Sunday, December 17, 2017

Fires threaten Santa Barbara

New mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for the areas of Montecito, Summerland and some parts of Santa Barbara city, emergency officials said.

Above graph shows carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels from December 5 - 20, 2017, while the map below shows the location of the measurements (and forecasts).

Levels at this location weren't always the highest ones at the time of day of above graph. On December 11, 2017, 22:30 UTC, CO levels at that location were 55639 ppb, while CO₂ levels were 898 ppm, as illustrated by the image below (left panel).

The graph shows levels at one location and for one time of day (00:00 UTC for CO, respectively 01:30 UTC for CO₂). On December 11, 2017, at this location, but at 22:30 UTC, CO levels were 55639 ppb and CO₂ levels were 898 ppm, as illustrated the combination image (left panel). The right panel of this image shows that CO₂ levels were as high as 922 ppm on December 7, 2017, at 01:30 UTC at a slightly different location. No CO₂ measurements were available for December 9 and 10, 2017, but given that levels of CO₂ and CO typically go up and down hand in hand, CO₂ may have peaked at well over 1000 ppm on December 9, 2017, possibly exceeding the 1229 ppm CO₂ measured in Montana on July 22, 2017.

Such fires look set to cause increasing amounts of emissions, speeding up warming of the atmosphere. These fires were fueled by extremely dry, hot and strong winds lasting for many days. Global warming is behind all these conditions. Not only does more heat translate into higher temperatures and stronger winds, the decreasing temperature difference between the Arctic and the Equator is also increasing the intensity and duration of more extreme weather events.

“For the first time in history, on December 7th, the Cal Fire elevated the fire threat to purple for San Diego County, warning that the weather conditions presented an extreme risk of fire for San Diego,” California Governor Jerry Brown wrote in a request for federal emergency assistance. “Fire officials predict extreme winds of up to 80 miles per hour, equal to the wind speed of a category one hurricane.”

The following is an extract from the California Scoping Plan 2017:
In California, as in the rest of the world, climate change is contributing to an escalation of serious problems, including raging wildfires, coastal erosion, disruption of water supply, threats to agriculture, spread of insect-borne diseases, and continuing health threats from air pollution. The drought that plagued California for years devastated the state’s agricultural and rural communities, leaving some of them with no drinking water at all. In 2015 alone, the drought cost agriculture in the Central Valley an estimated $2.7 billion, and more than 20,000 jobs. Last winter, the drought was broken by record-breaking rains, which led to flooding that tore through freeways, threatened rural communities, and isolated coastal areas. This year, California experienced the deadliest wildfires in its history. Climate change is making events like these more frequent, more catastrophic and more costly.

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


• Climate Plan

• Wildfires

• Extreme weather is upon us

• 10°C or 18°F warmer by 2021?

• Abrupt Warming - How Much And How Fast?

• Accelerating growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere

• Feedbacks

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade

• Turning forest waste into biochar

Friday, November 24, 2017

Warming is accelerating

Warming is accelerating. For some time, it has been warmer than the 1.5°C guardrail that the Paris Agreement promised should not be crossed. This conclusion follows from above analysis of NASA land+ocean data 1880-October 2017, adjusted by 0.59°C to cater for the rise from preindustrial and with a trend added that also indicates that the global temperature look set to cross the 2°C guardrail soon, with 2021 falling within the margins of the trend line.
[ click on images to enlarge ]

The trend line shows a strong and ominous direction upward. Nonetheless, the situation could be even more dire than this trend indicates, since some warming elements are not fully incorporated in these data.

As an example, the NASA data look at the temperature at the surface of the oceans, which has increased strongly, as also illustrated by the image on the right.

Much warming has also occurred below the sea surface, while there has been some cooling of the sea surface. Moreover, ocean heat has also increased strongly over the years, as the image below illustrates, and looks set to increase further.

After all, what happens to oceans is important, as 93.4% of global warming currently goes into oceans.

The fact that much warming is taking place below the sea surface could make that it gets overlooked. If much of this warming were to get transferred from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere over the next few years, then the temperature rise over the next few years could take an even sharper turn upward.

The threat that warming below the sea surface is overlooked is highlighted by the image below, which shows huge warming of Arctic waters at selected locations near Svalbard.

Above image focuses on temperatures at selected locations near Svalbard (see map below). In 1981-2011, temperatures were gradually falling by more than one degree Celsius over the period of measurement, i.e. from October 1 to November 23 (blue line), a fall that is in line with the change in seasons. Over this period in 2017, temperatures were 13.19°C or 23.77°F higher than in 1981-2011, while the temperature didn't seem to be falling (red line).

How could these waters get a stunning 13.19°C warmer than two decades ago?

Global warming did hit the North Atlantic hard, particularly along the track of the Gulf Stream all the way to the Arctic Ocean. This has translated into stronger winds along the track of the Gulf Stream, which are making that ever larger amounts of warm water are getting pushed from the North Atlantic to the Arctic Ocean.

A temperature rise underneath the sea surface can be overlooked when merely monitoring the average surface temperature of the Arctic Ocean, especially when stronger winds have caused more evaporation, cooling down the water at the surface.

[ 100% relative humidity (left) as jet stream moves over Arctic Ocean (right) ]
Stronger winds, higher temperatures and the presence of more open water in the Arctic have all contributed to stronger rainfall in the Arctic. It looks like the rain did cause a freshwater lid to form at the surface of the Arctic Ocean, acting as an insulator and preventing transfer of ocean heat to the atmosphere. This also contributed to a colder atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean, i.e. colder than it would otherwise have been. At the same time, since less heat could escape from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere, this freshwater lid has resulted in warmer water, as is evident from the huge anomalies at the locations near Svalbard. The forecast below that Arctic will be 7.2°C or 12.96°F warmer than in 1979-2000 on December 3, 2017, illustrates just how warm the Arctic Ocean currently is.

This freshwater lid has also made it easier for sea ice to form at the surface, as ice will form in freshwater as warm as just below 0°C (or 32°F), compared to salty seawater that must cool down to -2°C (or 28.4°F) before freezing. The seawater underneath the sea ice is warm enough to melt the ice from below, but the layer of freshwater at the surface acts as an insulator.

There would have been less sea ice, had it not been for the rain resulting in this freshwater lid. Much of the freshwater lid did turn into sea ice in September 2017, as air temperatures came down below 0°Cs, and this sea ice similarly acted as an insulator, preventing transfer of heat from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere. Importantly, while much of the additional freshwater at the surface did turn into sea ice in 2017, this is only a temporary phenomenon, as no ice will form once the surface of the water will stay above 0°C, which looks imminent as temperatures keep rising.

[ Cyclone carrying particulates into the Arctic Ocean ]
Further sea ice loss means that less sunlight will get reflected back into space and will instead get absorbed by the Arctic, further accelerating warming in the arctic.

Additionally, more heat is radiated from sea ice into space than from open water (feedback #23).

Stronger cyclones can also bring more particulates into the Arctic Ocean, speeding up the demise of sea ice by darkening it when settling on ice, as illustrated by the image on the right.

In conclusion, while the formation of the freshwater lid at the surface of the Arctic Ocean has been holding back the collapse of the sea ice, the delay of the collapse can only be a temporary one as temperatures keep rising. The Arctic Ocean is warming at accelerating speed and collapse of the sea ice looks imminent.

[ click on image to enlarge ]

Above images confirm the loss of the thicker sea ice over the past few years, while zero Arctic sea ice is within the margins of the trend line of the image on the right.

Less sea ice will on the one hand make that more heat can escape from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere, but on the other hand the albedo loss and the additional water vapor will at the same time cause the Arctic Ocean to absorb more heat, with the likely net effect being greater warming of the Arctic Ocean.

Another point to consider is latent heat, as discussed in earlier posts. The danger is illustrated by the image below, showing that heat threatens to destabilize methane hydrates at the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, more heat threatens to reach sediments that have until now remained frozen. Melting of the ice in these sediments then threatens to unleash huge eruptions of seafloor methane that has until now been kept locked up by the permafrost.

The Buffer has gone, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page
Additionally, melting of permafrost on land can cause rapid decomposition of soils, resulting in releases of huge amounts of greenhouse gases, further accelerating warming in the Arctic, which in turn will result in more greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, water vapor) entering the Arctic atmosphere, more albedo changes, etc., in a vicious self-reinforcing cycle of runaway warming.

Levels of CO2, CH4 an N2O have been rising rapidly since 1750, as above image shows. Methane levels have risen 257% since 1750.

Did the rise in methane emissions slow down from 1999 to 2006?

One explanation for the apparent slowdown is that, as temperatures kept rising, water vapor in the atmosphere increased accordingly (7% more water vapor for every 1°C warming), resulting in more hydroxyl that broke down more methane in the atmosphere since 1990. So, while the rise in methane levels appeared to slow down, methane emissions were actually continuing to increase, but as an increasingly large part of methane was decomposed by hydroxyl, this rise in methane was overlooked. In 2007, Arctic sea ice reached a record low, triggering more methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. While hydroxyl kept increasing, seafloor methane kept increasing faster, making that methane emissions increasingly started to overwhelm hydroxyl, resulting in a stronger rise in overall methane levels. A 2013 post estimated methane emissions at 771 Tg/y, whereas the IPCC's estimate was 678 Tg/y. The post estimated methane from hydrates and permafrost at 13% of total methane emissions, whereas the IPCC's estimate was a mere 1% of total methane emissions.

[ click on images to enlarge ]
The presence of methane is felt particularly strongly over the Arctic Ocean. Above images show high methane levels over the Arctic Ocean on December 2, 2017, when methane reached a peak level of 2771 ppb and on December 13 and 14, 2017, when peak levels as high as 2713 ppb were reached.

Methane levels have been rising strongly since 2000 and this rise looks set to continue, as illustrated by the image on the right.

There is also a danger that, as temperatures keep rising, the course of the ocean current near Svalbard could change, making that more heat will reach the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), thus further warming up sediments there, resulting in huge amounts of methane erupting from the seafloor.

Add up the impact of all warming elements and, as an earlier analysis shows, the rise in mean global temperatures from preindustrial could be more than 10°C in a matter of years, as illustrated by the images below.

A 2°C rise in temperature alone is devastating, especially when considering that temperature peaks in history look to have been less high than previously thought, as concluded by a recent study in ocean paleotemperature. Therefore, a 10°C rise may well result in the warmest temperatures experienced on Earth. Moreover, the speed at which this rise could occur leaves little or no time for plants and animals to adapt, in contrast to historical climate swings that typically took many years to eventuate.

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


• Climate Plan

• 10°C or 18°F warmer by 2021?

• Abrupt Warming - How Much And How Fast?

• Accelerating growth in CO₂ levels in the atmosphere

• High methane levels over the Arctic Ocean on January 14, 2014

• Feedbacks

• Extinction

• Methane Erupting From Arctic Ocean Seafloor

• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Hurricane Nate Threatens New Orleans

The image below, a forecast for October 8, 2017, run on October 7, shows Hurricane Nate near New Orleans, with winds as fast as 83 mph or 134 km/h (at 850 mb) and up to 5.33 in or 135.4 mm (3-hour precipitation accumulation) of rain (at the green circle).

Early forecast also showed as much as 6.1 in or 154.9 mm of rain (3-hour precipitation accumulation) hitting the Mississippi coast.

The NOAA image below also shows the track over North America as forecast over the next few days.

Nate, the fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf and bearing down on the U.S. South (Reuters report).

One of the biggest dangers is storm surge flooding, as illustrated by above image and the tweet below.

As the world keeps warming, hurricanes are increasingly causing damage, as also discussed in a recent post.

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


• Climate Plan

• NOAA National Hurricane Center

• The Arctic is Changing the Jet Stream - Why This Is Important

• Extreme weather is upon us

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Arctic is Changing the Jet Stream - Why This Is Important

By Sam Carana, with contributions by Jennifer Francis

Global warming is increasing the strength of hurricanes. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor and sea surface temperatures are rising. Both of these changes strengthen hurricanes. Steering winds may also be changing, causing unusual hurricane tracks such as Sandy's left turn into the mid-Atlantic seaboard and Harvey's stagnation over Houston. Is rapid Arctic warming playing a role?

Jennifer Francis has long been warning that global warming is increasing the likelihood of wavier jet stream patterns and more frequent blocking events, both of which have been observed. The Arctic is warming more rapidly than the rest of the world. The narrowing temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes is weakening the speed at which the jet stream circumnavigates Earth and may be making the jet stream more wavy. In a 2012 study, Jennifer Francis and Stephen Vavrus warned that this makes atmospheric blocking events in the Northern Hemisphere more likely, aggravating extreme weather events related to stagnant weather conditions, such as drought, flooding, cold spells, and heat waves.

The danger was highlighted later that year, when a strong block associated with a deep jet stream trough helped steered Hurricane Sandy toward New York. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey hovered over Houston and dumped record-breaking rains (over 50 inches in some locations!), again highlighting this danger.

The jet stream separates cold air in the Arctic from warmer air farther south. A wavier jet stream transports more heat and moisture into the Arctic. This speeds up warming of the Arctic in a number of ways. In addition to warming caused by the extra heat, the added water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas, trapping more heat in the atmosphere over the Arctic, while it also causes more clouds to form that also are effective heat trappers.

As the Arctic keeps warming, the jet stream is expected to become more distorted, bringing ever more heat and moisture into the Arctic. This constitutes a self-reinforcing feedback loop that keeps making the situation worse. In conclusion, it's high time for more comprehensive and effective action to reduce the underlying culprit: global warming.

Jennifer Francis is Research Professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, where she studies Arctic climate change and the link between the Arctic and global climates.

Jennifer has received funding from the National Science Foundation and NASA. She is a member of the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, Association for Women in Science and the Union of Concerned Scientists.


• Evidence Linking Arctic Amplification to Extreme Weather in Mid-Latitudes, by Jennifer Francis and Stephen Vavrus (2012)

• Why Are Arctic Linkages to Extreme Weather Still Up in the Air? By Jennifer Francis (July 7, 2017)

• Amplified Arctic warming and mid‐latitude weather: new perspectives on emerging connections, by Jennifer Francis, Stephen Vavrus, Judah Cohen (May 16, 2017)

• Jennifer Francis: A New Arctic Feedback - interview with Peter Sinclair

• Jennifer Francis - Understanding the jet stream