Showing posts with label greenhouse gases. Show all posts
Showing posts with label greenhouse gases. Show all posts

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

Friday, October 3, 2014

Where we are - A climate system summary

by Paul Beckwith


The presence of GHGs (greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere is vital to sustain life on our planet. These GHGs trap heat and keep the global average surface temperature of the planet at about 15°C, versus a chilly -18°C, which would be our temperature without the GHGs.

We have changed the chemistry of the atmosphere, specifically of the concentrations of the GHGs. Concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased about 40% since the start of the industrial revolution (from a tight range between 180 to 280 ppm over at least the last million years) to 400 ppm. Concentrations of methane have increased by more than 2.5x since the start of the industrial revolution (from a tight range of 350 to 700 ppb) to over 1800 ppb. The additional heat trapped has warmed our planet by over 0.8°C over the last century, with most of that rise (0.6°C) occurring in the last 3 or 4 decades.


Over 90% of the heat trapped on the surface of the planet is increasing the temperature of the ocean water. The increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acidify the rainfall, and have increased the acidity of the oceans by about 40% in the last 3 to 4 decades (pH of the open ocean has dropped from 8.2 down to 8.05 on the logarithmic scale). An increased drop to a pH of 7.8 will prevent calcium based shells from forming, and threaten the entire food chain of the ocean. Changes in ocean currents, and vertical temperature profiles are leading to more stratification and less overturning which is required to transport nutrients to the surface for phytoplankton to thrive.

Global sea levels are presently rising at a rate of 3.4 mm per year, compared to a rate of about 2 mm per year a few decades ago. Melt rates on Greenland have doubled in the last 4 to 5 years, and melt rates on the Antarctica Peninsula have increased even faster. Based on the last several decades, melt rates have had a doubling period of around 7 years or so. If this trend continues, we can expect a sea level rise approaching 7 meters by 2070.

From: More than 2.5 m sea level rise by 2040

Higher global average temperatures have increased the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere by about 4% over the last several decades, and around 6% since the start of the industrial revolution. Changes in heat distribution with latitude from uneven heating with latitude has slowed the jet streams and caused them to become wavier and fractured, and has changed the statistics of weather. We now have higher frequencies, intensities, and longer duration extreme weather events and also a change in location of where these events occur.

Feedback loops

The sensitivity of the climate system to increased levels of GHG appears to be much higher than previously expected due to many powerful reinforcing feedbacks.

From: Arctic Warming due to Snow and Ice Demise

Arctic temperature amplification from exponentially declining sea ice and spring snow cover are the strongest feedbacks in our climate system today. The average albedo (reflectivity) of the Arctic region has decreased from 52% to a present day value of 48% over 3 or 4 decades. The increased absorption of energy in the Arctic has increased the temperature at high latitudes at rates up to 6 to 8x the global average temperature change. The reduced temperature difference between the Arctic and equator has reduced the west to east speed of the jet streams causing them to slow and become wavier and more fractured, and directly causing a large change in the statistics of our global weather.

Methane gas emissions have been rapidly rising in the Arctic region from the terrestrial permafrost and the continental shelf marine sediments, most notably on the ESAS (Eastern Siberia Arctic Shelf). The extremely potent ability of methane to warm the planet (global warming potential GWP is >150, 86, and 34 times for methane relative to carbon dioxide on a few year, several decade, and century timescale, respectively) makes increased emissions an extremely dangerous risk to our well-being on the planet.

My overall assessment

Our climate system is presently undergoing preliminary stages of abrupt climate change. If allowed to continue, the planet climate system is quite capable of undergoing an average global temperature increase of 5°C to 6°C over a decade or two. Precedence for changes at such a large rate can be found at numerous times in the paleo-records. From my chair, I conclude that it is vital that we slash greenhouse gas emissions and undergo a crash program of climate engineering to cool the Arctic region and keep the methane in place in the permafrost and ocean sediments.

Paul Beckwith
Paul Beckwith is part-time professor with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology, department of geography, University of Ottawa. Paul teaches climatology/meteorology and does PhD research on 'Abrupt climate change in the past and present'. Paul holds an M.Sc. in laser physics and a B.Eng. in engineering physics and reached the rank of chess master in a previous life. Click here to view Paul's earlier posts at the Arctic-news blog.


- What's wrong with the weather?

- Arctic News: Polar jet stream appears hugely deformed

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Climate Accord New York September 2014

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has made some (small) progress limiting the amounts of greenhouse gases that states emit, e.g. through Environmental Protection Agency limits on carbon dioxide emitted by power plants.

Given that greenhouse gases do spread all over the globe, the U.S. must also support action abroad to reduce levels of greenhouse gases.

At the upcoming Climate Summit in New York, September 23, President Obama will have a good opportunity to do so.

President Obama can and should support an accord for nations to jointly commit to bold action, including the imposition of fees on fossil fuel exported to nations that fail to commit to such action.

Where necessary, World Trade Organization rules should be agreed to be adjusted in order to accommodate such fees.

An accord on export fees can help U.S. exporters remain competitive and avoid repercussions. Such fees will also help make importing nations impose fees domestically, as they will not want to miss out on the revenues from such fees.

Revenues from such fees are best held in a trust fund and they are best used exclusively to finance international projects, such as efforts to save the sea ice in the Arctic and R&D into ways to decompose methane. As more nations impose fees domestically and accept responsibility to participate in international projects, such export fees can phase themselves out.

The People's Climate March will take place on September 21, starting 11:30 am from Central Park West (between 65th and 86th streets). Whether or not you're taking part in the march, consider supporting the Climate Plan. If you print out above image, you could make a cardboard sign. Over the coming days, photos of people holding up such a sign can be posted and shared at facebook and, if you add some lines saying you like the idea, they will be considered for display at the Arctic-news blog. You can also make it your profile picture on facebook during the remainder of the month to get a chance to be mentioned as a supporter.  Thanks in advance.

Update of Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly below:

Thanks to all who liked, tagged and shared the top image. Two examples of how the message is shared are highlighted below.

Sheila Chambers at facebook                             

A.Randomjack at Google+

Monday, November 11, 2013

Methane Levels going through the Roof

On November 9, 2013, methane readings well over 2600 ppb were recorded at multiple altitudes, as illustrated by the image below.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
On November 9, 2013, p.m., methane readings were recorded as high as 2662 parts per billion (ppb), at 586 millibars (mb) pressure, which corresponds with an altitude of 14384.6 feet or 4384.4 meters.

Where did these high levels occur? Methane levels were low on the southern hemisphere and, while there were some areas with high readings over North America and Asia, there were no areas as wide and bright yellow as over the Arctic Ocean (the color yellow indicating readings of 1950 ppb and higher on above map).

As discussed in a previous post, huge amounts of methane are now escaping from the seabed of the Arctic Ocean, penetrating the sea ice, and entering the atmosphere, in a process that appears to be accelerating, resulting in huge amounts of methane in the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean.

The image below gives an idea of the height of this level, compared to historic levels, and how fast levels of methane (CH4) have been rising compared to levels of two other greenhouse gases, i.e. carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

Recent peak levels of methane over the Arctic Ocean may well have been even higher, since NOAA didn't release any readings for November 5-7, 2013.

Meanhwile, sea ice extent has stopped growing, as illustrated by the NSIDC graph below.

Data from the Cryosphere Today show that the area covered by sea ice has actually fallen over the past few days, as illustrated by the image below.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
There are several reasons why sea ice isn't growing, including high temperature anomalies in the Arctic, as illustrated by the NOAA image below, showing surface temperature anomalies of over 20 degrees Celsius on November 7, 2013.

High methane levels are contributing to temperature anomalies, by trapping additional sunlight in the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean.

Furthermore, strong winds have hit the sea ice, as the recent post Methane, Faults and Sea Ice warned. Strong winds are pushing sea ice inward in the Kara Sea and in the Chukchi Sea, while pushing sea ice - up to 5 meters thick - out of the Arctic Ocean along the coast of Greenland, as illustrated by the Naval Research Laboratory animation below.

The Naval Research Laboratory image below shows ice speed and drift on November 9, 2013.

So, could Arctic sea ice collapse and totally disappear in September 2014? Posts at this blog have repeatedly warned about this, e.g. in this post. The image below, created by Wipneus, shows an exponential trendline pointing at zero volume sea ice in September 2016.
All data over the past two decades have fallen within the 95% confidence limits of an exponential trendline that points at imminent loss of all Arctic sea ice within years. September 2013 may have been "only" the 4th lowest on record, but such variability can be expected and may well cause sea ice to disappear completely as early as September 2014.

Strong winds can speed up such a collapse. On this point, it's good to remember what Prof. Peter Wadhams warned about in 2012:
". . apart from melting, strong winds can also influence sea ice extent, as happened in 2007 when much ice was driven across the Arctic Ocean by southerly winds (not northerly, as she stated). The fact that this occurred can only lead us to conclude that this could happen again. Natural variability offers no reason to rule out such a collapse, since natural variability works both ways, it could bring about such a collapse either earlier or later than models indicate.

In fact, the thinner the sea ice gets, the more likely an early collapse is to occur. It is accepted science that global warming will increase the intensity of extreme weather events, so more heavy winds and more intense storms can be expected to increasingly break up the remaining ice, both mechanically and by enhancing ocean heat transfer to the under-ice surface."
Guy McPherson lists 26 feedbacks that speed up warming, and many of these feedbacks occur in the Arctic, as described in the post Diagram of Doom.

Soon, calculates Prof. Peter Wadhams, the albedo loss due to decline of snow and ice in the Arctic will effectively more than double the net radiative forcing resulting from the emissions caused by all people of the world. Additional warming caused by methane releases from the Arctic seabed could be even more devastating.

Hopefully, more people will realize the urgency of the situation and realize the need for a comprehensive and effective plan of action as described here.