Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Persistently High Methane Concentrations over Beaufort Sea

High methane concentrations have been showing up over Beaufort Sea over the past few days, as shown on the image below. This follows the recent high methane concentrations over the East Siberian Sea.


The persistent character of these very high methane concentrations over the Arctic Ocean indicates that methane has started to erupt from clathrates under the seabed, triggered by very warm water reaching the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

Methane eruptions from hydrates in sediments under the Arctic Ocean helped mean methane levels reach new records, with mean global methane readings as high as 1835 parts per billion recorded at several altitudes on August 17, 2014.


The very high sea surface temperature anomalies that show up on above image give an idea of the inflow of warm water from the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait. This is further highlighted by the combination image below.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Heatwave to hit Greenland

A heatwave with temperature anomalies exceeding 36°F (20°C) is expected to hit Greenland between August 16 and 22, 2014, as illustrated by the image on the left and the animation on the right. 

Such heatwaves can be expected to hit the Arctic more frequently and with greater intensity, as temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than elsewhere on Earth.

Such heatwaves can result in massive melting on Greenland, as persistent heat changes the texture of the snow and ice cover, in turn reducing its reflectivity. This makes that less sunlight is reflected back into space and is instead absorbed. 

The image below illustrates what a difference the presence of sea ice can make.
from: Arctic Warming due to Snow and Ice Demise
As the NSIDC/NOAA graphs below shows, melting on Greenland has been relatively modest this year when compared to the situation in 2012. By July 12, 2012, 97% of the ice sheet surface had thawed, according to this NASA analysis and this NOAA Arctic Report Card.


Melting on Greenland directly affects sea level rise, and melting on Greenland is accelerating due to a number of factors.

Projections of melting on Greenland have long been based on a warming atmosphere only, ignoring the warmer waters that lubricate glaciers and that warm Greenland's bedrock canyons that sit well below sea level.

Furthermore, there are growing quantities of black carbon deposits as a result of burning of fossil fuel and biomass. High temperatures have recently caused ferocious wildfires in Canada that have in turn caused a lot of black carbon to go up high into the atmosphere.

And of course, the atmosphere over the Arctic is warming up much faster than most models had projected. This in turn causes triggers further feebacks, including more extreme weather events such as heatwaves and rain storms that can be expected to hit Greenland with ever more frequency and ferocity. Further feedbacks include methane eruptions from the heights of Greenland, as discussed at the Arctic Feedbacks Page.

When also taking into account the accelerating impact of such factors on melting in Greenland, sea levels could rise much faster than anticipated, as illustrated by the image below.

from: more than 2.5m sea level rise by 2040? 

Note that sea level rise is only one of the many dangers of global warming, as discussed in the 2007 post Ten Dangers of Global Warming.

The image on the right shows a temperature forecast for August 16, 2014, with parts of Greenland changing in color from blue into green, i.e. above the melting point for snow and ice.

Such high temperatures are now hitting locations close to the North Pole ever more frequently, due to the many feedbacks that are accelerating warming in the Arctic, as discussed at this Feedbacks page.

One of the most dangerous feedbacks is a sudden eruption of huge quantities of methane from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, as discussed in a recent post.

The impact of such feedbacks can be accumulative and interactive, resulting in self-reinforcing feedbacks loops that can escalate into runaway warming.

Below is another forecast by ClimateReanalyzer for August 16, 2014, showing the remarkable ‘greening’ of Greenland, as well as the very high temperatures reaching the higher latitudes of North America.


Also see the very high sea surface temperatures around Greenland on the image below, created with ClimateReanalyzer.

Sea surface temperature anomalies on August 15, 2014. 
In conclusion, the situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Horrific Methane Eruptions in East Siberian Sea

A catastrophe of unimaginable propertions is unfolding in the Arctic Ocean. Huge quantities of methane are erupting from the seafloor of the East Siberian Sea and entering the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean.


As the top image above shows, peak levels as high as 2363 ppb were recorded at an altitude of 19,820 ft (6041 m) on the morning of August 12, 2014. The middle image shows that huge quantities of methane continued to be present over the East Siberian Sea that afternoon, while the bottom image shows that methane levels as high as 2441 ppb were recorded a few days earlier, further indicating that the methane did indeed originate from the seafloor of the East Siberian Sea.

On August 12, 2014, peak methane levels at higher altitudes were even higher than the readings mentioned on above image. Levels as high as 2367 ppb were reached at an altitude of 36,850 ft (11,232 m). Such high levels have become possible as the huge quantities of methane that were released from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean over the period from October 2013 to March 2014, have meanwhile descended to lower latitudes where they show up at higher altitudes.

Methane eruptions from the Arctic Ocean's seafloor helped push up mean global methane levels to readings as high as 1832 ppb on August 12, 2014.

Ironically, the methane started to erupt just as an international team of scientists from Sweden, Russia and the U.S. (SWERUS-C3), visiting the Arctic Ocean to measure methane, had ended their research.

Örjan Gustafsson describes part of their work: “Using the mid-water sonar, we mapped out an area of several kilometers where bubbles were filling the water column from depths of 200 to 500 m. During the preceding 48 h we have performed station work in two areas on the shallow shelf with depths of 60-70m where we discovered over 100 new methane seep sites.”

Örjan Gustafsson adds that “a tongue of relatively warm Atlantic water, with a core at depths of 200–600 m may have warmed up some in recent years. As this Atlantic water, the last remnants of the Gulf Stream, propagates eastward along the upper slope of the East Siberian margin, our SWERUS-C3 program is hypothesizing that this heating may lead to destabilization of upper portion of the slope methane hydrates.”

Schematics of key components of the Arctic climate-cryosphere-carbon system that are addressed by the SWE-C3 Program. a,b) Sonar images of gas plumes in the water column caused by sea floor venting of methane (a: slope west of Svalbard, Westbrook et al., 2009; b: ESAO, Shakhova et al., 2010, Science). c) Coastal erosion of organic-rich Yedoma permafrost, Muostoh Island, SE Laptev Sea. d) multibeam image showing pockmarks from gas venting off the East Siberian shelf. e) distribution of Yedoma permafrost in NE Siberia. f) Atmospheric venting of CH4, CO2. (SWERUS-C3)
Örjan Gustafsson further adds that SWERUS-C3 researchers have on earlier expeditions documented extensive venting of methane from the subsea system to the atmosphere over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

In 2010, team members Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov estimated the accumulated methane potential for the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf alone to be as follows:
- organic carbon in permafrost of about 500 Gt;
- about 1000 Gt in hydrate deposits; and
- about 700 Gt in free gas beneath the gas hydrate stability zone.

Back in 2008, Shakhova et al. wrote a paper warning that “we consider release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time.”

Last year, a team of researchers including Professor Peter Wadhams calculated that such a 50 Gt release would cause global damage with a price-tag of $60 trillion.

As Prof Wadhams explains in the video below: “We really have no choice except to seriously consider the use of geoengineering.”



Sea surface temperatures as high as 18.8°C are now recorded at locations where warm water from the Pacific Ocean is threatening to invade the Arctic Ocean.

At the same time, huge amounts of very warm water are carried into the Arctic Ocean by the Gulf Stream through the North Atlantic. The image below illustrates how the Gulf Stream brings very warm water to the edge of the sea ice.

Waters close to Svalbard reached temperatures as high as 62°F (16.4°C) on July 29, 2014 (green circle). Note that the image below shows sea surface temperatures only. At greater depths (say about 300 m), the Gulf Stream is pushing even warmer water through the Greenland Sea than temperatures at the sea surface.

Since the passage west of Svalbard is rather shallow, a lot of this very warm water comes to the surface at that spot, resulting in an anomaly of 11.1°C. The high sea surface temperatures west of Svalbard thus show 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.


As Malcolm Light writes in an earlier post: The West Spitzbergen Current dives under the Arctic ice pack west of Svalbard, continuing as the Yermak Branch (YB on map) into the Nansen Basin, while the Norwegian Current runs along the southern continental shelf of the Arctic Ocean, its hottest core zone at 300 metres depth destabilizing the methane hydrates en route to where the Eurasian Basin meets the Laptev Sea, a region of extreme methane hydrate destabilization and methane emissions.

The images below give an impression of the amount of heat transported into the Arctic Ocean.



The image below gives an idea how methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean could unfold over the coming decades. For more on this image, see this post and this page.


As said, the situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog at climateplan.blogspot.com and as illustrated by the image below.




Friday, August 8, 2014

The Arctic Methane Monster's Rapid Rise


Researcher Jennifer Hynes recently gave a frightening presentation about the situation in the Arctic and the odds that things will rapidly spiral out of control soon, escalating into runaway global warming a few decades from now. 




Above, a slide from the presentation, warning about the danger of earthquakes causing methane hydrate destabilization (from: Smoke Blankets North America). As the map below shows, 77 M4+ earthquakes did hit locations around Greenland in the year 2014 up until August 4.


Below is Jennifer's presentation, also on youtube at youtube.com/watch?v=a9PshoYtoxo



The image below shows sea surface temperature anomalies in the Arctic at August 7, 2014.


Warm water is carried into the Arctic Ocean by the Gulf Stream, as illustrated by the image below.
[ click on image to enlarge ]
The image shows how the Gulf Stream brings warm water to the edge of the sea ice. Waters close to Svalbard reached temperatures as high as 15.6°C (60.1°F) on August 8, 2014 (green circle). Note that what the image shows are sea surface temperatures only. At greater depths (say 300 m), warm water is pushed through the Greenland Sea by the Gulf Stream. Since the passage west of Svalbard is rather shallow, a lot of this warm water comes to the surface there. The high sea surface temperatures west of Svalbard thus indicate that the Gulf Stream is carrying very warm water (warmer than 15°C) at greater depths and is pushing this underneath the sea ice north of Svalbard.

As said, the situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog at climateplan.blogspot.com and as illustrated by the image below.



Monday, August 4, 2014

Warm waters threaten to trigger huge methane eruptions from Arctic Ocean seafloor

The evidence of abrupt high methane releases in the Arctic Ocean is accumulating. The graph below shows in situ methane measurements taken at the Barrow Observatory, including recent levels as high as close to 2200 parts per billion (ppb).


Satellite data picture a similarly dire situation. Global mean methane levels as high as 1831 ppb were recorded on the morning of July 30, 2014, while peak methane levels as high as 2330 ppb were recorded that morning. More recently, peak methane levels as high as 2522 ppb were recorded (on August 2, 2014).

IPCC/NOAA figures suggest that methane levels were rising by some 5 to 6 ppb annually, reaching 1814 ppb in 2013. While methane levels at lower altitudes have indeed shown little rise, much larger rises have been recorded at higher altitudes, as illustrated by the image below.


These high methane levels recorded at higher altitudes appear to be caused by the huge quantities of methane released from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean during the period from end 2013 to early 2014. This methane has meanwhile risen to higher altitudes, while also descending to lower latitudes, wreaking havoc on weather patterns around latitude 60° North.

The releases of methane from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean were caused by water that had warmed up strongly off the east coast of North America from June 2013. It took some months for this warm water to be carried by the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean.


Meanwhile, very high sea surface temperatures are recorded in the Arctic Ocean, as above image shows, while warm water is carried into the Arctic Ocean by the Gulf Stream, as illustrated by the image below.


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




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More than 2.5m Sea Level Rise by 2040?

A warming period more than 400,000 years ago pushed the Greenland ice sheet past its stability threshold (which may have been no more than several degrees above pre-industrial temperatures). This resulted in a nearly complete deglaciation of southern Greenland, raising global sea levels some 4.5-6 meters, found a recent study by Reyes et al. Due to melting elsewhere, global mean sea level then was 6 to 13 metres above the present level. Indeed, melting of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet can add a further 6-meter rise in sea levels. If the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) were to melt as well, sea levels would rise by around 70 metres.

Sea level is now rising by 3.1mm (0.122 inch) per year. Much of this rise is due to rising temperatures, but there are also other factors. One quarter of the rise results from groundwater depletion, while run off from melting ice and glaciers adds another quarter and the remainder is attributed to thermal expansion of sea water. Furthermore, as temperatures rise, feedbacks start to kick in, e.g. the kinetic energy from stronger waves and more intense storms can speed things up.

Clearly, a rapid multi-meter rise would be devastating as it would flood many coastal cities, as well as much of the land now used to grow food. By how much have sea levels been rising recently and how fast can they be expected to rise in the near future?
NASA image, data by the JPL PODAAC, in support of the NASA's MEaSUREs program.
Sea levels have risen by some 60 mm over the past 20 years, as above NASA image shows, which has a linear trendline added. The question is whether a linear trendline is the most appropriate trendline, given that it suggests that a similar rise could be expected over the next 20 years. A polynomial trendline appears to fit the data better, as the animation below shows.


Such a polynomial trendline, however, points at a similar rise (of some 50 mm) in just four years time, with an even more steeper rise to follow, as illustrated by the image below.


And indeed, such a rise doesn't slow down there. A polynomial trendline applied to the data points at a sea level rise of more than 2.5 m (8.2 ft) by the year 2040.



The image below gives an idea of what a sea level rise of six feet (1.829 m) would do to the City of New York. Of course, this is only the sea level rise. Storm surge would come on top of this, as discussed at Ten Dangers of Global Warming.



So, what would be more appropriate, to expect sea levels to continue to rise in a linear way, or to take into account feedbacks that could speed things up? Where such feedbacks could lead to is illustrated by the image below.
[ from: How many deaths could result from failure to act on climate change? click on image to enlarge ]
This calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.


References

- South Greenland ice-sheet collapse during Marine Isotope Stage 11, Reyes et al. (2014)
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v510/n7506/full/nature13456.html

- Nonsustainable groundwater sustaining irrigation: A global assessment, Yoshihide Wada et al. (2012)
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011WR010562/abstract

- Groundwater Depletion Linked to Rising Sea Levels
http://www.waterworld.com/articles/2010/11/groundwater-depletion-linked-to-rising.html

- Assessment of the Jason-2 Extension to the TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 Sea-Surface Height Time Series for Global Mean Sea Level Monitoring, Beckley et al. (2010)
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01490419.2010.491029

- Feedbacks in the Arctic
http://climateplan.blogspot.com/p/feedbacks.html

- How many deaths could result from failure to act on climate change? (2014)
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2014/05/how-many-deaths-could-result-from-failure-to-act-on-climate-change.html



Monday, July 21, 2014

Methane rising through fractures

by Harold Hensel



Methane is colorless and odorless and it is right above us in the atmosphere.

In addition to other sources, methane has traveled from the Arctic and has blanketed most of the Northern Hemisphere.

The well-known sources are methane hydrates from the Arctic Ocean floor and methane coming from thawing permafrost.

There is also another less well-known source. During the geologic history of the Arctic area, tectonic plates have spread, crashed into each other and subducted under one another. Geologists call the Arctic a tectonic plate junkyard. There are numerous fractures in the earth's crust there.

A quote from earth scientist Malcolm Light: ‘Mantle methane formed from the reduction of oceanic carbonates by water in the presence of iron (II) oxides buried to depths of 100 km to 300 km in the Asthenosphere and at temperatures above 1200°C.’ This is a nonorganic source of methane formed near the earth's mantel. Katey Walter Anthony from the University of Alaska calls it geologic methane.

Vast reservoirs of methane have been created by chemical reactions and stored near the mantle under a lot of pressure for millennia.

The methane has had a route to the surface through the fractures in the earth's crust, but the fractures have been sealed over by ice. Now for the first time in human history, the ice sealing the fractures is thawing. Methane is rising through the fractures and into the atmo­sphere. This methane has migrated to the United States and is over us.




Harold Hensel, 
Cedar Rapids.
Earlier published as 
Letter to the Editor 
Cedar Rapids Gazette 
(without images)


Related

- Study: Geologic methane seeping from thawing cryosphere - by Marmian Grimes
http://uafcornerstone.net/study-geologic-methane-seeping-from-thawing-cryosphere

- Focus on Methane - by Malcolm Light
http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2014/07/focus-on-methane.html

- Arctic Atmospheric Methane Global Warming Veil - by Malcolm Light, Harold Hensel and Sam Carana

- Mantle Methane - by Malcolm Light