Showing posts with label Sudden Stratospheric Warming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sudden Stratospheric Warming. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Methane, Earthquake and Sudden Stratospheric Warming


On the morning of March 12, 2020, peak methane levels were as high as 2902 ppb (parts per billion) at a pressure level of 469 mb (millibar, equivalent to an altitude of some 6 km (almost 20,000 feet).

What did cause this very high peak? The image on the right shows the situation at 695 mb.

High levels of methane, colored in magenta, show up over the oceans at high latitudes north, especially around Greenland and around Svalbard.

The image underneath on the right shows methane even closer to sea level, at 1000 mb. At this altitude, such magenta-colored high levels of methane only show up over an area in between Greenland and Svalbard.

It appears that these high methane levels did originate from this area. What could have triggered this?

The image below shows that an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.6 on the Richter scale hit an area in between Greenland and Svalbard on March 11, 2020, at 21:30:03 (UTC), 2020, at depth of 10 km.


It appears that the earthquake did cause destabilization of sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean in between Greenland and Svalbard, containing methane in the form of hydrates and free gas, with the destabilization resulting in the eruption of methane that subsequently reached the atmosphere.

As illustrated by the image on the right, there were strong differences in pressure in the atmosphere over Greenland on the one hand and over the Arctic Ocean on the other hand, on March 11, 2020, 21:00 UTC.

The next question is if there was something that triggered the earthquake. The image below shows a forecast for March 22, 2020, of conditions in the stratosphere at 10 hPa.


Above image shows a forecast for March 22, 2020, of temperatures as high as 6.2°C or 43.2°F and as low as -68.8°C or -91.9°F at another location at 10 hPa (Polar Vortex), with wind reaching speeds as high as 369 km/h or 229 mph.

The image on the right shows a huge temperature difference between two locations in the stratosphere on March 23, 2020, resulting in wind reaching speeds as high as 341 km/h or 212 mph.

This indicates a strong updraft, carrying huge amounts of relatively warm air from low altitudes over the Arctic up into the stratosphere.

Following a steep fall, Arctic sea ice extent was at a record low for the time of year on March 28, 2020, as illustrated by the image below.
Since the start of 2020, Arctic sea ice volume has been at a record low for the time of year, as the image on the right shows.

These conditions may have acted as a sink plunger, triggering the earthquake and destabilizing sediments at the seafloor, resulting in the methane eruptions.

More generally, the events reflect a huge and growing overall imbalance in the temperature of the atmosphere, and the added methane releases further contribute to this imbalance.

Meanwhile, sea surface temperatures off the coast of North America on March 21, 2020, were as much as 13.2°C or 23.7°F higher than 1981-2011 (at the green circle on the image on the right).

With sea ice thickness this low, it looks like there will be no buffer left to consume ocean heat that gets carried along the path of the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean, which threatens to further destabilize sediments containing huge amounts of methane, as also discussed in an earlier post.

On top of this, high temperatures keep showing up over the Arctic Ocean in forecasts, as illustrated by the two forecasts below (for March 21, 2020, and for March 31, 2020).

Temperature anomaly forecast for March 21, 2020
Temperature anomaly forecast for March 31, 2020

Discussion


As said above, it appears that this M4.6 earthquake on March 11, 2020, caused destabilization of sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean in between Greenland and Svalbard.

The image on the right shows that earlier, a M5 earthquake hit an area a bit to the north, i.e. on March 3, 2020.

While not much methane showed up locally following that M5 earthquake, high methane readings were recorded elsewhere over large parts of the Arctic Ocean early March 2020, which could have resulted from destabilization along the fault line that crosses the Arctic Ocean (red line).

The next image on the right shows that earthquakes between Greenland and Svalbard over the past decade did predominantly occur on this fault line.

The high methane readings in between Greenland and Svalbard following the M4.6 earthquake could have occurred for the very reason that this earthquake hit an area outside the fault line, where sediments had until now rarely been shaken.

This could imply there could be huge amounts of methane contained in areas outside the fault line, supporting the above warning that ocean heat that gets carried along the path of the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean threatens to further destabilize sediments containing huge amounts of methane. After all, such destabilization can occur as a result of higher temperatures or changes in pressure, or both.

Update

South Greenland was hit by M4.3 and M4.5 earthquakes on April 17, 2020. North Greenland was earlier hit by a M4.6 earthquake, on March 30, 2020.


Earthquakes that hit the Greenland mainland are rare. Earthquakes typically take place on or close to the faultline (red line) that goes over Iceland and extends north, running in between Greenland and Svalbard, as was the case with the M4.2 east of Greenland on April 2, 2020.

This faultline runs across the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean all the way to Russia. Multiple earthquakes hit this faultline recently, including two M4.3 eartquakes, one east of Severnaya Zemlya on April 12, 2020, and one near Tiksi on March 27, 2020.


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


Links

• Arctic Ocean January 2020
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2020/02/arctic-ocean-february-2020.html

• Seismic Events
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/seismic-events.html

• Arctic Ocean February 2020
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2020/02/arctic-ocean-february-2020.html

• Climate Plan
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Warning Signs


The Arctic is warming up more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, due to numerous feedbacks. At times, large areas over the Arctic Ocean can become 30°C or 54°F warmer than 1979-2000, as illustrated by the image below.


On February 27, 2018, large parts of the Arctic Ocean north of Greenland had turned into open water, as illustrated by the image below.


Yet, while the situation in the Arctic is desperate, with sea ice north of Greenland collapsing and more, mainstream media do not seem to care. If there ever were warning signs of what could eventuate, this is one. The sea ice north of Greenland is typically the thickest, as it is the least affected by melting and can build over many years. Early February 2018, sea ice north of Greenland was up to 5 m thick. To see sea ice this thick getting pushed away and open water emerging north of Greenland in the middle of winter is simply stunning.

For years, I've been warning about the situation in the Arctic, in particular the 'Open Doors Feedback', which is accelerating Arctic warming. Such feedbacks were taken into consideration in an earlier analysis that warned about a potential 1.6°C warming globally due to albedo changes in the Arctic, in combination with associated changes such as loss of the ice buffer (latent heat), more heat transfer from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arctic Ocean due to stronger winds along the path of the Gulf Stream, and more heat entering the atmosphere or remaining in the atmosphere, due to more open water in the Arctic Ocean and as oceans get more stratified and take up less heat from the atmosphere.

So, the current situation doesn't come as a big surprise, but it's stunning to see sea ice collapse north of Greenland.

Back in March 7, 2007, I posted the article 'Ten Dangers of Global Warming', describing events getting progressively worse, with one danger feeding and reinforcing the next one, culminating in panic. Then, I thought that reading that post could at least help people better understand what's going on, and thus help people avoid panicking, but right now, I wonder whether most people do want to understand at all. Anyway, here are some images and words describing what happened over the past few days.

Jet Stream over Arctic Ocean on February 25, 2018

As Arctic warming keeps accelerating, there's ever less temperature difference between the North Pole and the Equator, and this slows down the speed at which the jet stream circumnavigates Earth.

Jet Stream over Arctic Ocean on February 26, 2018
The jet stream is getting more wavy and a more wavy jet stream makes it easier for cold air to move out of the Arctic and for warm air to move into the Arctic, so this 'Open Doors Feedback' is a self-reinforcing feedback that further accelerates warming in the Arctic.

During the northern winter, the Arctic is increasingly getting warmer than North America, Europe and Siberia. This increases the temperature difference between these continents and the oceans, which at times is causing winds to strongly speed up over the North Atlantic and the North Pacific, making an already wavy jet stream extend even further over the Arctic Ocean, reaching areas well beyond the North Pole.

Atmospheric river of heat reaches the North Pole; temperatures were as high as 1.1°C or 34.1°F on February 25, 2018
As the jet stream makes this detour, a huge amount of heat enters the Arctic from the south.

Temperatures above 6°C at Kap Morris Jesup, Greenland's northernmost weather station, on February 25, 2018

These events were preceded by the Polar Vortex splitting up. On February 9, 2018, the Polar Vortex was split up into 4 vortices and reached speeds as fast as 425 km/h or 264 mph.

Polar Vortex split up into 4 vortices
A Sudden Stratospheric Warming event occurred on February 16, 2018, with temperatures reaching as high as 8.9°C or 47.9°F over Hudson Bay.

Polar Vortex splitting up into 4 vortices with a Sudden Stratospheric Warming event occurring on February 16, 2018
The heat that has accumulated in the Arctic Ocean is further illustrated by the February 2018 NASA temperature anomalies image below.


Below is an animation of sea ice thickness, from the Naval Research Laboratory.


Arctic sea ice extent was at record low for the time of the year on February 26, 2018, at 14.159 million km². Arctic sea ice extent typically reaches its maximum in March, but maximum extent in 1991-2000 was reached on February 24. So, there is a chance that Arctic sea ice extent will go all downhill from now on this year.


Zero sea ice volume is within the margins of the trend depicted on the image above on the right. Decline of the snow and ice cover in the Arctic comes with a huge loss in albedo, which means that huge amounts of sunlight that were previously reflected back into space instead get absorbed by the Arctic. Loss of sea ice also means loss of the buffer that until now has consumed huge amounts of heat.

The Buffer has gone, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page
Peak SST near Svalbard rose from
12.4°C or 55.4°F on Feb 23, 2018,
to 15.6°C or 60°F on Mar 2, 2018.
The danger is that a sudden influx of heat can no longer be absorbed by the sea ice and will instead warm up sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean that can contain huge quantities of methane in the form of hydrates and free gas.

Destabilization of hydrates can occur in a relatively small area as a result of a relatively small temperature rise. Destabilization comes with a 160 times expansion in volume of the methane, which will send out shock waves that can destabilize nearby hydrates, causing them to destabilize as well, resulting in an eruption of huge quantities of methane over a large area.

Here's another warning sign. Peak sea surface temperature near Svalbard rose from 12.4°C or 55.4°F on February 23, 2018, to 15.6°C or 60°F on March 2, 2018, as illustrated by the red line on the image on the right, with the blue line showing the 1981-2011 average.

And here's another warning sign. High methane releases followed this chain of events on February 27, 2018, pm, likely originating from the seafloor of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS).

Methane levels as high as 2892 ppb on February 27, 2018
On March 1, 2018, methane levels as high as 3087 were recorded. Note the solid magenta-colored areas over the ESAS on the image below.


The image below, with measurement by another satellite, shows that methane levels were again very high over the ESAS the next day, i.e. March 2, 2018, confirming earlier indications that this is where the very high methane releases did occur.

As the image below shows, methane levels on March 4, 2018, were still very high, i.e. as high as 2964 ppb.

The image below shows the highest mean global methane readings on March 10 over the years from 2013 through 2018, for selected altitudes corresponding to 945 mb (close to sea level) to 74 mb.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
The table below shows the altitude equivalents in feet (ft), meter (m) and millibar (mb).
57,016 ft44,690 ft36,850 ft30,570 ft25,544 ft19,820 ft14,385 ft 8,368 ft1,916 ft
17,378 m13,621 m11,232 m 9,318 m 7,786 m 6,041 m 4,384 m 2,551 m 584 m
 74 mb 147 mb 218 mb 293 mb 367 mb 469 mb 586 mb 742 mb 945 mb

An earlier analysis calculated that seafloor methane could cause a warming of 1.1°C within one decade. Given a possible additional warming of 2.7°C due to just two elements (i.e. Arctic albedo changes and associated changes, and seafloor methane), a further warming of 2.1°C due to extra water vapor in the warmer atmosphere does seem well possible within a decade. Add up the impact of all warming elements of this analysis and the rise in mean global temperatures from preindustrial could be more than 10°C within one decade, as illustrated by the images below.


A rise of a few degrees Celsius would be devastating, especially when considering that the speed at which such a rise could occur leaves little or no time for plants and animals to adapt, let alone in case of a 10°C rise.


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

Links

• Climate Plan
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html

• Feedbacks in the Arctic
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/feedbacks.html

• Extinction
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/extinction.html

• Ten Dangers of Global Warming
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/ten-dangers-of-global-warming.html

• Methane Erupting From Arctic Ocean Seafloor
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/03/methane-erupting-from-arctic-ocean-seafloor.html

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/02/warning-of-mass-extinction-of-species-including-humans-within-one-decade.html