Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Earthquakes and Warm Water threaten Arctic

[ soucre: NOAA image - click to enlarge]
A major earthquake hit the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, on June 23, 2014.

The earthquake occurred at 51.797°N 178.760°E, 15 miles (24 km) southeast of Little Sitkin Island, Alaska, at a depth of 66.8 miles (107.5km).

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) earlier listed the earthquake at a magnitude of 8 on the Richter scale, but eventually gave the quake a magnitude of 7.9.

Initial tsunami warnings, as reflected by the two NOAA images on the right, were later cancelled, e.g. the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said the earthquake’s epicenter was too deep to pose a tsunami threat to its coasts.

Indeed, earthquakes that occur at less depth, i.e. closer to the seafloor, pose a greater tsunami threat, as more energy will enter the sea as kinetic energy pushing up wave height propelled in the form of a tsunami.

Earthquakes that occur at greater depth pose other kinds of threats. When earthquakes hit deep under the sea floor, more energy will translate into shockwaves that can propagate over great distances through the Earth crust, particularly along fault lines.

[ source: NOAA image - click to enlarge]
In this case, the situation is particularly threatening for the Arctic Ocean. As the map below shows, the fault line where this earthquake hit extends through Siberia into the Laptev Sea and was hit by three earthquakes recently:

M 4.9 - East of Severnaya Zemlya
2014-06-22 23:58:24 UTC
Location 78.520°N 125.942°E
Depth 10.00 km (6.21 mi)

M 4.7 - Laptev Sea
2014-06-01 08:52:43 UTC
Location 75.012°N 133.665°E
Depth 10.00 km (6.21 mi)

M 4.8 - 172km N of Deputatskiy, Russia
2014-05-29 05:07:33 UTC
Location 70.844°N 139.761°E
Depth 10.00 km (6.21 mi)

A cluster of earthquakes that recently hit the Aleutian Islands shows up in green in the top right corner op above map. Also note the red dot on the right, respresenting a M 4.1 earthquake that hit the Sea of Okhotsk on June 22, 2014 (at 09:47:47 UTC, location 51.843°N 151.310°E), at a depth of 527.66 km (327.87 mi).

Earthquakes are a major threat for the Arctyic as they can destabilize methane hydrates contained in sediments under the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.

The situation is the more dangerous given the warm sea water that threatens to enter the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below.

As the recent NOAA overview of the climate situation in May 2014 describes, combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces reached a record high for May, at 0.74°C (1.33°F) higher than the 20th century average. Across the oceans, the global monthly-averaged sea surface temperature was 0.59°C (1.06°F) higher than the 20th century average, marking the highest May temperature on record. This is further illustrated by the image below.

Meanwhile, the situation hasn't improved, as illustrated by the image below.

The NOAA image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic Ocean on June 23, 2014, with many areas showing anomalies above 8 degrees Celsius.

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, there is about a 70% chance that El Niño conditions will develop during the Northern Hemisphere summer 2014 and an 80% chance it will develop a few months later.

As discussed in earlier posts, the sea ice is already very thin, and while ocean heat is melting the sea ice from beneath, the sun is warming up the ice from above. At this time of year, insolation in the Arctic is at its highest, as Earth reaches its maximum axial tilt toward the sun of 23° 26'. In fact, insolation during the months June and July is higher in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth, as discussed at this earlier post.

Feedbacks further accelerate warming in the Arctic, as described in the earlier post Feedbacks in the Arctic. Temperature rises of the water close to the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean is very dangerous, as heat penetrating sediments there could cause hydrate destabilization, resulting in huge amounts of methane entering the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean.

In conclusion, the situation is the Arctic is threatening to escalate into runaway warming and urgently requires comprehensive and effective action as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.


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    1. Good for you Ann, thinking about our mate like that.

  2. Sam, how much time do we have left to avoid runaway greenhouse, summer 2015?

  3. TPP and Total (Total Information Awareness of NSA) finite ability of government, corporate merged gov to deep packet inspection internet communication to disrupt any activity resembling a rise of awareness that upsets the monetary world are symptoms of a crime mob's moves to control dissent, letting history be written by none by them. Comments are scrubbed, Bookmarks eliminated.
    Rules are used as it serves Corporate Gov world conglomerate to undermine little guys who notice and can write what is happening in a way that makes sense.
    The crime family hydra that keeps the world of man under thumb of monetary debt based control and isolate of awareness of what is actually happening with Earth, particularly the release of information on Methane clathrate gun that is going to fire in double barrel Extinction event. Potentially this century.. 'They' don't like comments bubbling up that raise questions on the rule of law, Law written in secret. 'They' attack little guys who speak up; 'They' keep them from access to Merlin Lidar full column methane readings (Merlin LIDAR Satellite mission is now pushed back now 5 years to 2019 launch).. And analysis like from Methane Tracker- Tell me the gov and industry couldn't come up with the funds for public service of presenting this infinitely important information to keep Earth alive..
    No -we as individuals and as a specie and super bug on Earth don't have long for this world at all. Sam - I don't know what to say to actually change the world and keep Earth alive save for a Real try.

  4. Dale, Sam usually sticks right to the nitty-gritty cause & effect science, but the continually expanding economy driven by compound interest is a big part the nitty-gritty causal chain too.

    When all the fancy financial wheels plus the spare broke loose six years ago, we were treated to Henry Paulson’s clear statements about what to do.

    Bankster Henry was Secretary of the Treasury, on loan from Goldman Sachs.

    He knew the solution to the escalating financial chaos –

    Bankster Henry is a tried & true financial genius so, quite naturally, he wanted to keep the proles borrowing & PAYING COMPOUND INTEREST to bankers.

    Said financial priest Paulson in no uncertain terms;
    “We want people to be able to get the credit that they need!”

    A more concise political & existential statement would be hard to find.

    Paulson’s position was received as infallible financial gospel by the Bush Establishment.

    In three days (including a weekend) Bush’s bankster cronies; Paulson, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Ben Bernanke, & Alan Greenspan, promptly proceeded to deliver hundreds of billions of public money into the coffers of the private commercial banks.

    Such obvious “commonizing of the costs while privatizing the profits” was unquestionably designed to liquify the on-the-ropes banking establishment & thereby make credit available to the compound interest paying laboring citizenry.

    Bankster Henry’s personal wealth is estimated at more than 800 million dollars.

    Bankster Henry doesn’t need any credit.

    Bankster Henry needs more compound interest income.

    First law of expertise; Don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut.

    Don’t ask Henry for a solution to the rapacious continually expanding economy driven by compound interest.

    Now Henry says; “The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response. We can do this by putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide — a carbon tax.”

    What did you expect.

    In a culture where everything is for sale, it is simple catechism to put a price on carbon.

    Another terrific example of “commonizing the costs while privatizing the profits”

    Bankster Henry can afford all the carbon he wants.

    We are doomed alright.

    At least a sumbitch like Bankster Henry gets his along with the rest of us.

  5. Seems to me that we will need a "Pearl harbor" event to get onto the war footing we need to have any chance of defeating the methane hydrate threat. Question is would we be able to come back from such an event? I suspect not :-(

    I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.
    Alexander the Great

  6. The prospect of a lot of methane entering the atmosphere is indeed worrying but I would think that there is a more immediate threat. If methane ice, which is in effect a form of permafrost, breaks down, the sediment that the clathrates have been holding together becomes 'unglued'. Then earthquakes can trigger slumps of this material into deeper water. Such slumps cause localized but very severe tsunamis. I think if I lived on the coast of the Arctic ocean, I would be moving to higher ground.