Showing posts with label fire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fire. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Australian firestorms: portents of a planetary future

by Andrew Glikson
Earth and climate scientist
Australian National University

Global warming and its disastrous consequences are now truly with us since the second part of 2019. At the moment a change in the weather has given parts of the country a respite from the raging fires, some of which are still burning or smoldering, waiting for another warm spell to flare up. The danger zones include the Australian Capital Territory, from where these lines are written. To date, 18.6 million hectares (186,000 square kilometers) were burnt, including native forests, native animals, homesteads and towns, and 24 people died. The firestorms betray harbingers of a planetary future, or a lack of such, under ever rising temperatures and extreme weather events inherent in fossil fuel driven global warming.

Global heating

As the atmospheric concentration of the well-mixed greenhouse gases rise (CO₂ >411.76 ppm; CH₄ >1870.5 ppb; N₂O >333 ppb plus trace greenhouse gases) land temperatures soar (NASA global sea-land mean of 1.05°C since 1880). According to Berkeley Earth global land temperatures have increased by 1.5C over the past 250 years and mean Arctic temperatures have risen by 2.5°C to 3.0°C between 1900 and 2017. According to NASA :
  1. “Extreme heatwaves will become widespread at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming. Most land regions will see more hot days, especially in the tropics.
  2. At 1.5°C about 14 percent of Earth’s population will be exposed to severe heatwaves at least once every five years, while at 2 degrees Celsius warming that number jumps to 37 percent.”
  3. “Risks from forest fires, extreme weather events and invasive species are higher at 2 degrees warming than at 1.5 degrees warming.”
  4. “Ocean warming, acidification and more intense storms will cause coral reefs to decline by 70 to 90 percent at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, becoming all but non-existent at 2 degrees warming.”
Figure 1. The distribution of global fires. NASA.

However, bar the transient masking effects of sulphur aerosols, which according to estimates by Hansen et al. (2011) induce more than 1.0°C of cooling, global temperatures have already reached near 2.0°C (by analogy to the requirement for a patient’s body temperature to be measured before and not after aspirin has been taken). As aerosols are not homogeneously distributed, in some parts of the world temperatures have already soared to such levels. Thus the degree to which aerosols cool the earth, which depends on aerosol particle size range, has been grossly underestimated.

The rate of global warming, at ~2 to 3 ppm year and ~1.5°C in about one century, faster by an order of magnitude then geological climate catastrophe such as the PETM and the KT impact, has taken scientists by surprise, requiring a change from the term climate change to climate calamity.

The Australian firestorms

In Australia mean temperatures have risen by 1.5°C between 1910 and 2019 (Figure 2), as a combination of global warming and the ENSO conditions, as reported by the Bureau of Meteorology.

“The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has returned to neutral after one of the strongest positive IOD events to impact Australia in recent history ... the IOD’s legacy of widespread warm and dry conditions during the second half of 2019 primed the Australian landscape for bushfire weather and heatwaves this summer. In the Pacific Ocean, although indicators of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are neutral, the tropical ocean near and to the west of the Date Line remains warmer than average, potentially drawing some moisture away from Australia.”

Figure 2. (A) Australian mean temperature. (B) Severe fire weather. (C) Drought. (D) Driest year.
Bureau of Meteorology
The prolonged drought (Figure 2 C, D), low fuel moisture, high temperatures (Figure 2A) and warm winds emanating from the inland have rendered large parts of the Australian continent tinder dry, creating severe fire weather (Figure 2B) subject to ignition by lightning and human factors. Fires on a large scale create their own weather (see: bushfire raging in Mount Adrah and firestorm). Observations of major conflagrations, including the 2003 Canberra fires, indicate fires can form atmospheric plumes which can migrate and as hot plumes radiating toward the ground (fire tornadoes).

The underlying factor for rising temperatures and increasingly severe droughts in Australia is the polar-ward shift in climate zones (see map Oceania) as the Earth warms, estimated as approximately 56-111 km per decade, where dry hot subtropical zones encroach into temperate zones, as is also the case in South Africa and the Sahara.

Smoke signals emanating from the Australian fires are now circling around the globe (Figure 3) signaling a warning of the future state of Earth should Homo sapiens, so called, not wake up to the consequences of its actions.

Figure 3. (A) Smoke emanating from the southeastern Australian fires (January 4, 2020);
(B) smoke from the pyro-cumulonimbus clouds of the Australian fires drifting across the Pacific Ocean.
The fire clouds have lofted smoke to unusual heights in the atmosphere. The CALIPSO satellite observed smoke soaring between 15 to 19 kilometers on January 6, 2020—high enough to reach the stratosphere. NASA.

Andrew Glikson
Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and climate scientist
Australian National University

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Portents of continental-scale fires as the Earth warms

Andrew Glikson
Earth and climate scientist
Australian National University

The effects of encroaching deserts and of fire storms on terrestrial forests originally developed under moderate conditions distinct from those emerging under rapid global warming and extreme weather events may have been underestimated. Average global temperatures do not tell the story — it is the increasingly frequent weather anomalies which do. Powerful psychological factors prevent many scientists from expressing their worst fears, a phenomenon dubbed as “scientific reticence”.

As the tropical climate zones expand toward the poles, moderate climate zones shift polar-ward and are contracting where they clash with polar-derived cold air and ice melt water flow through weakened jet stream boundaries. As climate zones are shifting at a rate of 56-111 km per decade and ecosystems have only a short time to adapt, arid zones expand and droughts and fires consume the moderate-climate forests and formerly fertile habitats. Allen et al. (2012) suggest the increase in black carbon aerosols and tropospheric ozone constitute significant factors generating a polar-ward shift of moderate climate zones.

Global fire maps by NASA document the progression of wildfires since about 2000, including major fires in Siberia, northwest Europe, southern Europe, Russia, Southeast Asia, Australia, central and southern America, California and elsewhere (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite showing fires around the world. Credit: NASA
Some of the global patterns that appear in the fire maps are the result of natural cycles of rainfall, dryness, and lightning. For example, naturally-occurring fires are common in the boreal forests of Canada in the summer. In other parts of the world, the patterns are the result of human activity. For example, the intense burning in the heart of South America from August-October is a result of human-triggered fires, both intentional and accidental.

Many scientists and the IPCC have underestimated the scale and rate of global warming and its consequences. With exceptions, the need for excessive caution and absolute certainty in science is often manifested in reticence from the mainstream science (‘Down to Earth’ 2019). However, the available evidence suggests that scientists have in fact been conservative in their projections of the impacts of climate change and at least some of the key attributes of global warming from increased atmospheric greenhouse gases have been underpredicted, particularly in IPCC assessments of the physical science by Working Group I.

By contrast, at a speed hardly anticipated about 20 years ago, wildfires have been spreading around the globe over large parts of the continents.

Nor do average global land-ocean temperatures tell the whole story. It is the increasingly frequent anomalies which underlie extreme weather events (Fig. 2), including rapid Arctic melt, heatwaves, fires, storms and cyclones, which underpin the fundamental shift in the state of the terrestrial climate.

Figure 2. Temperature anomaly distribution: The frequency of occurrence (vertical axis) of local temperature anomalies (relative to 1951-1980 mean) in units of local standard deviation (horizontal axis). Area under each curve is unity. Image credit: NASA/GISS.
It has been stated “What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic”. Temperatures in the Arctic have reached 34°C in July 2019, affecting melting over 700,000 km² in Greenland late May 2019. The weakening of the circum-Arctic jet stream ensues in its undulation and intersection by warm air masses moving north and by cold air masses moving south, along with ice melt from the Greenland ice sheet forming cold regions in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Figure 3. Weather systems driven by the 
strong westerly winds of the Antarctic 
polar vortex curl over the southern 
continents (NASA, Galileo).
According to the Australian Climate Council, climate change has contributed to a southward shift in weather systems that typically bring cool season rainfall to southern Australia. As the cold humid spirals of the Antarctic vortex (Fig. 3) recede to the south, since the 1970s late autumn and early winter rainfall has decreased by 15% in southeast Australia, and Western Australia’s southwest region. Current drought conditions come after a 2016/2017 and 2018 Summer characterized by record-breaking temperatures, followed by a record dry winter. Rainfall over southern Australia during autumn 2018 was the second lowest on record (Fig. 4). The drought has reached extreme level, accompanied by wildfires. Australia, like other parts of the world, is paying the price of climate change in terms of growing damage to its agriculture, communities and way of life.

Figure 4. Australia: Current effects of global warming. 
A. 2018 annual mean temperatures compared to historical temperature observations. 
B. 2018 annual rainfall compared to historical rainfall observations.
The global rise rate in CO₂ has reached 2 to 3 ppm/year, the fastest rate since 66 million years ago, and a level of CO₂-equivalent (a value including the radiative forcing of methane and nitrous oxide) near 500 ppm. According to the IMF (2017), the world is subsidizing fossil fuels by $5.2 trillion, equal to roughly 6.5% of global GDP. By contrast, the loss of wealth due to reduced agricultural productivity due to climate change is projected to exceed $19 billion by 2030, $211 billion by 2050 and a projected $4 trillion by 2100.

Figure 5. Fires in Australia, November 8, 2019, NASA Worldview 
As stated by Hansen et al. (2012): “Burning all fossil fuels would create a different planet than the one that humanity knows. The palaeoclimate 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”.

Andrew Glikson
Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and climate scientist
Australian National University

The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
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
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Arctic Sea Ice Gone By September 2019?

Record low Arctic sea ice extent for the time of year

Arctic sea ice minimum extent typically occurs about half September. In 2012, minimum extent was reached on September 17, 2012, when extent was 3.387 million km².

On July 28, 2019, Arctic sea ice extent was 6.576 million km². How much extent do you think there will be by September 17, 2019? From July 28, 2019, to September 17, 2019, that's a period of 52 days during which a lot of melting can occur. Could there be a Blue Ocean Event in 2019, with virtually all sea ice disappearing in the Arctic?

Consider this. Extent was 6.926 million km² on September 17, 1989. Extent was 3.387 million km² on September 17, 2012, so 3.539 million km² had disappeared in 23 years. Over those years, more ice extent disappeared than what was left on September 17, 2012.

The question is how much sea ice extent will be left when it will reach its minimum this year, i.e. in September 2019. The red dashed line on the image at the top continues the path of the recent fall in sea ice extent, pointing at zero Arctic sea ice extent in September 2019. Progress is followed at this post.

Zero Arctic sea ice in 2019

Zero Arctic sea ice in 2019 sounds alarming, and there is good reason to be alarmed.

Above map shows temperatures on Greenland on July 31, 2019, with temperatures at one location as high as 23.2°C or 73.8°F and at another location - in the north - as high as 14.2°C or 57.6°F.

The map on the right shows sea surface temperature anomalies compared to 1961-1990 as on July 29, 2019. Note the high anomalies in the areas where the sea ice did disappear during the past few months. The reason for these high anomalies is that the buffer has disappeared that previously had kept consuming heat in the process of melting.

Where that buffer is gone, the heat has to go somewhere else, so it will be absorbed by the water and it will also speed up heating of the atmosphere over the Arctic.

Sea ice melting is accelerating for a number of reasons:
  • Ocean Heat - Much of the melting of the sea ice occurs from below and is caused by heat arriving in the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. 
  • Direct Sunlight - Hot air will melt the ice from above and this kind of melting can increase strongly due to changing wind patterns. 
  • Rivers - Heatwaves over land can extend over the Arctic Ocean and they also heat up river water flowing into the Arctic Ocean.
  • Fires - Changing wind patterns can also increase the intensity and duration of such heatwaves that can also come with fires resulting in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, thus further speeding up the temperature rise, and also resulting in huge emissions of soot that, when settling on sea ice, speeds up melting (see images below). 
  • Numerous feedbacks will further speed up melting. Heating is changing the texture of the sea ice at the top and is making melt pools appear, both of which cause darkening of the surface. Some further feedbacks, i.e. storms and clouds are discussed below in more detail. 

Above combination image shows smoke from fires in Siberia getting pushed over the Laptev Sea on August 11, 2019, due to cyclonic winds over the Arctic Ocean. This was also discussed in an earlier post. The image below shows the situation on August 12, 2019.

The image below shows the situation on August 14, 2019.

In the video below, Paul Beckwith discusses the situation.

In the video below, Paul Beckwith discusses the heating impact of albedo loss due to Arctic sea ice loss, including the calculations in a recent paper.

As the Arctic is heating up faster than the rest of the world, it is also more strongly affected by the resulting extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, fires, strong winds, rain and hail storms, and such events can strongly speed up the melting of the sea ice.

All around Greenland, sea ice has now virtually disappeared. This is the more alarming considering that the thickest sea ice was once located north of Greenland. This indicates that the buffer is almost gone.

Why is disappearance of Arctic sea ice so important? Hand in hand with albedo loss as the sea ice disappears, there is loss of the buffer (feedbacks #1, #14 and more). As long as there is sea ice in the water, this sea ice will keep absorbing heat as it melts, so the temperature will not rise at the sea surface. 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.

Once the sea ice is gone, further heat must go elsewhere. This heat will raise the temperature of the water and will also make the atmosphere heat up faster.

Storms and Clouds

Storms: As temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than at the Equator, the Jet Stream is changing, making it easier for warm air to enter the Arctic and for cold air to descend over continents that can thus become much colder than the oceans, and this stronger temperature difference fuels storms.

Clouds: More evaporation will occur as the sea ice disappears, thus further heating up the atmosphere (technically know as latent heat of vaporization).

In the video below, Paul Beckwith further discusses Arctic albedo change and clouds.

Disappearance of the sea ice causes more clouds to form over the Arctic. This on the one hand makes that more sunlight gets reflected back into space. On the other hand, this also make that less outward infrared radiation can escape into space. The net effect of more clouds is that they are likely cause further heating of the air over the Arctic Ocean (feedbacks #23 and #25).

More low-altitude clouds will reflect more sunlight back into space, and this occurs most during Summer when there is most sunshine over the Arctic. The image below, a forecast for August 17, 2019, shows rain over the Arctic. Indeed, more clouds in Summer can also mean rain, which can devastate sea ice, as discussed in an earlier post.

Regarding less outward radiation, the IPCC has long warned, e.g. in TAR, about a reduction in outgoing longwave radiation (OLR): "An increase in water vapour reduces the OLR only if it occurs at an altitude where the temperature is lower than the ground temperature, and the impact grows sharply as the temperature difference increases."

While reduction in OLR due to water vapor is occurring all year long, the impact is particularly felt in the Arctic in Winter when the air is much colder than the surface. In other words, less OLR makes Arctic sea ice thinner, especially in Winter.

The inflow of ocean heat into the Arctic Ocean can increase strongly as winds increase in intensity. Storms can push huge amounts of hot, salty water into the Arctic Ocean, as discussed earlier, such as in this post and this post. As also described at the extreme weather page, stronger storms in Winter will push more ocean heat from the Atlantic toward the Arctic Ocean, further contributing to Arctic sea ice thinning in Winter.

Seafloor Methane

[ The Buffer has gone, feedbacks #14 and #16 ]

As the buffer disappears that until now has consumed huge amounts of heat, the temperature of the water of the Arctic Ocean will rise even more rapidly, with the danger that further heat will reach methane hydrates at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, causing them to get destabilized and release huge amounts of methane (feedback #16).

Ominously, high methane levels were recorded at Barrow, Alaska, at the end of July 2019, as above image shows.

[ from an earlier post ]
And ominously, a mean global methane level as high as 1902 ppb was recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite in the afternoon of July 31, 2019, as above image shows.

As the image on the right shows, mean global levels of methane (CH₄) have risen much faster than carbon dioxide (CO₂) and nitrous oxide (N₂O), in 2017 reaching, respectively, 257%, 146% and 122% their 1750 levels.

Temperature Rise

Huge releases of seafloor methane alone could make marine stratus clouds disappear, as described in an earlier post, and this clouds feedback could cause a further 8°C global temperature rise.

Indeed, a rapid temperature rise of as much as 18°C could result by the year 2026 due to a combination of elements, including albedo changes, loss of sulfate cooling, and methane released from destabilizing hydrates contained in sediments at the seafloor of oceans.

[ from an earlier post ]

Below is Malcolm Light's updated Extinction Diagram.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.


• Climate Plan

• Smoke Covers Much Of Siberia

• Extreme Weather

• Albedo and more

• Radiative Heating of an Ice‐Free Arctic Ocean, by Kristina Pistone et al. (2019)

• High cloud coverage over melted areas dominates the impact of clouds on the albedo feedback in the Arctic, by Min He et al. (2019)

• ESD Reviews: Climate feedbacks in the Earth system and prospects for their evaluation, by Christoph Heinze et al. (2019)

• Contribution of sea ice albedo and insulation effects to Arctic amplification in the EC-Earth Pliocene simulation, by Jianqiu Zheng et al. (2019)

• Far-infrared surface emissivity and climate, by Daniel Feldman et al. (2014)

• Extreme Weather

• Feedbacks in the Arctic

• Rain Storms Devastate Arctic Ice And Glaciers

• A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?

• As El Niño sets in, will global biodiversity collapse in 2019?

• Dangerous situation in Arctic

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Smoke Covers Much Of Siberia

Smoke covers much of Siberia, as shown by the NASA Worldview image dated July 25, 2019.

The enormous intensity of the fires is illustrated by the image below, showing carbon monoxide (CO) levels as high as 80,665 ppb on July 25, 2019.

The image below shows that, at that same spot on July 25, 2019, carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels were as high as 1205 ppm.

The image below shows that aerosols from biomass burning were at the top end of the scale.

When soot from fires settles on snow and ice, it darkens the surface, resulting in more sunlight getting absorbed (instead of reflected back into space, as was previously the case), thus further speeding up the melting.

The loss of sea ice north of Greenland is particularly worrying, since this is the area where once the thickest sea ice was present. The image below shows the situation on July 24, 2019.

The image below shows the sea ice disappearing north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island on July 25, 2019.

The huge recent fall in sea ice volume is illustrated by the graph below, by Wipneus.

The animation below illustrates the rapid fall in sea ice thickness, showing 30-day period including seven forecasts up to August 1, 2019.

The combination image below shows sea ice thickness forecasts for July 25, 2019, and for August 1, 2019.

The video below, by Robin Westenra, further illustrates our predicament.

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


• Climate Plan

Monday, July 8, 2019

Alaska On Fire

Fires are raging over Alaska. The satellite image below shows the situation on July 8, 2019.

The satellite image below shows the situation on July 9, 2019.

The image below shows carbon monoxide levels as high as 43,443 ppb over Alaska on July 8, 2019.

Carbon dioxide levels were as high as 561 ppm over that same spot in Alaska on July 8, 2019. Carbon dioxide levels were as high as 888 ppm on July 10, 2019, as the image below shows.

The image below shows a forecast for July 10, 2019, with temperatures forecast to be as high as 35.5°C or 95.8°F.

What causes such extreme weather events to occur?

The Arctic has been heating up faster than the rest of the world, due to self-reinforcing feedback loops such as the decline of the snow and ice cover in the Arctic, which results in less sunlight getting reflected back into space and more sunlight instead getting absorbed in the Arctic.

As the image on the right shows, sea surface temperatures in the Bering Sea were as high as 19.8°C or 67.64°F on June 21, 2019.

As the image underneath shows, sea surface temperatures in the Bering Sea were as high as 21.6°C or 70.88°F on July 15, 2019.

Warm water from rivers flowing into the Bering Strait have contributed to some of the high temperatures of the water near the coast of Alaska.

Furthermore, as the June 21, 2019, image below shows, sea surface temperature anomalies have also been high around Alaska further away from the coast.

Indeed, more than 90% of the extra energy caused by humans goes into oceans, and sea currents carry a lot of this extra heat toward the Arctic Ocean.

As a result, ocean temperatures have been high for some time around Alaska.

The image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies around Alaska on June 21, 2019.

Another feedback is that, as the Arctic heats up faster than the rest of the world, the jet stream becomes more wavy, making it easier for cold air to flow out of the Arctic to the south and for warm air from the south to enter the Arctic. These changes to the jet stream also cause stronger storms to occur in the Arctic and more water vapor to enter the atmosphere. All this further contributes to more heating to occur in the Arctic and more extreme weather events.

Heatwaves also cause more forest fires to occur in Alaska, and these forest fires are causing large amounts of soot to get deposited on mountains and on sea ice, thus further blackening the surface. More generally, the Arctic is getting more deposits of soot and dust, as well as stronger growth of algae, moss and microbes, all further speeding up the demise of the snow and ice cover in the Arctic.

The image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies around Alaska on July 11, 2019, with an anomaly of 7.7°C or 13.8°F compared to 1981-2011 showing up north of Alaska in the Arctic Ocean. The light blue areas indicate sea surface that is colder, due to heavy melting of the sea ice in those areas.

The image below shows a deformed jet stream (forecast for July 9, 2019) that enables hot air from the south to move over Alaska.

from an earlier post (2014)  
Heatwaves and forest fires are symptoms of the rapid heating that is taking place in the Arctic. Self-reinforcing feedback loops further accelerate heating in the Arctic and just one of them, seafloor methane, threatens to cause runaway heating.

Just the existing carbon dioxide and methane, plus seafloor methane releases, would suffice to trigger the clouds feedback tipping point to be crossed that by itself could push up global temperatures by 8°C, within a matter of years, as the image below shows.

As described on above image and in an earlier post, huge amounts of methane could be released from destabilizing hydrates contained in sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. Such releases could be triggered by strong winds causing an influx of warm, salty water into the Arctic ocean, as described in an earlier post and discussed in the 2017 video below.

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


• Extreme weather

• Feedbacks in the Arctic

• When Will We Die?

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

• Climate Plan

Sunday, February 10, 2019

CO₂ levels reach another record high

CO₂ levels just reached another record high. On February 9, 2019, an average daily CO₂ level of 414.27 ppm was recorded at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

The image below shows hourly (red circles) and daily (yellow circles) averaged CO₂ values from Mauna Loa, Hawaii, for the last 31 days.

As the image shows, average hourly levels well above 414 ppm were recorded on January 21, 2019, but no daily average was recorded for that day. February 9, 2019, was the first time an average daily CO₂ level above 414 ppm was formally recorded and such levels have not been reached earlier over the past 800,000 years, as illustrated by the image below.

CO₂ levels can be expected to keep rising further this year to reach a maximum level in April/May 2019.

How much can CO₂ levels be expected to grow over the next decade? 

A recent Met Office forecast expects annual average CO₂ levels at Mauna Loa to be 2.75 ppm higher in 2019 than in 2018. The image below shows NOAA 1959-2018 CO₂ growth data (black) and uses this Met Office forecast used for 2019 (brown). The growth figures for 2018 and 2019 are spot on a trend that is added in line with an earlier analysis.

Strong CO₂ growth is forecast for 2019, due to a number of factors including rising emissions, the added impact of El Niño and less uptake of carbon dioxide by ecosystems. A recent study warns that global warming will enhance both the amplitude and the frequency of eastern Pacific El Niño events and associated extreme weather events. Another recent study warns that, while the terrestrial biosphere now absorbs some 25% of CO₂ emissions by people, the rate of land carbon uptake is likely to fall with reduced soil moisture levels in a warmer world. Furthermore, fire hazards can be expected to grow due to stronger winds and higher temperatures, each of which constitutes a factor on their own, while they jointly also increase two further factors, i.e. drying out of soils, groundwater and vegetation, and the occurrence of more lightning to ignite fires and to also cause more ground-level ozone that further deteriorates vegetation health. 

The warming impact of CO₂ can therefore be expected to increase over the next decade, given also that the warming impact of CO₂ reaches a peak ten years after emission. The earlier analysis furthermore warns about strong growth in CO₂ emissions due to fires in forests and peatlands, concluding that CO₂ emissions could cause an additional global temperature rise of 0.5°C over the next ten years.

Rise in methane is accelerating

Methane levels are also rising and this rise is accelerating, as illustrated by the image below.

The graph shows July 1983 through October 2018 monthly global methane means at sea level, with added trend. Note that higher methane means can occur at higher altitude than at sea level. On Sep 3, 2018, methane means as high as 1905 ppb were recorded at 307 mb, an altitude at which some of the strongest growth in methane has occurred, as discussed in earlier posts such as this one.

What does the historic record tell us? 

A 10°C higher temperature is in line with such high greenhouse gas levels, as illustrated by the graph below, based on 420,000 years of ice core data from Vostok, Antarctica, from an earlier post.

Tipping points

The threat is that a number of tipping points are going to be crossed, including the buffer of latent heat, loss of albedo as Arctic sea ice disappears, methane releases from the seafloor and rapid melting of permafrost on land and associated decomposition of soils, resulting in additional greenhouse gases (CO₂, CH₄, N₂O and water vapor) entering the Arctic atmosphere, in a vicious self-reinforcing cycle of runaway warming.

A 10°C rise in temperature by 2026?

Above image shows how a 10°C or 18°F temperature rise from preindustrial could eventuate by 2026 (from earlier post).

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


• NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 annual mean growth rates 1959-2018

• NOAA  monthly global methane means at sea level

• Faster CO₂ rise expected in 2019

• Increased variability of eastern Pacific El Niño under greenhouse warming, by Wenju Cai et al.

• El Niño events will intensify under global warming, by Yoo-Geun Ham

• Large influence of soil moisture on long-term terrestrial carbon uptake, by Julia Green et al.

• 2018 Continues Record Global Ocean Warming, by Lijing Cheng et al.

• Blue Ocean Event

• What Does Runaway Warming Look Like?

• Extinction

• Climate Plan