Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Methane Threat

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are accelerating. As illustrated by the image below, a linear trend hardly catches the acceleration, while a polynomial trend does make a better fit. The polynomial trend points at CO₂ levels of 437 ppm by 2026.


EPA animation: more extreme heat
This worrying acceleration is taking place while energy-related have been virtually flat over the past few years, according to figures by the EIA and by the Global Carbon Project. So, what makes growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere accelerate? As earlier discussed in this and this post, growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere is accelerating due to continued deforestation and soil degradation, due to ever more extreme weather events and due to accelerating warming that is making oceans unable to further take up carbon dioxide.


Ocean warming is accelerating on the Northern Hemisphere, as illustrated by above image, and a warmer Atlantic Ocean will push ever warmer water into the Arctic Ocean, further speeding up the decline of the sea ice and of permafrost.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Loss of Northern Hemisphere snow cover is alarming, especially in July, as depicted in above image. The panel on the left shows snow cover on the Northern Hemisphere in three areas, i.e. Greenland, North America and Eurasia. The center panel shows North America and the right panel shows Eurasia. While Greenland is losing huge amounts of ice from melting glaciers, a lot of snow cover still remains present on Greenland, unlike the permafrost in North America and especially Eurasia, which has all but disappeared in July.

[ for original image, see 2011 AGU poster ]
Worryingly, the linear trend in the right panel points at zero snow cover in 2017, which should act as a warning that climate change could strike a lot faster than many may expect.

A recently-published study warns that permafrost loss is likely to be 4 million km² (about 1.5 million mi²) for each 1°C (1.8°F) temperature rise, about 20% higher than previous studies. Temperatures may well rise even faster, due to numerous self-reinforcing feedback loops that speed up the changes and due to interaction between the individual warming elements behind the changes.

[ Arctic sea ice, gone by Sept. 2017? ]
One of the feedbacks is albedo loss that speeds up warming in the Arctic, in turn making permafrost release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane.

Higher temperatures on land will make warmer water from rivers enter the Arctic Ocean and trigger wildfires resulting in huge emissions including black carbon that can settle on sea ice.

Given the speed at which many feedbacks and the interaction between warming elements can occur, Arctic sea ice volume may decline even more rapidly than the image on the right may suggest.
[ Record sea ice volume anomalies since end 2016 ]

Ominously, sea ice volume anomalies have been at record levels for time of year since end 2016 (Wipneus graph right, PIOMAS data).

As the Gulf Stream pushes warmer water into the Arctic Ocean, there will no longer be a large buffer of sea ice there to consume the heat, as was common for the entire human history.

Moreover, forecasts are that temperatures will keep rising throughout 2017 and beyond.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reports that seven of eight models indicate that sea surface temperatures will exceed El Niño thresholds during the second half of 2017.

The image on the right, by the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts), indicates an El Niño that is gaining strength.

For more than half a year now, global sea ice extent has been way below what it used to be, meaning that a huge amount of sunlight that was previously reflected back into space, is now instead getting absorbed by Earth, as the graph below shows.
[ Graph by Wipneus ]
Where can all this extra heat go? Sea ice will start sealing off much of the surface of the Arctic Ocean by the end of September 2017, making it hard for more heat to escape from the Arctic Ocean by entering the atmosphere.

The Buffer has gone, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page
It looks like much of the extra heat will instead reach sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean that contain huge amounts of methane in currently still frozen hydrates.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The danger is that more and more heat will reach the seafloor and will destabilize methane hydrates contained in sediments at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, resulting in huge methane eruptions.

As the image on the right shows, a polynomial trend based on NOAA July 1983 to January 2017 global monthly mean methane data, points at twice as much methane by 2034. Stronger methane releases from the seafloor could make such a doubling occur much earlier.

Meanwhile, methane levels as high as 2592 ppb were recorded on April 17, 2017, as shown by the image below. The image doesn't specify the source of the high reading, but the magenta-colored area over the East Siberian Sea (top right) looks very threatening.


We already are in the Sixth Mass Extinction Event, given the rate at which species are currently disappearing from Earth. When taking into account the many elements that are contributing to warming, a potential warming of 10°C (18°F) could take place, leading to a rapid mass extinction of many species, including humans.

[ Graph from: Which Trend is Best? ]
How long could it take for such warming to eventuate? As above image illustrates, it could happen as fast as within the next four years time.

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


Links

• Climate Plan
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html

• Extinction
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/extinction.html

• How much warming have humans caused?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2016/05/how-much-warming-have-humans-caused.html

• Accelerating growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/02/accelerating-growth-in-co2-levels-in-the-atmosphere.html

• An observation-based constraint on permafrost loss as a function of global warming, by Chadburn et al. (2017)
http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate3262.html

• Reduction of forest soil respiration in response to nitrogen deposition, by Janssens et al. (2010)
http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n5/full/ngeo844.html

• Methane Erupting From Arctic Ocean Seafloor
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/03/methane-erupting-from-arctic-ocean-seafloor.html

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/02/warning-of-mass-extinction-of-species-including-humans-within-one-decade.html


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Gulf Stream is heating up

El Niño 2017 is strengthening. On March 24, temperatures in Africa were as high as 50.6°C or 123°F.


The image below shows wildfires hitting Northern China and Far East Russia on April 4, 2017. The Amur River, which forms the boundary between China and Russia, is visible on this Terra/MODIS satellite image, with red dots indicating wildfires.


Emissions associated with such wildfires can be huge, as illustrated by the image below. On April 4, 2017, sulfur dioxide (SO₂) levels were as high as 766.29 µg/m³ at a spot (marked by the green circle, left panel) north of the Amur River, in Russia, while carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels were as high as 513 parts per million at that same spot and carbon monoxide (CO) levels there were as high as 17,402 parts per billion.


These high sulfur dioxide levels indicate that sulfur that has over the past few decades been deposited there from smokestacks of coal-fired power plants, tailpipes of vehicles, etc., can re-enter the atmosphere as a result of wildfires, confirming the conclusion of earlier studies such as by Hegg et al.

This indicates that sulfur levels in the atmosphere are higher than previously estimated, given that most previous estimates were mainly based on real-time emissions from industrial activity at the time. When adding revolitalization of previously-deposited sulfur (due to wildfires) into the picture, estimates for such aerosols' masking effect of the full wrath of global warming will be higher than previously thought, and increasingly so, as wildfires are becoming painfully more common as Earth continues to warm up.

This also implies that it becomes increasingly plausible that, when aerosol levels suddenly drop during heatwaves, wet bulb temperature starts crossing sustainability limits for humans without air-conditioning. Note that in July 2016, weather conditions at a spot in the U.S. came perilously close to this limit.

What could further contribute strongly to a rapid rise in global temperature is the combination of decline of Earth's snow and ice cover and eruptions of methane from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.

The Gulf Stream is heating up as the 2017 El Niño strengthens, fueled by record low global sea ice extent, which means that a lot of extra heat is getting absorbed globally (image below, by Wipneus).


Both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent were are record low on April 1, 2017, as the images below show.

Sea surface temperatures were as much as 5.9°C or 10.6°F warmer than 1981-2011 at the location marked by the green circle on the image below.


Over the next half year, increasingly warm waters will be carried by the Gulf Stream from the coast of North America to the Arctic Ocean. As this warmer water arrives in the Arctic Ocean, there will no longer be a large buffer of sea ice there to consume the heat, as was common for the past thousands of years and longer. Additionally, warmer water looks set to arrive in an Arctic Ocean that will be heated up like we've never seen before, as so much of the sunlight reaching the surface of the Arctic Ocean doesn't get reflected back into space anymore and as temperatures again look set to reach record highs in the Arctic during the northern summer.

Where can all this extra heat go? Sea ice will start sealing off much of the surface of the Arctic Ocean by the end of September 2017, making it hard for more heat to escape the Arctic Ocean by entering the atmosphere. The extremely dangerous situation is that it looks like much of the extra heat will instead reach sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean that contain huge amounts of methane in currently still frozen hydrates.


An image in an earlier post showed many cracks in the sea ice north of Greenland. Above image shows that huge cracks are also present in the sea ice in the Beaufort Sea.


On the combination images above and below, high concentrations of methane show up all over the Arctic Ocean, specifically over the Beaufort Sea and over and around Greenland. Note also the methane showing up over Antarctica, as discussed in an earlier post.


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


Links

• Climate Plan
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html

• Extinction
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/extinction.html

• How much warming have humans caused?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2016/05/how-much-warming-have-humans-caused.html

•Earth losing her sea ice
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/03/earth-losing-her-sea-ice.html

• Methane Erupting From Arctic Ocean Seafloor
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/03/methane-erupting-from-arctic-ocean-seafloor.html

• Nitrogen and sulfur emissions from the burning of forest products near large urban areas, Hegg et al. (1987)
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/JD092iD12p14701/full

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/02/warning-of-mass-extinction-of-species-including-humans-within-one-decade.html

• Low sea ice extent contributes to high methane levels at both poles



Saturday, April 1, 2017

Mainstream Media Biased By Focusing On Climate Denial

Hearings of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology recently degenerated into a farce, as three fringe scientists were paraded next to “mainstream-scientist” Michael Mann. The Hearing turned out to have little or no intention to live up to its stated goal of examining the “scientific method and process as it relates to climate change” and instead turned into a theater to stage climate science denial.

Reports of the event confirmed the bias of mainstream media to focus on climate denial while ignoring the side of the Climate Spectrum that is sounding the alarm, as also illustrated by the image below.


Indeed, in discussions on climate change, why ignore the side of the Climate Spectrum that is sounding the alarm? Accordingly, a recent poll at the ArcticNews group asked: “Who would you instead like to appear in a discussion with Michael Mann?” The results are shown below.



It must be said that not all media ignored the warnings. Some media did pick up alerts, e.g. those contained in a recent post at Arctic-news. Will there be further media following these examples?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Earth losing her sea ice

Earth is losing her sea ice. Arctic sea ice was at record low extent for the time of the year on March 24, 2017, as illustrated by the image below.


As the image below shows, on March 24, 2017, Arctic sea ice featured many cracks (top of Greenland is bottom left and Svalbard is on the right).


The poor state of Arctic sea ice is also reflected by the sea ice volume, as depicted by the image below, by Wipneus, showing PIOMAS anomalies up to March 2017.

On March 24, 2017, Antarctic sea ice extent was also much lower than it used to be at this time of year, as illustrated by the image below.


Altogether, global sea ice extent has now been at a record low for many months, as illustrated by the graph by Wipneus below. This means that a huge amount of additional sunlight has been absorbed over these months, instead of getting reflected back into space as before.


As Earth loses her sea ice, tipping point look set to be crossed that could result in rapid acceleration of Earth's temperature, as discussed at the extinction page, which warns that surface temperatures of the atmosphere could rise by some 10°C or 18°F within a decade, i.e. by 2026.

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


Links

• Climate Plan
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html

• Extinction
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/extinction.html

• How much warming have humans caused?
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2016/05/how-much-warming-have-humans-caused.html

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/02/warning-of-mass-extinction-of-species-including-humans-within-one-decade.html