Saturday, February 25, 2017

Accelerating growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere

CO₂ Growth

In 2016, CO₂ levels in the atmosphere grew by 3.36 ppm (parts per million), a new record since 1959 and much higher than the previous record set in 2015.

Worryingly, above graph has a trendline added pointing at a growth rate in CO₂ levels of 6 ppm per year by 2026.

Growth in levels of CO₂ in the atmosphere is accelerating, despite reports that - for the third year in a row - carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry (including cement production) had barely grown, as illustrated by the Global Carbon Project image below.

Why is growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere accelerating?

So, what makes growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere accelerate? As discussed in a previous post, growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere is accelerating due to:
  • Deforestation and Soil Degradation:
    Agricultural practices such as depleting groundwater and aquifers, plowing, mono-cultures and cutting and burning of trees to raise livestock can significantly reduce the carbon content of soils, along with soil moisture and nutrients levels.
  • Climate change and extreme weather events:
    The recent jump in global temperature appears to have severely damaged soils and vegetation. Soil carbon loss and enhanced decomposition of vegetation appear to have occurred both because of the temperature rise and the resulting extreme weather events such as heatwaves, drought, dust-storms and wildfires, and storms, hail, lightning, flooding and the associated erosion, turning parts of what was once a huge land sink into sources of CO₂ emissions.
    Moreover, extreme weather events can also lead to emissions other than CO₂ emissions, such as soot, nitrous oxide, methane and carbon monoxide, which can in turn cause a rise in the levels of ground-level ozone, thus further weakening vegetation and making plants even more vulnerable to pests and infestations.
  • Oceans may also be taking up less CO₂ than before:
    Oceans have absorbed some 40% of CO₂ emissions since the start of the industrial era. Up until recently, oceans still took up some 26% of carbon dioxide emitted by people annually. As discussed earlier, oceans are getting warmer, and warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. Furthermore, as the water warms, it tends to form a layer at the surface that does not mix well with cooler, nutrient-rich water below, depriving phytoplankton of some of the nutrients needed in order for phytoplankton to grow. Less phytoplankton in the oceans means that oceans become less able to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A study by Boyce et al. found a decrease of about 1% per year of phytoplankton in oceans globally. Sergei Petrovskii, co-author of a 2015 study, found that a rise in the water temperature of the world’s oceans of about 6°C could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis, adding that “About two-thirds of the planet’s total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton – and therefore cessation would result in the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on a global scale. This would likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans.”

Meanwhile, research including a 2014 study by Franks et al. concludes that the IPCC was too low in its estimates for the upcoming temperature rise locked in for current CO₂ levels. A study by Friedrich et al. updates IPCC estimates for sensitivity to CO₂ rise, concluding that temperatures could rise by as much as 7.36°C by 2100 as a result of rising CO₂ levels.

When also taking further elements than CO₂ more fully into account, we could face an even larger temperature rise, i.e. a rise of 10°C (or 18°F) by 2026 (compared to pre-industrial), as further described at the extinction page that specifies the different elements of such a rise, including a 0.5°C rise due to CO₂ emissions from 2016 to 2026. The CO₂ growth discussed in this post appears to be in line with such a rise and in line with the associated loss of carbon sinks and rising vulnerability of carbon pools.

The situation looks particularly threatening in the Arctic where many of the most vulnerable carbon pools are located, where temperatures are rising fastest and where CO₂ levels have recently risen rapidly (see image below with CO₂ readings at Barrow, Alaska).
[ click on images to enlarge ] 
Also note the recent rise in methane readings at Barrow (image below).
[ click on images to enlarge ] 
Action is needed!

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


• Climate Plan

• Extinction

• Monthly CO₂ not under 400 ppm in 2016

• Oxygenating the Arctic

• How much warming have humans caused?

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

• Global phytoplankton decline over the past century, by Daniel G. Boyce, Marlon R. Lewis & Boris Worm

• Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics Under the Climate Change, by Yadigar Sekerci and Sergei Petrovskii

• Global warming disaster could suffocate life on planet Earth, research shows

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

More heat on the way

Above image shows temperature anomalies over the Pacific Ocean on February 12, 2017. Note the 19.2°C (34.5 °F) anomaly off the coast of Japan, at the location marked by the green circle.

In 2016, the annually-averaged temperature for ocean surfaces around the world was 0.75°C (1.35°F) higher than the 20th century average, higher than the previous record of 2015, NOAA reports. The global annual land surface temperature for 2016 was 1.43°C (2.57°F) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 2015 by 0.11°C (0.19°F). Note that NOAA uses the the 20th century average as a baseline, for more on different baselines, see this earlier post.

There is more heat on the way, as illustrated by the image below.

As above image shows, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) temporarily raises (El Niño) or suppresses (La Niña) global temperatures. Generally, the stronger the event (El Niño or La Niña), the greater its impact on the average global temperature around that time. Note that one value for 2016 literally went off the chart.

As above image shows (at the end of the graph on the right), we've barely had a bit of a La Niña in 2017 and we're already facing another El Niño event.

[ click on images to enlarge ]

Above images shows ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) plumes with strong positive anomalies in all three El Niño regions (on the right).

In other words, temperatures in 2017 look set to be very high, which spells bad news for the Arctic where temperature anomalies are already several times higher than in the rest of the world, as illustrated by the image below.

As the image below shows, Antarctic sea ice extent was at a record low for the time of the year on February 11, 2017.

The situation looks particularly grim for the Arctic sea ice. As the image below shows, Arctic sea ice extent on February 11, 2017, was also at a record low for the time of the year. In fact, it had fallen to 13,895,00 km² that day, raising the question whether perhaps the maximum for the year 2017 had already been reached.

Low global sea ice extent means that less sunlight is reflected back into space by the ice and that more heat is instead absorbed by the ocean, adding to the predicament the world is in. The situation in the Arctic is crucial, as huge amounts of methane, contained in sediments under the Arctic Ocean, could be released if warming continues, potentially triggering mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade.

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


• Climate Plan

• Extinction

• How much warming have humans caused?

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

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

[ click on images to enlarge ]
On February 10, 2017, 18:00 UTC it is forecast to be 0.1°C or 32.1°F at the North Pole, i.e. above the temperature at which water freezes. The temperature at the North Pole is forecast to be 30°C or 54°F warmer than 1979-2000, on Feb 10, 2017, 18:00 UTC, as shown on the Climate Reanalyzer image on the right.

This high temperature is expected as a result of strong winds blowing warm air from the North Atlantic into the Arctic.

The forecast below, run on February 4, 2017, shows that winds as fast as 157 km/h or 98 mph were expected to hit the North Atlantic on February 6, 2017, 06:00 UTC, producing waves as high as 16.34 m or 53.6 ft.

A later forecast shows waves as high as 17.18 m or 54.6 ft, as illustrated by the image below.

While the actual wave height and wind speed may not turn out to be as extreme as such forecasts, the images do illustrate the horrific amounts of energy contained in these storms.

Stronger storms go hand in hand with warmer oceans. The image below shows that on February 4, 2017, at a spot off the coast of Japan marked by green circle, the ocean was 19.1°C or 34.4°F warmer than 1981-2011.

As discussed in an earlier post, the decreasing difference in temperature between the Equator and the North Pole causes changes to the jet stream, in turn causing warmer air and warmer water to get pushed from the North Atlantic into the Arctic.

The image below shows that on February 9, 2017, the water at a spot near Svalbard (marked by the green circle) was 13°C or 55.3°F, i.e. 12.1°C or 21.7°F warmer than 1981-2011.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Warmer water flowing into the Arctic Ocean in turn increases the strength of feedbacks that are accelerating warming in the Arctic. One of these feedbacks is methane that is getting released from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. Update: The image below shows that methane levels on February 13, 2017, pm, were as high as 2727 ppb, 1½ times the global mean at the time.

[ click on image to enlarge, right image added for reference to show location of continents ] 
What caused such a high level? High methane levels (magenta color) over Baffin Bay are an indication of a lot of methane getting released north of Greenland and subsequently getting pushed along the exit current through Nares Strait (see map below). This analysis is supported by the images below, showing high methane levels north of Greenland on the morning of February the 14th (left) and the 15th (right).

The image below shows methane levels as high as 2569 ppb on February 17, 2017. This is an indication of ocean heat further destabilizing permafrost at the seafloor of the Laptev Sea, resulting in high methane concentrations where it is rising in plumes over the Laptev Sea (at 87 mb, left panel) and is spreading over a larger area (at slightly lower concentrations) at higher altitude (74 mb, right panel).

This illustrates how increased inflow of warm water from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean can cause methane to erupt from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. Methane releases from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean have the potential to rapidly and strongly accelerate warming in the Arctic and speed up further feedbacks, raising global temperature with catastrophic consequences in a matter of years. Altogether, these feedbacks and further warming elements could trigger a huge abrupt rise in global temperature making that extinction of many species, including humans, could be less than one decade away.

Youtube video by RT America

Without action, we are facing extinction at unprecedented scale. In many respects, we are already in the sixth mass extinction of Earth's history. Up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species became extinct when temperatures rose by 8°C (14°F) during the Permian-Triassic extinction, or the Great Dying, 252 million years ago.

During the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred 55 million years ago, global temperatures rose as rapidly as by 5°C in ~13 years, according to a study by Wright et al. A recent study by researchers led by Zebee concludes that the present anthropogenic carbon release rate is unprecedented during the past 66 million years. Back in history, the highest carbon release rates of the past 66 million years occurred during the PETM. Yet, the maximum sustained PETM carbon release rate was less than 1.1 Pg C per year, the study by Zebee et al. found. By contrast, a recent annual carbon release rate from anthropogenic sources was ~10 Pg C (2014). The study by Zebee et al. therefore concludes that future ecosystem disruptions are likely to exceed the - by comparison - relatively limited extinctions observed at the PETM.

An earlier study by researchers led by De Vos had already concluded that current extinction rates are 1,000 times higher than natural background rates of extinction and future rates are likely to be 10,000 times higher.

from the post 2016 well above 1.5°C
As above image shows, a number of warming elements adds up to a potential warming of 10°C (18°F) from pre-industrial by the year 2026, i.e. within about nine years from now, as discussed in more detail at the extinction page.

Above image shows how a 10°C (18°F) temperature rise from preindustrial could be completed within a decade.
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed in the Climate Plan.


• Climate Plan

• Arctic Ocean Feedbacks

• Extinction

• How much warming have humans caused?

• Estimating the normal background rate of species extinction, De Vos et al. (2015)

• Anthropogenic carbon release rate unprecedented during the past 66 million years, by Zebee et al. (2016)

• Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, Wright et al. (2013)

• RT America Youtube video

• RT America Facebook video