Sunday, August 12, 2012

Charting Mankind’s Arctic Methane Emission Exponential Expressway to Total Extinction in the Next 50 Years

By Malcolm P.R. Light
August 10, 2012


The exponential increase in the Arctic atmospheric methane derived from the destabilization of the subsea Arctic methane hydrates is defined by both the exponential decrease in the volume of Arctic sea ice due to global warming and the exponential decrease in the continent wide reflectivity (albedo) of the Greenland ice cap caused by increasing rates of surface melting which reach minima around 2014, 2015.

The high anomalous atmospheric methane contents recorded this year at Barrow Point Alaska (up to 2500 ppb - Carana 2012b) and the fact that the surface atmospheric methane contents may be linked via a stable partial pressure gradient with increased maximum methane contents in the world encompassing global warming veil (estimated at ca 1460 ppb methane) makes it imperative that the Merlin lidar satellite be launched as soon as is feasibly possible. The Merlin lidar satellite will give us a clear idea of how high the Earth’s stratospheric methane concentrations are in this poorly documented giant methane reservoir formed above the ozone layer at 30 km to 50 km altitude (Ehret, 2010).

Methane detecting Lidar instruments could also be installed immediately on the International Space Station to give early warning of the methane buildup in the stratosphere and act as a back up in case the Merlin satellite fails.

Unless immediate and concerted action is taken by governments and oil companies to depressurize the Arctic subsea methane reserves by extracting the methane, liquefying it and selling it as a green house gas energy source, rising sea levels will breach the Thames Barrier by 2029 flooding London. The base of the Washington Monument (D.C.) will be inundated by 2031. Total global deglaciation will finally cause the sea level to rise up the lower 35% of the Washington Monument by 2051 (68.3 m or 224 feet above present sea level).

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Huge cyclone batters Arctic sea ice

The image below shows an unusually large and powerful cyclone that was churning over the Arctic in early August 2012. Two smaller systems merged on August 5 to form the storm, which at the time occupied much of the Beaufort-Chukchi Sea and Canadian Basin, reports NASA Earth Observatory. On average, Arctic cyclones last about 40 hours; as of August 9, 2012, this storm had lasted more than five days.

This cyclone’s central sea level pressure reached about 964 millibars on August 6, 2012—a number that puts it within the lowest 3% of all minimum daily sea level pressures recorded north of 70 degrees latitude, noted Stephen Vavrus, an atmospheric scientist based at the University of Wisconsin.

Image by By NASA Goddard Photo and Video
NASA’s Aqua satellite captured above natural-color mosaic image on August 6, 2012. The center of the storm at that date was located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

The combined screenshots (6 & 8 August) below from Oceanweather Inc give an idea of size of the waves churned up by the cyclone.

The storm came in from Siberia, intensified and then positioned itself over the central Arctic, engendering 20 knot winds and 50 mph wind gusts, reports Skeptical Science.

The Arctic Sea Ice Blog covered the unfolding events well, in a series of posts including:
Many excellent comments were also added underneath these posts, e.g. by Steve Coulter who noted that "when fragmented floes are present, each irregular piece of ice acts as a sail in the wind, so the wind transfers momentum more readily to the surface. And each piece of ice, being 90% submerged, quite effectively transfers that momentum to the water. With winds moving in essentially a single direction in any given area, vast volumes of surface water are more readily put into motion. The difference in motion between the surface and deep water inevitably creates mixing."

Such mixing could mean that sediments that have been frozen until now get exposed to warmer water. This could destabilize methane contained in such sediments, either in the form of free gas or hydrates.

John Nissen, Chair of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG), comments:
"There are at least three positive feedbacks working together to reinforce one another - and now a fourth on salinity:
  1. The albedo flip effect as sea ice is replaced by open water absorbing more sunlight, warming and melting more sea ice.
  2. As the sea ice gets very thin, it is liable to break up easily and get blown into open water where it will melt more easily.
  3. The open warmer water is allowing increased strength of storms, which break up the ice to make for more open water.
  4. The storms are churning up the sea to a depth of 500 metres, producing salinity at the surface that will mean slower ice formation in winter and more open water next year.
These feedbacks are dangerous for methane. AMEG has been warning that, as the sea ice retreats, storms will warm the sea bed, leading to further release of methane. In ESAS, we only need mixing to a depth of 50 metres - so a storm capable of mixing to 500 metres will really stir things up.

These feedbacks are also dangerous for food security, already damaged through climate extremes induced by Arctic warming, hence our piece in the Huffington Post.

The only way to head off catastrophe is to cool the Arctic, which must involve geoengineering as quickly as possible. We must try to remain positive and determined about this, despite the gloomy news."

Above image shows a retreat in sea ice area to 3.15521 million km2 on the 221st day of 2012, down from 3.91533 million km2 on the 212th day of 2012, from The Cryosphere Today.

The 30-days animation below, from the Naval Research Laboratory, show the recent ice speed and drift.

The 30-days animation below, also from the Naval Research Laboratory, show recent decline of the thickness of the sea ice.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sea ice in the Arctic - Shaken and stirred (by a powerful cyclone)

By Paul Beckwith

From my chair, it looks to me like there will be zero sea ice in the Arctic by September 30th of this year 2012.

The massive cyclone in the Arctic of unprecedented size has been chewing up the sea ice for the last week and it looks like over 1 million square km has been lost. A few more cyclones there will finish it off completely.

My presentation on the link below needs polishing, is quite technical in places and is mostly my compilation of blogs and data and comments from other scientists, engineers, and lay-people. It is mostly in chronological order as the storm has progressed.

Sea ice in the Arctic - Shaken and stirred (by a powerful cyclone)
August 3 to 10, 2012, by Paul Beckwith

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Year 2012 set to break all records

The image below, edited from the National Snow & Ice Data Center, shows that Arctic sea ice extent is at a record low for the time of the year.

According to measurements by the Institut für Umweltphysik at the University of Bremen a new historic Arctic sea ice minimum was reached on 8 September, 2011. The year 2012 looks set to reach even lower extent.

The nosedive taken by the sea ice over the past few months also shows up in measurements of the sea ice area.

The image below shows a retreat in sea ice area to 3.91533 million km2 on the 212th day of 2012, also a record low for this time of year. The Cryosphere Today features the original interactive image.

Most critical is ice volume. The animation below, from NASA/Goddard Visualization Studio images, shows how much Arctic multi-year sea ice has declined over the years.

The Polar Science Center reports ice volume for July 2012 of 8300 km3, i.e. about 700 km3 less than July 2011, 65% lower than the maximum in 1979, and 55% below the mean, as illustrated by the image below.

Click here for large version of PIOMAS Daily Arctic Sea Ice Volume

Will sea ice collapse in 2014?As the image on the left shows, the annual minimum for Arctic sea ice volume is getting perilously close to zero, raising the risk of a collapse of the sea ice in the Arctic.

Temperature rises and larger areas of open water increase the likelihood of storms, as well as their intensity. Sea ice is now getting so thin that it becomes prone to break up in case of strong waves.

Heavy winds from the Bering Strait could then drive most sea ice across the Arctic Ocean, to pile up against Greenland, where it could persist for somewhat longer.

The subsequent dramatic increase in area of open water would cause a huge albedo change, making that much more sunlight in the Arctic would be absorbed, instead of reflected back into space as was previously the case.

This, together with additional feedbacks, could dramatically increase temperatures in the Arctic, further accelerating warming in the Arctic.

Water from rivers flowing into the Arctic could be heated up significantly during heatwaves. On the NOAA image below, the 20 degrees Celsius isobar appears to touch the coastline of the Laptev Sea, with the 25 degrees isobar not far behind. Just below the 20 degrees mark on the map, there's a spot with one-day mean temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius.

The image below, edited from the Naval Research Laboratory of the U.S. Navy, shows areas with surface temperatures of 8 degrees Celsius and higher in many areas on the edges of the Arctic Ocean from where sea ice has already retreated.

These are huge anomalies, as illustrated by the image below, from the Danish Meteorological Institute.

The danger is that high temperatures will trigger methane releases from hydrates and free gas in sediments, as discussed in this post on the potential impact of large abrupt release of methane in the Arctic and this post describing that Greenland is melting at incredible rate. For more on this danger and, importantly, what to do about it, see the presentation Why act now, and how?