate System Upheaval: Arctic Sea-Ice, Snow Cover, Jet-Stream, Monsoonal Consequences - by Paul Beckwith

• Jet Stream Center-of-Rotation to Shift 17 degrees Southward from North Pole to Greenland with Arctic Blue Ocean Event - by Paul Beckwith

• Blue Ocean Event

• Stronger Extinction Alert

• It could be unbearably hot in many places within a few years time

• Feedbacks

• Latent Heat

• Albedo and more

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

• How much warming have humans caused?

• The Threat

• A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?

• Extinction

• Climate Plan