Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Unfolding Arctic Catastrophe

On January 1, 2018, methane levels as high as 2764 ppb (parts per billion) were recorded. The solid magenta-colored areas near Greenland indicate that this very high reading was likely caused by methane hydrate destabilization in the sediments on the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.


The state of the sea ice is behind this. On January 1, 2018, Arctic sea ice extent was at record low for the time of the year. The smaller the extent, the less sunlight gets reflected back into space and is instead absorbed in the Arctic.

At this time of year, though, hardly any sunshine is reaching the Arctic. So, what triggered this destabilization? As the image below indicates, year-to-date average Arctic sea ice volume has been at record low in 2017, which means that there has been very little sea ice underneath the surface throughout 2017.


Warm water will melt the sea ice from below, which keeps the water at greater depth cool. However, when there is little or no sea ice underneath the surface, little or no heat will be absorbed by the process of melting and the heat instead stays in the water, with the danger that it will reach sediments at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below.

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[ image from: Warming is accelerating ]
The image on the right shows warm water from the North Atlantic arriving near Svalbard. How warm is the water beneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean? The image below gives an indication, showing how much warmer the water was from October 1, 2017, to December 30, 2017, at selected areas near Svalbard, where warm water from the North Atlantic dives under the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, carried by the Gulf Stream.
[ click on images to enlarge ]
In 1981-2011, temperatures were gradually falling by more than one degree Celsius from October 1 to the December 21 Solstice, then started to rise again in line with the change in seasons (blue line). In 2017, temperatures were rising in October. On October 25, 2017, the sea surface was as warm as 17.5°C or 63.5°F, i.e. a 14.1°C or 24.5°F anomaly. On average, it was 12.96°C or 23.35°F warmer during the period from October 1 to December 30, 2017 (red line), compared to the same days in 1981-2011.

The images below further illustrate the situation. Surface temperature of the atmosphere near Svalbard was as warm as 7°C or 44.5°F on January 13, 2018 (at green circle, left panel). The sea surface near Svalbard was as warm as 15.9°C or 60.8°F on January 12, 2018, compared to 2.4°C or 36.4°F on January 12 for the period 1981-2011 (at green circle, center panel). Waves as high as 13.04 m or 42.8 ft (at green circle, right panel) batter the North Atlantic along Norway's coast all the way to Svalbard on January 15, 2018.


The image below shows that waves as high as 16.01 m or 52.5 ft are forecast to batter the North Atlantic on January 16, 2018 (green circle, left panel). 100% relative humidity is recorded over the Arctic Ocean on January 15, 2018 (green circle, center panel). The Jet Stream reaches speeds as high as 426 km/h or 264 mph on January 15, 2018 (green circle, right panel).


Similar extreme weather patterns can be seen elsewhere in the Arctic. The image below on the left shows that temperatures as high as 18.5°C or 65.3°F were recorded on Jan. 14 and 15, 2018 in Metlakatla, Alaska. The image below on the right shows that surface temperatures as high as 7.4°C or 45.2°F were reached on January 16, 2018, in Yukon Territory, Canada (at green circle).

[ click on images to enlarge ]

In conclusion, as the Arctic is warming up faster than the rest of the world, Jet Streams are getting more wavy, resulting in more extreme weather events. Wind speed accelerates over warmer oceans, pushing more heat into the Arctic Ocean, threatening to cause eruptions of huge amounts of methane from the Arctic Ocean seafloor.

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

• Warming is accelerating
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/11/warming-is-accelerating.html

• Feedbacks
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/feedbacks.html

• 10°C or 18°F warmer by 2021?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/04/10c-or-18f-warmer-by-2021.html

• Abrupt Warming - How Much And How Fast?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/05/abrupt-warming-how-much-and-how-fast.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

• High methane levels over the Arctic Ocean on January 14, 2014
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2014/01/high-methane-levels-over-the-arctic-ocean-on-january-14-2014.html

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

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

• 2015 warmest year on record
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2015/12/2015-warmest-year-on-record.html

• Accelerating Warming of the Arctic Ocean
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2016/12/accelerating-warming-of-the-arctic-ocean.html

• Arctic Ocean Feedbacks
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/01/arctic-ocean-feedbacks.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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Winds keep changing as warming continues

November 2017 was 0.87 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean 1951-1980 November temperature, as above image shows. The last three Novembers — 2015, 2016, and 2017 — are the three warmest in the entire modern record. The warmest month of November happened in 2015 (+1.03°C) when there was a strong El Niño, while we're currently in a La Niña period.

On the image below, cyclonic winds on December 21, 2017, are visible near the Philippines and Vietnam. Near the Philippines, 3-hour precipitation accumulation was as high as 121.6 mm or 4.79 in (at green circle). As a BBC report describes, Tropical Storm Tembin made landfall in the southern Philippines on December 22, 2017, causing flash flooding and mudslides. More than 180 people are reported to have been killed, as the tropical storm swept through Mindanao island, with dozens more missing.


A week earlier, Tropical Storm Kai-Tak hit the central Philippines, killing dozens. The region is still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 5,000 people and affected millions in 2013.


The winds are fueled by high sea surface temperatures. Above image shows that, on December 21, 2017, sea surface temperatures were as high as 31.7°C or 89°F north of Australia. In line with rising temperatures caused by global warming, sea surface temperature anomalies are high across the oceans, as the image below illustrates.


As above image also shows, the sea surface was relatively cold at locations indicative for El Niño (depicted as four El Niño regions on the right).

The image below shows El Niño forecast plumes indicating that we're currently in a La Niña period, and that temperatures are on the rise.


In conclusion, just like the rise in temperatures is currently masked by a La Niña period, the return to a new El Niño period will further strengthen the rise.


This strengthening of winds is what can be expected in a warmer world. Above image shows a wavy Northern Polar Jet Stream combine with the Northern Subtropical Jet Stream to reach speeds as high as 401 km/h or 249 mph.

As the jet stream becomes more wavy and extends over the Arctic, more warm air and water gets carried into the Arctic, further speeding up warming, as also discussed at The Arctic is changing the Jet Stream - Why This Is Important.

The importance of Arctic warming was also discussed in the recent post Warming is accelerating. Changes to the Jet Stream can cause a lot more heat to be brought into the Arctic, through both the Bering Strait and the Fram Strait. This image below shows wind through the Bering Strait reaching speeds as high as 135 km/h or 84 mph.


The combination image below shows the Jet Stream extending over the Arctic Ocean and remaining in place for days, reaching speeds as high as 206 km/h or 128 mph. Such 'blocking' patterns can cause a lot of heat to be brought into the Arctic atmosphere, as well as into the water of the Arctic Ocean. The image in the left-hand panel indicates that temperature anomalies over the Arctic Ocean could be as high as 30°C or 54°F.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
As the temperature difference between the North Pole and the Equator decreases, the Jet Stream becomes more wavy, at times extending deep over the continents and bringing cold air to the south. This further increases the (already high) temperature difference between land and ocean, further speeding up cyclonic winds that move over the oceans toward the North Pole and that carry warm water and air toward the Arctic Ocean. The image below shows a forecast for January 1, 2018.


As sea ice keeps declining, ever less sunlight gets reflected back into space. The image below shows the decline in global sea ice area over the years.


The image below shows the average year-to-date Arctic sea ice volume (PIOMAS data).


This further confirms the updated trend analysis of the NASA temperature anomaly below.


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

Links

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

• Warming is accelerating
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/11/warming-is-accelerating.html

• The Arctic is changing the Jet Stream - Why This Is Important
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-arctic-is-changing-the-jet-stream-why-this-is-important.html

• NASA: November 2017 temperature news release
https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/news/20171218

• BBC: Philippines Tropical Storm Tembin kills 180 on Mindanao
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42464644

• NOAA: Four El Niño regions
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ensostuff/nino_regions.shtml

• ECMWF: El Niño forecast plumes
https://www.ecmwf.int/en/forecasts/charts/catalogue/seasonal_system5_public_nino_plumes

• 10°C or 18°F warmer by 2021?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/04/10c-or-18f-warmer-by-2021.html

• Abrupt Warming - How Much And How Fast?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/05/abrupt-warming-how-much-and-how-fast.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

• High methane levels over the Arctic Ocean on January 14, 2014
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2014/01/high-methane-levels-over-the-arctic-ocean-on-january-14-2014.html

• Feedbacks
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/feedbacks.html

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



Sunday, December 17, 2017

Fires threaten Santa Barbara


New mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for the areas of Montecito, Summerland and some parts of Santa Barbara city, emergency officials said.


Above graph shows carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels from December 5 - 20, 2017, while the map below shows the location of the measurements (and forecasts).


The graph shows levels at one location and for one time of day (00:00 UTC for CO, respectively 01:30 UTC for CO₂). On December 11, 2017, at this location, but at 22:30 UTC, CO levels were 55639 ppb and CO₂ levels were 898 ppm, as illustrated the combination image below (left panel).

The right panel of the image below shows that CO₂ levels were as high as 922 ppm on December 7, 2017, at 01:30 UTC at a slightly different location. No CO₂ measurements were available for December 9 and 10, 2017, but given that levels of CO₂ and CO typically go up and down hand in hand, CO₂ may have peaked at well over 1000 ppm on December 9, 2017, possibly exceeding the 1229 ppm CO₂ measured in Montana on July 22, 2017.


Such fires look set to cause increasing amounts of emissions, speeding up warming of the atmosphere. These fires were fueled by extremely dry, hot and strong winds lasting for many days. Global warming is behind all these conditions. Not only does more heat translate into higher temperatures and stronger winds, the decreasing temperature difference between the Arctic and the Equator is also increasing the intensity and duration of more extreme weather events such as storms and droughts. A record 129 million trees on 8.9 million acres have died in California due to drought and bark beetles infestation.


“For the first time in history, on December 7th, the Cal Fire elevated the fire threat to purple for San Diego County, warning that the weather conditions presented an extreme risk of fire for San Diego,” California Governor Jerry Brown wrote in a request for federal emergency assistance. “Fire officials predict extreme winds of up to 80 miles per hour, equal to the wind speed of a category one hurricane.”


The following is an extract from the California Scoping Plan 2017:
In California, as in the rest of the world, climate change is contributing to an escalation of serious problems, including raging wildfires, coastal erosion, disruption of water supply, threats to agriculture, spread of insect-borne diseases, and continuing health threats from air pollution. The drought that plagued California for years devastated the state’s agricultural and rural communities, leaving some of them with no drinking water at all. In 2015 alone, the drought cost agriculture in the Central Valley an estimated $2.7 billion, and more than 20,000 jobs. Last winter, the drought was broken by record-breaking rains, which led to flooding that tore through freeways, threatened rural communities, and isolated coastal areas. This year, California experienced the deadliest wildfires in its history. Climate change is making events like these more frequent, more catastrophic and more costly.

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

• Wildfires 
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/07/wildfires.html

• Extreme weather is upon us 
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/09/extreme-weather-is-upon-us.html

• 10°C or 18°F warmer by 2021?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/04/10c-or-18f-warmer-by-2021.html

• Abrupt Warming - How Much And How Fast?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/05/abrupt-warming-how-much-and-how-fast.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

• Feedbacks
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/feedbacks.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

• Turning forest waste into biochar
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2013/01/turning-forest-waste-into-biochar.html


Friday, November 24, 2017

Warming is accelerating


Warming is accelerating. For some time, it has been warmer than the 1.5°C guardrail that the Paris Agreement promised should not be crossed. This conclusion follows from above analysis of NASA land+ocean data 1880-October 2017, adjusted by 0.59°C to cater for the rise from preindustrial and with a trend added that also indicates that the global temperature look set to cross the 2°C guardrail soon, with 2021 falling within the margins of the trend line.
[ click on images to enlarge ]

The trend line shows a strong and ominous direction upward. Nonetheless, the situation could be even more dire than this trend indicates, since some warming elements are not fully incorporated in these data.

As an example, the NASA data look at the temperature at the surface of the oceans, which has increased strongly, as also illustrated by the image on the right.

Much warming has also occurred below the sea surface, while there has been some cooling of the sea surface. Moreover, ocean heat has also increased strongly over the years, as the image below illustrates, and looks set to increase further.

After all, what happens to oceans is important, as 93.4% of global warming currently goes into oceans.


The fact that much warming is taking place below the sea surface could make that it gets overlooked. If much of this warming were to get transferred from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere over the next few years, then the temperature rise over the next few years could take an even sharper turn upward.

The threat that warming below the sea surface is overlooked is highlighted by the image below, which shows huge warming of Arctic waters at selected locations near Svalbard.


Above image focuses on temperatures at selected locations near Svalbard (see map below). In 1981-2011, temperatures were gradually falling by more than one degree Celsius over the period of measurement, i.e. from October 1 to November 23 (blue line), a fall that is in line with the change in seasons. Over this period in 2017, temperatures were 13.19°C or 23.77°F higher than in 1981-2011, while the temperature didn't seem to be falling (red line).


How could these waters get a stunning 13.19°C warmer than two decades ago?

Global warming did hit the North Atlantic hard, particularly along the track of the Gulf Stream all the way to the Arctic Ocean. This has translated into stronger winds along the track of the Gulf Stream, which are making that ever larger amounts of warm water are getting pushed from the North Atlantic to the Arctic Ocean.

A temperature rise underneath the sea surface can be overlooked when merely monitoring the average surface temperature of the Arctic Ocean, especially when stronger winds have caused more evaporation, cooling down the water at the surface.

[ 100% relative humidity (left) as jet stream moves over Arctic Ocean (right) ]
Stronger winds, higher temperatures and the presence of more open water in the Arctic have all contributed to stronger rainfall in the Arctic. It looks like the rain did cause a freshwater lid to form at the surface of the Arctic Ocean, acting as an insulator and preventing transfer of ocean heat to the atmosphere. This also contributed to a colder atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean, i.e. colder than it would otherwise have been. At the same time, since less heat could escape from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere, this freshwater lid has resulted in warmer water, as is evident from the huge anomalies at the locations near Svalbard. The forecast below that Arctic will be 7.2°C or 12.96°F warmer than in 1979-2000 on December 3, 2017, illustrates just how warm the Arctic Ocean currently is.


This freshwater lid has also made it easier for sea ice to form at the surface, as ice will form in freshwater as warm as just below 0°C (or 32°F), compared to salty seawater that must cool down to -2°C (or 28.4°F) before freezing. The seawater underneath the sea ice is warm enough to melt the ice from below, but the layer of freshwater at the surface acts as an insulator.

There would have been less sea ice, had it not been for the rain resulting in this freshwater lid. Much of the freshwater lid did turn into sea ice in September 2017, as air temperatures came down below 0°Cs, and this sea ice similarly acted as an insulator, preventing transfer of heat from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere. Importantly, while much of the additional freshwater at the surface did turn into sea ice in 2017, this is only a temporary phenomenon, as no ice will form once the surface of the water will stay above 0°C, which looks imminent as temperatures keep rising.


[ Cyclone carrying particulates into the Arctic Ocean ]
Further sea ice loss means that less sunlight will get reflected back into space and will instead get absorbed by the Arctic, further accelerating warming in the arctic.

Additionally, more heat is radiated from sea ice into space than from open water (feedback #23).

Stronger cyclones can also bring more particulates into the Arctic Ocean, speeding up the demise of sea ice by darkening it when settling on ice, as illustrated by the image on the right.

In conclusion, while the formation of the freshwater lid at the surface of the Arctic Ocean has been holding back the collapse of the sea ice, the delay of the collapse can only be a temporary one as temperatures keep rising. The Arctic Ocean is warming at accelerating speed and collapse of the sea ice looks imminent.

[ click on image to enlarge ]

Above images confirm the loss of the thicker sea ice over the past few years, while zero Arctic sea ice is within the margins of the trend line of the image on the right.

Less sea ice will on the one hand make that more heat can escape from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere, but on the other hand the albedo loss and the additional water vapor will at the same time cause the Arctic Ocean to absorb more heat, with the likely net effect being greater warming of the Arctic Ocean.

Another point to consider is latent heat, as discussed in earlier posts. The danger is illustrated by the image below, showing that heat threatens to destabilize methane hydrates at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, more heat threatens to reach sediments that have until now remained frozen. Melting of the ice in these sediments then threatens to unleash huge eruptions of seafloor methane that has until now been kept locked up by the permafrost.

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Additionally, melting of permafrost on land can cause rapid decomposition of soils, resulting in releases of huge amounts of greenhouse gases, further accelerating warming in the Arctic, which in turn will result in more greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, water vapor) entering the Arctic atmosphere, more albedo changes, etc., in a vicious self-reinforcing cycle of runaway warming.


Levels of CO2, CH4 an N2O have been rising rapidly since 1750, as above image shows. Methane levels have risen 257% since 1750.

Did the rise in methane emissions slow down from 1999 to 2006?

One explanation for the apparent slowdown is that, as temperatures kept rising, water vapor in the atmosphere increased accordingly (7% more water vapor for every 1°C warming), resulting in more hydroxyl that broke down more methane in the atmosphere since 1990. So, while the rise in methane levels appeared to slow down, methane emissions were actually continuing to increase, but as an increasingly large part of methane was decomposed by hydroxyl, this rise in methane was overlooked. In 2007, Arctic sea ice reached a record low, triggering more methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. While hydroxyl kept increasing, seafloor methane kept increasing faster, making that methane emissions increasingly started to overwhelm hydroxyl, resulting in a stronger rise in overall methane levels. In 2013, I estimated methane emissions at 771 Tg/y, whereas the IPCC's estimate was 678 Tg/y. The post estimated methane from hydrates and permafrost at 13% of total methane emissions, whereas the IPCC's estimate was a mere 1% of total methane emissions. - Sam Carana, Dec. 2017.



[ click on images to enlarge ]
The presence of methane is felt particularly strongly over the Arctic Ocean. Above images show high methane levels over the Arctic Ocean on December 2, 2017, when methane reached a peak level of 2771 ppb and on December 13 and 14, 2017, when peak levels as high as 2713 ppb were reached.

Methane levels have been rising strongly since 2000 and this rise looks set to continue, as illustrated by the image on the right.

There is also a danger that, as temperatures keep rising, the course of the ocean current near Svalbard could change, making that more heat will reach the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), thus further warming up sediments there, resulting in huge amounts of methane erupting from the seafloor.

Add up the impact of all warming elements and, as an earlier analysis shows, the rise in mean global temperatures from preindustrial could be more than 10°C in a matter of years, as illustrated by the images below.


A 2°C rise in temperature alone is devastating, especially when considering that temperature peaks in history look to have been less high than previously thought, as concluded by a recent study in ocean paleotemperature. Therefore, a 10°C rise may well result in the warmest temperatures experienced on Earth. Moreover, the speed at which this rise could occur leaves little or no time for plants and animals to adapt, in contrast to historical climate swings that typically took many years to eventuate.


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


Links

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

• 10°C or 18°F warmer by 2021?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/04/10c-or-18f-warmer-by-2021.html

• Abrupt Warming - How Much And How Fast?
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2017/05/abrupt-warming-how-much-and-how-fast.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

• High methane levels over the Arctic Ocean on January 14, 2014
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2014/01/high-methane-levels-over-the-arctic-ocean-on-january-14-2014.html

• Feedbacks
https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/feedbacks.html

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