Monday, May 13, 2024

Temperature rise may soon accelerate even more

The April 2024 temperature was 1.32°C higher than 1951-1980, as illustrated by the above image, created with NASA content. Local anomalies are as high as 6.2°C.

The April 2024 temperature was 1.62°C higher than 1900-1930, as illustrated by the above image, created with NASA content. The red line highlights acceleration of the temperature rise (Lowess Smoothing). 

The image below, created with NOAA content, uses a LOESS filter (green line) to highlight the recent acceleration in the temperature rise of the ocean. In this case, the temperature anomaly is calculated versus a 1901-2000 base. 

[ click on images to enlarge ]

The temperature anomaly is even higher when calculated from a pre-industrial base. The image below, created with NASA content, shows that the February 2024 temperature was 1.76°C above 1885-1915, and potentially 2.75°C above pre-industrial (bright yellow inset right). 

[ from earlier post ]

The image below, created with NASA content, shows Land+Ocean monthly mean global temperature anomalies versus a 1900-1923 custom base, further adjusted by 0.99°C to reflect ocean air temperatures, higher polar anomalies and a pre-industrial base. 

[ from earlier post ]
The above image shows a magenta trend that points at the temperature crossing 3°C above pre-industrial later this year (2024). What could be behind such a steep rise? 

Have Feedbacks taken over? 

In April 2024, El Niño conditions were still dominant. Sea surface temperatures have been extremely high recently. The correlation between El Niño and temperature anomalies (from 1901-2000) is illustrated by the image below, created with NOAA content.

[ click on images to enlarge ]

As illustrated by the image below, created with NOAA content, El Niño conditions are no longer dominant. Instead, neutral conditions now prevail and La Niña conditions may develop as early as June-August 2024 (49% chance) or one month later, i.e. July-September (69% chance). 

The extremely high recent temperatures and the trends depicted in the images further above raise the question as to what the underlying driver is, given that we're no longer in an El Niño. Indeed, the question is whether feedbacks have taken over as the main driver causing the temperature rise to further accelerate. 

As mentioned above, the February 2024 temperature could be as much as 2.75°C higher than pre-industrial. The extinction page points out that a 2.75°C rise corresponds with almost ⅕ more water vapor in the atmosphere. This increase in water vapor in the atmosphere is a self-reinforcing feedback loop, since water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas, further accelerating the temperature rise.

There is no single feedback that could cause the recent steep rise of temperatures and its acceleration, instead there are numerous non-linear, self-amplifying feedback loops that can all contribute, interact and start to kick in with greater ferocity, amplifying and further accelerating the rise. 

Such feedbacks do include more water vapor, as said, as well as stronger wind, waves and storms, more ocean stratification, faster loss of sea ice, faster loss of reflectivity of clouds and more freshwater accumulating at the surface of oceans, due to stronger ice melting, due to heavier runoff from land and rivers and due to changes in wind patterns and ocean currents and circulation.

Furthermore, developments such as rising emissions from industry, transport, land use, forest fires and waste fires, ocean acidification and reductions in sulfur emissions over the past few years all contribute to further acceleration of the temperature rise. 

Two tipping points threaten to get crossed

For about one year now, global temperature anomalies have been extremely high, as illustrated by the image below, created with a screenshot from Copernicus, showing an anomaly from 1991-2020 of 0.84°C on May 31, 2024. 

The image below, adapted from Copernicus, shows sea surface temperature anomalies from 1991-2020 on May 31, 2024. 

The temperature rise is hitting the Arctic harder than elsewhere, as illustrated by the images at the top and below, created with NASA content. 

Contributing to these high temperatures in the Arctic are high temperatures of the North Atlantic Ocean, which are now rising rapidly, in line with seasonal changes, as illustrated by the image below, created with Climate Reanalyzer content. 

The above image shows that the North Atlantic sea surface temperature was 22.4°C on May 31, 2024, higher than the temperature in 2023 for this time of year. High North Atlantic sea surface temperatures spell bad news for the Arctic, as much ocean heat gets pushed toward the Arctic from the North Atlantic, due to prevailing winds and ocean circulation.

North Atlantic sea surface temperatures are now rising strongly, in line with seasonal changes. Ominously, a peak of 25.4°C was reached in August 2023. The question is how high the North Atlantic temperature will be in 2024 at that time of year. 

The image below shows North Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies versus 1982-2011. Data shown are from September 1, 1981, through May 31, 2024.

As discussed, one reason for the high temperatures of the North Atlantic is that sulfur emissions have been reduced over the years. Furthermore, there are many feedbacks. Importantly, there is potential for the slowing down of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) to contribute to more heat accumulating at the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean, as also illustrated by the image below. 

[ click on images to enlarge ]

The above image highlights mechanisms with the potential to contribute to further heating up of the Arctic Ocean resulting in more methane erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Oceans, including storms and changes to the Jet Stream, as discussed before. e.g. in this post

One tipping point that threatens to get crossed is loss of Arctic sea ice. Loss of Arctic sea ice comes with albedo change, which constitutes a huge self-reinforcing feedback loop, i.e. the more sea ice disappears, the more sunlight gets absorbed by the Arctic Ocean, further accelerating sea ice melting, while less sunlight gets reflected back into space.

[ Albedo change, from the Albedo page ]

Next to the albedo loss, there is loss of the latent heat buffer constituted by the sea ice. Latent heat is energy associated with a phase change, in this case the energy consumed as solid ice turns into liquid water (i.e. melts). During a phase change, the temperature remains constant. Sea ice acts as a buffer that absorbs heat, while keeping the temperature at about zero degrees Celsius. As long as there is sea ice in the water, this sea ice will keep absorbing heat, so the temperature doesn't rise at the sea surface.

As long as air temperatures over the Arctic are below freezing, sea ice can persist at the surface, maintaining sea ice extent, which may give the false impression that sea ice was healthy, whereas in fact sea ice has steadily been declining in thickness.

Arctic sea ice volume is at its lowest on record for the time of year, as illustrated by the image below, created with Danish Meteorological Institute content, and as also discussed in earlier posts such as this one.  

The amount of energy absorbed by melting ice is as much as it takes to heat up an equivalent mass of water from zero to 80°C. Loss of sea ice thickness implies loss of the latent heat buffer and constitutes a tipping point, i.e. once crossed, the Arctic Ocean will heat up at accelerating pace. 

The above map, created with Danish Meteorological Institute content, shows that much of the thicker sea ice is located away from the North Pole, such as off the east coast of Greenland. This sea ice is likely to melt away quickly as more sunlight starts reaching the Northern Hemisphere and temperatures rise in line with seasonal changes.

Seafloor methane constitutes a second tipping point. When methane escapes from hydrates that get destabilized by rising temperatures, the methane will expand to 160 times its previous volume and enter the atmosphere with force. Without the buffer constituted by thicker sea ice, an influx of ocean heat could cause large-scale destabilization of hydrates contained in sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, resulting in eruptions of huge amounts of methane.

[ from earlier post ]
[ image from the Extinction page ]
On the above image, estimates for these two tipping points are added to Northern Hemisphere Ocean Temperature anomalies vs 1901-2000, created with NOAA data. Furthermore, two trends are added. The magenta trend is based on January 1880-January 2024 data and warns that the Seafloor Methane Tipping Point may be crossed in 2025. The red trend, which is based on January 2010-January 2024 data and better reflects variables such as El Niño, warns that the Seafloor Methane Tipping Point may be crossed in 2024.

Crossing of the latent heat tipping point and the seafloor methane tipping point results in ever more heat reaching and accumulating in the Arctic ocean, destabilizing methane hydrates contained in sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, as discussed in many earlier posts such as this one.

Self-amplifying feedbacks and developments as discussed above, as well as crossing of these two tipping points, could all contribute to 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.

Altogether, the temperature rise may exceed 18°C from pre-industrial by as early as 2026, as illustrated by the image on the right, from the extinction page.

Climate Emergency Declaration

The situation is dire and the precautionary principle calls for rapid, comprehensive and effective action to reduce the damage and to improve the situation, as described in this 2022 post, where needed in combination with a Climate Emergency Declaration, as discussed at the Climate Emergency group.


• NASA - datasets and images

• Climate Reanalyzer

• Copernicus

• NOAA - National Centers for Environment Information

• NOAA - Climate Prediction Center / National Centers for Environmental Prediction

• Pre-industrial

• Extinction

• Moistening Atmosphere

• Jet Stream

• Atlantic ocean heat threatens to unleash methane eruptions

• Danish Meteorological Institute - Arctic sea ice thickness and volume

• Cold freshwater lid on North Atlantic

• Arctic Ocean Feedbacks

• Arctic sea ice set for steep decline

• Did the climate experience a Regime Change in 2023?

• Arctic sea ice under threat

• Blue Ocean Event 2024?

• Transforming Society

• Climate Plan

• Climate Emergency Declaration