Showing posts with label extreme weather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label extreme weather. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The unthinkable consequences of global warming

The unthinkable consequences of global warming
by Andrew Glikson

“We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet”. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber 2009.

“Burning all fossil fuels would create a different planet than the one that humanity knows. The paleoclimate record and ongoing climate change make it clear that the climate system would be pushed beyond tipping points, setting in motion irreversible changes, including ice sheet disintegration with a continually adjusting shoreline, extermination of a substantial fraction of species on the planet, and increasingly devastating regional climate extremes” and “this equates to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per yearJames Hansen et al. 2012.

Humanity is fast reaching our moment of truth. What Hansen, Schellnhuber and others have warned us is based on evidence consistent with the basic laws of science, the discipline which, contrary to medieval superstition, is founded on direct observations, calculations and on reason.

Figure 1. The change in state of the planetary climate since the onset of the industrial age in the 17ᵗʰ century.
To elaborate on the nature of the threat humanity and nature are now facing:
A. The rise in greenhouse gas levels (Figure 1) and temperatures at the Earth surface, rising by more than 1°Celsius since 1880, has been underestimated. This is because the temperature values take little account of the masking effects of sulphur dioxide and other aerosols, which transiently mitigates global temperatures by at least ~ -0.5°C. The actual rise could already be as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius, the upper level recommended by the Madrid climate conference. On present trends temperatures will rise to above 2 degrees relative to pre-industrial levels Celsius by 2030. Further temperature rises are likely to be irregular and affected by the flow of ice melt water from melting ice sheets into the oceans by mid-century.

B. The rise in temperature of large ocean regions, with much of the warming occurring to ~800 meter deep levels, reduces the ocean’s ability to absorb CO₂. This means that more CO₂ is trapped in the atmosphere, causing further warming. Also, as ocean temperatures rise, the oceans are depleted in oxygen, which leads to increased production of methane and hydrogen sulphide, which are poisonous to marine life.

C. Models projecting global warming as a linear trajectory, as outlined by the International panel of Climate Change (IPCC), take only limited account of the weakening of climate zone boundaries, as temperatures rise in the polar regions, notably the circum-Arctic jet stream. The weakening of the boundaries allows penetration of warm air masses from the south, as expressed by fires in the Tundra and the Arctic. Conversely, the injection of freezing air masses from the Arctic into North America and Europe (The so-called Beast from the East) provides further evidence for the weakening of the Arctic boundary. These are likely to produce more violent winter storms and heavier snowfalls, forming direct results of global warming. Cooling of large surface areas of the ocean by ice melt water flowing from Greenland and the Antarctica, and accumulation of warmer water in depth, lead to irregular warming trends, with a consequent three-fold rise in extreme weather events (Figure 2), especially where high temperature and cold air masses collide.
Figure 2. The number (bars, left axis), type (colors), and annual cost (right vertical axis) of U.S. billion-dollar disasters from 1980-2018. Running annual cost (grey line), along with the 95% confidence interval, and 5-year average costs (black line).The number and costs of disasters are increasing. Inland flooding (blue bars) and severe storms (green bars) are making in increasingly large contribution to the number of U.S. billion-dollar disasters.  
D. An estimated 1,400 billion tons (400 GTC) of carbon is embedded in the world’s permafrost, mostly in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, from where large amounts of carbon are released under the fast warming conditions. By comparison, the atmosphere presently contains 750 billion tons of carbon. Should a large part of the existing permafrost thaw, Earth could experience dramatic, fast and very dangerous warming. Huge amounts of methane (CH₄), the gas considered responsible for mass extinctions in the history of Earth about 251 million years ago (Permian -Triassic boundary) and 56 million years ago (Paleocene-Eocene boundary), are being released from melting permafrost and Arctic sediments, raising the atmospheric concentration of the gas by more than three-fold (from <600 to 1800 parts per billion) (Figure 3). Temperature rises during the PETM event are estimated as 5 to 8 degrees Celsius. When emitted the warming induced by methane is more than 84 times that of CO₂, declining to 25 times over some 20 years. The release to the atmosphere of a significant part of the stored carbon (permafrost ~900 billion ton carbon [GtC]), peatland 500 GtC and vegetation prone to fires (650 GtC), is sufficient to shift most of the Earth’s climate into a tropical to hyper-tropical state.
Figure 3. Global reserves and growth in the release of methane 1988-2019
E. The 2019-2010 wildfires in Australia have unleashed about 900 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to nearly double the country's total yearly fossil fuel emissions. As the planet warms, wildfires become more frequent and accelerate the warming process.

F. Sea level rise will flood the very regions where civilization has emerged, low river valleys, delta and coastal planes, which are also vital to food production. This is estimated to displace 100 million people initially, and more over time as major coastal cities are flooded.

G. The rising energy levels in warming regions of the Earth, notably tropical island chains such as the Caribbean and the Philippines, generate devastating tropical storms known as cyclones and typhoons. These wreak havoc on coastal regions of southeast North America, India, southern Africa, the Pacific and Australia.

H. Rising heat levels in tropical, subtropical and intermediate Mediterranean climate zones may render large areas unsuitable for agriculture and are physiologically difficult for humans to live in as “heat bulb” conditions set in.
An outline of the migration of climate zones in Australia and the southwestern Pacific is given in Figure 4. Further to NASA’s reported mean land-ocean temperature rise to +1.18°C for March 2020 relative to 1951-1980, large parts of the continents, including Siberia, central Asia, Canada, parts of west Africa, eastern South America and Australia, are warming toward mean temperatures of +2°C and higher. The rate exceeds that of the Last Glacial Termination (LGT) during 21–8 thousand years ago and earlier warming events. These includes the Paleocene-Eocene hyperthermal event (PETM) (about 55.9 million years ago [Ma]) and the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (K-T) (64.98 Ma) impact event. The relationships between the global warming rate and the migration of climate zones toward the poles are portrayed in detail on global climate maps (Figure 4).
Figure 4. The migration of the northward into southern Europe. Note the drying up of Spain,
Italy, Greece and Turkey and the increased in precipitation in Northern Europe.
In the 20th century the Earth climate has reached a tipping point, namely a point of no return. Global CO₂ and other greenhouse gases rise have reached a large factor to an order of magnitude higher than those of the past geological and mass extinction events, as have the rate of warming, the shift of climate zones and the rate of extreme weather events (Figure 2). Given the abrupt change in state of the atmosphere-ocean-cryosphere-land system, accelerating since the mid-20ᵗʰ century, the terms “climate change” and “global warming” no longer reflect the extreme scale and rate of these shifts.

Time is running out.

Andrew Glikson
Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate scientist
ANU Climate Science Institute
ANU Planetary Science Institute
Canberra, Australia

The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Global warming and ice sheet melting: Portents of a Younger dryas-like stadial event

Global warming and ice sheet melting:
Portents of a Younger dryas-like stadial event
by Andrew Glikson

Linear climate projections by the IPCC are difficult to reconcile with the paleoclimate evidence of stadial cooling events which closely succeeded warming peaks, including the Younger dryas (12.9–11.6 kyr ago), Laurentian melt (~8.3 kyr) and earlier interglacial stadials. Each of these events followed peak interglacial temperatures, leading to extensive melting of the ice sheets and transient stadial cooling events. Current global temperature rises in the range of ~ +1.19 ± 0.13 °C (Northern Hemisphere) and higher in the Arctic are consistent with this pattern, leading to the build-up of ice melt pools south of Greenland and around Antarctica. The growth of these pools is likely to progress toward large-scale to a global stadial, inducing differential warming and cooling effects leading to major weather disruptions and storminess, possibly analogous to the Younger dryas and Laurentian melt events.

Linear temperature rise projections by the IPCC are unlikely in view of (1) amplifying feedbacks of greenhouse gases and global warming on land and ocean, and (2) stadial cooling effects due to the flow of ice melt water from the large ice sheets into the North Atlantic Ocean and the circum-Antarctic ocean (Figure 1). Apart from the absolute GHG level (~500 ppm CO₂-equivalent), the high rise rate of ~2-3 ppm CO₂/year and thereby temperature is driving dangerous weather events. The extreme rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is evident from a comparison with past climate events (Figure 6). Linear temperature projections and thereby environment change are complicated by storminess due to collisions between air masses of contrasted temperatures. As the Arctic jet stream weakens, warm air currents from the south and freezing air masses from the north cross the boundary, a pattern already manifested by Arctic heat waves and fires and by penetration of freezing air masses into mid-latitudes, i.e. the “Beast from the East” snow storms. The increasing extent of cold ice melt pools around Greenland and Antarctica (Figure 1) suggest such a process is already in progress, signifying an onset of an interglacial stadial, as modelled by Hansen et al. 2016 and Bronselaer et al. (2016).

Figure 1 A. The cold ocean region south of Greenland visible on the NASA's 2015 global mean
temperatures (NASA/NOAA; 20 January 2016), the warmest year on record since 1880;
B. Circum-Antarctic summer surface temperatures, showing the large Weddell Sea and other
cold Sub-Antarctic ocean anomalies related to the flow of ice melt water into the ocean, and a seasonal
warming anomaly in the Ross Sea due to upwelling of warm salty water from the circum-Antarctic current.

Stadial events

Late Pleistocene climate cycles were controlled by orbital parameters of the Milankovitch cycles including eccentricity (~100,000 years), obliquity to the ecliptic plane (~41,000 years) and precession/wobble of the Earth’s axis (~19,000 and ~23,000 years). The Younger dryas of 12,900 to 11,600 years ago following the Allerod BÖlling warm peak and marked by cooling of near -20°C in Greenland and (Figure 2A, B), has major implications for climate change projections for the 21-23rd centuries.

The Younger dryas is the longest of three late Pleistocene stadials (Figure 2A) associated with abrupt climatic changes that took place over the last 16,000 years. According to Steffensen et al. 2008 based on deuterium isotopes in ice cores the abrupt onset of the Younger dryas in Greenland occurred over less than 1 year and ended over less than 3 years (Figure 2B), or about 50 years based on stable water isotopes representing the air temperature record. Evidence for the effects of the Younger dryas stadial has also been identified in tropical and subtropical regions (Shakun and Carlson, 2010) (Figure 3). The underlying factors for the Younger dryas and Laurentian (Figure 4) stadial events are the deglaciation of Northernmost America, flow of cold ice melt water into the North Atlantic Ocean and into North American lakes (Lake Agassiz), and the retreat southward of the North Atlantic Thermohaline Current.

Suggestions of a comet impact origin of the Younger dryas are inconsistent with (1) the recurrence of stadial events following peak interglacial temperatures over the last 420,000 years (Figure 5) and (2) the paucity of clear evidence for a large extraterrestrial impact contemporaneous with the Younger dryas, including the little known age of the radar-detected crater below the Hiawatha Glacier In northwest Greenland.

Figure 2A Air temperatures at the Last glacial maximum (20-16 kyr), BÖlling-Allerod warm peak,
Younger dryas (12,900 to 11,600 years ago) and 8.2 kyr Laurentian stadial event. This image
shows temperature changes, determined as proxy temperatures, taken from the central region

of Greenland's ice sheet during the Late Pleistocene and beginning of the Holocene.

Figure 2B. deuterium evidence for onset cooling temperature and terminal
warming of the Younger dryas stadial event (14,740-11,660) (Steffensen et al. 2008).

Figure 3. Magnitude of late Holocene glacial-interglacial temperature changes
in relation to latitude. Black squares are the Northern Hemisphere (NH),
gray circles the Southern Hemisphere (SH) (Shakun and Carlson, 2010).

The youngest recorded stadial, the Laurentian melt, between ~8,500 and ~8.000 years ago (Figure 4), is indicated by distinctive temperature–CO₂ correlation with global CO₂ decline of ≈25 ppm by volume over ≈300 years, consistent with the lowering of North Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and weakening of the AMOC (Atlantic Meridional Ocean Circulation).

Figure 4 A. The ~8.2 kyr Laurentian stadial event in a coupled climate model (Wiersma et al. 2011);
B. Reconstructed CO₂ concentrations for the interval between ~8,700 and ~6,800 BP, based on
CO 2 extracted from air in Antarctic ice of Taylor Dome (Wagner et al. 2002).
The Younger dryas and the Laurentian stadials are not unique, as peak temperatures in every interglacial event over the last 420,000 years were followed by sharp cooling events (Figure 5). Apart from the absolute level of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere the high rate at which GHG concentrations are rising, as shown by comparisons with previous extreme warming events (Figure 6), enhances extreme weather events, as well as retards the ability of fauna and flora to adapt to the new conditions.

Figure 5 (a) Evolution of sea surface temperatures in five glacial-interglacial transitions recorded in
1089 at the sub-Antarctic Atlantic Ocean (Cortese et al. 2007). Grey lines – δ 18 O measured on
Cibicidoides plankton; Black lines – sea surface temperature. Marine isotope stage numbers are 
indicated on top of diagrams. Note the stadial following interglacial peak temperatures; (b) the last 
glacial maximum and the last glacial termination. Olds- Oldest dryas; Old – Older dryas; Yd – Younger dryas.

Figure 6 (A) Reconstructed atmospheric CO₂ variations during the Late Cretaceous–early Tertiary
derived from the Stomata indices of fossil leaf cuticles calibrated by using inverse regression
and stomatal ratios (Beerling et al. 2002);
(B) Simulated atmospheric CO₂ at and after the Palaeocene-Eocene boundary (after Zeebe et al. (2009).
Compare the CO₂ ppm/year values with the current rise of 2 to 3 ppm/year;
(C) Global CO₂ and temperature during the last glacial termination (After Shakun et al., 2012)
(LGM - Last Glacial Maximum; OD – Older dryas; BA - Bølling–Allerød; YD - Younger dryas);

The average global land and ocean surface temperature for March 2020 was 1.16°C above the 20th century average global level of 12.7°C. Current CO₂ rise and warming rates exceed that of the Last Glacial Termination (LGT) (21–8 kyr) (Figure 6C), the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) (55.9 Ma) (Figure 6B) and the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (K-T) (64.98 Ma) impact event (Figure 6A). The relations between warming rates and the migration of climate zones toward the poles (Figure 7), including changes in the atmosphere and ocean current systems, are in the root of the major environmental changes in these zones.
Figure 7. Expansion of the tropical African climate zone (vertical red lines) into subtropical and Mediterranean
climate zones to the north and south (Migration, Environment and Climate Change, International Organization
for Migration, Geneva, Switzerland (Regional Maps on Migration, Environment and Climate Change.

Future Stadial events

IPCC climate change projections for 2100-2300 portray linear to curved temperature progressions (SPM-5). However, amplifying feedbacks and transient cooling events (Stadials) ensuing from the flow of ice melt water into the oceans during peak interglacial warming events, impose abrupt temperature variations (Figure 5). The current flow of ice melt water from Greenland and Antarctica (Figures 8, 9) is leading to regional ocean cooling in the North Atlantic and around Antarctica (Rahmstorf et al, 2015; Hansen et al. (2016); Bronselaer et al. 2018; Purkey et al. 2018; Vernet et al. 2019) (Figures 1, 8). Under high greenhouse gas and temperature rise trajectories (RCP8.5) this implies future stadial events as modelled by Hansen et al. (2016) (Figure 10) and Bronselaer et al. (2018) (Figure 11).

Depending on different greenhouse emission scenarios (IPCC 2019; van Vuren et. al. (2011), including the CO₂ forcing-equivalents of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), the total CO₂–equivalent rise has reached 496 ppm (NOAA, 2019). As the oceans heat contents is rising, upwelling of warm sublayers is melting the leading edges of continental glaciers (Figure 8). This factor and the flow of ice meltwater from leading glacier fronts and grounding lines lead to stratification of the sub-Antarctic ocean and an incipient onset of a southern ocean stadial (Figure 8).

Figure 8. The transition from grounded ice sheet to floating ice shelf and icebergs

Figure 9. Greenland and Antarctic ice mass change. GRACE data are extension of Velicogna et al. (2014)
gravity data. MBM (mass budget method) data are from Rignot et al. (2011). Red curves are gravity data
for Greenland and Antarctica only; small Arctic ice caps and ice shelf melt add to freshwater input.
Satellite and mass balance measurements of the large ice sheets indicate their rapid reduction (Figure 9). Variations in ice thickness, ice drainage and ice velocity data in 176 Antarctic basins between 1979 and 2017 indicate a total mass loss rise from 40 ± 9 Gt/year in 1979–1990 to 50 ± 14 Gt/year in 1989–2000, 166 ± 18 Gt/year in 1999–2009, and 252 ± 26 Gt/year in 2009–2017 (Figure 9). This amounts to an increased melting by more than 6-fold in about 40 years, contributing an average sea level rise of 3.6 ± 0.5 mm per decade, with a cumulative 14.0 ± 2.0 mm since 1979 (Rignot et al. 2019). The mass loss concentrated in areas closest to warm, salty, subsurface, circumpolar deep water (CDW), consistent with enhanced polar westerlies pushing CDW toward Antarctica.

The Greenland ice sheet contains approximately 2,900,000 GtI of ice. During the exceptionally warm Arctic summer of 2019, Greenland lost 600 GtI of ice. Under global GHG and temperature rise this rate is likely to be exceeded. The Greenland ice sheet may not last much longer than a Century. The Antarctic ice sheet weighs approximately 26,500 Gigaton. For a loss greater than ~250 GtI/year it could last for 105 years or less. For accelerated ice melt rates under rising GHG concentrations it could last for significantly shorter time, except for possible negative feedbacks associated with stadial cooling?

Hansen et al. (2016) suggest that, depending on ice melt rates of the polar ice sheets, transient cooling events (stadials) can be expected to develop over periods dependent on the rates of ice melt (Fig. 10). Stadial cooling of about -2°C lasting for several decades (Figure 10) may affect temperatures in Europe and North America. The model is consistent with a slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Ocean Circulation (AMOC) (Weaver et al. 2012) and the exceptional growth of a cold water region southeast of Greenland, (Rahmstorf et al, 2015).
Figure 10. A. Model surface air temperature (◦C) change in 2096;
B. Surface air temperature (◦C) relative to 1880–1920 for several ice melt scenarios.

According to Bronselaer et al. (2018) temporal evolution of the global-mean surface-air temperature (SAT) shows meltwater-induced cooling translates to a reduced rate of global warming (Fig. 11), with a maximum divergence between standard models and models which include the effects of meltwater-induced cooling of 0.38 ± 0.02°C in 2055. As stated by the authors “We demonstrate that the inclusion in the model of ice-sheet meltwater reduces global atmospheric warming, shifts rainfall northwards, and increases sea-ice area”, and “Antarctic meltwater is therefore an important agent of climate change with global impact, and should be taken into account in future climate simulations and climate policy.”
Figure 11. The 2080–2100 meltwater-induced sea-air temperature anomaly relative to the standard
RCP8.5 ensemble. Hatching indicates where the anomalies are not significant at the 95% level.


Based on the paleoclimate record, global warming, penetration of cold and warm air masses across weakened polar boundaries, increased ice melting rates, sea level rise and near-surface cooling of large ocean tracts (Figures 10, 11), collisions between warm and cold air and water masses and thereby storminess are likely to determine the future climate of large parts of Earth. With rising greenhouse gas levels and their amplifying feedbacks from land and oceans these developments are likely to persist in the long term. The continuing migration of climate zones toward the poles is likely to be disrupted by developing stadial effects and differential warming and cooling effects, leading to major weather disruptions and storminess. Continuing release of greenhouse gases and their amplifying feedbacks could lead to tropical Miocene-like conditions about 4 to 5 degrees Celsius warmer than late Holocene climate conditions which allowed agriculture and thereby civilization to emerge.

Andrew Glikson
Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate scientist
ANU Climate Science Institute
ANU Planetary Science Institute
Canberra, Australia

The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The changing face of planet Earth

The changing face of planet Earth

Andrew Glikson
Earth and Climate scientist
Australian National University



The inhabitants of planet Earth are in the process of destroying the habitability of their world through the perpetration of the largest mass extinction of species since 66 million years ago, when a large asteroid impacted Earth, and 55 million years since the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) reaching 5–8°C. The late Holocene-Anthropocene climate change represents an unprecedented event, triggering a fast shift in climate zones and a series of extreme weather events, with consequences for much of nature and civilization. The changes are manifest where green forests are blackened by fire, droughts are turning grassy planes to brown semi-deserts, brilliant white snow and ice caps are melting into pale blue water and clear blue skies turn grey due to aerosols and jet contrails, most particularly in the northern hemisphere. Unless effective efforts are undertaken at CO₂ drawdown, the consequence would include demise of much of nature and a collapse of human civilization.

1. The scorched Earth

The transfer of hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon from the Earth crust, the residues of ancient biospheres, to the atmosphere and oceans, condemning the bulk of life through the most extreme shift in the composition of the atmosphere and ocean Earth has experienced since 55 million years ago, with changes taking place in front of our eyes. Since the industrial revolution, about 375 billion tonnes of carbon (or 1,374 billion tonnes CO₂) have been emitted by humans into the atmosphere. The consequences are everywhere, from mega-droughts, to heat waves, fires, storms and floods. With atmospheric CO₂-equivalent rising above 500 ppm and mean temperatures by more than 1.5°C (Figure 1) look no further than the shift in climate zones, displayed for example on maps of the expanding wet tropical zones, drying sub-tropical latitudes and polar-ward migration of temperate climate zone. The ice sheets and sea ice are melting, huge fires overtake Siberia, the Sahara is shifting northward, large parts of southern Europe are suffering from droughts, heat waves and fires, the Kalahari Desert dunes are shifting and much of southern Australia is affected by warming and draughts. This is hardly compensated by a minor increase in precipitation and greening such as at the southern fringes of the Sahara Desert and parts of northern Australia.

Induced by anthropogenic carbon emissions reaching 37.1 billion tonnes CO₂ in 2018 and their amplifying feedbacks from land and oceans and, ranging from 16.5 tonnes CO₂ per capita per year from the US to 35.5 tonnes CO₂ per capita per year from Saudi Arabia and 44 tonnes CO₂ per capita per year from Australia, the inexorable link between these emissions and the unfolding disaster is hardly mentioned by mainstream political classes and the media.

Figure 1 (A) Growth of CO₂-equivalent level and the annual greenhouse gas Index (AGGI¹). Measurements of CO₂ to
the 1950s are from (Keeling et al., 1958) and air trapped in ice and snow above glaciers. Pre-1978 changes are based
on ongoing measurements of all greenhouse gases. Equivalent CO₂ amounts (in ppm) are derived from the relationship
between CO₂ concentrations and radiative forcing from all long lived gases; (B) showing how much warmer each
month of the GISTEMP data is than the annual global mean. For July (2019) temperatures rose by about +1.5°C.
¹The AGGI index uses 1990 as a baseline year with a value of 1. The index increased every year since 1979.

2. Migrating climate zones

As the globe warms, to date by a mean of near ~1.5 °C, or ~2.0°C when the masking effects of sulphur dioxide and other aerosols are considered, and by a mean of ~2.3°C in the polar regions, the expansion of warm tropical latitudes and the pole-ward migration of subtropical and temperate climate zones (Figure 2) ensue in large scale droughts such as parts of inland Australia and southern Africa. A similar trend is taking place in the northern hemisphere where the Sahara desert is expanding northward, with consequent heat waves across the Mediterranean and Europe.

In southern Africa “Widespread shifts in climate regimes are projected, of which the southern and eastern expansion of the hot desert and hot steppe zones is most prominent. From occupying 33.1 and 19.4 % of southern Africa under present-day climate, respectively, these regions are projected to occupy between 47.3 and 59.7 % (hot desert zone) and 24.9 and 29.9 % (hot steppe zone) of the region in a future world where the mean global temperature has increased by ~3°C.

Closely linked to the migration of climate zones is the southward drift of Antarctic- sourced cold moist fronts which sustain seasonal rain in south-west and southern Australia. A feedback loop has developed where deforestation and decline in vegetation in southern parts of the continent result in the rise of thermal plumes of dry air masses that deflect the western moist fronts further to the southeast.

Figure 2. Köppen-Geiger global Climate zones classification map

Since 1979 the planet’s tropics have been expanding pole-ward by 56 km to 111 km per decade in both hemispheres, leading one commentator to call this Earth’s bulging waistline. Future climate projections suggest this expansion is likely to continue, driven largely by human activities – most notably emissions of greenhouse gases and black carbon, as well as warming in the lower atmosphere and the oceans.”

An analysis of the origin of Australian droughts suggests, according to both observations and climate models, that at least part of this decline is associated with changes in large-scale atmospheric circulation, including shrinking polar ice and a pole-ward movement of polar-originated westerly wind spirals, as well as increasing atmospheric surface pressure and droughts over parts of southern Australia (Figure 3). Simulations of future climate with this model suggest amplified winter drying over most parts of southern Australia in the coming decades in response to changes in radiative forcing. The drying is most pronounced over southwest Australia, with total reductions in austral autumn and winter precipitation of approximately 40% by the late twenty-first century. Thus rainfall in southwestern Australia has declined sharply from about 1965 onward, concomitant with the sharp rise of global temperatures.

Figure 3 (A) Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) drought map, showing rainfall levels for the southern wet season from
April 1 to July 31 in 2019; (B) NASA satellite image displaying a southward deflection of Antarctic-sourced moist
cold fronts from southern Australia, a result of (1) southward migration of climate zones; (2) increasing aridity of
southern and southwestern Australia due to deforestation; (3) rising hot plumes from warming arid land.

3. Extreme weather events

The consequences of the migration of climate zones are compounded by changes in flow patterns of major river systems around the world, for example in southern an southeastern Asia, including the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and Mekong river basins, the home and bread basket for more than a billion people. With warming, as snow cover declines in the mountainous source regions of rivers, river flows are enhanced, with ensuing floods, in particular during the Monsoon. For example, in 2010 approximately one-fifth of Pakistan's total land area was affected by floods (Figure 4A), directly affecting about 20 million people, with a death toll close to 2,000. And about 700 people in cyclone Isai in Mozambique (Figure 4B, C). Such changes in climate and geography are enhanced once sea level rise increases from the scale of tens of centimeters, as at present, to meters, as predicted to take place later this and next century.

An increasing frequency and intensity of cyclones constitute an inevitable consequence of rising temperatures over warm low pressure cell tracks in tropical oceans, already affecting large populations in the Caribbean and west Pacific island chains, encroaching into continental coastal zones, China, southeast USA, southeast Africa, India, northern Australia, the Pacific islands. According to Sobel et al. (2016) “We thus expect tropical cyclone intensities to increase with warming, both on average and at the high end of the scale, so that the strongest future storms will exceed the strength of any in the past”. Likewise increasing temperatures, heat waves and droughts, compounded by deforestation over continents, constitute an inevitable consequence of heat waves and droughts. A prime example is the Siberian forest fires (Figure 5B), covering an area larger than Denmark and contributing significantly to climate change. Since the beginning of the year a total of 13.1 million hectares has burned. Total losses from natural catastrophes on 2018 stated as US$160 billion.

Figure 4 (A) Pakistan flooding, shows the 2010 Indus River spanning well over 10 kilometers, completely filling
the river valley and spilling over onto nearby land. Floodwaters have created a lake almost as wide as the swollen
Indus that inundates Jhatpat; (B) Before-and-after satellite imagery of Mozambique showing massive flood
described as an "inland ocean" up to 30 miles wide following the landfall of Tropical Cyclone Idai, 2019.
Figure 5 (A) Global fire zones, NASA. The Earth data fire map accumulates the locations of fires detected by
moderate-resolution imaging radiometer (MODIS) on board the Terra and Aqua satellites over a 10-day period.
Each colored dot indicates a location where MODIS detected at least one fire during the compositing period.
Color ranges from red where the fire count is low to yellow where number of fires is large; (B) An ecological
catastrophe in Russia: wildfires have created over 4 million square km smoke lid over central northern Asia.

Big Siberian cities are covered with toxic haze that had already reached Urals.

4. Shrinking Polar ice sheets

Last but not least, major changes in the Polar Regions are driving climate events in the rest of the globe. According to NOAA Arctic surface air temperatures continued to warm at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, leading to major thaw at the fringes of the Arctic (Figure 6A) and a loss of 95 percent of its oldest ice over the past three decades. Arctic air temperatures during 2014-18 since 1900 have exceeded all previous records and are driving broad changes in the environmental system both within the Arctic as well as through the weakening of the jet stream which separates the Arctic from warmer climate zones. The recent freezing storms in North America represent penetration of cold air masses through an increasingly undulating jet stream barrier, as well as allowing warm air masses to move northward, further warming the Arctic and driving further ice melting (Figure 6B).

According to Rignot et al. (2011) in 2006 the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets experienced a combined mass loss of 475 ± 158 billion tons of ice per year. IPCC models of future climate change contain a number of departures from the paleoclimate evidence, including the major role of feedbacks from land and water, estimates of future ice melt, sea level rise rates, methane release rates, the role of fires in enhancing atmospheric CO₂, and the already observed onset of transient freeze events consequent on the flow of ice melt water into the oceans. Ice mass loss would raise sea level on the scale of meters and eventually tens of meters (Hansen et al. 2016). The development of large cold water pools south and east of Greenland (Rahmstorf et al. 2015) and at the fringe of West Antarctica, signify early stages in the development of a North Atlantic freeze, consistent with the decline in the Atlantic Meridional Ocean Circulation (AMOC). As the Earth warms the increase in temperature contrasts across the globe, in particular between warming continental regions and cooling ocean regions, leads to storminess and extreme weather events, which need to be taken into account when planning adaptation measures, including preparation of coastal defenses, construction of channel and pipelines from heavy precipitation zones to drought zones.

Figure 6 (A) Thawing at the fringes of Siberia and Canada. Scientists say 2019 could be another annus
horribilis for the Arctic with record temperatures already registered in Greenland—a giant melting ice
sheet that threatens to submerge the world's coastal areas one day; (B) Weakening and increasing undulation
of the polar vortex, allowing penetration of cold fronts southward and of warm air masses northward.
Figure 7 (A) Surface air temperature (°C) change in 2055–2060 relative to 1880–1920 according to.
A1B model + modified forcings and ice melt to 1 meter sea level rise; (B) Surface-air temperature
change in 2096 relative to 1880–1920 according to IPCC model AIB adding Ice melt with 10-year
doubling of ice melt leading to +5 meters sea level rise; (C) Surface air temperature (°C) relative to
1880–1920 for several scenarios taking added ice melt water into account (Hansen et al. 2016)


None of the evidence and projections summarized above appears to form a priority consideration on the part of those in power—in parliaments, in corporations, among the wealthy elites and vested interests. Having to all intents and purposes given up on the habitability of large parts of the Earth and on the survival of numerous species and future generations—their actions and inactions constitute the ultimate crime against life on Earth.

Andrew Glikson

Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and climate scientist
Australian National University
Canberra, Australian Territory, Australia

The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence

From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence

The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth

Added below is a video with an August 6, 2019, interview of Andrew Glikson by Guy McPherson and Kevin Hester, as edited by Tim Bob.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Blue Ocean Event

Blue Ocean Event as part of four Arctic tipping points

What will be the consequences of a Blue Ocean Event, i.e. the disappearance of virtually all sea ice from the Arctic Ocean, as a result of the warming caused by people?

Paul Beckwith discusses some of the consequences in the video below. As long as the Arctic Ocean has sea ice, most sunlight gets reflected back into space and the 'Center-of-Coldness' remains near the North Pole, says Paul. With the decline of the sea ice, however, the 'Center-of-Coldness' will shift to the middle of Greenland. Accordingly, we can expect the jet streams to shift their center of rotation 17° southward, i.e. away from the North Pole towards Greenland, with profound consequences for our global weather patterns and climate system, for plants and animals, and for human civilization, e.g. our ability to grow food.

Also see Paul's video below, The Arctic Blue-Ocean-Event (BOE). When? Then What?

Changing Winds

As global warming continues, the additional energy in the atmosphere causes stronger winds and higher waves.

As the Arctic warms up faster than the rest of the world, the jet streams are getting more out of shape, exacerbating extreme weather events.

The image on the right shows the jet stream crisscrossing the Arctic Ocean on September 10, 2018, with cyclonic wind patterns all over the place.

On the image below, Typhoon Mangkhut is forecast to cause waves as high as 21.39 m or 70.2 ft on September 14, 2018.

The inset on above image shows Typhoon Mangkhut forecast to cause winds to reach speeds as high as 329 km/h or 205 mph at 700 hPa (green circle), while Hurricane Florence is forecast to hit the coast of North Carolina, and is followed by Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Helene in the Atlantic Ocean.

At 850 hPa, Typhoon Mangkhut reaches Instant Wind Power Density as high as 196.9 kW/m² on September 13, 2018, as illustrated by above image.

The situation is likely to get worse over the next few months, as this is only the start of the hurricane season and El Niño is strengthening, as illustrated by the image on the right.

The image below shows how the occurrence and strength of El Niño has increased over the decades.

Four Arctic Tipping Points

There are numerous feedbacks that speed up warming in the Arctic. In some cases, there are critical points beyond which huge changes will take place rather abruptly. In such cases, it makes sense to talk about tipping points.

1. The albedo tipping point

As Arctic sea ice gets thinner and thinner, a Blue Ocean Event looks more imminent every year. A Blue Ocean Event means that huge amounts of sunlight won't get reflected back into space anymore, as they previously were. Instead, the heat will have to be absorbed by the Arctic. 

At the other hemisphere, the sea ice around Antarctica is at its lowest extent for the time of the year, as illustrated by above image. Global sea ice extent is also at its lowest for the time of the year, as illustrated by the image below.

A Blue Ocean Event will not only mean that additional heat will have to be absorbed in the Arctic, but also that wind patterns will change radically and even more dramatically than they are already changing now, which will also make that other tipping points will be reached earlier. This is why a Blue Ocean Event is an important tipping point and it will likely be reached abruptly and disruptively.

2. The latent heat tipping point

Disappearance of the sea ice north of Greenland is important in this regard. The image on the right shows that most sea ice at the end of August 2018 was less than 1 meter thick.

The image below shows how the sea ice has been thinning recently north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island, an area once covered with the thickest multi-year sea ice. Disappearance of sea ice from this area indicates that we're close to or beyond the latent heat tipping point, i.e. the point where further ocean heat can no longer be consumed by the process of melting the sea ice.

[ The once-thickest sea ice has gone - click on images to enlarge ]
The amount of energy absorbed by melting ice is as much as it takes to heat an equivalent mass of water from zero to 80°C. Without sea ice, additional ocean heat will have to go somewhere else.

Above image shows how much sea surface temperatures in the Arctic have warmed, compared to 1961-1990. The image also shows the extent of the sea ice (white). In the image below, a large area has changed from sea ice to water twelve days later, showing how thin and fragile the sea ice is and how easily it can disappear as the water continues to warm.

As the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world, changes have been taking place to the jet streams on the Northern Hemisphere that make it easier for warm air and water to move into the Arctic. This means that warm water is increasingly entering the Arctic Ocean that can no longer be consumed by melting the sea ice from below.

Arctic sea ice extent has remained relatively large this year, since air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean have been relatively low in June and July 2018. At the same time, ocean heat keeps increasing, so a lot of heat is now accumulating underneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
3. Seafloor Methane Tipping Point

As said above, Arctic sea ice has been getting thinner dramatically over the years, and we are now near or beyond the latent heat tipping point.

[ The Buffer has gone, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page ]
This year, air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean were relatively low in June and July 2018, and this has kept Arctic sea ice extent larger than it would otherwise have been. As a result, a lot of heat has been accumulating underneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean and this heat cannot escape to the atmosphere and it can no longer be consumed by melting. Where will the heat go?

As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, more heat threatens to reach sediments at its seafloor that have until now remained frozen. Contained in these sediments are huge amounts of methane in the form of hydrates and free gas.

Melting of the ice in these sediments then threatens to unleash huge eruptions of seafloor methane that has been kept locked up in the permafrost for perhaps millions of years. Seafloor methane constitutes a third tipping point.

The image on the right features a trend based on WMO data. The trend shows that mean global methane levels could cross 1900 ppb in 2019.

Ominously, methane recently reached unprecedented levels. Peak levels as high as 3369 ppb on August 31, 2018, as shown by the image below on the right.

The next image on the right below shows that mean global levels were as high as 1905 ppb on September 3, 2018.

The third image below on the right may give a clue regarding the origin of these unprecedented levels.

More methane will further accelerate warming, especially in the Arctic, making that each of the tipping points will be reached earlier.

Less sea ice will on the one hand make that more heat can escape from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere, but on the other hand the albedo loss and the additional water vapor will at the same time cause the Arctic Ocean to absorb more heat, with the likely net effect being greater warming of the Arctic Ocean.

Additionally, more heat is radiated from sea ice into space than from open water (feedback #23).

How much warming could result from the decline of snow and ice cover in the Arctic?

As discussed, there will be albedo changes, there will be changes to the jet streams, and there will be further feedbacks, adding up to 1.6°C of additional global warming that could eventuate due to snow and ice decline and associated changes in the Arctic.

A further 1.1°C of warming or more could result from releases of seafloor methane over the next few years.

4. Terrestrial Permafrost Tipping Point

Additional warming of the Arctic will also result in further warming due to numerous feedbacks such as more water vapor getting into the atmosphere. Furthermore, more intense heatwaves can occur easier in the Arctic due to changes to jet streams. All this will further accelerate melting of the ice in lakes and in soils on land that was previously known as permafrost. This constitutes a fourth tipping point that threatens to add huge amounts of additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Until now, the permafrost was held together by ice. As the ice melts, organic material in the soil and at the bottom of lakes starts to decompose. The land also becomes increasingly vulnerable to landslides, sinkholes and wildfires. All his can result in releases of CO₂, CH₄, N₂O, soot, etc., which in turn causes further warming, specifically over the Arctic.

In total, a temperature rise of 10°C threatens to occur in as little as a few years time.

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


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

• 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

• Extinction

• Climate Plan