Saturday, June 25, 2016

Climate Feedbacks Start To Kick In More

Droughts and heatwaves are putting vegetation under devastating pressure while also causing wildfires resulting in deforestation and loss of peat at massive scale, contributing to the rapid recent rise in carbon dioxide levels. 

It will take a decade before these high recent carbon dioxide emissions will reach their full warming impact. Furthermore, as the world makes progress with the necessary cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, this will also remove aerosols that have until now masked the full wrath of global warming. By implication, without geoengineering occurring over the coming decade, temperatures will keep rising, resulting in further increases in abundance and intensity of droughts and wildfires.

Temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than elsewhere. The image below shows that Arctic waters are now much warmer than in 2015. On June 22, 2016, sea surface near Svalbard was as warm as 13.8°C or 56.9°F (green circle), i.e. 11.6°C or 20.9°F warmer than 1981-2011.

High temperatures, as high as 34.1°C or 93.3°F at green circle, were recorded on July 1, 2016, over the Lena River which flows into the Laptev Sea, as illustrated by the image on the right [click on images to enlarge them].

Wildfires can release huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), methane and soot. The image below shows that on June 23, 2016, wildfires north of Lake Baikal caused emissions as high as 22,953 ppb CO and 549 ppm CO2 at the location marked by the green circle.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The video below, created by Jim Reeve, shows an animation with carbon monoxide levels in May 2016.

As increasing amounts of soot from wildfires settle on its ice and snow cover, albedo decline in the Arctic will accelerate. In addition, heatwaves are causing rapid warming of rivers ending in the Arctic Ocean, further speeding up its warming and increasing the danger of methane releases from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.

As more energy stays in the biosphere, storms can be expected to strike with greater intensity. Rising temperatures will result in more water vapor in the atmosphere (7% more water vapor for every 1°C warming), further amplifying warming and resulting in more intense precipitation events, i.e. rainfall, flooding and lightning.
Record-breaking daily rainfall events around the world. From Lehmann et al. 
Recently, West Virginia got hit by devastating flooding, killing at least 26 people and causing evacuation of thousands of people and a huge amount of damage. Flooding can also cause rapid decomposition of vegetation, resulting in strong methane releases, as illustrated by the image below showing strong methane presence (magenta color) at 39,025 ft or 11.9 km on June 26 (left panel), as well as at 44,690 ft or 13.6 km on June 27 (right panel).

[ click on image to enlarge ]
Furthermore, plumes above the anvils of severe storms can bring water vapor up into the stratosphere, contributing to the formation of cirrus clouds that trap a lot of heat that would otherwise be radiated away, from Earth into space. The number of lightning strikes can be expected to increase by about 12% for every 1°C of rise in global average air temperature. At 3-8 miles height, during the summer months, lightning activity increases NOx by as much as 90% and ozone by more than 30%.

In conclusion, feedbacks are threatening to cause runaway warming, potentially making temperatures rise by more than 10°C or 18°F within a decade. Already now, melting ice sheets are changing the way the Earth wobbles on its axis, Nasa says. As Paul Beckwith discusses in the video below, changes are also taking place to the jet streams.

The danger is that changes to the planet's wobble will trigger massive earthquakes that will destabilize methane hydrates and result in huge amounts of methane abruptly entering the atmosphere, as illustrated by the image below.

Have we lost the Arctic? It looks like Earth no longer has two poles, but instead has turned into a Monopole, with only one pole at Antarctica. On June 29, 2016, Arctic water (sea surface) was as warm as 15.8°C (60.5°F), or 13°C (23.4°F) warmer than 1981-2011. Meanwhile, surface temperatures over Antarctica that day were as low as -66.6°C (-87.8°F).
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan.


 Feedbacks in the Arctic

 Wildfire Danger Increasing

 Arctic Climate Records Melting

 Ten Degrees Warmer In A Decade?

 Arctic Sea Ice gone by September 2016?

 February Temperature

 International Energy Agency (IEA)

 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

 Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming, by Romps et al. (2014)

 Impacts of anthropogenic and natural NOx sources over the U.S. on tropospheric chemistry, by Zhang et al. (2003)

 Wildfires Rage in Siberia, NASA June 30, 2016, images acquired June 29, 2016

 Melting ice sheets changing the way the Earth wobbles on its axis, says Nasa

 Record-breaking heavy rainfall events increased under global warming, by Lehmann et al. (2015)

 'Thousand-year' downpour led to deadly West Virginia floods (July 8, 2016)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ocean Heat Overwhelming North Atlantic

Arctic sea ice extent on June 19, 2016, was at a record low for the time of the year, as the (updated) image below shows.

[ image from JAXA ]
Not only is Arctic sea ice extent at record low for time of year, the sea ice is also rapidly getting thinner, more fractured, lower in concentration and darker in color. 

[ Cracks in sea ice north of Greenland on June 19, 2016, created with Arctic-io image ]
On the morning of June 20, 2016, strong methane releases were recorded over the water north of Greenland, as well as east of Greenland, as illustrated by the image below.

The image below shows that on the morning of June 20, 2016, mean global methane levels had increased be several parts per billion over a large altitude range, compared to the two previous days. Methane levels at selected altitudes on days in July 2015 and December 2015 are added for reference.
[ click on images to enlarge ]
Temperatures in the Arctic are rising, as illustrated by the image below, showing that on June 19, 2016, temperatures were as high as 31.4°C or 88.4°F over the Mackenzie River (green circle) which ends in
the Arctic Ocean (and thus warms up the Arctic Ocean there).

On June 20, 2016, the Sun will reach its highest point (Solstice), and the Arctic will have 24 hours sunlight, i.e. on the Arctic Circle (latitude 66.56° north) or higher. The Arctic is about 20,000,000 square km (7,700,000 square miles) in size and covers roughly 4% of Earth's surface. Insolation during the months June and July is higher in the Arctic than anywhere else on Earth, as illustrated by the image below, by Pidwirny (2006).

Sea surface temperature near Svalbard was as high as 55°F (or 12.8°C, at the green circle) on June 14, 2016, an anomaly of 19.6 °F (or 10.9°C) from 1981-2011, as illustrated by the image below.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
Above image, created with, further shows that the cold lid that had been growing so prominently in extent over the North Atlantic over the past few years, has shrunk substantially. By comparison, the cold area over the North Pacific has grown larger. This is further confirmed by the image on the right, created with NASA maps and showing ocean temperature anomalies for May 2016.

Plenty of meltwater has run off from Greenland in 2016, as illustrated by the image on the right. The run-off from Alaska and Siberia into the Pacific seems less by comparison than the run-off into the North Atlantic. So, how could it be that the cold area in the North Pacific has grown larger than the cold area in the North Atlantic?
[ click on images to enlarge ]

Could there be another factor influencing the size of these cold areas in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific?

The image below, created with NOAA images, gives a comparison between the situation on June 1, 2015 (top), and June 1, 2016 (bottom), showing anomalies from 1961-1990.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

High Temperatures In Arctic

0-2000 m Global Ocean Heat Content
Ocean heat content is rising, as illustrated by the image on the right. Where the sea ice declines, this is causing high air temperatures in the Arctic.

This year (from January to April 2016) on the Northern Hemisphere, oceans were 0.85°C or 1.53°F warmer than the 20th century average.

The image below illustrates that temperatures look set to be high in Siberia for the coming week. The panel on the right shows anomalies at the top end of the scale in Eastern Siberia on June 5, 2016, while the panel on the right shows a forecast for June 12, 2016.

These high air temperatures are causing feedbacks that are in turn further speeding up warming in the Arctic.

Warmer Rivers

Temperatures as high as 28.9°C or 83.9°F were recorded over the Mackenzie River close to the Arctic Ocean on June 13, 2016, at location marked by the green circle.

Below is a satellite image of the Mackenzie River delta on June 11, 2016

The image below shows that temperatures as high as 36.6°C or 97.8°F were forecast for June 13, 2016, over the Yenisei River in Siberia that ends in the Arctic Ocean.


Earlier this month, temperatures in Eastern Siberia were as high as 29.5°C (85°F). This was on June 5, 2016, at a location close to the coast of the Arctic Ocean (green circle).

High air temperatures come with increased risk of wildfires, as illustrated by the image below showing carbon monoxide levels as high as 2944 ppb on June 4, 2016 (at green circle).

The satellite image below zooms into the area with these high carbon monoxide readings, showing wildfires on Kamchatka Peninsula on June 3, 2016.

Albedo Loss

The image on the right shows that, this year, April snow cover on the Northern Hemisphere was the lowest on record. The added trend points at a total absence of snow by the year 2036.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, says: “My prediction remains that the Arctic ice may well disappear, that is, have an area of less than one million square kilometres for September of this year.”

Warming due to Arctic snow and ice loss may well exceed 2 W per square meter, i.e. it could more than double the net warming now caused by all emissions by people of the world, Peter Wadhams calculated in 2012.

Seafloor Methane

Peter Wadhams further co-authored a study that calculated that methane release from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean could yield 0.6°C warming of the planet in 5 years (see video interview of Thom Hartmann with Peter Wadhams below).

Combined Impact Of Multiple Feebacks

In conclusion, high air temperatures in the Arctic are very worrying, as they can trigger a number of important feedbacks, i.e. the ones discussed above and further feedbacks such as:
  • Changes to Jet Streams. As the Arctic warms more rapidly than the rest of Earth, changes are occurring to the jet streams. As a result, winds can increasingly bring hot air far to the north, resulting in further loss of the Arctic snow and ice cover, in turn further warming up the Arctic.
  • Warmer Rivers. High air temperatures cause warming of the water of rivers that end up in the Arctic Ocean, thus resulting in additional sea ice decline and warming of the Arctic Ocean all the way down to the seabed.
  • Wildfires. High air temperatures set the scene for wildfires that emit not only greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, but also pollutants such as carbon monoxide that depletes hydroxyl that could otherwise break down methane, and black carbon that, when settling on ice, causes it to absorb more sunlight (see under albedo loss), besides being a climate forcer when in the atmosphere.
  • Soil destabilization. Heatwaves and droughts destabilize the soil. Soil that was previously known as permafrost, was until now held together by ice. As the ice melts, organic material in the soil starts decomposing, resulting in emissions of methane and carbon dioxide, while the soil becomes increasingly vulnerable to wildfires.
  • Buffer Loss. Arctic snow and ice cover acts as a buffer, absorbing heat that in the absence of this buffer will have to be absorbed by the Arctic Ocean, as discussed in earlier posts such as this one
  • Albedo Loss. Arctic snow and ice cover make that sunlight is reflected back into space. In the absence of this cover, the Arctic will have to absorb more heat.
  • Seafloor Methane. As sediments at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean warm, hydrates contained in these sediments could be destabilized and release huge quantities of methane.

How much warmer could it be within one decade?

The two feedbacks mentioned by Peter Wadham (albedo and seafloor methane) are are depicted in the image below.

for further discussion, see the feedbacks page
The combined global temperature rise over the next decade due to these two feedbacks (albedo and seafloor methane) alone may be 0.4°C or 0.72°F for a low-rise scenario and may be 2.7°C or 4.9°F for a high-rise scenario.

Additionally, as temperatures rise, further feedbacks will kick in more strongly, further accelerating the rise in temperature, as also discussed in earlier posts such as this one.

When also including further feedbacks, warming could exceed 10°C (18°F) within one decade, assuming that no geoengineering will take place within a decade, as discussed in earlier posts such as this one.

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


• Climate Plan

• Feedbacks in the Arctic

• East Siberian Heatwave

• Wildfire Danger Increasing

• Albedo changes in the Arctic

• Three kinds of warming in the Arctic

• Arctic could become ice-free for first time in more than 100,000 years, claims leading scientist

• Greenhouse gas levels and temperatures keep rising

• Arctic Methane Release: "Economic Time Bomb"

• February Temperature

• September 2015 Sea Surface Warmest On Record