"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Global Temperature Rise’

As The World Burns: 2015 On Pace To Be Hottest Year Ever Recorded; The Latest Global Temperature Data Are Breaking Records

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2015 at 9:02 pm
Road markings appear distorted as the asphalt starts to melt due to the high temperature in New Delhi, India, 27 May 2015.

Road markings appear distorted as the asphalt starts to melt due to the high temperature in New Delhi, India, 27 May 2015. Photograph: Harish Tyagi/EPA

Oldspeak:”I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.” –The Narrator, Fight Club

By John Abraham @ The Guardian:

Just today, NASA released its global temperature data for the month of May 2015. It was a scorching 0.71°C (1.3°F) above the long-term average. It is also the hottest first five months of any year ever recorded. As we look at climate patterns over the next year or so, it is likely that this year will set a new all-time record. In fact, as of now, 2015 is a whopping 0.1°C (0.17°F) hotter than last year, which itself was the hottest year on record.

Below, NASA’s annual temperatures are shown. Each year’s results are shown as black dots. Some years are warmer, some are cooler and we never want to put too much emphasis on any single year’s temperature. I have added a star to show where 2015 is so far this year, simply off the chart. The last 12 months are at record levels as well. So far June has been very hot as well, likely to end up warmer than May.

Global surface temperature estimates from NASA GISS.
Global surface temperature estimates from NASA GISS.

So why talk about month temperatures or even annual temperatures? Isn’t climate about long-term trends?

First, there has been a lot of discussion of the so-called ‘pause.’ As I have pointed out many times here and in my own research, there has been no pause at all. We know this first by looking at the rate of energy gain within the oceans. But other recent publications, like ones I’ve written about have taken account of instrument and measurement quality and they too find no pause.

Second, there has been a lot of discussion of why models were running hotter than surface air temperatures. There was a real divergence for a while with most models suggesting more warming. Well with 2014 and 2015, we see that the models and actual surface temperatures are in very close agreement.

When we combine surface temperatures with ocean heat content, as seen below, a clear picture emerges. Warming is continuing at a rapid rate.

Global ocean heat content estimates from NOAA.
Global ocean heat content estimates from NOAA.

There is an emerging view that the so-called surface warming slowdown was caused from poor instrument coverage around the globe, volcanic eruptions, and a multi-year oscillation in the oceans. The issue of instrument coverage is being fixed as we speak.

But, any short term fluctuations can only temporarily influence the long term trend. In the ocean heat content image above, you might notice a slight change in the trend around 2005. The trend change has since disappeared; it was associated with the ocean oscillations I mentioned earlier.

The recent warming skyrocket has put the contrarians in a bad position. In 2013, when contrarian Christopher Monckton repeated a claim that temperatures might decrease by 0.5°C in two years, I challenged him to a $1000 bet. He never took that bet, but we can see he would have lost handily if he had.

More recently, contrarian Judith Curry was reported as warning about decades of cooling (or perhaps lack of warming) stretching out to the 2030s. We see that this prediction is not looking very likely. Other contrarians have made similar predictions and it makes one wonder how much evidence will have to pile up before they climb down.

Just a few months ago, Roy Spencer (another climate contrarian) claimed, “We are probably past the point of reaching a new peak temperature anomaly from the current El Niño, suggesting it was rather weak.” While it remains to be seen whether or not he is correct, his own data have shown an uptick in temperatures, and the most recent months have continued the very warm trend. Barring something really unusual, the trend will continue until the end of this year.

I asked climate expert Dr. Joe Romm, Founding Editor of Climate Progress for his thoughts. He reminds us,

Historically, the global temperature trend-line is more like a staircase than a ramp. It now appears we are headed for a step-jump in global temperatures that scientists have been expecting.

Let’s hope his prediction is wrong, but let’s plan for it to be correct.

One In Six Of World’s Species Faces Extinction Due To Climate Change. Climate Change Will Accelerate Earth’s 6th Mass Extinction

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2015 at 6:22 pm

The marbled salamander is increasing its distribution and range in response to warming winter temperatures. (Mark Urban)

Oldspeak: “The risk if we continue on our current trajectory is very high. If you look out your window and count six species and think that one of those will potentially disappear, that’s quite profound. Those losses would affect our economy, our cultures, our food security, our health. It really compels us to act.” Dr. Mark C Urban

“I’m watching the NBA playoffs. A wave a sadness just gripped me watching the commercials at half time. So many car commercials. So many food commercials. So many Movie and TV commercials. So many alcohol commercials. Claiming to free your soul. To expand your horizons. To have you on the edge of your seat. To fill your stomach. To bring you pleasure and fun. To dazzle your senses with wondrous and exciting distractions. Tweetworthy “experiences”. I guess what else to expect on the Disney Corporations’ Infotainment stream ABC really. Nothing real. Even the “news” was about how to tell if your wedding ring was fake. All the variegated manner of unreality purporting to make you feel alive. SIGH. All that in the context of this life altering and extinguishing actual reality. Business as usual continues unabated. We pretty much know how this show goes. We are The Walking Dead. Acting at this point is pointless. 2c is a fantasy at this point, and even that’s a fucking nightmare. Sigh. I’ll choose to meditate on the words of Nisargadatta:

Whatever is happening is bound to happen. There is a series of events; a scenario is written down. So according to that scenario, things happen. If we are identified with all sorts of things, we have certain hopes and aspirations; and if things turn out accordingly, we are happy. If the things that happen are not according to our wishes we are unhappy. So we will continue to be happy and unhappy in an endless cycle, so long as we persist in this attitude. However the moment we see things a proper perspective — that all we can do is see that witnessing happens, and that whatever happens is independent of our thoughts — then there is a different state. There is no volition as far as an individual is concerned; things happen on their own. When that is seen, there is already a certain piece of mind…. The ignorant man will want to live as long as he can. He would like to postpone the moment of death as much as possible. But for a jnani (knower, sage one who has realized the self), what benefit of any kind can he expect  by existing in the world even one more minute? So the only thing that would be nice is for the vital breath to leave quietly and not make a fuss.” Word to ya Maharaj.” -OSJ

By Sarah Zielinski @ Smithsonian.com:

The pace at which species disappear is picking up as temperatures rise, and things are looking especially troubling in the tropics

Climate change is accelerating species loss on Earth, and by the end of this century, as many as one in six species could be at risk of extinction. But while these effects are being seen around the world, the threat is much higher in certain sensitive regions, according to two new comprehensive studies.

The planet is experiencing a new wave of die-offs driven by factors such as habitat loss, the introduction of exotic invaders and rapid changes to our climate. Some people have called the phenomenon the sixth mass extinction, on par with the catastrophic demise of the large dinosaurs 65 million years ago. To try and combat the declines, scientists have been racing to make predictions about which species are most likely to go extinct, along with when and where it will happen, sometimes with widely varying results.

“Depending on which study you look at, you can come away with a rosy or gloomy view of climate change extinctions,” notes Mark Urban of the University of Connecticut. “That’s because each study focuses on different species [and] regions of the world and makes different assumptions about climate change and species’ responses.”

In one of the two new studies published today in Science, Urban compensated for all those differences by combining 131 previously published studies into one big prediction. If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, he calculates, 16 percent of species will be threatened with extinction due to climate change by the end of the century.

“Perhaps most surprising is that extinction risk does not just increase with temperature rise, but accelerates, curving upward as the Earth warms,” Urban says. If greenhouse gases were capped and temperatures rose a couple degrees less, then the extinction threat would be nearly halved, he found.

Urban’s analysis focused on major land areas (minus Antarctica) and found that the risk of die-offs was not equal around the world. South America, Australia and New Zealand will experience the most extinctions, probably because these regions have many species that are endemic and found nowhere else in the world, and they rely on habitats that are not found anywhere else.

Ocean areas predicted to be at high risk of extinction (red) are overlaid with areas most impacted by humans (black outline) and regions experiencing a high rate of climate change (crosshatch). (Finnegan et al, Science.)

In the second study, Seth Finnegan of the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues drew from the fossil record to make predictions about modern extinction risk in the world’s coastal areas.

“Extinction is a process that often plays out on very long timescales—thousands of years or more. But our direct observations of modern species span, in even the best cases, only a few hundred years,” notes Finnegan. “Fossils allow us to examine the entire histories of different groups, from their first appearance until their final extinction.”

Finnegan’s group used the fossil histories of six groups of marine animals—bivalves, gastropods, sea urchins, sharks, mammals and stony corals—to determine which kinds of animals were inherently more likely to disappear, or the intrinsic risk of extinction. Similar groups of species tend to have similar patterns of extinction, Finnegan notes, which makes fossil studies such as this one possible. They team also analyzed the geographic locations where such extinctions were more likely to occur.

The researchers then overlaid their map of intrinsic extinctions with data on today’s human impacts and climate change to determine probable hotspots of species loss. They found that coastal species will be especially at risk near the tropics, including the Indo-Pacific, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

“The implications of these broad-scale patterns for the future of coastal marine ecosystems will depend on how intrinsic risk and current threats interact to determine future extinction risk,” the researchers note. In some places, such as the North Atlantic, “anthropogenic impacts may dwarf intrinsic risk effects and leave a distinctly human fingerprint on future extinctions.”

The Methane Monster Roars; Abrupt Catastrophic Methane Releases Growing More Likely As Earth Warms

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2015 at 12:28 am

Methane monster roars

Oldspeak:It is my view that our climate system is in early stages of abrupt climate change that, unchecked, will lead to a temperature rise of 5 to 6 degrees Celsius within a decade or two. Obviously, such a large change in the climate system will have unprecedented effects on the health and well-being of every plant and animal on our planetAs the methane concentrations increase in the Arctic from the large warming rates there in both the atmosphere and ocean, the jet streams will be greatly disrupted even more than now…. Physics dictates that this will continue to increase the frequency, severity and duration of extreme weather events like torrential rains leading to widespread flooding in some regions and droughts in other regions. Needless to say, this causes enormous economic losses and poses a severe and grave threat to our global food supply. Thus, the Arctic can be considered the Achilles heel in our climate system… There will be continuing disruption and fracturing of our weather and climate systems… Further acceleration of these processes is very likely to lead to a ‘abrupt climate change’ system reorganization from a cold, snowy, ice-covered Arctic Ocean to a ‘blue Arctic Ocean’ regime… The final state could have a global temperature average being 5 or 6 degrees Celsius warmer and the transition to this state could occur in one to two decades… Recently, it has been announced that 2014 is the warmest year ever in the instrumental records…. A large preponderance of the heat added to the climate system over the last decade or so has gone into heating the oceans and when this heat balance cycles back to the atmosphere we will see a very rapid rise in global average temperatures.” -Dr. Paul Beckwith, Professor of Climatology & Meteorology, University of Ottawa

“Yep. What he said. Some serious volume of toxic gas is getting passed world wide. It’s not gonna stop. It’s getting worse. Seems the madness will truly begin when the worlds oceans start expelling the massive amounts heat they’ve been sequestering the past decade or so.” -OSJ

By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

During a recent hike in Washington State’s Olympic National Park, I marveled at the delicate geometry of frost-covered ferns. White crystalline structures seemed to grow from the green leaves, encasing them in a frozen frame of temporary beauty.

Progressing further up into the mountains, I stopped to lunch and sip hot coffee from a thermos while gazing across a river valley at a snow-covered mountainside, sizing up a frozen waterfall for a possible ice climb in the future. Yet I found myself beginning to wonder how many more winters ice would continue to form there.

The disparity of the beauty before me with my troubled thoughts about the planet has found no reconciliation. I had been collecting data and conducting interviews for articles about methane releases in the Arctic for weeks, and pondering the information through the holidays only led me into depression. Going out into the mountains helped, but also provoked grave concerns for our collective future.

To consider the possibility that humans have altered the atmosphere of the earth so drastically as to put our own lives in danger seems, at least emotionally, unfathomable. Given the scale of the planet, one would think, logically, it might not even be possible. Yet the majestic snow-covered peaks near where I live may no longer have glaciers (or even snow) within my lifetime, according to some of the scientists I’ve interviewed.

Paul Beckwith, a climatology and meteorology professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada, is an engineer and physicist who researches abrupt climate change in both the present day and in the paleoclimatology records of the deep past.

“It is my view that our climate system is in early stages of abrupt climate change that, unchecked, will lead to a temperature rise of 5 to 6 degrees Celsius within a decade or two,” Beckwith told me. “Obviously, such a large change in the climate system will have unprecedented effects on the health and well-being of every plant and animal on our planet.”
A Very Different Planet

Vast amounts of methane lie frozen in the Arctic. It’s not news that the Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly, and that it will likely be gone for short periods during the summers starting as early as next year. Losing that ice means releasing larger amounts of previously trapped methane into the atmosphere.

Additionally, lying along the Arctic’s subsea continental margins and beneath Arctic permafrost are methane hydrates, often described as methane gas surrounded by ice. In March 2010, a report in Science indicated that these cumulatively contain the equivalent of 1,000 to 10,000 gigatons of carbon.

For perspective, humans have released approximately 1,475 gigatons in total carbon dioxide since the year 1850.

Beckwith warns that losing the Arctic sea ice will create a state that “will represent a very different planet, with a much higher global average temperature, in which snow and ice in the northern hemisphere becomes very rare or even vanishes year round.”

In the simplest terms, here’s what an ice-free Arctic would mean when it comes to heating the planet: Minus the reflective ice cover on Arctic waters, solar radiation would be absorbed, not reflected, by the Arctic Ocean. That would heat those waters, and hence the planet, further. This effect has the potential to change global weather patterns, vary the flow of winds and even someday possibly alter the position of the jet stream. Polar jet streams are fast-flowing rivers of wind positioned high in the earth’s atmosphere that push cold and warm air masses around, playing a critical role in determining the weather of our planet.

“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,” Beckwith explained. “The rapidly warming Arctic relative to the rest of the planet (five to eight times global average temperature rise) is decreasing the temperature gradient between the Arctic and the equator.”

This decreased gradient is disrupting the jet stream, leading to further warming in the Arctic, forming a runaway feedback loop, which in turn is causing the release of more methane in the Arctic.

And on land, it’s already happening as well. On Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula, mysterious holes in the ground drew international attention before they became not-so-mysterious when Russian researchers found significant amounts of methane inside them. Now, that same area is making news again as researchers have found increasing amounts of methane emissions coming from thawing permafrost there.

“As the methane concentrations increase in the Arctic from the large warming rates there in both the atmosphere and ocean, the jet streams will be greatly disrupted even more than now,” Beckwith said. “Physics dictates that this will continue to increase the frequency, severity and duration of extreme weather events like torrential rains leading to widespread flooding in some regions and droughts in other regions. Needless to say, this causes enormous economic losses and poses a severe and grave threat to our global food supply. Thus, the Arctic can be considered the Achilles heel in our climate system.”

US Navy researchers have predicted periods of an ice-free Arctic ocean in the summer by 2016.

British scientist John Nissen, chairman of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, suggests that if the summer sea ice loss passes “the point of no return” and “catastrophic Arctic methane feedbacks” kick in, we’ll be in an “instant planetary emergency.”

Why should we be so concerned about methane, when all of the talk around climate disruption seems to focus on carbon dioxide levels?

In the atmosphere, methane is a greenhouse gas that, on a relatively short-term time scale, is far more destructive than carbon dioxide. When it comes to heating the planet, methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, per molecule, on a 100-year timescale, and 105 times more potent on a 20-year timescale – and the Arctic permafrost, onshore and off, is packed with the stuff.

According to a study published in Nature Geoscience, twice as much methane as previously thought is being released from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, a 2 million square kilometer area off the coast of northern Siberia. The recent study’s researchers found that at least 17 teragrams (17 million tons) of methane are being released into the atmosphere each year, whereas a 2010 study had found only seven teragrams heading into the atmosphere.

To gain a better understanding of the implications of Arctic warming, I interviewed some of the scientists conducting the most cutting edge and current methane studies in the Arctic.

Dr. Leonid Yurganov is a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland Physics Department and the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, and his current research expertise is connected with remote sensing of tropospheric composition and Arctic methane levels. He is a co-author of an upcoming research paper that will show how recent Arctic warming has stimulated speculations about the release of methane from the seabed there and kicked off a new climatic positive feedback loop. Using remote sensing technology, his team has detected long-term increases of methane over large areas of the Arctic.

Yurganov warns of the consequences of a rapidly warming Arctic.

“The difference in temperatures between the poles and the equator drives our air currents from [the] west to [the] east,” he told Truthout. “If this difference diminishes, the west to east transport becomes slower, and north-south currents become stronger. This results in frequent changes in weather in mid-latitudes.”

While Yurganov isn’t seeing “fast and immediate liberation of methane from hydrates” at this very moment, he warned of what would happen if and when it does occur.

“Increased methane would influence air temperature near the surface,” he said. “This would accelerate the Arctic warming and change the climate everywhere in the world.”

Yurganov does not foresee an immediate global collapse within a decade. In his view, the summer Arctic sea ice will continue to shrink in a more linear fashion, but the frequency of extreme weather events and rising sea levels will continue to accelerate. “People should accommodate to climate change and be prepared to a decline in life-level caused by it,” he warned.

Yurganov sees population reduction via people not having as many babies as one answer to our predicament.

“Depopulation, that resolves all the problems,” he said. “The earth with [a] lower global population, say, twice as low, would emit less carbon dioxide.”

Another Russian scientist who has been studying methane releases in the Arctic, however, had even more worrying news.

The Looming Specter of Abrupt Methane Release

Natalia Shakhova is a research associate professor of the University Alaska Fairbanks, International Arctic Research Center, where she focuses on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). Shakhova believes we should be concerned about her group’s findings from the ESAS, specifically, because that area differs significantly from methane emissions happening elsewhere around the world.

The ESAS is the largest shelf in the world, encompassing more than 2 million square kilometers, or 8 percent of the world’s continental shelf. Shakhova believes it holds an area-weighted contribution to the global hydrate inventory of “at least 10 to 15 percent.”

“These emissions are prone to be non-gradual (massive, abrupt) for a variety of reasons,” she told Truthout. “The main reason is that the nature of major processes associated with methane releases from subsea permafrost is non-gradual.”

This means that methane releases from decaying frozen hydrates could result in emission rates that “could change in order of magnitude in a matter of minutes,” and that there would be nothing “smooth, gradual or controlled” about it; we could be looking at non-linear releases of methane in amounts that are difficult to fathom.

She explained that the transition from the methane being frozen in the permafrost, either on land or in the shallow northern shores of the East Siberian Arctic, “is not gradual. When it comes to phase transition, it appears to be a relatively short, jump-like transformation from one state of the process to another state. The difference between the two states is like the difference between a closed valve and an open valve. This kind of a release is like the unsealing of an over-pressurized pipeline.”

These immediate methane releases in the ESAS could be triggered at any moment by seismic or tectonic events, the subsiding of sediments caused by hydrate decay or sediment sliding due to permafrost degradation and thaw. The ESAS is particularly prone to these immediate shifts because it is three times shallower than the mean depth of the continental shelf of the world ocean.

“This means that probability of dissolved methane to escape from the water column to the atmosphere is from three to 10 times greater than anywhere in the world’s oceans,” Shakhova said. “In the ESAS, methane is predominantly transported as bubbles. Methane bubbles rise to the surface at a speed from 10 to 40 cm s-1; this means that it only takes minutes for methane to reach the water surface and escape to the atmosphere.”

Including all factors, Shakhova estimates that the carbon pool of the ESAS is in orders of magnitude greater than 180 gigatons, and added that “its role will increase over time.”

A study published in the prestigious journal Nature in July 2013 confirmed what Shakhova has been warning us about for years: that a 50-gigaton “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is “highly possible at anytime.” That would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. (Remember, for perspective, humans have released approximately 1,475 gigatons in total carbon dioxide since the year 1850.)

Even the relatively staid Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned of such a scenario: “The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out. Positive feedback from warming may cause the release of carbon or methane from the terrestrial biosphere and oceans.”

In the last two centuries, the amount of methane in the atmosphere has increased from 0.7 parts per million to 1.7 parts per million. The introduction of methane in such quantities into the atmosphere may, some climate scientists fear, make increases in the global temperature of 4 to 6 degrees Celsius inevitable.

Yet some of the scientists I spoke with warned of even worse consequences.

Global Implications

Ira Leifer, an atmospheric and marine scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of several Arctic methane studies, told Truthout that the scientific community has learned that methane emissions from the Arctic are already larger than previously thought, and said, “The warming trend in the Arctic is clear.”

The dangers of methane-related warning are staggering, according to Leifer.

“The amount of methane trapped in submerged permafrost is vast, and if even a small fraction reaches the atmosphere on the time scale of a few decades, it would lead to a dramatic increase in warming on a global scale,” he warned. “Furthermore, it could lead to a positive feedback where warming oceans release more methane which warms the Arctic more and leads to more methane release. Worse, the warming only slowly percolates to lower latitudes – and therefore it contributes to the enhanced Arctic warming.”

Just as Beckwith, Yurganov and Shakhova noted, Leifer warned that a warming Arctic has “global implications.”

Earth’s weather is controlled in three cells: the tropics, mid-latitude and polar. So a weakening of the difference in temperature between the pole-equator areas causes an expansion of the tropical cell, which drives desertification in some places and increased flooding in others. All the while, polar weather is expanding, as we’ve been seeing in the United States during recent winters.

While humans can adapt to these new fluctuations in the weather, agriculture and ecosystems cannot.

Like Shakhova, Leifer also expressed concern about the ESAS.

“The potential is there for hydrate emissions to increase with warming oceans due to increased dissociation,” he warned. He also confirmed that his recent studies of methane emissions in the Arctic even found the gas hundreds of miles from the coast. This means that the methane cannot be coming from land sources; Leifer has concluded that his recent studies “confirm a local marine source.”

Meaning, the subsea hydrates are already releasing their methane very far from shore. Beckwith notes that the increasing methane releases in the Arctic and the massive impact they will have on the planetary weather system mean “there will be continuing disruption and fracturing of our weather and climate systems.”

He went on to issue a stark warning. “Further acceleration of these processes is very likely to lead to an ‘abrupt climate change’ system reorganization from a cold, snowy, ice-covered Arctic Ocean to a ‘blue Arctic Ocean’ regime,” he said. “The final state could have a global temperature average being 5 or 6 degrees Celsius warmer and the transition to this state could occur in one to two decades, as has occurred many times in the past as recorded in paleorecords.”

The advent of the “blue Arctic Ocean” Beckwith warns us of is only a matter of time, and will most likely happen before 2020, considering that exponential decline in Arctic summer sea ice volume has already been determined by the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System data and models, which have been corroborated with recent CryoSat measurements, as well as modeling by the Naval Graduate School Regional Climate Models.

Beckwith believes the first of these “blue ocean” events will likely last a few weeks to one month the first time it happens, but then extend to several months just a few years later.

Meanwhile, the IPCC has not addressed Arctic methane releases as a runaway feedback loop, nor has the mainstream media across the political spectrum.

“Then, the greatly increased Arctic warming from albedo collapse would likely result in a year round ‘Arctic blue ocean’ within a decade or two, completing the regime shift to a much warmer climate,” he said.

Thus, Beckwith, like Shakhova, warns of the 50-gigaton methane burst, and fears it is only a matter of time before it occurs.

I asked Leifer if he believed we have already triggered a rapid increase in global temperatures that could lead to the kind of abrupt climate shifts of which Beckwith warns.

“Recently, it has been announced that 2014 is the warmest year ever in the instrumental records,” he said. “A large preponderance of the heat added to the climate system over the last decade or so has gone into heating the oceans and when this heat balance cycles back to the atmosphere we will see a very rapid rise in global average temperatures.”

Another “Great Dying?”

The Permian mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago was related to methane – in fact, the gas is thought to be the key to what caused the extinction of approximately 95 percent of all species on the planet.

Also known as “The Great Dying,” it was triggered by a massive lava flow in an area of Siberia that led to an increase in global temperatures of 6 degrees Celsius. That, in turn, caused the melting of frozen methane deposits under the seas. Released into the atmosphere, it caused temperatures to skyrocket further. All of this occurred over a period of approximately 80,000 years.

We are already in the midst of what scientists consider the sixth mass extinction in planetary history, with between 150 and 200 species going extinct daily, a pace 1,000 times greater than the “natural” or “background” extinction rate. This event may already be comparable to, or even exceed, both the speed and intensity of the Permian mass extinction. The difference: Ours is human caused. (Plus, it probably isn’t going to take 80,000 years; it has so far lasted just a few centuries, and is now gaining speed in a non-linear fashion.)

It is possible that, on top of the vast quantities of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that continue to enter the atmosphere in record amounts yearly, an increased release of methane could signal the beginning of the sort of process that led to the Great Dying.

Some scientists fear that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible – in the course of just the next few decades – or, as Beckwith believes, possibly even sooner than that.

Back in Olympic National Park, when I was returning from my hike, I happened upon a small herd of elk. I watched them as they watched me, before they slowly began to retreat further into the forest. As I continued along, I wondered how they are responding to what is happening to the planet. Their habitat is shifting dramatically, as are their food and water sources. Approaching the trailhead, I marveled at green moss-covered trees – and contemplated how the magnificent natural landscape of Olympic National Park will respond as the climate is rapidly disrupted. The Olympic Mountains support the third largest glacier system in the 48 contiguous United States and are rapidly losing their glaciers. And with at least four already endangered species living within the park the impacts are already clear, and are guaranteed to worsen.

I went on to wonder how humanity will respond, but then checked myself with the fact that the Arctic methane feedback loops are most likely already well underway, only an international emergency immediate response to cease all global carbon emissions might slightly mitigate the crisis, and yet most world governments’ responses are laughable.

Naturally, what was left was to ask myself: How am I responding?

How are you?

 

 

2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record Globally By Far

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2015 at 1:29 am
JMA2014

Oldspeak: “It’s official. 2014 was hot as fuck. Like, Siberian permafrost melting hot. My question is, if it’s already record-shattering hot, what happens when El Nino, that usually accounts for abnormally hot periods arrives?!?!? I’m gonna the proverbial hell of all breaks loose. It’s my feeling that this is extinction event is happening far faster than even our most learned scientists realize. It is gaining speed in a non-linear fashion. Every single update and revision of the latest science and data speaks of underestimation. This is happening faster and far more unpredictably than even the most advanced climate models can predict. Given these facts, the likelihood of even more abrupt changes and effects, increases daily. Still, something close to silence on this, the only thing that is news, in corporate media. There has been more reporting on NYPD cops turning their backs on the mayor. We need a truth and reconciliation commission on the fate of our Great Mother.” -OSJ 

By Joe Romm @ Think Progress:

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has announced that 2014 was the hottest year in more than 120 years of record-keeping — by far. NOAA is expected to make a similar call in a couple of weeks and so is NASA.

As the JMA graph shows, there has been no “hiatus” or “pause” in warming. In fact, there has not even been a slowdown. Yes, in JMA’s ranking of hottest years, 1998 is in (a distant) second place — but 1998 was an outlier as the graph shows. In fact, 1998 was boosted above the trendline by an unusual super-El Niño. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records.

What makes setting the record for hottest year in 2014 doubly impressive is that it occurred despite the fact we’re still waiting for the start of El Niño. But this is what happens when a species keeps spewing record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, driving CO2 to levels in the air not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far hotter and sea levels tens of feet higher.

The JMA is a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Regional Climate Center of excellence. The WMO had announced a month ago that 2014 was on track to be hottest year on record. Different climate-tracking groups around the world use different data sets, so they can show different results for 2014 depending on how warm December turns out to be.

But in mid-December, NOAA said it’s all but certain 2014 will be a record setter. It released this figure showing that

NOAA-YTD-11-14

all plausible scenarios for December still leave last year as the hottest ever (click to enlarge):

If you were wondering how 2014 could be the hottest year on record when it wasn’t particularly hot in the United States (if we ignore California and Alaska), NBC News has the story. It turns out there’s like a whole planet out there that has been getting very toasty:

Some of the hottest places in the world in 2014 included:

          • Europe was the hottest it’s been in 500 years. One new analysis concluded “global warming has made a temperature anomaly like the one observed in 2014 in Europe at least 80 times more likely.”
          • California had record-smashing heat, which helped create its “most severe drought in the last 1200 years.”
          • Australia broke heat records across the continent (for the second year running). Back in January, “temperatures soared higher than 120°F (49°C).”
          • Much of Siberia “defrosted in spring and early summer under temperatures more than 9°F (5°C) above its 1981 to 2010 average,” as Live Science noted. This is the second exceptionally hot summer in a row for the region, and scientists now think the huge crater discovered this year in the area “was probably caused by thawing permafrost.”
            • The permafrost (soon to be renamed the permamelt) contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. If we don’t reverse emissions trends sharply and soon, then the carbon released from it this century alone could boost global warming as much as 1.5F

 

 

 

Weather Extremes Rise As Planet Gets Hotter & Colder

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2015 at 11:49 pm

An island left high and dry in the English Lake District when water levels fell drastically during the 2003 heat wave. Photo by Chris Tomlinson via Wikimedia Commons

Oldspeak: “In the wake of yet another extreme temperature fluctuation, (2 days ago, it was a spring-like 55 degrees  here in New York, today it was snowing and in the 20’s) This sounds about right. Expect this trend to continue to worsen.” -OSJ

By Tim Radford @ Climate News Network:

-Scientists predict that lethal heat waves in Europe, and ice storms and big freezes across the globe, could become regular events if greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled.

Global average temperatures continue to rise, but new research shows that the extremes of heat and cold are rising even faster.

Scientists report that heat waves have got hotter and cold snaps have got colder at a more extreme rate – and that continuing greenhouse gas emissions will mean that, in another two decades, Europe could experience once every two years the sort of lethal heat waves that occurred once in a thousand years.

Scott Robeson, professor of geography at Indiana University Bloomington in the US, and colleagues report in Geophysical Research Letters that they analysed a set of temperature records from 1881 to 2011 and graded them according to how near or far they were from the normal averages of any particular region of the globe.

Temperature anomalies

They found that the temperature anomalies – extremes of heat and cold – increased more than the overall average temperature of the whole planet. They  also found that cold anomalies – unexpected ice storms, blizzards and big freezes − increased more than the warm anomalies until about 30 years ago. Since then, the heat waves have started to outpace the cold snaps.

The study offers a new way to consider the much-debated “pause” in global warming since 1998. It could be that warming continued over most of the planet, but was offset by strong cooling in the winter months in the northern hemisphere.

Professor Robeson says: “There really hasn’t been a pause in global warming. There has been a pause in northern hemisphere winter warming.

“Arguably, these cold extremes and warm extremes are the most important factors for human society”

“Average temperatures don’t tell us everything we need to know about climate change. Arguably, these cold extremes and warm extremes are the most important factors for human society.”

Robeson and his colleagues are not the first to identify the importance of extremes of temperature in the pattern of global averages. Nor is this the first time that UK Met Office scientists – this time led by Nikos Christidis – have forecast more, and more severe, heat waves, not just in Europe but in many regions.

In 2004, Met Office researchers looked at statistics since 1990 and decided that the 2003 European heat wave − estimated to have claimed at least 20,000 lives, and possibly many more − had been made more than twice as likely because of human influence on the climate.

Pattern of warming

In a paper in Nature Climate Change, they look at the pattern of warming between 2003 and 2012. In that period, summers on average warmed by 0.81°C.

This warming means, they say, that heat waves − and extreme heat waves such as the lethal event in 2003 − have become 10 times more likely.

“Extremely warm summers that would occur twice in a century in the early 2000s are now expected to happen twice a decade,” Dr Christidis says.

“Moreover, the chances of heat waves as extreme as seen in 2003 have increased from about one in a thousand to about one in a hundred years, and are projected to occur once every other year by the 2030-40s under continuing greenhouse gas emissions.”

 

2014 Headed Toward Hottest Year On Record — Here’s Why That’s Remarkable

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2014 at 10:12 pm
globe_annual_ranked

Oldspeak: “It is not remarkable that we keep setting new records for global temperatures — 2005 and then 2010 and likely 2014. Humans are, after all, emitting record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, and carbon dioxide levels in the air are at levels not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far warmer and sea levels tens of feet higher. The figure above from the Met Office makes clear that humans continue to warm the planet… What is remarkable, as the WMO explains, is that we’re headed toward record high global temps “in the absence of a full El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). It’s usually the combination of the long-term manmade warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records. But not this year.” -Joe Romm

“With El Nino, 70% to begin within a few months, expect the heat to continue to be on, and shit to get a lot weirder. “Simply put, we are rapidly remaking the planet and beginning to suffer the consequences.” –Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international, Princeton University. When you consider the reality that there really is no way to realistically change the humans carbon dioxide emissions sharply aside from the collapse of industrial civilization, it’s time for most of us to proceed to the acceptance stage of grief.  Denial is no longer an option. It’s just a matter of time and physics at this point. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…” -OSJ

By Joe Romm @ Think Progress:

2014 is currently on track to be hottest year on record, according to new reports from both the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the U.K.’s Met Office Wednesday. Similarly, NOAA reported two weeks ago that 2014 is all but certain to be the hottest year on record.

It is not remarkable that we keep setting new records for global temperatures — 2005 and then 2010 and likely 2014. Humans are, after all, emitting record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, and carbon dioxide levels in the air are at levels not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far warmer and sea levels tens of feet higher. The figure above from the Met Office makes clear that humans continue to warm the planet.

“The provisional information for 2014 means that fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “There is no standstill in global warming.”

As Peter Stott, Head of Climate Attribution at the Met Office, explained: “Our research shows current global average temperatures are highly unlikely in a world without human influence on the climate.” While it has been on the cool side in parts of the United States, the Met Office reported that the United Kingdom is headed toward its hottest year on record. Stott noted that, “human influence has also made breaking the current UK temperature record about ten times more likely.”

What is remarkable, as the WMO explains, is that we’re headed toward record high global temps “in the absence of a full El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).” We get an El Niño “when warmer than average sea-surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific combine, in a self-reinforcing loop, with atmospheric pressure systems,” which affects weather patterns around the world.

It’s usually the combination of the long-term manmade warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records. But not this year.

Here’s a revealing chart from Skeptical Science courtesy of environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli of NASA’s temperature data (with the projection for 2014 in black and white):

This year we are poised to set the global temperature record in an ENSO-neutral year. And while eastern tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures have been warmer than normal in recent months, those temperatures were colder than normal in the beginning months of the year, so the net effect of ENSO on 2014 global temperatures has been minimal.

As one caveat, different climate-tracking groups around the world use different data sets, so it is possible that at the end of the year, some will merely show 2014 tied for the hottest year on record depending on how warm December turns out to be. For NOAA, however, it’s all but certain 2014 will be the hottest year on record. Either way, it’s remarkable this is happening in an ENSO-neutral year.

Finally, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported Friday that their models indicate “at least a 70% chance that El Niño will be declared in the coming months.” If so, then 2015 will very likely top 2014 to become the hottest year on record.

The only way to stop setting new annual temperature records on an increasingly regular basis — until large parts of the planet are uninhabitable — is to sharply change the world’s carbon dioxide emissions path starting ASAP.

 

Massive Stores Of Carbon In Earths Soils Higher Than Projected, More Suseptible To Warming Than Previously Thought

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2014 at 9:09 pm
tundra

Colder soils are more vulnerable to releasing extra carbon in a warmer world

Oldspeak: “Researchers found that microbes in the soil were more likely to enhance the release of CO2 in a warming world.  Soils from colder regions and those with greater amounts of carbon were seen to emit more as temperatures went up. The world’s soils hold about twice the amount of carbon as the atmosphere… The research team found that soils from boreal regions and the Arctic were impacted the most…The scientists aren’t sure about the mechanism of action involved in this process… Whatever about the mechanism, the research implies that current soil carbon and Earth system models may be underestimating the impact of warming on the huge reserves that sit in the ground…. According to Dr Karhu, this level of increase in colder regions raises concerns as more than half of the carbon that’s stored in soils in the world is found in these locations. “It means that more carbon can be released from the northern soils than is projected by the models at the moment. This is worrying because these soils have a lot of carbon.” Matt McGrath

SO. There’s That. As temperatures increase,  twice the amount of carbon that is already in the atmosphere and being increased every day by hyperconsumptive human activity will be released into the atmosphere from earths rapidly deteriorating soils. The areas of soil that are heating most drastically, the arctic and antarctic regions are the same areas where the soils are most vulnerable to heating, and where the most carbon is stored in the soils. This irreversible non-linear feedback loop is already in progress. Researchers have no idea how this action works, but know our climate models do not account for this reality. There is noting to be done. Contemplate and accept this reality. TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK.” -OSJ

By Jeff Spross  @ Think Progress:

The Earth’s soils play an important part in managing climate change by storing carbon, and thus keeping it out of the atmosphere. But research published Wednesday in Nature suggests that as global temperatures rise, the ability of soils to perform that service goes down.

The researchers tested 22 different soil samples from different points along the climatic gradient, from the Arctic all the way to the Amazon. It’s the microbes in each sample that determine how much carbon the soil stores versus how much it releases over a given time. So the researchers applied different temperature changes to each sample over a 90-day period to see how the mircobes would respond.

The question is an important one because soils and their microbes around the world store more than twice as much carbon as the atmosphere does, and release around 60 billion metric tons of that carbon into the atmosphere every year. Some of that carbon is absorbed by other parts of the planetary ecosystem — forests or the ocean, for instance — and eventually makes its way back to the microbes again before being re-released into the atmosphere.

But if temperature changes alter the microbes’ respiratory behavior, they could be releasing enormous amounts of carbon at greater rates, meaning there would be more carbon in the atmosphere at a given time. That, in turn, would exacerbate climate change.

Up until now, the general assumption has been that the microbes would probably acclimate to temperature changes: after briefly changing the way they take in and release carbon, the microbes would get used to the new temperature and settle back into their previous pattern.

But Kristiina Karhu from the University of Helsinki, the Nature study’s lead author, told the BBC that based on the researchers findings, that wasn’t what happened.

“We show that for these 22 soils, this type of acclimation of microbial respiration doesn’t really happen,” she said. “Sometimes the opposite happens, in response to long-term temperature change, the microbes enhance the short term effect of temperatures so that the sensitivity of respiration gets actually higher.”

In other words, as the temperatures went up, many of the microbes tended to release more carbon.

The effect was particularly pronounced in soils from northern climates, such as the Arctic and boreal regions. “Microbial community response increased the temperature sensitivity of respiration in high latitude soils by a factor of 1.4 compared to the instantaneous temperature response,” according to the study. As Karhu pointed out, that’s worrying because northern soils and their microbes store more carbon than soils at other latitudes.

“The soils that had this enhancing response were also soils that had a high carbon to nitrogen ratio,” Karhu said. “So it could be something in this interaction between carbon and nitrogen cycles, and there are some studies that suggest that maybe the enzymes related to nitrogen may be more temperature sensitive than the carbon related enzymes.”

It’s an example of what climate scientists call a feedback loop. Human beings pump more carbon into the atmosphere, which drives up global warming. But then that warming also changes the Earth’s natural ecosystems, so that the natural carbon cycle also begins dumping more carbon into the atmosphere than it did before, driving global temperatures up still further.

As hard as scientists work to build models to accurately project ecosystem changes and the effects of global warming, it’s a horrendously complex system — and this research suggests the models are underestimating the amount of carbon northern soils especially will release as global warming proceeds.

“Big advances have been made in recent years, and there are now models that simulate key microbial processes,” said Iain Hartley, another author of the study, told the BBC.”We have a great opportunity to really advance this subject, and improve predictions of rates of carbon dioxide release from soils under global warming, but there is still a huge amount that we need to understand better.”

The complexities abound: some forms of fungi grow more profusely in hotter temperatures, and one type of fungi in particular — ecto- and ericoid mycorrhizal (EEM) fungi, to be specific — can affect the ability of soil to store carbon. Because EEM fungi changes the decomposition process in soil, places heavy in EEM fungi end up storing carbon longer in the ground. And the difference can be dramatic, altering the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere at a given time by as much as 70 percent.