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


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Which Trend Is Best?

NASA just released temperature data for February 2017. Should we be worried? Yes, there are many reasons to be very worried.

Let's go back in time. This is from a post written ten years ago:
We may suddenly face a future in which many if not most people will have little or no access to food, water, medicines, electricity and shelter, while diseases go rampant and gangs and warlords loot and devastate the few livable areas left. Human beings as a species will face the risk of total extinction, particularly if many species of animals and plants that humans depend on will disappear. The post continues: Many people are still in denial about the severity of the problem of global warming, the accumulation of dangers and their progression. 

Indeed, even today many people will still deny that such events could strike suddenly, e.g. within a few years time. Many people use linear trends to predict the future many years from now. As an example, the straight blue line on the graph below is a linear trend based on NASA 1880-current meteorological stations data. The problem is that linear trends, especially when based on data that go back many years, can make people overlook important recent changes such as the temperature rise that has taken place over the past few years, the decline of glaciers and sea ice and the recent increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
An alternative approach is to use recent data, e.g., from the year 2012, and then calculate a polynomial trend that extends a few years into the future. Taking such an approach can result in a polynomial trend (red curved line) that is contained in the NASA Land+Ocean data from January 2012 to February 2017. This trend shows the potential for a 10°C (18°F) rise four years from now, and this should act as a powerful warning.

The appropriateness of linear versus non-linear trends was also discussed earlier at the Controversy page.

In addition to looking at trends that are contained in such data, it makes sense to analyse the different elements contributing to such a rise. Such elements are discussed in more detail at the extinction page, which confirms the potential for a 10°C temperature rise within years, i.e. by the year 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

• Ten Dangers of Global Warming
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/ten-dangers-of-global-warming.html

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

• Controversy
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/controversy.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


Monday, March 13, 2017

Methane Erupting From Arctic Ocean Seafloor

Seafloor methane often missed in measurements

Large amounts of methane are erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. These methane eruptions are often missed by measuring stations, because these stations are located on land, while measurements are typically taken at low altitude, thus missing the methane that rises in plumes from the Arctic Ocean. By the time the methane reaches the coast, it has typically risen to higher altitudes, thus not showing up in low-altitude measurements taken at stations on land.

The image below shows the highest mean global methane levels on March 10 over the years from 2013 through 2017, for selected altitudes corresponding to 945 mb (close to sea level) to 74 mb.


The table below shows the altitude equivalents in feet (ft), meter (m) and millibar (mb).
57,016 ft44,690 ft36,850 ft30,570 ft25,544 ft19,820 ft14,385 ft 8,368 ft1,916 ft
17,378 m13,621 m11,232 m 9,318 m 7,786 m 6,041 m 4,384 m 2,551 m 584 m
 74 mb 147 mb 218 mb 293 mb 367 mb 469 mb 586 mb 742 mb 945 mb

The signature of seafloor methane

Above image shows that, over the years, methane levels have risen strongly high in the Troposphere, up into the Stratosphere. This looks like the signature of methane that originated from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. The image below further explains why.


The Tropopause separates the Troposphere from the Stratosphere. The Tropophere ends at a height of some 9 km (5.6 mi; 30,000 ft) at the poles, and at a height of some 17 km (11 mi; 56,000 ft) at the Equator.

As said, methane is erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean concentrated in plumes, unlike methane from wetlands and agriculture that is typically emitted over a wide area. Since seafloor methane is rising in plumes, it hardly shows up on satellite images at lower altitude either, as the methane is very concentrated inside the area of the plume, while little or no increase in methane levels is taking place outside the plume. Since the plume will cover less than half the area of one pixel, such a plume doesn't show up well at low altitudes on satellite images,

Methane over the Arctic typically does show up on satellite images at altitudes between 4.4 km and 6 km (14,400 ft and 19,800 ft). Seafloor methane will show up better at these higher altitudes where it spreads out over larger areas. At even higher altitudes, methane will then follow the Tropopause, i.e. the methane will rise in altitude while moving closer to the equator.

NOAA image

In conclusion, methane originating from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean can strongly contribute to high methane levels that show up over the Equator at higher altitudes, but this methane can be misinterpreted for methane originating from tropical wetlands.

Methane levels as high as 2846 ppb
[ click on images to enlarge ]

On March 14, 2017, methane levels were as high as 2846 ppb, as illustrated by the image on the right. While the origin of these high levels looks hard to determine from this image, the high levels showing up over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) later that day (image underneath) give an ominous warning that destabilization of methane hydrates is taking place.

The images also show that high methane levels are showing up at many other places, e.g. over Antarctica where hydrate destabilization also appears to be taking place, which could also be the cause of noctilucent clouds as discussed in earlier posts (see links at end of this post).

Why is methane erupting from the Arctic Ocean?

Why are increasingly large quantities of methane erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean? The main driver is warming of the Arctic Ocean that is destabilizing once-permanently-frozen sediments that contain huge amounts of methane in the form of hydrates and free gas.

Ocean heat is increasingly entering the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean, as illustrated by the images below. Self-reinforcing feedbacks, in particular sea ice decline, further speed up warming of the Arctic Ocean.

[ from earlier post ]

[ from earlier post ]
Self-reinforcing feedback loops

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Meanwhile, the next El Niño event has already started, at a time when sea surface temperature anomalies over the Pacific Ocean are very high as illustrated by the image on the right showing sea surface temperature anomalies east of South America as high as 5.3°C or 9.5°F (compared to 1981-2011) on February 28, 2017.

Greater contrast between sea surface temperatures and temperatures on land has contributed to flooding in California and South America.

Importantly, more water vapor in the atmosphere results in more warming, since water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Above images shows ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) plumes with strong positive anomalies in all three El Niño regions (on the right).

In other words, temperatures in 2017 look set to be very high, which spells bad news for the Arctic where temperature anomalies are already several times higher than in the rest of the world.

Arctic sea ice looks set to take a steep fall, as illustrated by the image below.


The danger is that further self-reinforcing feedback loops such as albedo decline and methane releases will accelerate warming and, in combination with further warming elements, cause a temperature rise as high as 10°C or 18°F by the year 2026, as described at the extinction page.

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

• 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

• Low sea ice extent contributes to high methane levels at both poles
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/03/low-sea-ice-extent-contributes-to-high-methane-levels-at-both-poles.html

• Noctilucent clouds indicate more methane in upper atmosphere
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2012/09/noctilucent-clouds-indicate-more-methane-in-upper-atmosphere.html

• Noctilucent clouds: further confirmation of large methane releases
http://methane-hydrates.blogspot.com/2013/12/noctilucent-clouds-further-confirmation-of-large-methane-releases.html



Saturday, March 4, 2017

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

[ click on images to enlarge ]
On March 2, 2017, Antarctic sea ice extent was at a record low since satellite readings started.

As the image on the right shows, sea ice extent in 2017 (light blue) around Antarctica has been more than 1 million km² lower than the 1981-2010 median.

At the same time, Arctic sea ice extent was at a record low for the time of the year since 1979.

As the image underneath on the right shows, Arctic sea ice extent in 2017 has also been more than than 1 million km² lower than the 1981-2010 median.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
For about half a year now, global sea ice extent has been more than 2 million km² lower than it used to be, not too long ago, as illustrated by the image below, by Wipneus.

This means that a lot of sunlight that was previously reflected back into space, has been absorbed instead by Earth, contributing to global warming, especially at the poles.

Greater warming at the poles has also caused more extreme weather, resulting in stronger winds and waves and in wild weather swings, further accelerating the decline of the sea ice.

The combination of rising ocean heat and stronger winds looks set to devastate the sea ice around Antarctica. Ocean heat is increasing particularly in the top layer (see image on the right).

Warming water is increasingly reaching the coast of Antarctica. The image below illustrates how much sea ice melt has occurred close to the coast of Antarctic over the past few months, while much sea ice has drifted away from the coast due to strong currents and wind.


As said, less sea ice means that a lot of sunlight is no longer reflected back into space, but is instead further warming up the poles. As a result, methane levels can be very high at both poles. The combination image below shows methane levels as high as 2560 ppb on March 1, 2017. The image in the panel on the left shows high methane levels over Antarctica in an area with much grey, indicating that it was hard to get a good reading there. On the image in the panel on the right, high methane levels do show up clearly in that area.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
As discussed before, methane hydrates can be present both on Greenland and on Antarctica underneath thick layers of snow and ice. Due to global warming, wild weather swings are now common at the poles, as illustrated by the image below. This can cause sequences of rapid and extreme expansion, compacting and fracturing of snow and ice, resulting in destabilization of methane hydrates contained in the permafrost.


The image below shows methane levels as high as 2562 ppb, with solid magenta-colored areas showing up over the Laptev Sea on March 4, 2017.

The image below shows that sea surface temperatures in the Arctic Ocean were as high as 12.7°C or 54.9°F on March 3, 2017 (at the location marked by the green circle), i.e. 12°C or 21.6°F warmer than in 1981-2011.


Below is the same image, but in a different projection and showing sea surface temperatures, rather than anomalies. In 1981-2011, the temperature of the water at a spot near Svalbard (green circle) was 0.7°C (33.3°F.). On March 3, 2017, it was 12°C (21.6°F) warmer on that spot.


The danger is that self-reinforcing feedback loops such as albedo decline and methane releases will further accelerate warming and will, in combination with further warming elements, cause a temperature rise as high as 10°C or 18°F by the year 2026, as described at the extinction page.

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

• Methane hydrates
http://methane-hydrates.blogspot.com/2013/04/methane-hydrates.html

• Earthquakes in the Arctic Ocean
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2014/04/earthquakes-in-the-arctic-ocean.html