Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Accelerating greenhouse gas levels

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) just released its annual Emissions Gap Report, warning that even if all current unconditional commitments under the Paris Agreement are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2°C, bringing even wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts.

The report adds that a continuation of current policies would lead to a global mean temperature rise of 3.5°C by 2100 (range of 3.4–3.9°C, 66% probability) and concludes that current policies will clearly not keep the temperature rise below 3°C and that temperatures may rise by much more than that.

Below is the UNEP video On the brink: Emissions Gap Report findings in 60 seconds.

[ image from earlier post ]
Indeed, the rise in greenhouse gas levels appears to be accelerating, despite pledges made under the Paris Agreement to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently reported carbon dioxide (CO₂) concentrations for 2018 of 407.8 ppm (parts per million), as illustrated by the image on the right. The WMO adds that CO₂ levels, as well as methane and nitrous oxide levels, had all surged by higher amounts than during the past decade.

In energy, fossil fuel consumption for heating and transport increased. While renewables grew strongly in 2018, an even larger part of the growth in electricity was generated by fossil fuel, particularly by coal and natural gas. 

As the image below shows, a trend based on NOAA March 1958 through October 2019 monthly mean CO₂ data at Mauna Loa points at CO₂ levels crossing the 415 ppm mark in 2020, when an El Niño is forecast to come, as discussed in an earlier post.

The added trend in the image points at CO₂ levels crossing 1200 ppm before the end of the century, triggering the cloud feedback tipping point that by itself could push up global temperatures by 8°C, within a few years. Importantly, the clouds feedback starts at 1200 ppm CO₂-equivalent. Besides a CO₂ rise, further elements could contribute to the 1200 ppm CO₂e tipping point getting reached, such as albedo changes due to disappearing Arctic sea ice and seafloor methane releases from a rapidly-warming Arctic Ocean.

In conclusion, a huge temperature rise could eventuate much earlier than by the end of the century. The image below illustrates the potential for a rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026.

[ from an earlier post ]
As discussed in a recent post, a 2020 El Niño could be the catalyst triggering huge methane releases from the Arctic Ocean seafloor starting in 2020 and resulting in such a 18°C (or 32.4°F) temperature rise within a few years time. To put this into perspective, an earlier post concluded that humans will likely go extinct at a 3°C rise, as such an abrupt rise will make habitat for humans (and many other species) disappear.

In the video below, John Davis describes some of the extreme weather events that he experienced recently. “Disasters like this are man-made now”, John says, “they're not natural disasters. This is caused by climate change.”

Meanwhile, a recent study found that the consensus among research scientists on anthropogenic global warming has grown to 100%, based on a review of 11,602 peer-reviewed articles on “climate change” and “global warming” published in the first 7 months of 2019.

This further confirms the probability or likelihood that emissions by people are causing global warming, from a likely danger to certain danger. Furthermore, as discussed in many earlier posts, there are two additional dimensions to the danger of climate change; the severity of the impact makes it not merely a catastrophic danger, it is an existential threat; finally, regarding timescale, the danger is not just near, the danger is imminent and in many respects we're already too late.

Above image expresses this visually, with the red area depicting where we are now. There were readability problems with the text on the sides of the cube, reason why a version without text and the color on the sides was posted in an earlier post.

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


• UN news release

• Paris Agreement

• United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - Emissions Gap Report

• UNEP video: On the brink: Emissions Gap Report findings in 60 seconds

• WMO - Greenhouse gas concentrations in atmosphere reach yet another high

• NOAA Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

• Most Important Message Ever

• 2020 El Nino could start 18°C temperature rise

• Scientists Reach 100% Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming

• The Threat Of Arctic Albedo Change

• Climate Plan

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The breach of the Paris Agreement

By Andrew Glikson
Earth and climate scientist
Australian National University

Since its inception the Paris Agreement has been in question due to, among other:
  • its broad definition, specifically holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels;
  • its non-binding nature; and 
  • accounting tricks by vested interests.
The goal assumes pre-determined limits can be placed on greenhouse gas levels and temperatures beyond which they would not continue to rise. Unfortunately these targets do not appear to take account of the amplifying positive feedback effects from land and oceans under the high cumulative greenhouse gas levels and their warming effects. Thus unfortunately the current high CO₂ levels of about 408 ppm and near-500ppm CO₂-equivalent (CO₂+methane+nitrous oxide) would likely continue to push temperatures upwards.

Significant climate science evidence appears to have been left out of the equation. The accord hinges on the need to reduce emissions, which is essential, but it does not indicate how further temperature rise can be avoided under the conditions of a high-CO₂ atmosphere, which triggers carbon release, unless massive efforts at sequestration (drawdown) of greenhouse gases are undertaken. Inherent in global warming are amplifying positive feedbacks, including albedo (reflection) decline due to the melting of ice and the opening of dark water surfaces, increased water vapor contents of the atmosphere in tropical regions which enhances the greenhouse effect, reduced sequestration of CO₂ by the warming oceans, desiccation of vegetation, fires, release of methane from permafrost and other processes. This means that even abrupt reductions in emissions may not be sufficient to stem global warming, unless accompanied by sequestration of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to a lower level, recommended as below 350 ppm CO₂ by James Hansen, the leading climate scientist.

The world is on track to produce 50% more fossil fuels than can be burned before reaching the limit prescribed by the Paris Agreement, with currently planned coal, oil and gas outputs making the Paris Agreement goal impossible. Projected fossil fuel production in 2030 being more than is consistent with 2°C, and 120% more than that for 1.5°C.

Unbelievably, according to the International Monetary Fund, “In 2017 the world subsidized fossil fuels by $5.2 trillion, equal to roughly 6.5% of global GDP”, which is more than the total the world spends on human health. Such subsidies cannot possibly be consistent with the Paris Agreement. The pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 by the G7 nations, with exceptions by the UK and Japan, may come too late as global CO₂ concentrations, already intersecting the stability limits of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, are rising at a rate of 2 to 3 ppm per year, the highest in many millions of years.

Despite the scientific consensus regarding the anthropogenic origin of global warming, the world’s biggest fossil fuel corporations are taking a defiant stance against warnings that reserves of coal, oil and gas are already several times larger than can be burned if the world’s governments are to meet their pledge to tackle climate change. ExxonMobil said new reserves in the Arctic and Canadian tar sands must be exploited. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, said global warming was “an environmental crisis predicted by flawed computer models”. Glencore Xstrata said that governments would fail to implement measures to cut carbon emissions. The World Bank and Bank of England have already warned of the “serious risk” climate action poses to trillions of dollars of fossil fuel assets.

Not to mention the risks to the living Earth and its billions of inhabitants!

The apparent neglect of scientific advice is not an isolated instance. It is not uncommon that climate reports are dominated by the views of economists, lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians, often overlooking the evidence presented by some of the world’s highest climate science authorities. Whereas the IPCC reports include excellent and comprehensive summaries of the peer-reviewed literature, the summaries for policy makers only partly represent the evidence and views of scientific authorities in the field, including those who have identified global warming in the first place.
Figure 2. from: James Hansen, data through June 2019

There exists a tendency in the media to report averages, such as average global temperature values, rather than the increasingly-common high zonal, regional and local anomalies.

For example, the annual mean global temperature rise of for 2018 is about one third the Arctic mean temperature rise (Fig. 2). Given that developments in the Arctic bear major consequences for climate change, the global mean  does not represent the seriousness of the climate crisis.

Another example is the way extremes weather events are reported as isolated instances, neglecting the rising frequency and intensity of hurricanes, storms, fires and droughts, indicated in frequency plots (Fig 3.).

Figure 3. Rise in geophysical, meteorological, hydrologocal and climatological events. Munich RE
It is not until international and national institutions take full account of what climate science is indicating that a true picture of the climate crisis will be communicated to the public.

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
- 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

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Arctic Ocean November 2019

On November 16, 2019, there was little sea ice between Greenland and Svalbard. For reference, the image below has been added, showing coastlines for the same area.

The image on the right shows that the average air temperature (2 m) on November 15, 2019, was 4°C higher over the Arctic than during 1979-2000.
Ocean heat is rising up from the Arctic Ocean, while a wavy jet stream enables cold air to leave the Arctic and descend over North America and Eurasia. On November 13, 2019, it was warmer in Alaska than in Alabama.

The image below shows temperatures north of 80°N. The red line on the image shows the 2019 daily mean temperature up to November 16, 2019. The temperature is now well above the 1958-2002 mean (green line). The image also shows the freezing point of fresh water (273.15K, 0°C or 32°F, blue line).

The freezing point for salt water is lower, at around -2°C, or 28.4°F, or 271.2°K. In other words, a rise in the salt content of the water alone can make ice melt, i.e. even when the temperature of the water doesn't rise.

The image below shows that Arctic sea ice volume has been at record low levels for the time of year for some time.

As the image below shows, Arctic sea ice extent in the Chukchi Sea is currently very low.

[ image by Zack Labe, uploaded November 13, 2019 ]
Oceans are absorbing more than 90% of global heating, as illustrated by the image below.

Arctic sea ice used to absorb 0.8% of global heating (in 1993 to 2003). Ocean heat keeps flowing into the Arctic Ocean, carried by ocean currents, as illustrated by the image below.

As peak heat arrives in the Arctic Ocean, it melts sea ice from below. In Summer 2019, a critical tipping point was crossed; ocean heat could no longer find further sea ice to melt, as the thick sea ice that hangs underneath the surface had disappeared. A thin layer of sea ice at the surface was all that remained, as air temperatures remained low enough to prevent it from melting from above.

This indicates that the buffer has gone that has until now been consuming ocean heat as part of the melting process. 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.

The images above and below shows very high sea surface temperature anomalies on the Northern Hemisphere for October 2015 and October 2019. In both cases, anomalies of 1.09°C or 1.96°F above the 20th century average were recorded.

The October 2015 anomaly occurred under El Niño conditions, whereas the equally-high anomaly in October 2019 occurred under El Niño/La Niña-neutral conditions, while another El Niño is likely to come in 2020. In other words, the threat is that even more ocean heat is likely to arrive in the Arctic Ocean in 2020.

The danger is particularly high in October, as Arctic sea ice starts growing in extent at the end of September, thus sealing off the water, meaning that less ocean heat will be able to escape to the atmosphere. This increases the danger that hot water will reach sediments at the Arctic Ocean seafloor and trigger massive methane eruptions.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO₂, 407.8 ppm), methane (CH₄, 1869 ppb) and nitrous oxide (N₂O, 331.1 ppb) in 2018 surged by higher amounts than during the past decade, the WMO said in a recent news release and as illustrated by the image on the right, which shows that CH₄, CO₂ and N₂O levels in the atmosphere in 2018 were, respectively, 259%, 147% and 123% of their pre-industrial (before 1750) levels.

“There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3°C warmer, sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now,” said Mr Taalas.

Global methane levels are very high. Mean global methane levels were as high as 1914 parts per billion on September 3, 2019, as discussed in a recent post. Peak methane levels as high as 2961 parts per billion were recorded by the MetOp-2 satellite on October 24, 2019, in the afternoon at 469 mb.

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

In the video below, Paul Beckwith discusses Arctic sea ice.


• Climate Plan

• It’s warmer in Alaska than in Alabama today

• 100 weather observing stations across the U.S. are forecast to tie or break their record low temperatures

• NOAA - Global Heat Content

• Where is global warming going? | by John Cook (2010)

• Danish Meteorological Institute - Daily mean temperatures for the Arctic area north of the 80th northern parallel

• Polar portal - Sea Ice Thickness and Volume

• WMO - Greenhouse gas concentrations in atmosphere reach yet another high

• 2020 El Nino could start 18°C temperature rise

• Critical Tipping Point Crossed In July 2019

• IPCC Report Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate

• Most Important Message Ever

• When will we die?

• Arctic Ocean overheating

• How extreme will it get?

• Warning Signs

Saturday, November 16, 2019

2020 El Nino could start 18°C temperature rise

[ click on image to enlarge ]
Above image shows a blue long-term trend, based on NASA LOTI 1880-Oct.2019 data, 0.78°C adjusted to reflect ocean air temperatures (as opposed to sea surface temperatures), to reflect a higher polar anomaly (as opposed to leaving out 'missing' data) and to reflect a 1750 baseline (as opposed to a 1951-1980 baseline).

The image also shows a red short-term trend, based on NASA LOTI 2012-Oct.2019 data, similarly adjusted and added to illustrate El Niño/La Niña variability and how El Niño could be the catalyst to trigger huge methane releases from the Arctic Ocean seafloor starting in 2020 and resulting in an 18°C (or 32.4°F) temperature rise within a few years time.

To put such a temperature rise in perspective, humans will likely go extinct with a 3°C rise, while most if not all life on Earth will go extinct at 5°C rise, as discussed in an earlier post.

The image below, from a recent study, indicates that El Niño is likely to come in 2020. 

An international team of scientists are forecasting an El Niño for 2020. "The probability of 'El Niño' coming in 2020 is around 80%", says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Above image shows NOAA's monthly global temperature anomaly from the 20th century average, colored by the El Niño - Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon.

A recent study found that El Niño‐Southern Oscillation (ENSO) variability over the last five decades is ~25% stronger than during the preindustrial.

As the NASA map below shows, heating in October 2019 was particularly pronounced over the Arctic Ocean.

Note that the above NASA map shows anomalies from a 1951-1980 baseline.

As the image below shows, 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 few years.

As described in this post and in an earlier post, a rapid temperature rise could result from 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 ]
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.


• Early warning: Physicists from Giessen, Potsdam and Tel Aviv forecast "El Niño" for 2020 — PIK Research Portal

• Very early warning signal for El Niño in 2020 with a 4 in 5 likelihood, by Josef Ludescher et al.

• NOAA - Monthly temperature anomalies versus El Niño

• Enhanced El Niño‐Southern Oscillation variability in recent decades, by Pamela Grothe et al.

• NASA - GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP v4)