Friday, August 19, 2016

Storms over Arctic Ocean

Winds over the Arctic Ocean reached speeds of up to 32 mph or 52 km/h on August 19, 2016. The image below shows the Jet Stream crossing Arctic Ocean on August 19, 2016 (see map on above image for geographic reference).

The Naval Research Lab image on the right shows a forecast for sea ice speed and drift run on August 15, 2016, and valid for August 17, 2016.

These storms come at a time when the sea ice has become extremely thin, as illustrated by the Naval Research Lab sea ice thickness animation below, covering a 30-day period run on August 17, 2016, with a forecast through to August 25, 2016. The animation shows that the multi-year sea ice has now virtually disappeared.

With the sea ice in such a bad shape, strong winds can cause a rapid drop in sea ice extent, at a time when the Arctic still has quite a bit of insolation. At the North Pole, insolation will come down to zero at the time of the September 2016 Equinox.

Even more terrifying is the Naval Research Lab's Arctic sea ice thickness forecast for August 25, 2016, run on August 17, 2016, using a new Hycom model, as shown on the right.

With the thicker multi-year sea ice now virtually gone, the remaining sea ice is prone to fracture and to become slushy, which also makes it darker in color and thus prone to absorb more sunlight.

Furthermore, if strong winds keep hitting the Arctic Ocean over the next few weeks, this could push much of the sea ice out of the Arctic Ocean, along the edges of Greenland and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Strong winds are forecast to keep hitting the Arctic Ocean hard for the next week, as illustrated by the image on the right showing a forecast for August 24, 2016.

As sea ice extent falls, less sunlight gets reflected back into space and is instead absorbed by the Arctic. Once the sea ice is gone, this can contribute to a rapid rise in temperature of the surface waters.

The video below shows wind speed at 10 meters forecasts from August 25, 2016 1800 UTC to September 2, 2016 0300 UTC.

The left panel on the image below shows winds (surface) reaching speeds as high as 61 km/h or 38 mph over the Arctic Ocean (green circle), while the right panel shows winds at 250 hPa (jet stream).

As the Arctic warms faster than the rest of the world, the temperature difference between the Equator and the Arctic decreases, slowing down the speed at which the Northern Polar Jet Stream circumnavigates Earth, and making it wavier.

As a result, the Jet Stream can extend far over North America and Eurasia, enabling cold air to move more easily out of the Arctic (e.g. deep into Siberia) and at the same time enabling warm air to move more easily into the Arctic (e.g. from the Pacific Ocean). Such changes to the jet stream also enable strong winds to cross East Siberia more easily and cause stormy weather over the Arctic Ocean.

This is illustrated by the image below. The left panel shows the jet stream crossing East Siberia at speeds as high as 277 km/h or 172 mph on August 27, 2016, with cyclonic winds occurring over the Arctic ocean reaching speeds as high as 78 km/h or 48 mph that day.

The right panel shows that, on that day, cold air moved deep into Central Siberia, resulting in temperatures as lows as -15.9°C or 3.5°F in Central Siberia and temperatures that were higher than they used to be over the Arctic Ocean.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The image on the right shows surface winds (top) and winds at 250 hPa (i.e. jet stream, bottom) over the Arctic Ocean causing snow (blue) and rain (green) to fall north of Greenland (center).

Rain can have a devastating impact on the sea ice, due to kinetic energy breaking up the ice as it gets hit.

This can fragment the ice, resulting in water that is warmer than the ice to melt it both at the top and at the sides, in addition to melting that occurs at the bottom due to ocean heat warming the ice from below and melting that occurs at the top due to sunlight warming the ice from above.

Furthermore, where the rainwater stays on top of the sea ice, pools of water will form, fed by rainwater and meltwater. This will darken the surface. Melting sea ice is also darker in color and, where sea ice melts away altogether, even darker water will emerge. As a result, less sunlight is getting reflected back into space and more sunlight is instead absorbed.

The image below shows Arctic sea ice thickness (nowcast, run on August 27, 2016, valid for August 28, 2016, panel left) and Arctic sea ice speed and drift (nowcast, run on August 27, 2016, valid for August 28, 2016, panel right).

The danger is that such storms, especially at this time of year, can push much sea ice out of the Arctic Ocean, along the edges of Greenland, into the Atlantic Ocean.

Next to loss of snow and ice cover, another big danger in the Arctic is methane releases.

Above image shows methane levels as high as 2454 ppb on August 25, 2016 (top panel), strong releases from Alaska to Greenland on August 26, 2016 (middle panel), and mean methane levels as high as 1862 ppb on August 27, 2016 (bottom panel).

The image on the right shows high methane levels recently recorded at Barrow, Alaska.

The image below shows cyclonic winds (center left) over the Arctic Ocean on August 22, 2016.

The image below shows how little sea ice was left at locations close to the North Pole on August 25, 2016.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
The image on the right shows that Arctic sea ice extent was 4.8 million square km on August 27, 2016, according to the NSIDC.

NOAA data show that the July 2016 global land and ocean temperature was 16.67°C or 62.01°F, the highest temperature for any month on record.

The image below on the right shows July sea surface temperature anomalies (compared to the 20th century average) on the Northern Hemisphere.

This ocean heat is now being carried by the Gulf Stream toward to Arctic Ocean.

Meanwhile, the cold sea surface area that was so pronounced over the North Atlantic in 2015, is getting overwhelmed by ocean heat.

This is illustrated by the image below showing sea surface temperature anomalies on August 27, 2015 (left panel) and on August 27, 2016 (right panel).

The image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic (latitude 60°N-90°N) compared to 1961-1990.

The Climate Reanalyzer image below also shows sea surface temperature anomalies August 16, 2016, this time compared to 1979-2000.

The image below, from an earlier post, shows sea surface temperature anomalies on August 12, 2016, in the left-hand panel, and sea surface temperature anomalies in the right-hand panel.

Sea surface temperature and anomaly. Anomalies from +1 to +2 degrees C are red, above that they turn yellow and white
Above image also shows that on August 12, 2016, sea surface temperatures near Svalbard (at the location marked by the green circle) were as high as 18.9°C or 65.9°F, an anomaly of 13.6°C or 24.4°F.

As said above, changes to the Jet Stream enable warm air to move more easily into the Arctic Ocean and cold air to move more easily out of the Arctic Ocean. Where seas are shallow, a surface temperature rise can quickly warm up water all the way down to the Arctic ocean seafloor, where it can destabilize methane hydrates contained in sediments.

This could make that huge amounts of methane get released from the seafloor. Given that many of the seas in Arctic are very shallow, much of this methane can enter the atmosphere without getting broken down in the water, resulting in huge additional warming, especially over the Arctic. As discussed in an earlier post, this could contribute to a global temperature rise of over 10°C or 18°F by the year 2026.

One of the people who has been warning about these dangers for many years is Professor Peter Wadhams, whose new book A Farewell to Ice was recently launched (256 pages, published September 1, 2016).

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

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Wildfires in Russia's Far East

Wildfires can add huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and black carbon (BC or soot) into the atmosphere.

While CO and soot are not included as greenhouse gases by the IPCC, they can have strong warming impact. CO acts as a scavanger of hydroxyl, thus extending the lifetime of methane. BC results from biomass burning, which a study by Mark Jacobson found to cause 20 year global warming of ~0.4 K. Moreover, BC has a darkening effect when settling on snow and ice, making that less sunlight gets reflected back into space, which accelerates warming. This hits the Arctic particularly hard during the Northern Summer, given the high insolation at high latitudes at that time of year.

The image below shows fires around the globe on August 12, 2016.

Visible in the top right corner of above image are wildfires in Russia's Far East. The image below zooms in on these wildfires.

The image below shows carbon dioxide levels as high as 713 ppm and carbon monoxide levels as high as 32,757 ppb on August 12, 2016, at the location marked by the green circle, i.e. the location of the wildfires in Russia's Far East.

As said, wildfires can also emit huge amounts of methane. The image below shows methane levels as high as 2230 ppb at 766 mb.

The magenta-colored areas on above image and the image below indicate that these high methane levels are caused by these wildfires in Russia's Far East. The image below shows methane levels as high as 2517 ppb at 586 mb.

Methane levels as high as 2533 ppb were recorded that day (at 469 mb), compared to a mean global peak of 1857 ppb that day.

Analysis by Global Fire Data found that the 2015 Indonesian fires produced more CO2e (i.e. CO2 equivalent of, in this case, CO2, CH4 and N2O) than the 2013 CO2 emissions from fossil fuel by nations such as Japan and Germany. On 26 days in August and September 2015, emissions from Indoniasian fires exceeded the average daily emissions from all U.S. economic activity, as shown by the WRI image below.

Methane emissions from wildfires can sometimes be broken down relatively quickly, especially in the tropics, due to the high levels of hydroxyl in the atmosphere there. Conversily, methane from wildfires at higher latitudes can persist much longer and will have strong warming impact, especially at higher latitudes.

Similarly, CO2 emissions from wildfires in the tropics can sometimes be partly compensated for by regrowth of vegetation after the fires. However, regrowth can be minimal in times of drought, when forests are burned to make way for other land uses or when peat is burned, and especially at higher latitudes where the growth season is short and weather conditions can be harsh. Carbon in peat lands was built up over thousands of years and even years of regrowth cannot compensate for this loss.

A recent study concludes that there is strong correlation between fire risk for South America and high sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. This makes the current situation very threatening. As the image below shows, sea surface temperature anomalies were very high on August 12, 2016.

Sea surface temperature and anomaly. Anomalies from +1 to +2 degrees C are red, above that they turn yellow and white
Above image also shows that on August 12, 2016, sea surface temperatures near Svalbard (at the location marked by the green circle) were as high as 18.9°C or 65.9°F, an anomaly of 13.6°C or 24.4°F. These high temperatures threaten to melt away the Arctic's snow and ice cover, resulting in albedo changes that accelerate warming, particularly in the Arctic. Warming of the Arctic Ocean further comes with the danger that methane hydrates at its seafloor will destabilize and make that huge amounts of methane will enter the atmosphere.

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


- Effects of biomass burning on climate, accounting for heat and moisture fluxes, black and brown carbon, and cloud absorption effects, by Mark Z. Jacobson (2014)

- 2016 fire risk for South America

- Global Fire Data - 2015 Indonesian fires

- Indonesia’s Fire Outbreaks Producing More Daily Emissions than Entire US Economy (2015)

- High Temperatures in the Arctic

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Arctic Sea Ice Getting Terribly Thin

Temperature Rise

A temperature rise (from preindustrial levels) of more than 10°C (18°F) could eventuate by the year 2026, as illustrated by the image below and as discussed in an earlier post.

The high temperature anomaly that occurred in February 2016 was partly caused by El Niño. Nonetheless, there is a threat that the February 2016 anomaly was not a peak, but instead was part of a trend that points at what is yet to come.

Ocean Heat

As the image below shows, 93.4% of global warming goes into oceans. Accordingly, ocean heat has been rising rapidly and, as the image below shows, a trend points at a huge rise over the coming decade.

Ocean temperature rise affects the climate in multiple ways. A recent study confirmed earlier fears that future increases in ocean temperature will result in reduced storage of carbon dioxide by oceans.

Arctic Sea Ice Thickness & Volume

[ click on images to enlarge]
Importantly, ocean temperature rises will also cause Arctic sea ice to shrink, resulting in albedo changes that will make that less sunlight gets reflected back into space, and more sunlight instead gets absorbed by the Arctic Ocean.

Arctic sea ice is losing thickness rapidly. The image on the right shows that the thicker sea ice is now almost gone (image shows sea ice on August 6, 2016, nowcast). The image below gives a comparison of the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 for August 6.

The situation looks even more threatening when looking at the Naval Research Laboratory image below, produc ed with a new model and run on August 3, 2016, valid for August 4, 2016.

The image below, by Jim Pettit, shows Arctic sea ice volume.

animated version of this graph
Sea Surface Temperatures

The extra heat entering the oceans translates in a huge temperature rise at the sea surface, as illustrated by the image below, from an earlier post and using sea surface temperature anomalies on the Northern Hemisphere up to November 2015.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
The Arctic Ocean is feeling the heat carried in by the Gulf Stream. The image on the right shows sea surface temperature anomalies from 1971-2000.

Note that the anomalies are reaching the top of the scale, so in some areas they will be above that top end (i.e. 4°C or 7.2°F) of the scale.

Sea surface temperatures off the coast of North America are very high, with sea surface temperatures as high as 33.1°C, as the image below shows. Much of the heat accumulating in the Gulf will be carried by the Gulf Stream to the Arctic Ocean over the coming months.

The image on the right shows Arctic sea surface temperature anomalies on August 7, 2016, as compared to 1961-1990. Note the black areas where sea surface temperature anomalies are above 8°C.

Sea surface temperatures in the Arctic Ocean will remain around freezing point, where and for as long as there still is sea ice present. Once the sea ice is gone, though, sea surface temperature in that area will rise rapidly.

The image below shows how profound sea surface temperature anomalies are at higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

While sea surface temperatures can be huge locally, even warmer water may be carried underneath the sea surface from the Atlantic Ocean into the Arctic Ocean, due to the cold freshwater lid on the North Atlantic, as illustrated by the image below, from an earlier post.

feedback #28 at the feedback page
Sea surface temperature was as high as 18.1°C or 64.6°F close to Svalbard (green circle) on August 6, 2016, 13.1°C or 23.6°F warmer than in 1981-2011, which gives an idea how high the temperature anomaly of the ocean may be just underneath the sea surface.

Surface Temperature

As the image on the right shows, high surface temperature anomalies have hit the Arctic particularly hard over the past 365 days.

Apart from melting the sea ice from above, high temperatures over land will also warm up the water of rivers that end in the Arctic Ocean.

Warm water from rivers will thus contribute (along with wamer water brought into the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans) to melting of the Arctic sea ice from below.


There's a danger that, as the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, huge amounts of methane will enter the atmosphere due to destabilization of hydrates at its seafloor.

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


- A Global Temperature Rise Of More than Ten Degrees Celsius By 2026?

- Ocean Heat

- Implications for Earth’s Heat Balance, IPSS 2007

- World Ocean Heat Content and Thermosteric Sea Level change (0-2000 m), 1955-2010, by Levitus et al.

- Attenuation of sinking particulate organic carbon flux through the mesopelagic ocean, by Marsay et al.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Olivine weathering to capture CO2 and counter climate change

Professor Schuiling in front of a huge and very impressive olivine massif in Oman

Olivine weathering to capture CO₂ and counter climate change - by R.D. Schuiling


CO₂ is emitted in large quantities as a consequence of our burning of fossil fuels. It has several unpleasant consequences, because it will probably cause climate change, and there are several reports that high levels of CO₂ in offices and schools may impair the quality of thinking of the people that work there. Although higher levels of it in the atmosphere may also have some beneficial effects on vegetation, it should be considered as a possibly dangerous pollutant.


Many new technologies are proposed to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere, but strangely enough the only process that has always removed the excess of CO₂ emitted by volcanoes since the origin of the Earth is barely considered. It is the weathering of minerals by which almost all the CO₂ that was emitted during the past by volcanoes was transported as bicarbonate solutions to the oceans where it was sustainably stored as carbonate rocks (limestones and dolomites).
Mg₂(SiO₄)  + 4 CO₂ + 4 H₂O 2 Mg2+ + 4 HCO3- + H₄(SiO₂)

These rocks contain about 1 million times more CO than the oceans, the atmosphere and the biosphere combined. It has provided a livable atmosphere, in contrast with Venus, where weathering was impossible due to the lack of liquid water. At present the CO levels in the atmosphere are rising, because the anthropogenic emission of CO is so large that this weathering process cannot keep pace with it. I propose to use a process of enhanced weathering to regain a new balance between input and output. In order to make this cost-effective, my examples will all represent a combination of CO capture with another beneficial effect, by which the total effect is cheaper, and may occasionally even lead to a positive financial result.

Ten cost-effective applications of olivine weathering:
  1. Increasing rice production by spreading olivine grains in paddies
  2. Olivine spreading on acid soils instead of liming
  3. Biogas production with additional methane production
  4. Solution of the sick-building syndrome of schools and offices
  5. The use of the surf as a huge ball-mill
  6. Diatom cultivation for the production of biodiesel
  7. Phytomining of nickel from olivine-rich soils
  8. Olivine hills to produce healthy mineral water
  9. Quenching forest fires with a serpentine slurry
  10. Tackling natural emissions in Milos, Greece

1. Increasing rice production by spreading olivine grains in paddies

Rice, like the other “wet grasses” like bamboo and reed needs silica. This is made available by spreading olivine grains over the paddies. It is very easy to measure the effects, by sampling the irrigation water where it enters the paddy, and sample it again where the water leaves the paddy containing olivine. The difference between the two analyses represents the effect of the weathering of the olivine. Rice production is negatively affected by acid conditions (1), and the weathering of olivine makes conditions more alkaline. As rice cultivation occupies 146 million hectares, spreading these annually with 4 ton of olivine per hectare also represents a sizable capture of CO. The increase of rice production can be measured by spreading for example 1, 3 and 10 ton of olivine over 3 paddies, and compare rice production with the production of a similar paddy without olivine spreading.

2. Olivine spreading on acid soils instead of liming

The approach as sketched above for rice can be extended to other acid agricultural soils as well. Normally acid soils are remediated by liming, but olivine spreading can do the same, and captures CO at the same time, whereas liming has a penalty for its CO emissions on account of the mining, milling and transporting of lime. Tests at the Agricultural University of Wageningen (2) have shown that olivine application increases productivity. The costs of adding lime or olivine will be rather similar, and soil scientists should decide whether a mixture of the two produces a better soil than using only one of the two.

3. Biogas production with additional methane production

Increasing methane production in biogas installations. In the normal operation of biodigesters, the produced gas contains roughly 2/3 methane, 1/3 CO and traces of HS. Before this gas can be added to the national gas lines, the CO content must be drastically reduced by rather expensive operations, and the HS must be removed. Tests with digesters have shown that the addition of fine-grained olivine has 3 important effects. It creates more alkaline conditions, which make that a larger part of the CO is already taken up as bicarbonate in the digestate, and does not have to be removed by expensive technologies. The second effect is that the traces of HS react with the iron content of the olivine and forms solid iron sulfide particles (olivine is a mixed crystal of Mg(SiO) and Fe₂(SiO₄). The third effect was somewhat unexpected. The methane production increases by the following reaction:

6 Fe₂(SiO₄) + CO₂ + 14 H₂O  Fe₃O₄ + CH₄ + 6 H₄(SiO₂)

The methane reaction is catalyzed by the tiny magnetite crystals that form in this reaction. In view of the important role of iron in the olivine, it may be worthwhile to look for olivine deposits with a higher Fe-content than the usual olivine. This application will reduce the costs of the digestion, and increase its production.

4. Solution of the sick-building syndrome of schools and offices

It was recently found by research groups in Berkeley and Harvard (3,4) that the high CO content of the internal atmosphere of these buildings (rising to 1500 to 1600 ppm in the afternoon compared to 400 ppm in the atmosphere outside) impaired the quality of thinking of the inmates. To avoid this, one can open doors and windows, but in temperate climates this causes serious increases in energy costs, and will often cause dust and noise problems. One can prevent this by installing a so-called CATO-reactor (Clean Air Through Olivine). This is a trough-like basin filled with an emulsion of fine olivine grains. Along the bottom a perforated pipe is installed, through which the internal atmosphere of the building is transported under a slight overpressure. The air bubbles pass through the olivine emulsion, and the CO is converted to bicarbonate in solution. This set-up has the additional advantage that it will also trap allergenic particles or pollen, which will make life easier for people who suffer from asthma or hay fever.

5. The use of the surf as a huge ball-mill

The surf as the largest ball-mill on Earth. Milling of olivine (around 2 US$/ton for milling olivine to 100 micron) is a cost that can be avoided if nature provides a zero cost alternative. We have carried out experiments with angular coarse olivine grit in a simulated very modest surf (5). After a few days the grains were rounded and polished grains (Fig. 1). Tiny micron-sized slivers were knocked off by collisions and abrasion. These slivers weathered in a few days.

Fig 1: The surf turns angular coarse olivine grit into rounded and polished grains in a few days
Depositing coarse olivine grit directly on beaches in the surf may well become the cheapest large-scale way to capture CO and restore the pH of the oceans.

6. Diatom cultivation for the production of biodiesel

Diatom cultivation for biodiesel production. Biofuels are produced at fairly large scale from oil palms, sorghum, maize and the like. This production occupies large tracts of land, which are withdrawn from the world food production. They consume large volumes of irrigation water, and use expensive fertilizer. Moreover not seldomly reservations for threatened animals, like the orang outan are used for these plantations. Enough reasons to look for different solutions. Diatoms (silica algae) are rich in organic material from which biodiesel can be produced. They are called silica algae, because their exoskeleton is made of silica. They can multiply fast, provided that they have enough silica. This can be provided by the weathering of olivine. One can think of the following solution for diatom cultivation. Create a lagoon along the beach, by surrounding a piece of the sea in front of this beach by a dam. Construct a connection through this dam, through which water can flow into the lagoon at high tide, and flow out of the lagoon at ebb tide. Cover the beach with half a meter thick layer of olivine grains between the high tide line and the low tide line. This beach will alternatively be wetted and drained, by which the silica-rich water will flow into the lagoon, and feed the diatoms. The dead diatoms must be harvested, dried and transported to the biodiesel plant . The diatom production in the lagoon can be boosted by installing an underwater led lighting, which makes that the photosynthesis of the diatoms can continue through the night.

7. Phytomining of nickel from olivine-rich soils

Phytomining of nickel. Olivine contains more nickel than most rocks, but still much lower than nickel ores. There are a number of plant species that have the strange habit that they can extract nickel very well from the soils on olivine rock and store it in their tissues . When you harvest these plants at the end of the growing season, dry them and burn them, the plant ash often contains around 10% of nickel, more than the richest nickel ore. Mining is an energy-intensive affair and has a high CO emission. Moreover the mining and the metal extraction from the ore cause a lot of pollution. This makes it tempting to see if you can use these nickel hyperaccumulator plants to do the job of mining without large CO emissions (6). Figure 2 shows the flowering Alyssum plants (a well-known nickel hyperaccumulator plant) on the tailings of an asbestos mine in Cyprus.

Fig 2: Yellow blossomed Alyssum nickel hyperaccumulator plants grow on tailings of former asbestos mine on Cyprus
8. Olivine hills to produce healthy mineral water

Olivine hills to produce healthy mineral water. When olivine weathers, it turns the water into a healthy magnesium bicarbonate water. According to the FAO such waters are active against cardiovascular diseases. This makes it interesting to see if we can produce similar mineral waters in places where there is no olivine in the subsoil. This is possible by the use of olivine hills (7). These can be constructed as follows. First make an impermeable layer on the soil in the form of a very flat slightly inclined gutter. Cover this with a hill of olivine grains of several meter thickness. Add soil over this hill, and plant it with shrubs and grasses. Soils are much richer in CO than the atmosphere. This is caused by the decay of dead plant material which produces CO in the soil, as well as the breathing of animals living in this soil. When it rains, the water will first encounter this CO-rich soil atmosphere, equilibrate with it and become aggressive. This CO-rich water will then move into the olivine layer, and react with it, producing a healthy magnesium bicarbonate water. This will trickle through the olivine layer until it meets the impermeable base, where it will slowly trickle to the lowest point of the gutter, where it will be released through a tap, where visitors can collect some of this water and drink it.

9. Quenching forest fires with a serpentine slurry

Quenching forest fires with a serpentine slurry. Forest fires cause the largest emission of CO after the emission by burning fossil fuels (8). Large forest fires lead to a number of deaths. Both from the public health side as from the CO emission side it would be helpful if we found a better way to quench forest fires rapidly. The following seems to be a promising way to achieve this. Serpentine is the hydrated form of olivine, it is similar to clay minerals. It is well-known that baking clays to make bricks consume a lot of energy. This is an unpleasant property, except where it is important to remove as much heat as possible, like in forest fires. We carried out a number of tests to see whether spreading serpentine slurries over fires would be a more effective way to quench fires than just water. This turned out to be very clearly the case, but not for the reason we thought. Test fires were extinguished in a few seconds when serpentine slurries were sprinkled over them, but the removal of excess heat was only a minor factor in the success. When serpentine slurries are spread over burning wood, the serpentine immediately dissociates, and forms a thin amorphous layer on the burning material. Oxygen can no longer come in contact with the burning wood, and inflammable gases from the burning wood can no longer escape. Test fires were quenched in a few seconds. As serpentinites are very common rocks, it should be easy to introduce this way of quenching to combat forest fires. It is hoped that this will be introduced by the fire brigades in many countries that suffer from forest fires, and thus save unnecessary deaths and destruction of properties. The amorphous product of the serpentine after it has reacted in the fire reacts quite fast with the first rains, faster than olivine, and thus compensates part of the CO₂ that was emitted by the fire.

10. Tackling natural emissions in Milos, Greece

CO₂ levels in the atmosphere are rising, because we are burning in a few hundred years the fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) that have taken hundreds of millions of years to form. This will probably cause a climate change, with disastrous world problems, because the ice in Greenland and Antarctica will melt and cause a serious sealevel rise. It is important, therefore, to capture as much CO₂ as possible and store it in a safe and sustainable manner.

It makes no difference for the climate if we capture anthropogenic CO₂ or natural CO₂ emissions, because all CO₂ molecules are identical. The anthropogenic emissions are much more voluminous, but natural emissions are easier to capture. An excellent example is found on and around the island of Milos, where annually 2.2 million tons of hot CO₂ are emitted from a surface area of about 35 km². The village of Paleochori is the center of this CO₂ emission. Most of the CO₂ emission is by bubbles rising out of the shallow seafloor, but CO₂ is also emitted on land. When you try to dig a hole in the beach with your hands, you have to stop when the hole is elbow-deep, otherwise you burn your hands. The bubbles are so hot, that a local restaurant in Paleochori is even using it for its “volcanic cooking”. They have buried a box in the beach sand, in which they cook a lamb every morning. Delicious to have a juicy lamb for lunch on the terrace of that restaurant, while you look out over the blue Aegean.

It becomes important for the world to capture as much CO₂ as possible. When you apply this to the CO₂ emissions at Milos, one could do the following. First find a place where the most CO₂ bubbles rise from the shallow sea floor. Then make a small artificial island by covering this point with a hill of olivine sand as well as larger olivine pieces. Of course, when bubbles of CO₂ rise in the sea, they will assume the same temperature as the sea water, but if they rise in an olivine hill they will cause the temperature inside that olivine hill to rise, because now the hot bubbles release their heat to the surrounding olivine grains. This situation will lead to a small convection system. The warm water inside the hill will start to rise, and cold seawater will be sucked in the hill from the sides. If one constructs a shallow pit on top of the island, it will fill with warm water.

Would it not be an exotic temptation for tourists, to lie even in winter in a warm bath on top of a small island, and look out over a cool blue sea? They will feel even better if they know that these delicious sensations are a small part of our efforts to save the world from climate change, and the seas from acidification. The reaction of the olivine with water + CO₂ is exothermic, so that provides some additional heat for the water in the bath.

Additional information:

As said, the weathering reaction of olivine with water and CO2 is as follows:
Mg₂(SiO₄)  + 4 CO₂ + 4 H₂O  2 Mg2+ + 4 HCO3- + H₄(SiO₂)

This means that the greenhouse gas CO₂ is converted to a bicarbonate solution, so it is no longer affecting the climate.

Some possible sources of olivine in Greece

Olivine is a very common mineral. The tailings of a magnesite company in northern Greece contain close to ten million tons of crushed olivine. A port is not too far from the location of that magnesite mine. Nearer by, on the island of Naxos, there are quite a few places with olivine rocks at the surface, where the material could be obtained by a small open pit digging operation. Apart from the proposal as a touristic attraction, Greece can present it as one of their attempts to sustainably capture the greenhouse gas CO₂.


Removal of CO₂ from the atmosphere can be combined in a number of ways with other positive effects, which makes such operations considerably more cost-effective.

  1. Breemen, N.van (1976) Genesis and solution chemistry of acid sulfate soils in Thailand. PhD thesis. Agricultural University of Wageningen, 263 pp.
  2. Ten Berge, H.F.M., van der Meer, H.G., Steenhuizen, J.W., Goedhart, P.W., Knops, P.Verhagen, J. (2012) Olivine weathering in Soil, and its Effects on Growth and Nutrient Uptake in Ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). A Pot Experiment. PLOS\one, 7(8): e42098.
  3. Savchuk,K. (2016) Your brain on Carbon dioxide: Research finds low levels of indoor CO impair thinking. California Magazine/summer 2016.
  4. Allen, J.G., Macnaughton, P., Satish, U., Spengler,J.D. (2015) Association of cognitive function scores with carbon dioxide, ventilation, and volatile organic compound exposure in office workers: a controlled exposure study of green and conventional office environments. Env.Health Perspectives, October 2015.
  5. Schuiling, R.D. and de Boer, P.L. (2011) Rolling stones, fast weathering of olivine in shallow seas for cost-effective CO capture and mitigation of global warming and ocean acidification. Earth Syst. Dynam.Discuss., 2, 551-568.doi:10.5194/esdd-2-551.
  6. Schuiling, R.D. (2013) Farming nickel from non-ore deposits, combined with CO sequestration. Natural Science 5, no4, 445-448.
  7. Schuiling, R.D. and Praagman, E. (2011) Olivine Hills, mineral water against climate change. Chapter 122 in Engineering Earth: the impact of megaengineering projects. Pp 2201-2206. Ed.Stanley Brunn, Springer.
  8. Schuiling, R.D. (2015) Serpentinite slurries against Forest Fires. Open J.Forestry, 5, 255-259.


A booklet in which Professor Schuiling describes some 80 potential applications of olivine will soon be published under the title 'Olivine, a magnificent mineral against climate change'.


- Policies

- Combining Policy and Technology

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It could be unbearably hot in many places within a few years time

On July 24, 2016, 21:00 UTC, it was 98.7°F or 37.1°C at the green circle on above image. Because humidity at the time was 72% and wind speed was 2 mph or 3 km/h, it felt like it was 140.4°F or 60.2°C.

Above image shows temperatures, i.e. 98.7°F or 37.1°C at the green circle.

Above image shows that relative humidity was 72% at the green circle.

This event occurred at a location on the border of Missouri and Arkansas, just within Missouri, as is also indicated by the red marker above Google Maps image.

The image on the right, from the IPCC, shows the effect on extreme temperatures when (a) the mean temperature increases, (b) the variance increases, and (c) when both the mean and variance increase for a normal distribution of temperature. This shows how a relatively small temperature rise can result in a dramatic rise in the occurrence of hot and record hot weather.

The 'Misery Index' is the perceived air temperature as a combination of wind chill and heat index (which combines air temperature and relative humidity, in shaded areas). As temperatures and humidity levels keep rising, there comes a point where the wind factor no longer matters, in the sense that wind can no longer provide cooling. The thermodynamic wet-bulb temperature is determined by temperature, humidity and pressure (hPa), and it is the lowest temperature that can be achieved by evaporative cooling of a water-wetted ventilated surface. Once the wet bulb temperature reaches 35°C, one can no longer lose heat by perspiration, even in strong wind, but instead one will start gaining heat from the air beyond a wet bulb temperature of 35°C.

The above combination of 37.1°C at 72% at a pressure of 1013 hPa translates in a wet bulb temperature of 32.43°C. Had humidity risen to 87% while temperature remained at 37.1°C, the wet bulb temperature would have risen above 35°C. Alternatively, had the temperature risen to 39.9°C while humidity remained at 72%, the wet bulb temperature would also have risen above 35°C.

This goes to show how close the world is to unbearable heat. After all, this event occurred in Missouri, i.e. at some distance from the Equator, implying that, as temperatures and humidity levels keep rising, it could be unbearably hot in many places within a few years time. As discussed in a recent post, the world could be 10°C or 18°F warmer in ten years time.

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


- Climate Plan

- Wet-bulb temperature

- What is Wet Bulb temperature? By Steven Sherwood

- NOAA wet bulb calculator

- Dry Bulb, Wet Bulb and Dew Point temperatures

- Heat Index

- NOAA Heat Index calculator

- Wind chill

- NOAA Meteorological Conversions and Calculations

- An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress - by Steven Sherwood and Matthew Huber

- The Deadly Combination of Heat and Humidity

- Researchers find future temperatures could exceed livable limits

- Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), 3rd Assessment Report, Working Group I: The Scientific Basis

- A Global Temperature Rise Of More than Ten Degrees Celsius By 2026?

- WMO examines reported record temperature of 54°C in Kuwait, Iraq°c-kuwait