Thursday, September 18, 2014

Warm water flowing into Arctic Ocean

by Harold Hensel

For the first time in thousands of years, warm water is flowing into the Arctic Ocean. Warm water from the deep ocean is showing up on surface images. There is no way to put this into the context of 'normal.' Historic temperatures have kept the Arctic frozen on an even keel for thousands of years. Even if there was a 'natural cycle' it has been completely overridden by the astonishing amount of pollution that is going into the atmosphere.


Over 90 percent of Earth's energy imbalance has been going into the oceans, almost unnoticed by people keeping track of the temperatures in the atmosphere. The warmer ocean water is going through the Bering Strait and into the Chukchi Sea, Barents Sea, East Siberian Sea and worst of all, the Laptev Sea.

The Gakkel Ridge crosses the Arctic Ocean from Greenland to the Laptev Sea, see earlier post
There are methane hydrate concentrations in all of these areas up to 1,500 feet deep for miles and miles. There are fractures here that give mantel methane a route to the surface that have been safely sealed by ice. The hydrates and seals are thawing.

In 2013, huge amounts of methane erupted over the Gakkel Ridge and
the Laptev Sea
in October, with levels as high as 2662 ppb on November 9.
In 2014, levels over 2400 ppb were recorded on September 14, 15 and 16.

On the Greenland side, warm water is flowing into the Arctic from the Labrador, Greenland and Norway seas. The international SWERUSs-C3 expedition on the icebreaker Oden is recording 'mega flares' of methane. There are many factors involved in warming the Arctic Ocean, but warm water flowing into it is one of the worst.

Harold Hensel
Cedar Rapids

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Climate Accord New York September 2014

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has made some (small) progress limiting the amounts of greenhouse gases that states emit, e.g. through Environmental Protection Agency limits on carbon dioxide emitted by power plants.

Given that greenhouse gases do spread all over the globe, the U.S. must also support action abroad to reduce levels of greenhouse gases.

At the upcoming Climate Summit in New York, September 23, President Obama will have a good opportunity to do so.

President Obama can and should support an accord for nations to jointly commit to bold action, including the imposition of fees on fossil fuel exported to nations that fail to commit to such action.

Where necessary, World Trade Organization rules should be agreed to be adjusted in order to accommodate such fees.

An accord on export fees can help U.S. exporters remain competitive and avoid repercussions. Such fees will also help make importing nations impose fees domestically, as they will not want to miss out on the revenues from such fees.

Revenues from such fees are best held in a trust fund and they are best used exclusively to finance international projects, such as efforts to save the sea ice in the Arctic and R&D into ways to decompose methane. As more nations impose fees domestically and accept responsibility to participate in international projects, such export fees can phase themselves out.

The People's Climate March will take place on September 21, starting 11:30 am from Central Park West (between 65th and 86th streets). Whether or not you're taking part in the march, consider supporting the Climate Plan. If you print out above image, you could make a cardboard sign. Over the coming days, photos of people holding up such a sign can be posted and shared at facebook and, if you add some lines saying you like the idea, they will be considered for display at the Arctic-news blog. You can also make it your profile picture on facebook during the remainder of the month to get a chance to be mentioned as a supporter.  Thanks in advance.

Update of Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly below:



Thanks to all who liked, tagged and shared the top image. Two examples of how the message is shared are highlighted below.

Sheila Chambers at facebook                             

A.Randomjack at Google+




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Methane levels threaten to skyrocket


The World Meteorological Organization’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that between 1990 and 2013 there was a 34% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide.

In 2013, concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 142% of the pre-industrial era (1750), and of methane and nitrous oxide 253% and 121% respectively.

The ocean cushions the increase in CO2 that would otherwise occur in the atmosphere, but with far-reaching impacts. The current rate of ocean acidification appears unprecedented at least over the last 300 million years, according to an analysis in the report.

“We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

“The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years. We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board,” he said. “We are running out of time.”

The observations from WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network showed that CO2 levels increased more between 2012 and 2013 than during any other year since 1984.


NOAA data give a slightly lower CO2 growth figure for 2013, but even when extrapolating NOAA's data, some frightening trendlines appear, as illustrated by above image. 

The WMO concludes that a reduction in RF (radiative forcing) from its current level (2.92 W·m–2 in 2013) will require huge cuts in a number of emissions, not just in CO2. 

In the figure on the right, the RF of the long-lived greenhouse gases (LLGHG) is plotted along with different emission reduction scenarios: (a) emissions held constant at 2013 levels, (b) constant CO2 emissions and 80% reduction in anthropogenic non-CO2 GHG emissions, (c) 80% reduction in CO2 emissions while non-CO2 GHG emissions are held constant, and (d) 80% reductions in all LLGHG emissions.



A recent study shows that the world not only continues to build new coal-fired power plants, but built more new coal plants in the past decade than in any previous decade. Worldwide, an average of 89 gigawatts per year (GW yr–1) of new coal generating capacity was added between 2010 and 2012, 23 GW yr–1 more than in the 2000–2009 time period and 56 GW yr–1 more than in the 1990–1999 time period. Natural gas plants show a similar pattern.


Assuming these plants operate for 40 years, the fossil-fuel burning plants built in 2012 will emit approximately 19 billion tons of CO2 (Gt CO2) over their lifetimes, versus 14 Gt CO2 actually emitted by all operating fossil fuel power plants in 2012.

The study concludes that total committed emissions related to the power sector are growing at a rate of about 4% per year.

“Bringing down carbon emissions means retiring more fossil fuel-burning facilities than we build,” said Steven Davis, assistant professor of Earth system science at UCI and the study’s lead author. “But worldwide, we’ve built more coal-burning power plants in the past decade than in any previous decade, and closures of old plants aren’t keeping pace with this expansion.”

“Far from solving the climate change problem, we’re investing heavily in technologies that make the problem worse,” he added.

“We’ve been hiding what’s going on from ourselves: A high-carbon future is being locked in by the world’s capital investments,” said Socolow, professor emeritus of mechanical & aerospace engineering.

The IPCC in AR5 suggests there was a carbon budget to divide between nations (above image left), while largely ignoring potentially huge feedbacks such as albedo changes resulting from decline of snow and ice in the Arctic and methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.

These two feedbacks alone could each soon cause more warming than the warming directly caused by people's emissions since the start of the industrial revolution.

Sam Carana says: “There is no carbon budget to divide between nations, instead there is just a huge debt of CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere and the oceans. Comprehensive and effective action must be taken to stop run-away warming.”

Sam Carana continues: “No time before in human history has such a huge amount of ocean heat accumulated in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific.”

“This heat is now threatening to invade the Arctic Ocean and trigger huge temperature rises due to methane eruptions from the seafloor.”

“The heat is also melting Arctic sea ice from below, as the image below right shows, there now is hardly any sea ice left that is more than 3 meters (nearly 10 ft) thick.”

“Last year, this heat started to cause large methane eruptions from the Arctic Ocean's seafloor in early October, and this year temperatures in the Arctic Ocean are even higher.”

Meanwhile, mean global methane levels of 1839 ppb were recorded at several altitudes by the MetOp-1 satellite on the morning of September 7, 2014.

And ocean heat continues to invade the Arctic, as illustrated by the NOAA image below.



References

- Record Greenhouse Gas Levels Impact Atmosphere and Oceans - WMO Press Release No. 1002
https://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_1002_en.html

- WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No. 10 | 9 September 2014
https://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/documents/1002_GHG_Bulletin.pdf

- NOAA Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Annual Mean Global CO2 Growth Rates
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html#global_growth

- Commitment accounting of CO2 emissions, by Steven J Davis and Robert H Socolow
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/8/084018

- Existing power plants will spew 300 billion more tons of carbon dioxide during use - News Release
http://news.uci.edu/press-releases/existing-power-plants-will-spew-300-billion-more-tons-of-carbon-dioxide-during-use



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Antarctica linked to Arctic

Waters in the Arctic Ocean continue to warm up. Very warm waters from the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean are invading the Arctic Ocean.



Waters in the North Atlantic and in the North Pacific are very warm, due to a number of reasons.

What is happening in the oceans is very important in this respect. As discussed in earlier posts, most of the extra heat caused by people's emissions goes into the oceans.

The great ocean conveyor belt (Thermohaline Circulation), brings warm water from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere.

The Gulf Stream is the North Atlantic leg of the great ocean conveyor belt, and it brings dense, salty water from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean.

Saltier water is denser than fresher water because the dissolved salts fill interstices between water molecules, resulting in more mass per unit volume.

Very dense ocean water can be found in the North Atlantic because the North Atlantic has high salinity, due to high evaporation rates, while salty water is also coming from the Mediterranean Sea.

As also discussed in an earlier post, this dense, saltier water sinks in the North Atlantic, accumulating in deeper water.

By contrast, much of the Arctic Ocean has low salinity, due to ice melt and river runoff.  As it enters the Arctic Ocean, the warm and dense water from the Atlantic thus dives under the under the sea ice and under the less salty surface water in the Arctic Ocean.

In conclusion, much of the heat resulting from people's emissions accumulates in the North Atlantic and also ends up in the Arctic. This partly explains why surface temperatures are rising much faster at the poles, as illustrated by the NOAA image below.


There are further reasons why surface air temperatures elsewhere (other than at the poles) are rising less rapidly than they did, say, a decade ago. As also discussed by Andrew Glikson in the post No Planet B, the increased amounts of sulphur emitted by the growing number of coal-fired power plants and by the burning of bunker fuel on sea is (temporarily) masking the full wrath of global warming.

Another reason is the growth of the sea ice around Antarctica, as illustrated by the CryosphereToday image on the left.

Melting takes place both in the Arctic and on Antarctica, but more so in the Arctic. Recent research of CryoSat-2 data reveals that Greenland alone is now losing about 375 cubic kilometers of ice annually, while in Antarctica the annual volume loss now is about 125 cubic kilometers.

Currents also distribute ocean heat in ways that make the Arctic warm up more than twice as rapidly as the Antarctic. In a recent paper, John Marshall et al. further suggest that ozone depletion also contributes to this.

All this makes that, while the jet streams on the northern hemisphere are circumnavigating the globe at a slower pace, jet streams on the southern hemisphere are getting stronger, making it more difficult for warm air to enter the atmosphere over Antarctica, while the stronger winds also speed up sea currents on the southern hemisphere. This makes the sea ice around Antarctica grow, and as the sea ice spreads further away from Antarctica, temperatures of surface waters around Antarctica are falling.

Growth of the sea ice around Antarctica makes that more sunlight is reflected back into space. There now is some 1.5 million square kilometers more sea ice around Antarctica than there used to be. The albedo change associated with sea ice growth on the southern hemisphere can be estimated at 1.7 W/sq m, i.e. more than the total RF of all CO2 emission caused by people from 1750 to 2011 (IPCC AR5).


The rapid growth of sea ice on the southern hemisphere alone goes a long way to explain why, over the past three months, surface air temperatures have not been much higher than they used to be, both globally and in the Arctic, as illustrated by above NOAA image. What has also contributed to warmer temperatures around latitude 60 on the northern hemisphere is the fact that methane has accumulated in the atmosphere at that latitude, as discussed in earlier posts.

Arctic SST far exceed anything ever seen in human history
So, does the sea ice on the southern hemisphere constitute a negative feedback that could hold back global warming? It doesn't.

It may temporarily keep surface temperatures close to what they used to be, as the sea ice reflects lots of sunlight back into space, but at the same time ocean temperatures are rising strongly, as the sea ice also prevents heat from radiating out of the waters around Antarctica.

The latter also helps explaining the colder surface temperatures over those waters.

Much of this additional ocean heat has meanwhile been transported by the great ocean conveyor belt to the northern hemisphere.

No time before in human history has such a huge amount of ocean heat accumulated in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. This heat is now threatening to invade the Arctic Ocean and trigger huge temperature rises due to methane eruptions from the seafloor.


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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

State Of Extreme Emergency

by Malcolm Light

PRESIDENT OBAMA MUST DECLARE A STATE OF EXTREME NATIONAL EMERGENCY AND CEASE ORCHESTRATING A WAR WITH RUSSIA. HE MUST RECALL HIS ENTIRE ARMY AND NAVY PERSONNEL TO THE UNITED STATES TO BEGIN A MASSIVE CONVERSION OF THE US ENERGY SYSTEM TO SOLAR AND WIND POWER. THIS CONVERSION MUST RESULT IN ALL 600 COAL POWER STATIONS AND NUCLEAR STATIONS BEING COMPLETELY SHUT DOWN IN THE NEXT 5 TO 10 YEARS. ALL SURFACE TRANSPORT BOTH PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MUST BE ENTIRELY ELECTRIFIED AND AIR TRANSPORT CONVERTED TO METHANE OR HYDROGEN FUEL. IF THIS IS NOT DONE, HUMANITY WILL BE FACING TOTAL EXTINCTION IN AN ARCTIC METHANE FIRESTORM BETWEEN 2040 AND 2050.


The US and Canada must cut their global emissions of carbon dioxide by 90% in the next 10 to 15 years, otherwise they will be become an instrument of mass destruction of the Earth and its entire human population. Recovery of the United States economy from the financial crisis has been very unsoundly based by the present Administration on an extremely hazardous "all of the above" energy policy that has allowed continent wide gas fracking, coal and oil sand oil mining and the return of widespread drilling to the Gulf. Coast. This large amount of fossil fuel has to be transported and sold which has caused extensive spills, explosions and confrontations with US citizens over fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline. Gas fracking is in the process of destroying the entire aquifer systems of the United States and causing widespread earthquakes. The oil spills are doing the same to the surface river run off.

We are now facing a devastating final show down with Mother Nature, which is being massively accelerated by the filthy extraction of fossil fuels by US and Canada by gas fracking, coal and tar sand mining and continent wide bitumen transport. The United States and other developed nations made a fatal mistake by refusing to sign the original Kyoto protocols. The United States and Canada must now cease all their fossil fuel extraction and go entirely onto renewable energy in the next 10 to 15 years otherwise they will be guilty of planetary ecocide - genocide by the 2050's.

The volume transport of the Gulf Stream has increased by three times since the 1940's due to the rising atmospheric pressure difference set up between the polluted, greenhouse gas rich air above North America and the marine Atlantic Air. The increasingly heated Gulf Stream with its associated high winds and energy rich weather systems then flows NE to Europe where it recently pummeled Great Britain with catastrophic storms. Other branches of the Gulf Stream then enter the Arctic and disassociate the subsea Arctic methane hydrate seals on subsea and deep high - pressure mantle methane reservoirs below the Eurasian Basin- Laptev Sea transition. This is releasing increasing amounts of methane into the atmosphere producing anomalous temperatures, greater than 20°C above average. Over very short time periods of a few days to a few months the atmospheric methane has a global warming potential from 1000 to 100 times that of carbon dioxide.


There are such massive reserves of methane in the subsea Arctic methane hydrates, that if only a few percent of them are disassociated, they will lead to a jump in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere by 10°C and produce a "Permian" style major extinction event which will kill us all. The whole northern hemisphere is now covered by a thickening atmospheric methane global warming veil that is spreading southwards at about 1 km a day and it already totally envelopes the United States. A giant hole in the equatorial ozone layer has also been discovered in the west Pacific which acts like an elevator transferring methane from lower altitudes to the stratosphere where it already forms a dense equatorial global warming stratospheric band that is spreading into the Polar regions.


During the last winter, the high Arctic winter temperatures and pressures have displaced the normal freezing Arctic Air south into Canada and the United States producing never before seen, freezing winter storms and massive power failures. When the Arctic ice cap finally melts towards the end of next year, the Arctic sea will be aggressively heated by the sun and the Gulf Stream. The cold Arctic air will then be confined to the Greenland Ice cap and the hot globally warmed Arctic air with its methane will flow south to the United States to further heat up the Gulf Stream, setting up an anticlockwise circulation around Greenland. Under these circumstances Great Britain and Europe must expect even more catastrophic storm systems, hurricane force winds and massive flooding after the end of next year due to a further acceleration in the energy transport of the Gulf Stream. If this process continues unchecked the mean temperature of the atmosphere will rise a further 8° centigrade and we will be facing global deglaciation, a more than 200 feet rise in sea level rise and a major terminal extinction event by the 2050's.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ring Of Ice



Prominence of earthquakes in North America and around Greenland has prompted a team of researchers led by Arctic-news blog editor Sam Carana to coin the phrase “Ring Of Ice” to describe what they see happening in the Arctic.

“Melting of ice in north Canada and on Greenland is causing pressure changes, resulting in seismic activity”, explains Sam Carana.

Heavy seismic activity is ocurring along the faultlines that constitute the border of the North American Plate, similar to the the heavy activity along the Ring Of Fire around the Pacific Ocean.

Seismic activity roughly follows the borders of the North American Plate, which includes Greenland. However, where the major fault bends away to the west following the Aleutian Islands, seismic activity continues north through Alaska along a line that extends over the North Pole toward Svalbard.

This northward path through Alaska is illustrated by the earthquakes on the image below.


“Earthquakes are prominent along the entire border of the North American Plate”, Sam Carana adds, “but they increasingly appear to be taking this shortcut through Alaska and the underlying cause of this is melting of ice in north Canada and on Greenland”.

“This Ring Of Ice spells danger, just like the name Ring Of Fire indicates danger”, Sam Carana concludes. “The name Ring Of Fire warns about possible volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis. The Ring Of Ice seems even more dangerous, since seismic activity could destabilize methane hydrates contained in sediments under the Arctic Ocean, and could trigger huge methane eruptions. The fault line running from Greenland to Siberia is the most dangerous area on Earth in that respect”.

From the earlier post High Methane Levels over Laptev Sea







Warming waters threaten to trigger methane eruptions from Arctic Ocean seafloor


K. Tung / Univ. of Washington. (Top) Global
average surface temperatures, where black dots
are yearly averages. Two flat periods (hiatus)
are separated by rapid warming from 1976-1999.
(Middle) Observations of heat content, compared
to the average, in the north Atlantic Ocean.
(Bottom) Salinity of the seawater in the same
part of the Atlantic. Higher salinity is seen
to coincide with more ocean heat storage.
A new study looks at how, in the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved deeper into the oceans, specifically the North Atlantic.

Sun-warmed salty water travels north along ocean currents in the Atlantic. When this saltier water reaches the North Atlantic, its greater density causes it to sink. From about 1999, this current began to speed up and draw heat deeper into the ocean.

These huge amounts of heat moving deeper into the Atlantic Ocean are very worrying.

The image below shows that sea surface temperatures have reached extremely high levels on the Northern Hemisphere, where sea surface temperature anomalies as high as 1.78 degrees Celsius were recorded on August 19, 2014.

As discussed in an earlier post, water carried by the Gulf Stream below the surface can be even warmer than surface waters. As the post discusses, high sea surface temperatures west of Svalbard indicate that the Gulf Stream can carry very warm water (warmer than 16°C) at greater depths and is pushing this underneath the sea ice north of Svalbard. Similarly, warm water from greater depth comes to the surface where the Gulf Stream pushes it against the west coast of Novaya Zemlya.


Very warm water is now invading the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait from the Pacific Ocean, while very warm water is also traveling on the back of the Gulf Stream from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean.


The danger is that this warm water will destabilize hydrates contained in sediments under the Arctic Ocean and trigger huge methane eruptions.

Rising methane levels over the past few years are ominous in this respect. The image below shows very high mean global methane levels on August 28, 2014, while methane readings as high as 2561 ppb were recorded on that day.

Methane Levels -  see earlier post for a discussion of IPCC/NOAA data

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



References and Related Links

- Varying planetary heat sink led to global-warming slowdown and acceleration
by Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung.
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6199/897

- Cause of global warming hiatus found deep in the Atlantic Ocean
University of Washington News Release
http://www.washington.edu/news/2014/08/21/cause-of-global-warming-hiatus-found-deep-in-the-atlantic-ocean

- Horrific Methane Eruptions in East Siberian Sea
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2014/08/horrific-methane-eruptions-in-east-siberian-sea.html

- Methane Buildup in the Atmosphere
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2014/04/methane-buildup-in-atmosphere.html

- Climate Plan blog
http://climateplan.blogspot.com