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North Atlantic Warm Pool as a Signal of Gulf Stream Slowdown

Over the past few years we’ve seen very warm sea surface temperatures in the Gulf Stream off the U.S. East Coast. This heat traffic jam is an indicator of reduced energy transfer into the North Atlantic. In other words, there’s a strong observational signal that the Gulf Stream is slowing down.

(A much warmer than normal pool of water off the U.S. East Coast juxtaposed to an intense cool pool south of Greenland is a climate indicator of Gulf Stream slowdown.)

The development of a cool pool near Greenland, and associated with Greenland melt, is a further indicator of this trend. Recently, the near East Coast warm pool has enlarged and intensified. Meanwhile, the strength of the Greenland cool pool has also increased even as cold water currents issuing from Greenland appear to have sped up.

As noted above, Greenland melt is a major apparent driver. As glaciers like Svalbard speed up and calve more and more ice bergs, more fresh water enters the region around Greenland. This fresh water acts as a lens which cools off the ocean surface. It also serves as a cap, pushing down-welling water further south.

(Floods of ice bergs from melting Greenland glaciers like Jacobshavn have the potential to produce a climate and ocean circulation train wreck in the North Atlantic. Some indicators show that we are in the early stages of this disruptive process. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

The net effect is that the North Atlantic Ocean Conveyor acts as if a great wrench has been thrown into the works. The region around Greenland cools as areas further south heat up. A scenario that is also likely to generate more intense storms across the North Atlantic and over adjacent lands in Europe, North America and Greenland.

Recent scientific studies indicate that the North Atlantic circulation has slowed down by about 15 percent on decadal time scales. And it appears that this slow-down is showing up clearly in the North Atlantic sea surface temperature profile.

(A severe dipole anomaly for sea surface temperatures has developed in the North Atlantic. This is an observational indicator that Greenland melt is impacting North Atlantic Ocean circulation. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The combined indicators point toward serious systemic changes taking place in the region of the North Atlantic. Changes that are having knock-on effects to local climates — like enhancing the deepness of troughs over Eastern North America and lending higher atmospheric potentials that spike storm intensity. Meanwhile, considerable ocean conveyor slow-down risks a serious degradation of global ocean health.

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Key Reason to Support Renewable Energy? The Future Looks Like Hell Without it.

We’ve often talked about the link between renewable energy denial and climate change denial on this site. But in our most recent article and video blog, we’re going to highlight the link in bright colors for all to see. In simple terms, those who attack renewable energy are leading us down a path toward worst-case climate change.

(What does the future look like without a transition to renewable energy? As bad as bad can be.)

In other words, we can’t address worst case climate change without a rather swift transition to renewable energy over the coming decades. The faster we transition, the better off the world will be. The slower we transition, the more pain we will see from climate change on a global scale.

But aside from avoiding climate change, transitioning to renewables produces numerous benefits including increased grid stability and lower electricity costs. For example, a recent Department of Energy study found that:

…renewables will be able to provide 80 percent of the nation’s electricity mix by 2050, while maintaining reliability. Wind and solar already provide many essential reliability services as well or better than inflexible coal and nuclear plants.

This in addition to reducing particulate pollution, greatly reducing air pollution deaths, and removing the source of mercury poisoning in seafood (coal burning).

But despite these and many other obvious benefits, the fossil fuel supporters of the world (call them mass harm and destruction supporters, because that’s what they are) continue to cast a cloud of fear and doubt over renewable energy. A primary false claim being that ‘renewables cause blackouts’ (This one penned by David Mercer).

(Worst case climate change scenarios involve continued fossil fuel burning with very little energy system replacement by renewables. Best case climate change scenarios involve a rapid transition to clean energy. Which future do you want to live in? Image source: Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emission Pathways.)

In truth, what renewables do, especially when integrated with a moderate proportion of the increasingly available and swiftly dispatchable battery storage systems, is provide a more reliable and sustainable grid over the long term while also reducing pollution and tamping down the degree of global pain inflicted by human-caused climate change.

Moreover renewable energy deniers:

…fail to acknowledge that extreme heat and drought, sea-level rise, and other climate change impacts worsened by fossil fuels should be addressed as they likely pose a greater and growing threat to grid reliability and resilience, increasing the possibility of blackouts. It also completely ignores the large public health and environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels that are not included in electricity prices and huge subsidies coal, natural gas and nuclear power have received for decades. Putting a price on carbon or removing all energy subsidies—ideas mentioned in an earlier draft of the study and currently proposed in Congress—could go a long way in creating a level playing field for energy sources and addressing the growing climate crisis, exacerbated by President Trump’s decision to pull out the Paris Agreement.

So the next time someone tells you that solar and wind cause blackouts, don’t listen to the nonsense and mind-fogging. If we keep burning fossil fuels, the blackouts will be coming, and they’ll be much worse without decentralized, renewable grids.

Potential Historic Arctic Warming Scenario in the GFS Model Forecast for Late May

For years, Arctic watchers have been concerned that if May and June ran much warmer than average following an equally severe winter, we could see substantial sea ice losses, severe Arctic fires, and related knock-on global weather effects. This May, temperatures over the Arctic Ocean have run much warmer than average. And in the GFS model forecast, we see a prediction for a historic Arctic temperature spike during late May.

(Discussion of a potentially historic Arctic warming event for late May of 2018. Information for this analysis provided by Climate Reanalyzer, Global and Regional Climate Anomalies, and DMI.)

According to GFS model analysis, temperatures for the entire Arctic region could spike to as high as 3.5 degrees Celsius above average from Saturday, May 26 through Tuesday, May 29th. So much warming, if it does occur, would shatter temperature records around the Arctic and accelerate the summer melt season by 2-4 weeks. It would also elevate Arctic fire potentials while likely increasing upstream severe weather risks to include higher potentials for droughts, heatwaves and severe rainfall events (as we have seen recently across the Eastern U.S.).

The model run indicates three ridge zones feeding much warmer than normal air into the Arctic. The zones hover over Eastern Siberia, Western North America, and Central Europe through the North Atlantic and Barents Sea — pushing wave after wave of warmth into the Arctic Ocean region.

(Three ridges transferring heat into the Arctic are feeding the potential for a major polar temperature spike over the next ten days. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Over the coming days, this three-pronged flood of warm air could push temperatures over the Arctic Ocean to 2-10 C above average temperatures while Western North America, Eastern Siberia, and the Scandinavian countries could see the mercury climb to 5 to 20 degrees Celsius above average. This translates to 70 to 80 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures for Eastern Siberia above the Arctic Circle, mid 70s to mid 80s for near Arctic Circle Alaska, and temperatures in the 70s to 80s for Scandinavia. For the Arctic Ocean, it means above freezing temperatures for most zones. Zones that are likely to see more rapid sea ice melt as a result.

Upstream effects include the potential continuation and emergence of fixed severe weather patterns. Extreme heat will tend to intensify for Western North America, while a pattern that favors severe rainfall is likely to remain in place for the Eastern U.S. Meanwhile, South-Central Asia through the Middle East are likely to see very extreme daytime high temperatures. Fire risks will tend to rise from Alberta to the Northwest Territory into Alaska and on through Central and Western Siberia as much warmer than normal temperatures take hold and Arctic lightning storms proliferate.

(Forecast Northern Hemisphere temperature anomaly patterns hint at a hot or unstable late spring pattern for many regions as the pole inters record warm territory. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

It’s worth noting that should such an event occur during late May, it would represent yet another major and historic temperature departure for an Arctic zone that has thus far seen severe winter warming and related loss of sea ice. The concern is that eventually such heating would result in ice free conditions during summer — although when is a subject of some debate.

To this point, it is also worth noting that we should take the present GFS forecast with a bit of a grain of salt. Such amazingly warm temperatures are still 6-10 days away. Forecasts beyond the 3 day are notably fickle. And this particular model has run a bit hot of late. However, it is worth noting that the model has been correct in predicting a much warmer than normal May. And that we have already experienced one historic temperature spike during early May. So a pattern that demonstrates the potential for such extreme warming has clearly taken hold.

 

Globe Just Experienced its Third Hottest April on Record

According to reports from NASA GISS, the world just experienced its third hottest April on record. Topping out at 0.86 degrees Celsius above NASA’s 20th Century baseline, April of 2018 edged out 2010 as third in the record books despite the ongoing natural variability based cooling influence of La Nina.

(Analysis of present global temperature anomalies with information provided by NASA, NOAA and Earth Nullschool.)

The warmest regions of the world included large sections of the lower Arctic — encompassing Eastern Siberia, the East Siberian Sea, and the Chukchi Sea. In addition, Central Europe experienced much warmer than normal conditions. Notable cool pools included North-Central North America, the High Arctic, and the Weddell Sea region of Antarctica.

A seasonal reinforcement of the Jet Stream helped to keep cold air sequestered in the High Arctic during April. However, this sequestration appears to be weaker compared to recent April-through-June periods as record warm spikes returned to the High Arctic during early May. The result of strong south-to-north heat transfer through various ridge zones in the Jet Stream.

(Third warmest April on record despite La Nina. Image source: NASA.)

La Nina remained the prominent natural variability related feature during April. And the cooling influence of La Nina has tamped global temperatures down a bit following the recent record hot year of 2016. Overall, it appears that global temperatures are on track to average between 1.04 C and 1.08 C above 1880s averages during 2018. These rather high excessions are, of course, caused by atmospheric greenhouse gasses peaking in the range of 410 ppm CO2 (around 491 ppm CO2e) during April, May and June. Representing the greatest concentration of heat trapping gasses on Earth in about 15 million years.

With La Nina fading, its cooling influence is likely to become less acute and global temperatures may again begin to ramp higher by mid to late 2018. NOAA has indicated a 50 percent chance for El Nino formation during late 2018. If 2018-2019 does see an El Nino emerge, global temperatures will likely again exceed the 1.15 C threshold and potentially challenge 1.2 C.

(A warm Kelvin Wave crossing beneath the Equatorial Pacific brings with it the potential for El Nino formation during 2018-2019. If El Nino does form, and with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations so high, it is likely that we would see temperatures comparable to the record global warmth of 2016 re-emerge. Image source: NOAA.)

However, it is unlikely that the weaker predicted El Nino, if it does emerge, will force temperatures considerably higher than levels achieved during the strong El Nino of 2016. For that, we will likely have to wait until the early 2020s. But with carbon emissions continuing near record high ranges, temperatures are bound to rise — with the 1.5 C threshold likely to be breached by the late 2020s or early 2030s.

Tips for Responding to Climate Change Denial and Anti-Clean Energy Attacks in the Media

It is becoming more and more obvious that powerful economic interests associated with the harmful fossil fuel industry often spread anti-scientific, anti-factual misinformation relating to climate change and clean energy in the mainstream media. This post will explore some recent examples while providing you with a few simple methods for countering what is essentially a PR industry of lies for profit.

(Day after day we can see The Madhouse Effect in action in the form of major media sources providing a platform for the agents of the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt and aspersions on both science and clean energy.)

Typically, it would fall to a responsible government to reign in bad media actors that spread such fraudulent reports in the press. Reports by paid industry agents that masquerade as news and fact, but are just the opposite. Daily we are inundated with false and misleading attacks on clean energy leaders like Tesla even as major sources baldly spread the anti-factual claims of climate change denialists.

But despite a broad assault against basic reason enabled by some of the most powerful media outlets in the land, the tools are there for us regular folks to counter such attempts to spread doubt, uncertainty, and fear (FUD). We just require the will and the wherewithal to use them. Today, I’m going to pull two blatantly false reports — one from the Wall Street Journal, and one from Politico — to provide examples of the variety of crud we are subjected to every single day.

But before I do, I’m going to share with you my simple little method for dealing with the nonsense. In short — QUADS is a good basic rule of thumb:

  1. Question strange claims.
  2. Ask a scientist who works in the field.
  3. Do the research.
  4. Speak out.

The Wall Street Journal Makes the Ridiculous Statement that Sea Level Rise isn’t Caused by Global Warming

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published this ludicrous article written by known climate change denier S. Fred Singer. The article, entitled ‘The Sea Level is Rising, But Not Because of Climate Change’ is quite frankly not worth the paper or the electrons used to bring it to our eyes. Simply put, Singer baselessly casts doubt on long established scientific facts related to sea level rise caused by climate change. Then he makes the equally baseless claim that we can’t do anything about it but build dikes (Fred has long attacked policies promoting carbon emissions reductions — like those that advance the needed transition to renewable energy).

These are indeed strange claims worthy of questioning. And if we were to ask an actual climate scientist, we would find this to be the response:

Doing a little research we find that NASA states:

Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms.

A statement of fact that is validated again and again and again across the field of climate science by such luminaries as the World Meteorological Organization, the Met Office, the IPCC, NOAA, JAXA and ever other major climate science body known to man.

Facts that put Mann’s rebuke to Singer in the context of yes, this guy just basically said the climate science equivalent of ‘objects are falling, but not because of gravity.’ Making Singer here more than just a bit of a voice in the wilderness. Which begs the question — why would the Wall Street Journal give him such a large platform from which to project his nonsense statements?

Turning our ‘do the research’ focus back to Singer we find that he’s a big name among the usual suspects of climate change denial nonsense. According to Desmogblog:

Singer founded the Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) in 1990, a 501(c)(3) “educational group” focusing on global warming denial….Leaked documents obtained by DeSmog revealed that Fred Singer has also been receiving $5,000 a month from the Heartland Institute(emphasis added).”

For those who don’t follow climate deniers, the Heartland Institute is an organization that feeds off the money of fossil fuel donors (like Exxon) and then turns around to publish numerous anti-scientific and anti-factual reports that attempt to fog the issue of climate change. This serves the simple polluting industry purpose of delaying or denying helpful government policy, business and social action meant to address climate change. Which is the main reason for the existence of Fred Singer as a media figure and for the endless repetition of his quack-quackish statements.

Politico Says Electrical Vehicles Increase Air Pollution — Which is a Complete and Utter Bullshit Claim

In a similar vein, but along a different tac, on the same day the major media source — Politico — published an equally ridiculous report by the appropriately named Jonathan Lesser falsely stating that electrical vehicles increase air pollution. Our response to Lesser and Politico calls them out for what amounts to publishing a gigantic stinking heap of nonsense:

Digging into actual research and looking at what actual scientists at The Union of Concerned Scientists have to say we find that:

Electric cars and trucks are powered by electricity, which as an energy source is cleaner and cheaper than oil. Even when the electricity comes from the dirtiest coal-dominated grid, electric vehicles (EVs) still produce less global warming pollution than their conventional counterparts, and with fewer tailpipe emissions (or none at all).

Such widely varied and notable institutions like the Department of Energy  and NRDC agree.

So how did Jonathan Lesser produce his claim? In short he double counted the impact of electricity based emissions, assumed all electricity comes from coal (just 30 percent and falling comes from coal in the U.S.), ignored the fact that EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions, overlooked the massive efficiency gains that come from EVs, and ignored the fact that EVs mated with wind and solar produced zero emissions in use. Further, Lesser seems to have fiddled with material lifetime emissions results to generate the most pessimistic view imaginable. One that has no basis in actual fact or reality.

(According to this report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, EVs keep getting cleaner and cleaner at a pace that is impossible to match by their fossil fuel based counter parts. See comparison tool here.)

To be clear, if EVs were only plugged in to coal power plants on net, then it is likely that we would see some specific instances of particulate pollution rise (which Lesser appears to be cherry picking). And when more EVs are used, electrical power demand increases. But not all power generation comes from coal. In fact, coal plants are being shut down all over the world due to an inability to compete with renewables and natural gas. And as cleaner sources of energy keep getting added at higher rates, total life cycle emissions from EVs, which are already lower than ICEs keep falling.

On a net basis, the Union of Concerned Scientists is correct. Due to the simple fact that an electrical motor is x2 to x3 more efficient than an ICE, simply switching the motor results in considerable emissions reductions. However, add in the battery and you have a vehicle that is capable of zero emissions in use when mated to wind and solar.

Moving on, we find that Johnathan Lesser happens to be a rather biased source of information. According to both Politico and Desmogblog, Lesser is a writer for the Manhattan Institute. According to Desmogblog:

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, originally known as the International Center for Economic Policy Studies, was founded in 1978 by Anthony Fisher and William Casey and in recent years has promoted climate science contrarianism while defending policies supporting the development of fossil fuels (emphasis added).

The Institute notably receives most of its funding from fossil fuel related interests. Including 1.7 million from the Mercer Foundation, 1 million from Exxon Mobile, and 2.7 million from the Koch Brothers. So reading Lesser’s article is like getting a direct shot of fossil fuel industry PR messaging. In other words — not an honest report devoid of serious conflict of interest related issues.

Speaking Out is Necessary to Expose Bad Actors

It’s understandable that individuals may feel powerless in the face of vast media empires like Politico and the Wall Street Journal who brazenly publish the slanted and unscientific views of fossil fuel industry shills without even providing responsible warning or qualification. However, each of us has a voice with its own degree of power as well. A power that is lost if we stand silent. But one that is enabled if we lift our voices and speak out. The truth itself is a powerful tool. And if we first learn what is true and then communicate that truth, we can have a shot at overcoming the harmful interests who’ve generated such a vastly damaging, short-sighted, and self-serving fire-hose spume of misinformation.

 

Warm Oceans, Displaced Polar Air: Why the Eastern U.S. is Likely to See Very Severe Rainfall During May

During recent years, warm ocean surfaces have loaded up the atmosphere with increasing levels of moisture. This moisture, in turn, has fueled more powerful rain storm events across the globe. Meanwhile, climate change is generating regions of increased instability by placing much warmer than normal air masses in confrontation with cold air displaced from a warming Arctic Ocean region.

(How climate change is impacting severe weather potentials across the U.S. East Coast during May. Data provided by Earth Nullschool, Climate Reanalyzer, and the National Weather Service.)

During the coming days, this kind of pattern will generate the potential for severe rainfall events across the U.S. East Coast. NOAA is predicting that between 3-7 inches of rain is likely to fall over the next 5-7 days. But due to the unusual situation, locally extreme and unexpected events may occur.

This severe weather potential has been fed by a combination of factors. A warmer than normal Arctic Ocean has shoved cold polar air south over the Hudson Bay region. The resulting trough is generating stormy conditions and atmospheric instability over much of Eastern North America. To the south and east, much warmer than normal sea surfaces have loaded up the atmosphere with extremely high moisture levels.

(NOAA shows that heavy rainfall is likely to dominate large portions of the Eastern U.S. over the coming weeks. With a number of climate change related influences at play, the potential for outsized severe weather events exists. Image source: NOAA.)

It’s the kind of pattern — within a highly charged atmosphere — that is capable of producing serious instances of severe weather. Heavy rainfall, hail, lightning and tornadoes are all more likely. Factors associated with climate change contributing to the situation include — much warmer than normal ocean surfaces off the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast, a much warmer than normal Arctic Ocean region for this time of year, displaced polar air near Hudson Bay, and warmer than normal temperatures over much of the U.S.

As Greenland melt comes more into play, and as temperatures continue to spike higher over the Arctic Ocean in coming years, we can expect to see similar patterns producing greater instability and more intense storms. Particularly for the land zones near the North Atlantic. And so what we are seeing now is a likely prelude of events to come as the Earth continues to warm coordinate with continued fossil fuel burning — with mitigating factors primarily involving reduced carbon emissions.

Global Sea Level Rise Accelerated to 4.6 mm Per Year After 2010

Human forced climate change through fossil fuel burning now presents a serious threat to the world’s coastal cities and island nations. Diverse regions of the world are now facing increased inundation at times of high tide and during storms. Unfortunately, this trend is only worsening. And depending on how much additional fossil fuel is burned, we could see between 2 to 10 feet or more of sea level rise this Century.

(Sea level rise analysis and update based on information provided by AVISO, Climate Reanalyzer, and the work of Dr. James Hansen.)

As the Earth has steadily warmed to 1.1 C above 1880s averages, the oceans of our world have risen. At first, the rate of rise was very mild — a mere 0.6 mm per year during the early 20th Century. However, as the rate of global warming increased and the oceans took in more heat, the middle 20th Century saw sea level rise increase to 1.4 mm per year. By the end of the 20th Century, the polar glaciers had begun to melt in earnest. And from 1990 to the present day, the rate of sea level rise has accelerated to 3.3 mm per year.

Due to more warm water invading the basal regions of glaciers and more ice bergs calving into the world ocean, the annual rate at which ocean levels increase continues to jump higher. And during recent years — from 2010 to 2018 — the world ocean has risen by nearly half a centimeter each year (4.6 mm).

Global Sea Level Rise 4.6 mm Per year

(Since 2010, the rate of sea level rise has again accelerated. And it appears that El Nino years have recently tended to produce strong upward swings in the annual rate of increase. This may be due to El Nino’s tendency to set up stronger cycles of energy transfer to the poles. NOAA presently indicates a 50 percent chance that a mild to moderate El Nino will emerge during the winter of 2018-2019. Will we see another sea level spike at that time should El Nino emerge? Image source: AVISO.)

Now both island nationals and coastal cities face the increasing danger of rising tides, of inundation, and of loss of lands and infrastructure. A rapid switch to renewable energy and away from fossil fuel burning is needed to save many regions. However, due to presently high greenhouse gas accumulation, it is likely that some zones will be lost over the coming decades.

Tesla is Pwning Markets Traditionally Dominated by ICEs as Manufacturers Desperately Call for More Battery Production

Last year, the world produced more than 1.2 million electrical vehicles. This was nearly 60 percent growth from the previous year when just shy of 800,000 EVs hit the world stage. During 2018, the world is expected to achieve anywhere between 1.6 and 2 million electrical vehicle sales. And by 2020, the number is likely to exceed 3 million. In other words, clean transportation that transitions away from climate change producing fossil fuel burning is a major emerging and rapidly growing global market.

(Tesla is surging ahead in the race to produce clean energy vehicles. But Volkswagen has promised to spend 48 billion on batteries in a bid to catch up. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Today, Tesla presently dominates global clean transport sales. Producing just three models — the S, the X, and the 3 — this new automaker is seriously disrupting a number of traditional segments. During most weeks, Tesla now produces more than 4,000 all electrical vehicles in total. This makes it the largest global EV producer by a long shot at a present pace of more than 200,000 vehicles per year. In the key U.S. market, Tesla appears to have sold between 5,000 and 8,500 vehicles during April alone. And the mass-produced Model 3 is presently making up more than half those sales at between 3,875 and 4,777 according to estimates by InsideEVs and CleanTechnica.

For Tesla, it’s just another milestone on the road to mass vehicle electrification. By summer, the clean energy company expects to be producing around 7,000 electrical vehicles per week in total — with fully 5,000 of that number coming from the Model 3 alone.

What this means is that Tesla is both racing ahead of other automakers in the EV field and that it will also start to dominate markets traditionally ruled by carbon-belching ICE makers. As one example of this trend, the Model 3 is presently the #21 best-selling car in the U.S. — out of all cars sold. By summer, it is likely to be #6. In its segment — small to medium sized premium cars — it is presently crushing the likes of Acura, Infiniti, and Jaguar to take the #5 spot. But with 5,000 per week production on the way, in just a few months it will assuredly take the crown from Mercedes and BMW.

(According to CleanTechnica analysis, Tesla appears likely to dominate the small to mid-size luxury vehicle segment in the U.S. come May to June. Image source: CleanTechnica.)

This from a type of vehicle — electric — that was once thought to be humble and non-competitive. One can practically hear the crack of the world-spanning shot running through the global auto industry at this time. An industry that has been mostly caught flat-footed by a trend that us clean energy advocates have long been predicting.

The reaction by traditional industry has been predictably varied and chaotic. Ford appears to be in full retreat from segments that are now increasingly dominated by high-quality EVs — recently announcing that it will no longer build sedans, but will instead focus on trucks and SUVs. On the other side of the spectrum, a Volkswagen still reeling from the PR disaster that was dieselgate appears to have seen the electric light. That OEM has now pledged to spend 48 billion in battery orders in an effort to beat or at least confront Tesla in the market that it created.

Batteries are the key enabler to mass EV production. Hyundai had a hard lesson in this over past days as the all-electric Ioniq — celebrated for its efficient design — ran into a supply wall. The reason? Hyundai had only planned for 1,200 battery packs per month. But demand for the clean energy vehicle quickly outstripped supply. Hyundai subsequently stretched Ioniq production to 1,800 per month. But, at that point, the automaker was dead in the water on further expansions due to a 2 year lead time for battery contracts. In other words — if you don’t have battery production or suppliers, then you’re out of luck if you want to produce EVs in higher volumes.

(Global lithium battery supply and demand keep running ahead of expectations. By 2021, racing global battery producers are likely to supply 344 GWh of battery production or more. Image source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance.)

Battery manufacturers are thus scrambling to meet a rapidly rising demand. In 2017, global battery production capacity stood at about 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh). And global expansion plans appear to be aiming for around 300 to 350 GWh by 2021. But even this estimate could be low. For Volkwagen’s own recent 48 billion dollar call for EV batteries is likely to generate even more supply chain expansions even as other automakers call for more production.

Returning to Tesla, we would be remiss if we didn’t highlight one of its many key advantages — it owns its battery supply chain. Tesla’s Gigafactory in Reno, through its partner Panasonic, is expected to be able to produce 35 GWh of batteries all by itself over the next year or two. This is enough to support annual Tesla EV production in the range of 400,000 to 500,000. Gigafactory battery capacity is expected to expand to 150 GWh by the early to mid 2020s — which would support two million or more EVs each year.

(Without the Tesla Gigafactory in Reno, U.S. battery production would be dead in the water due to myopic and harmful policies produced by the republican-dominated federal government and various similar state legislatures. Europe, China and Tesla have realized that large scale battery production is necessary for a clean energy future and a related strong response to climate change.)

By contrast, Volkswagen is presently targeting 3 million EVs per year by 2025. In 2018, it is well behind Tesla — unlikely to see sales across all EV models exceeding 100,000 while Tesla is likely to at least double that number. So VW will have to race to catch up. A 48 billion dollar battery buy will be key to achieving this goal. It’s a very aggressive move that will enable the manufacturer to produce millions of EVs in the future. But, at the present time, it is seriously lagging. A situation that doesn’t have much chance of changing until the early 2020s even as Tesla gains both credibility and market share.

At least Volkswagen appears to have seen the proverbial writing on the wall. Transition is, after all, the best option in the face of competition from far more healthy and desirable EVs. For the other laggards in the traditional auto industry — time’s a-wasting.

Arctic Ocean Deep in the Grips of May Temperature Spike; Beastly Summer Melt Season on the Way?

The Arctic Ocean as it appeared from space on May 6, 2018. Image source: NASA Worldview.

The Arctic sea ice is presently at its second lowest extent ever recorded in most of the major monitors. However, May is shaping up to be far, far warmer than normal for the Arctic Ocean region. If such high temperatures over this typically-frozen part of our world continue for much longer than a couple of weeks at this key time of year, precipitous summer melt is sure to follow.

******

During recent years there has been much speculation about when the Arctic Ocean will start to experience ice-free summers as fossil fuel related industries pump higher and higher volumes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. In the early-to-mid 2000s, scientific consensus was that melt would tend to be more gradual and ice-free summers would hold off until the final decades of the 21st Century when the world was around 3-4 C warmer than 19th Century averages.

But the Earth System is far more sensitive to temperature increases than the early forecasts expected. Major Arctic sea ice losses surprised the world during September of 2007 and subsequently in the same month of 2012. Now, it is obvious that a pattern of far more rapid sea ice melt has taken hold. And the scientific consensus appears to have settled on a more likely and much nearer date around the early 2030s — when the world will have warmed by about 1.6 degrees Celsius.

(An oddly warm pattern in which above freezing temperatures have come early to the High Arctic is setting up during May of 2018. Content Source: Climate Reanalyzer. Video source: Scribbler’s Youtube.)

However, when it comes to sea ice, nothing is certain at this time. Any single Arctic year in which temperatures spike — particularly during normal melt season — could result in the losses that we once expected to occur much later in time.

There are many factors that will ultimately determine when a summer ice free state occurs. Warm winters are a major one. And the past two years (2017 and 2018) have seen Arctic winters in which temperatures hit some ridiculous high extremes. But another major factor is the set-up to Arctic summer that takes place during the window months of May and June.

Neven, one of our best Arctic sea ice watchers (you can check his blog out here), notes:

May and June are very important for the rest of the melting season. Not only do we now see these warm air intrusions, but high pressure maintains its presence over parts of the Arctic as well (which means relatively cloudless skies -> insolation -> melt onset and melt pond formation -> preconditioning of the ice pack -> melting momentum that gets expressed during July and August, regardless of the weather)… We have to wait and see what happens, step by step, but this isn’t a good start for the ice.

If May and June are unusually warm, particularly over the Arctic Ocean, then the sea ice — which is already greatly weakened — is bound to face an extended period of above-freezing temperatures. If such a period stretches for 5 months from May through September rather than the typical 4 months (June to September), then we are more likely to see the Arctic Ocean briefly flip into an ice-free or near ice-free state for the first time in human history.

(The coming week is expected to feature between 1 and 10 C above average temperatures for locations across the Arctic Ocean. These are very strong warm departures during May. Last week saw similar extreme warm departures. And we are already starting to see sea ice losses pile up. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

This year, May is shaping up to be much, much warmer than normal for the High Arctic. Already, a large May temperature spike has occurred (see right image below). A temperature spike which is predicted to continue for at least the next ten days.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this severe warming trend might end up presenting a bit of a problem. The extended period of melt mentioned above may begin in force — setting off a chain of feedbacks that could tip the Arctic Ocean into a far less frozen or even an ice-free state (under absolute worst case scenarios) this year.

To be clear, this is not a forecast that such a condition is bound to occur during 2018. It is just an analysis of underlying trends and a statement that risks are higher if such trends as we now observe continue. Late May could flip to a cooler than normal regime. June could be cooler and cloudier than normal (as happened during 2016 and 2017). And if that happens again, we may be spared.

(Average Arctic temperatures for 2017 [left] and 2018 [right]. The red line depicts the yearly temperature trend. The green line depicts the Arctic climatological average for 1958-2002 [which was already warmer than normal]. Note the big temperature spike in the right hand graph. That’s where we are now. Image source: DMI. For further reference, see Zack Labe‘s composite temperature analysis for the 80 North region.)

However, we are already on a much higher ramp for spring temperatures in the northern polar region than during 2017. And though 2016 saw a slightly warmer than normal spring near the pole, the May 2018 spike already far exceeds anything we saw at that time. So much, in fact, that present temperatures for May 6 are comparable to those typically seen during early June from the 80 degree N Latitude line to the Pole.

This higher ramp and related record warmth is already accelerating melt. Sea ice losses over recent days have greatly picked up and we are getting closer to record low daily ranges. If melt accelerates to a point, the greatly expanded darker ocean surfaces will draw in more heat from the sun’s rays during June — potentially overcoming the impact of the increased early summer cloudiness we have seen during recent years. Such a scenario, if it continues to develop, would be a nightmare from the climate change perspective.

Climate Change Ignores all Borders as Rain Bombs Fall on Kauai and the Middle East Alike

The weaponization of weather language has long been a topic of some controversy in the meteorological press. Peace-loving people the world over rightly try to communicate in a manner that discourages violent conflict. And the term ‘rain bomb’ has taken quite a lot of flak from those with thus-stated good intentions.

However, whether or not the language itself bristles with perceived warlike phrases, the weather itself is steadily being weaponized against everyone and everything living on the face of planet Earth by the greenhouse gasses fossil fuel related industries and technologies continue pumping into the air.

(Bruce Haffner snapped this photo of an extreme heavy rainfall event over Phoenix, AZ during 2016. Climate change has been increasing the intensity of the most severe storms. So we see historic an unusually strong events more and more frequently.)

So I’ll add this brief appeal before going into another climate change related extreme weather analysis — fight climate change, not wars. The opportunity for a peaceful, hopeful, prosperous future for basically everyone depends on it.

*****

Whether you like the phrase or not, more rain-bombs — or extreme heavy rainfall events far outside the range of usual weather norms — keep falling. And most recently the all-time record for the most rain to fall within a 24 hour period was shattered on April 14-15 as nearly 50 inches inundated Kauai, Hawaii. In a separate instance half a world away, late April and early May has seen extreme drought giving way to extreme flooding over parts of the Middle East. Both increasingly extreme drought events and much heavier than usual precipitation events are signals of human-caused climate change. And, lately, these signals have been proliferating.

Rainfall Records Shattered in the World’s Rainiest Place

For the Kauai event, the Washington Post reports that 49.69 inches of rain accumulated at the Waipa rain gauge on Kauai in just one 24-hour period. Though Kauai is the rainiest place on Earth — receiving some 400 inches per year with rain on most days — this single day rainfall was far in excess of even that soggy norm. In total, it amounted to about one and a half months of precipitation for the world’s wettest location falling in just one day.

The previous all-time record for single day rainfall in the U.S. occurred in 1979 in Alvin, Texas during Tropical Storm Claudette. This storm dumped 43 inches over a 24-hour period. The recent Kauai event shattered this record. And it involved no tropical cyclone — just historically high moisture levels over the Pacific colliding with unstable air masses streaming down from the north. In this case, warming ocean surfaces are generating higher levels of evaporation which in turn are feeding extreme thunderstorms all across the Pacific and over adjacent land masses.

(Historically heavy rains flip cars and wreck structures in Kauai on April 14-15. Image source: Lace Anderson and Hawaii News Now.)

Chip Fletcher, an expert on the impact of climate change on Pacific island communities, told the Los Angeles Times:

“The flooding on Kauai is consistent with an extreme rainfall that comes with a warmer atmosphere. Just recognize that we’re moving into a new climate, and our communities are scaled and built for a climate that no longer exists.”

The present record Kauai event has been classified as a 1 in 100 year instance in the context of past climatology. But given present conditions and ever-increasing Earth surface temperatures, this new record may fall within a decade or less as the atmosphere continues to load more moisture and as evaporation and extreme precipitation events steadily increase.

Middle East Hammered by Extremes of Drought and Storm

Half a world away, the Middle East is seeing its own series of weather and climate shocks. The nations of Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have been experiencing widespread and long term drought. This drought has, as with the recent Central U.S. event, in large part been driven by rising temperatures. Evaporation plays its role here too as lands dry out more swiftly when temperatures rise.

(A storm sweeping in from the Med brings heavy rains and havoc to a drought-stricken Middle East. Image source: Tropical Tidbits and The Washington Post.)

However, with climate change, you can never discount the hard swing back to heavy rain despite prolonged drying as weather chaos ensues. Such was the situation during the recent week as an intense weather disturbance crossed the Mediterranean and entered the Middle East on April 26th and 27th. The colder air mass tapped high levels of moisture bleeding off the, again, much warmer than normal sea surfaces in the Med. It then dumped this moisture in the form of extreme precipitation over the Middle East.

In Israel, the resulting flash floods swept away ten teenagers as street flooding that was described as ‘epic’ ran through the country’s cities. Waters over-topped sidewalks and rushed into homes and businesses as the heavens unleashed. One to two inch per hour rainfall rates were reported. Meanwhile, in Syria, heavy hail pelted down. Jordan and Egypt were also inundated — with many streets described as impassable due to flood waters. The leading edge of cooler air kicked up a massive haboob — which spread its immense cloud of dust over Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Over recent days, the stormy pattern continued. Heavy rains overtook parts of Yemen — forcing a dam to burst and washing away dozens of homes and farms.

Two More in a Lengthening Tally

These two events are just the most recent affairs in a much larger and far more widespread pattern of ramping extreme global weather events. Events that will continue to proliferate so long as the world continues to warm. This is the state of affairs that continued fossil fuel burning has brought about. The rain bombs are hanging, enlarging, above us. They are waiting to fall. And the politically-charged denials of their chief manufacturers — oil, gas, and coal — only make the situation worse for us all.

Worsening Prairie Fires: Exceptional Central Heat and Drought Spurs More Oklahoma Blazes

Today, as with many recent days, Oklahoma is experiencing hot, dry, critical fire hazard conditions. And over the past month, historically exceptional drought and hotter than normal weather have spurred a spate of very severe and seemingly unrelenting wildfires across the state.

(The Rhea Fire burned nearly 300,000 acres in Oklahoma during mid-April. This large fire is now 100 percent contained. But blazes continue to break out. Image source: Climate.gov.)

During mid-to-late April, the Rhea Fire scorched 286,000 acres destroying more than 50 homes and killing hundreds of cattle. At about the same time, the 34 Complex fire burned through 62,000 acres and forced many Oklahoma residents to evacuate. For reference, the massive Thomas Fire which burned hundreds of structures in California this past December was 240,000 acres in size.

Unfortunately, severe fire conditions continued through today with 500 acres going up in flames near Pawnee Oklahoma in just the past 24 hours. In total, about 350,000 acres have burned so far this year (an area half the size of Rhode Island), numerous structures have been destroyed and an estimated 2,000 cattle have likely been killed. With severe drought, heat, and extreme fire conditions expected to continue throughout at least the next month, there is little relief in sight.

 

(The U.S. Drought Monitor shows severe dry conditions expanding across the Central U.S. during early 2018. Long range forecasts show drought continuing or worsening over Central and Southwestern States over the coming months. Image source: Drought Monitor and NOAA.)

The causes of the present fire hazard are quite clear. Throughout fall, winter, and spring, the Central U.S. has experienced both hotter and drier than normal conditions. During recent weeks, drought in this region has become exceptional — the highest drought category provided by the National Drought Monitor. In addition, strong, warm south-to-north winds have tended to prevail over the region. These winds have rapidly fanned many recent Oklahoma fires to massive size.

Over the coming month, this drought is expected to dig in as temperatures warm. And, as a result, fire danger is expected to be quite high for a broad region of the U.S. South stretching from just west of the Mississippi all the way to California.

(Above normal wildfire potential is expected to remain in place for Oklahoma even as risks rise for neighboring states. Image source: NOAA.)

Though spring wildfires do occur across Oklahoma and parts of the plains states, the trend has been for an increasing large fire incidence. This trend, in turn, has been driven by human-caused climate change. For as the U.S. has warmed, the rate of evaporation from soils, vegetation and lakes has increased. This higher rate of moisture loss both intensifies drought and spikes fire risk.

Warming and worsening drought has been a particularly acute set of affairs for Central and Western states. The number of weeks when large fires are a risk has increased from 50 to 600 percent for most of these regions. In other words, if it seems like there are more large fires, it’s because there are. And what we see now are spring prairie fires that are far more intense than they were in the past.

Major Arctic Warming Event Predicted For the Coming Week

It’s been consistently, abnormally, warm in the Arctic for about as long as any of us can remember. But during recent years, the changes — caused by a massive and ongoing accumulation of heat-trapping gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere — appear to be speeding up.

(Far above normal temperatures are expected to invade the Arctic this week. The likely result will be an acceleration of sea ice melt and retreat. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

This week, two major warm air invasions — one issuing from Siberia and another rising up through the Fram Strait and extending north of Greenland are expected to bring locally 10-20 C above normal temperatures and accelerate early season sea ice melt in an already reeling Arctic.

Consistent Warmth, Record Low Sea Ice

The farthest north region of our world has just come out of a winter during which sea ice extents consistently entered never before seen daily low ranges. With the advent of spring, sea ice measures have rebounded somewhat from winter record lows. However, according to Japan’s Polar Research Division, we are presently experiencing the second lowest daily sea ice extents since consistent measurements began. Meanwhile, Greenland during April saw an odd early bump in surface melt.

Overall, the pattern has been one of consistent abnormal warmth. And over the coming week, a number of warm air invasions will infringe upon the typically cold early May Arctic — testing new boundaries yet again.

(An ice-free Bering Sea, open water invading the Chukchi, and fractured sea ice over the Beaufort are notable features for melt season start during May of 2018. Image source: NASA.)

Much of the heating action this year has occurred over the Bering and Chukchi seas — which have never seen so much ice lost. Already sea ice is greatly reduced through these regions. Open water extends far into the Chukchi — onward and north of Barrow, Alaska. Still further into regions in which sea ice is typically rock-solid during this time of year, the Beaufort is experiencing its own late April break-up. But the areas that are expected to see the greatest warming over the coming days run closer to Siberia and the Atlantic.

Major Spring Warm Air Invasion

Today, a wedge of above-freezing air is invading the Laptev Sea north of Central Siberia. Strong southerly winds issuing from Central Asia are running north into the Arctic Ocean. They bring with them 10 to 20 C above average temperatures for this time of year — which is enough to push readings as high as 35 degrees F (2 C) over what during the 20th Century would have been a solid fringe of the polar ice cap.

Over the next 24 hours, this leading edge of warm air will spiral on toward the East Siberian Sea — bringing above freezing temperatures and liquid precipitation with it.

(5-Day forecast maximum temperatures show considerable warm air invasions proceeding throughout the Arctic. In many cases, temperatures near the North Pole will be warmer than regions far to the south. An impact of the warming world ocean on the Arctic environment. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

But the main warming event for the Arctic this week will occur in the region of the Fram Strait east of Greenland. A strong low pressure system near Iceland is expected to drive wave after wave of much warmer than normal air north into the Arctic. This warm air thrust will bring with it temperatures in some places that exceed 20 C above average. Overall, Arctic Ocean basin temperatures are expected to average more than 2.3 C warmer than normal for the entire first week of May. Such high temperature departures are particularly notable for this time of year — as Arctic thermal variance tends to moderate during spring and summer.

The system will push above freezing temperatures deep into the Arctic — generating a repeat of the strange flip-flop that has become so common recently where temperatures near the North Pole are much warmer than readings further south. Warmer than freezing temperatures will also over-ride coastal portions of northeastern Greenland in yet another odd aspect of the event.

Warm storm effects including gale force winds and waves of 8-12 feet will provide added effect to above freezing temperatures in impacting the sea ice throughout the Fram Strait and northeast Greenland region. Increased insolation due to sunlight spreading over the region will also add to the overall potential for melt.

Tesla’s EV Lead Expands as Production Hits 13,000 to 17,000 in April

In the present day, two forces are helping to drive the potential for a rapid and much-needed transition to clean energy. On the one hand, we have countries like China and states like California providing clean energy leadership and incentive. And on the other hand, we have clean energy innovators like Tesla who continue to stretch the bounds of what’s possible.

This month, Tesla proved naysayers wrong by consistently producing more than 2,000 all electric Model 3 vehicles per week. During late March, Tesla produced 2070 Model 3s in one week. The next week they produced 2100. And the following week they produced 2250. During the third week of March they probably produced around 1,000 as the line shut down for improvements for 3-5 days. However, it’s likely that the final week will show in excess of 2,200 as the production line again expanded.

(Tesla EV production rates saw a big jump in Q1 as Model 3 began to hit a stride. However, Q2 2018 results will likely more than double that of Q4 of 2017 with Model 3 likely averaging over 2,000 per week. Image source: Statista and Tesla. )

Assuming that average weekly Model S and X production rates of around 1,000 (each) continued throughout the month, it appears that Tesla achieved a total rate of 4,000 BEVs produced each week. In sum, that adds up to a yearly rate of 200,000 per year.

Such a rate would make Tesla the present fastest-rate producer of EVs in the world. It would outstrip BYD and BIAC. It would leave BMW, Volkswagen, and Nissan in the dust.

Since Tesla rates of production can vary from week to week and month to month, the estimate I’ve given ranges from 13,000 to 17,000 EVs produced for April. Implied in this number is a one-month rate for the Model 3 that approaches all of Q1 production.

(CO2 emissions per 100 kilometers driven is greatly reduced when EVs are mated to grids with high clean energy penetration — like the one in Ontario. And it is for this reason that mass replacement of ICE vehicles with EVs is a key climate solution. Image source: Plug’n Drive.)

By May, it is likely that we will see 1 week rates for Model 3 exceed 3,000 as Tesla adds a third shift and continues to refine its line. Average total EV production for the month could exceed 20,000 if this ramp is achieved. By June, Tesla is aiming for a peak Model 3 production above 5,000 per week — which would imply a total EV production rate of 7,000 per week.

What all these numbers mean, and what few are reporting, is it appears that Tesla is achieving a break-away rate of electrical vehicle manufacturing. One that other automakers will have major difficulty catching up with. Such large volumes of EVs will displace a significant amount of carbon emitting ICE demand. Fossil fuel luxury and sport vehicles by BMW, Toyota, VW, Volvo, GM and many others will increasingly be replaced by this flood of high quality electrical vehicles. And a signal will be sent to the markets that higher margin ICE sales are taking a serious hit.

(Tesla Model 3 production rates significantly accelerated during early Q2 of 2018. Image source: Bloomberg Model 3 Tracker.)

If Tesla’s ramp continues, it will easily be selling 300,000 to 350,000 EVs per year by 2019 — which is considerably more than Volvo’s annual U.S. sales. This high volume will force other automakers to respond in kind. But since none will likely be able to produce in comparable volume and quality until at least 2020, Tesla is developing a major head start.

CO2 is Regularly Exceeding 410 Parts Per Million for First Time in Human History

During May of 2018, average monthly CO2 values will likely range between 411 and 412 parts per million. A new record for a heat-trapping gas that is causing serious damage to both the Earth’s environment and human civilizations.

(Atmospheric CO2 accumulation since 2007 as depicted by this animation of Mauna Loa Observatory CO2 measurements by Robbie Andrew, of the CICERO Center for International Climate Research.)

There’s one word that best describes this — trouble. And in the most simple terms it means that more unprecedented severe weather, ocean health impacts, and sea level rise is on the way.

Exceeding the 410 PPM Threshold

Last year, atmospheric CO2 levels peaked at around 409.7 parts per million during May of 2018. Hitting just shy of the 410 ppm threshold which will be consistently exceeded this year during the annual peak.

This peak comes during April and May following Northern Hemisphere winter due to seasonal loss of tree leaf photosynthesis that converts a large volume of CO2 into oxygen during summer and fall. As trees return to bloom across the large northern land masses, CO2 concentrations periodically drop.

However, due to human fossil fuel burning, the natural CO2 cycle has, since the 18th Century been significantly thrown out of balance. And as a result, the atmospheric concentrations of this key heat trapping gas rapidly ramped higher and are now in a range not seen in 15-17 million years.

(The CO2 measure at the Mauna Loa Observatory shows a hockey stick like spike in CO2 following a relatively stable period of glaciation and deglaciation over the last 800,000 years. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

As you can see in the image above, the present period has shown an unprecedented and dangerous rate of atmospheric CO2 increase. One that has no corollary in the past 800,000 years. One that is probably unique in its velocity.

High Levels of Heat Trapping Gases Pose Serious Consequences

Such a great accumulation of heat trapping gases results in serious consequences. Present atmospheric CO2 concentrations, if maintained over multiple Centuries are likely enough to warm the Earth by more than 3 degrees Celsius (significantly more than present warming in the range of 1 to 1.2 C). And such high levels of heat trapping gases — ranging above 410 parts per million — are likely enough to melt significant portions of the world’s ice sheets over Century to multi-Century time scales. During the last climate epoch when atmospheric CO2 exceeded 410 parts per million, the Middle Miocene, sea levels were 100 to 170 feet higher than they are today.

(Atmospheric CO2 levels are now the highest since the Middle Miocene of 15 to 17 million years ago. Image source: Skeptical Science.)

Sea level is not the only system influenced by high atmospheric CO2 levels. And everything from storms to drought intensity, to ocean health, to growing seasons, to typical seasonality, to coral bleaching, and including the Earth’s net ability to support life will ultimately be impacted.

Fossil Fuel Burning is the Primary Cause, Renewable Energy the Primary Solution

As mentioned above, record CO2 emissions brought on by fossil fuel burning is driving the unprecedented atmospheric accumulation we see today. During recent years, very rapid rates of annual accumulation near 3 parts per million (ppm) were achieved as a strong El Nino rippled through the Pacific and reduced the ocean’s ability to draw down carbon. The La Nina years of 2017 and 2018 are seeing these rates of accumulation dip back to near 2 ppm or slightly less as ocean drawdowns have periodically recovered. But more El Nino years are on the way and atmospheric CO2 levels will keep rising so long as mass fossil fuel extraction and burning continues.

(CO2 annual growth rates have proceeded in lock step with increasing rates of fossil fuel burning on decadal time scales. Shorter term fluctuations are driven by the ENSO cycle and large volcanic eruptions. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

The advance of renewable energy and the reduced use of coal has enabled the world to achieve a slower rate of atmospheric CO2 release growth that appears to be reaching a plateau near 11-12 billion tons of carbon per year. This is still an insane rate of release. However, if the world resolves itself, it can begin to rapidly reduce this severely harmful annual belching of greenhouse gasses. Emergent clean energy technologies like wind, solar, battery storage, and electrical vehicles are providing this hope for response. However, rates of adoption will need to be quite rapid if serious and ever-ramping climate harms are to be avoided. Presently high atmospheric CO2 levels exceeding 410 ppm this year represent a serious hazard. One that we fail to fully address at our peril.

Notes:

  1. Human emissions of heat trapping gases is not limited to CO2. Methane and other greenhouse gasses produced by industry have resulted in a net CO2 equivalent forcing near 491 parts per million (CO2e). Though CO2 gain is the primary driver of human forced warming, these other gases have an accumulative impact.
  2. I have used the Middle Miocene as a corollary in this analysis due to the fact that present CO2 levels at 410 parts per million and CO2e levels at 491 parts per million (end 2017) generate a rough boundary for both the top and bottom ranges for this climate epoch. It is worth noting that the human forcing is probably more dangerous than that which occurred during the Middle Miocene due to the velocity at which heat trapping gases are accumulating.

March of 2018 Was the Sixth Hottest on Record

The surface region of the globe continues to cool relative to the record hot year of 2016. Equatorial Pacific ocean surface temperatures have remained near or within La Nina states for much of 2017-2018. And the result has been a slight dip as a part of the longer term warming trend.

But as you can see in the graphic below, post 2016 cooling doesn’t look very cool at all. In contrast, most of the world is still in the grips of record heat. And so long as atmospheric greenhouse gas levels remain so high and continue to rise, this state is unlikely to change. Inevitably, unless the build-up of greenhouse gasses through fossil fuel burning slackens, more global record hot years are on the way.

(March of 2018 was 0.89 C warmer than NASA’s 20th Century baseline or 1.11 C warmer than 1880s averages. Image source: NASA.)

Much of the world experienced warmer than normal temperatures during March despite the relative cool-down — with peak heating hitting as high as 7.4 C above average over the Bering and Chukchi seas of the Arctic. Central through East Asia was also far warmer than normal, as was most of Antarctica. A backing up of the Jet Stream generated cooler than normal conditions over Europe and a persistent trough across the U.S. East Coast produced cooler and stormier weather as well. A cool pool over the Equatorial Pacific was a signature of La Nina — a period of natural variability that tends to drive cooler surface temperatures. But a world at sixth hottest on record despite La Nina isn’t really cool at all.

Extending into Record Warm Territory

Overall, we are still in the process of entering new, record warm territory globally. Ever since 2016, global temperatures have not dipped below the 1 C above 1880s averages range on an annual basis. And it is unlikely that they will ever do so again. At least not until the world’s governments resolve themselves to stop burning fossil fuels and to draw down carbon from the atmosphere.

Presently, in the 2016 to 2020 period, it appears that we are exploring a global temperature range between 1 and 1.2 C above 1880s averages. This is comparable to the lower range of the Eemian climate period (around 120,000 years ago) when the North Atlantic was much stormier than we’re used to and when oceans were between 10 and 20 feet higher than they are today. It is a temperature range that supports both stronger droughts and more severe rainfall. A range that is increasing the peak intensity of the most intense thunderstorms and hurricanes. One that is causing serious damage to corals, that threatens ice free Arctic summers, that is increasing Antarctic and Greenland melt rates, that is threatening water supplies for major cities, and that is causing disruptions to crops — from flooding deltas to less predictable growing seasons.

(2018 may become the coolest year of the late 2010s. However, despite a second consecutive La Nina in the Pacific, it will still be far warmer than the super El Nino year of 1998 — which has been left in the dust as a global marker. Image source: NASA.)

At some point during a coming El Nino — possibly as early as fall of 2018, but more likely by the early 2020s — the 1.2 C threshold range will again be tested. By the late 2020s to early 2030s, it is likely that the 1.5 C line will be crossed. The result will be even more climate damage and disruption than we presently experience.

March of 2018, as the sixth hottest March on record, is just one point in time. One dot on the graph that measures the larger trend of human-forced warming. A dot in a world that is facing down increasing damages due to climate change. A world that is now morally called to act with far greater resolve than we have ever displayed before. We have seen far too many delays. And the hard pass is upon us. Those who rise to the occasion will be the heroes of our age. Those who fail — its villains.

Why a 15 Percent Slow-Down in North Atlantic Ocean Circulation is Seriously Bad News

“We know somewhere out there is a tipping point where this current system is likely to break down. We still don’t know how far away or close to this tipping point we might be. … This is uncharted territory.” — Stefan Rahmstorf

*****

The North Atlantic ocean circulation (often called AMOC or the Great Ocean Conveyor) is now the weakest its been in sixteen centuries.

Increasing melt from Greenland due to human-forced warming of the atmosphere through the deep ocean is freshening the ocean surface of the far North Atlantic. To the south, higher ocean temperatures are increasing surface salt content through greater rates of evaporation. Fresh water prevents ocean water from sinking in the north and rising salt content generates increased sinking in the south. As a result, the rate at which waters move from the Equator toward the Pole is slowing down. Since the mid 20th Century, this critical ocean circulation has reduced in strength by 15 percent on decadal time-scales.

(Deep water formation in the North Atlantic is driven by the sinking of cold, salty water. Over recent years, this formation, which drives larger ocean circulation and atmospheric weather patterns, has been weakening due to increasing fresh water flows coming from a melting Greenland. Image source: Commons and the NASA Earth Observatory.)

Movement of warm Equatorial waters northward and their subsequent overturning and sinking in the North Atlantic drives a number of key weather and climate features. The first is that it tends to keep Europe warm during winter and to moderate European temperatures during summer. The second impact is that a fast moving current off the U.S. East Coast pulls water away from the shore keeping sea levels lower. The third is that warm water in the North Atlantic during winter time tends to keep the regional jet stream relatively flat. And the fourth is that a more rapid circulation keeps the ocean more highly oxygenated — allowing it to support more life.

A slowing down of ocean circulation in the North Atlantic therefore means that Europe will tend to cool during winter even as it heats up during summer. Sea level rise will accelerate faster for the U.S. East Coast relative to the rest of the world due to a slowing Gulf Stream combined with the effects of melting land glaciers and thermal ocean expansion. The North Atlantic jet stream will tend to become wavier — with deep troughs tending to form over Eastern North America and through parts of Europe. These trough zones will tend to generate far more intense fall and winter weather. Finally, a slowing ocean circulation will tend to increase the number of low-oxygen dead zones.

(Cool pool formation near Greenland juxtaposed by a warming and slowing of the Gulf Stream as it is forced southward is an early indication of ocean circulation slow-down. During recent years, this phenomena — which is related to larger human-forced climate change — has become a prevalent feature of North Atlantic Ocean climate and weather patterns. An indicator that climate change and ocean system changes for this region are already under way. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

A 15 percent slow down in ocean circulation is not yet a catastrophic event. It is, however, enough to produce odd weather and climate signals. We have tended to see higher rates of sea level rise off the U.S. East Coast, we have tended to see more extreme winter weather across the North Atlantic basin. The long term trend for increasing ocean dead zones is well established. And European weather has become more and more extreme — with hot summers and severe winters.

With rates of Greenland melt increasing, there is a risk that the historic observed North Atlantic circulation weakening will increase further and more radically — producing still more profound results than we see today. In the event of large melt outflows coming from Greenland during abnormally warm summers or due to warming deep water melting glaciers from below — a possibility that rises with each 0.1 C of global temperature increase — we could see a very rapid weakening of ocean circulation above and beyond that which has already been recorded.

(Like Antarctica, Greenland features a number of below sea level locations directly beneath its largest ice masses. This feature makes Greenland more vulnerable to rapid ice loss and large melt outflows. Image source: NASA JPL.)

If such a tipping point event is breached — and there is increased risk for it as global temperatures enter a range of 1.5 to 2.5 C above 1880s averages during the 2020s through the 2040s — then we can expect far more profound weather and climate disruptions than those we have already experienced.

Tesla Model 3 Production Keeps Ramping — Hitting Near 2,400 Per Week in Early April

Past behavior can often be predictive of future results. Sometimes, however, we are pleasantly surprised. Such is the case with Tesla’s Model 3 production ramp this week.

Tesla’s Big Surge Continues

According to reports from both Electrek and Bloomberg, Tesla appears to have sustained weekly rates of Model 3 production above 2,000 for more than 14 days. Indicators for this continued surge come in the form of record VIN number releases. For since late March, the number of Model 3 VINs ordered from the U.S. government has doubled from approximately 14,000 to around 28,000. Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Model 3 production tracker has surged to 2,394 all-electric vehicles per week. A new record.

(Bloomberg’s Model 3 tracker has captured a big surge in Model 3 production translating through to early Q2. Image source: Bloomberg.)

The big jump in VINs comes along with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s announcement that he planned to continue Model 3 production rates of over 2,000 vehicles per week into early April. This higher production rate is contrary to past production behavior by Tesla — which typically surges late in a financial quarter and then backs off at the start of a new quarter.

5,000 Per Week Model 3 Production Goal in Sight

And though it is still possible that we could see all-electric, zero-tailpipe emissions Model 3 production slackening a bit following this most recent, apparent much longer-running surge, there are indications that Tesla’s capability is rapidly expanding. First, it appears that two lines are now running for Tesla Model 3 and related battery production. Second, it appears that many of the Model 3 bottlenecks have been addressed. And, third, it looks like new Model 3 production infrastructure continues to spring up in the form of dedicated facilities at Tesla’s Fremont plant and Nevada Gigafactory.

(A drone fly-over of the Tesla Fremont factory shows new buildings that appear to be dedicated to Model 3 production efforts. Video source: Tesla Factory Flyover Drone.)

Tesla’s production legs are, therefore, growing longer. And, in light of this fact, it appears that our earlier estimate that Model 3 would produce between 17,000 and 27,000 during Q2 may fall a bit short. As a result, that estimate is now adjusted upward to 18,000-30,000. This steepening ramp is increasingly possible especially if Tesla is able to maintain production rates in excess of 2,000 Model 3s per week through April and May even as it attempts a surge to 5,000 Model 3s per week by June.

Diversification of Model Line Planned For July

Tesla presently still has around 470,000 reservation holders for the Model 3. However, it’s uncertain how many of these are waiting for the long-range, rear-wheel drive version that is now in production. Past indicators are that the number is around 100 to 120K. Most of the rest either appear to be holding out for the dual motor version or for the lower price version. A 5,000 vehicle per week production rate will quickly eat through remaining long range, rear wheel reservation holders. And it is likely for this reason that Elon Musk is planning to start looking at producing the dual motor Model 3 during July of 2018.

So not only is the pace of Model 3 production quickening, the advent of new Model 3 versions is on the horizon. All-in-all this is good news for Model 3 reservation holders and for renewable energy/climate change response backers in general. We’ll have to watch Tesla indicators closely. But it appears, more and more, that the company is able to put Model 3 production hell behind it. To step it out as an all clean energy mass producer.

The Increasingly Fragile Pine Island Glacier Just Calved Again

The point where the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers meet the sea serve as a back-stop restraining most of the great ice flows of West Antarctica. If those backstops were to fail, ocean water would flood inland along a reverse slope and generate a massive and swift out-rush of ice that would ultimately raise the world’s oceans by about 3 meters. And, lately, the evidence is mounting that the backstops are failing.

At Thwaites, just south of the neighboring Pine Island Glacier (PIG), recent research found that the ocean was flooding inland beneath that enormous ice sheet at a rate of up to 400 meters per year. But to the north, there is indication of trouble at the ice surface.

Back to Back Calving Events

Just last September, a massive 100 square mile ice berg calved off the Pine Island Glacier. The event was significant in that it marked the first major retreat of the glacial front in the face of an advancing ocean. Pine Island had already sped up. But the calving face withdrawal inland appeared to mark a new phase for the large glacier.

(Sentinel 1 satellite observations show a rapidly moving Pine Island Glacier calving off another large ice berg. Meanwhile, considerable damage appears to have been done to the glacial front.)

Now, just 7 months later, PIG is calving again. A large, approximately 6 kilometer long, 1 kilometer wide, chunk appears to have broken off into the Southern Ocean and shattered. Meanwhile, to the north and south along the glacial front, rifts appear to have formed.

This recent calving event is significant for a number of reasons. The first is that it’s happening just months after a recent large break-off during 2017. Other recent calving events at Pine Island occurred during 2001, 2007, and 2013. The present 2017-2018 events are back-to-back. The second reason is that the splintering appears to indicate a more fragile ice face. An impression reinforced by the concordant formation of rifts spreading away from the calving zone. The third is that the satellite imagery suggests Pine Island Glacier is moving quite rapidly (Recently, this rate of motion has been 1-2 km per year. However, it’s reasonable to question whether the glacier is continuing to speed up).

Conditions in Context

Present global warming due to fossil fuel burning has now forced the world into a range of temperatures between 1.0 and 1.21 degrees Celsius above 1880s averages. This boundary is similar to that of the lower range of the Eemian 120,000 years ago when oceans where 10-20 feet higher than they are today.

(The tall ice cliffs composing the Pine Island Glacial front have become increasingly fragile and fast moving as they enter the warming Southern Ocean and as that warming water continues to invade inland. Image source: Commons, Pine Island Glacier Calving Front, NASA.)

Under present greenhouse gas forcing and planned emissions, additional warming is in store. Climate models produced by Dr. Michael E Mann indicate that we are likely to hit the 1.5 C global temperature boundary some time between 2027 and 2031 on the current emissions pathway. This predicted warming is significant because analysis of past climates appears to indicate a risk of more rapid rates of sea level rise when global temperatures rise to a range between 1.5 to 2.5 C above past base line averages (see meltwater pulse 1 A).

Since the 1990s, the global rate of sea level rise has proceeded at roughly 3.3 mm per year with an apparent acceleration to around 3.6 to 4.1 mm per year during the 2010 to present time period. Given observed ice sheet instability in West Antarctica, in East Antartica, and in Greenland, there is a serious risk that this rate of rise will continue to accelerate over the coming years and decades. The key question of concern is how much and how soon.

U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Rocket Higher — Breaking New Records in March

A proliferation of attractive electrical vehicle models produced by automakers combined with a surging Tesla to generate a significant new U.S. sales record in March.

The surge is indicative of a break-out ‘moment’ for EVs that will likely result in serious growth in this clean energy segment throughout 2018. The potential now exists that total U.S. EV sales will exceed 300,000 this year. As the global, regional and local impacts of continued high carbon emissions from fossil fuel industry worsens, this surge in clean energy technology couldn’t come on fast enough. However, as is true with all carbon emission reduction efforts, the pace needs to be quickened if we are to provide a navigable pathway through the rising crisis that is human-caused global warming.

44 Percent Growth YoY

In total, March saw 26,373 electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. This is about a 44 percent growth rate over March of 2017 at 18,542 EVs hitting the streets during that time. It was also a new all-time monthly record for the U.S.

(Due to better overall efficiency and zero tailpipe emissions, pure electrical vehicles presently cut annual carbon emissions by more than half. Plug-in hybrids also produce substantial emissions reductions. But the kicker is that when combined with an all renewable grid, pure EV production to roadways carbon emissions fall by 90 percent to up to 100 percent if materials and logistics are decoupled from carbon sources as well. Grids in the U.S. are becoming cleaner. As a result, EV emissions are making further progress over their dirty gas and diesel counterparts. Image source: Union of Concerned Scientists.)

Tesla Model 3, beginning a break out production surge, led the pack by hitting 3,820 sales. Tesla Model S trailed somewhat at 3,375. While Toyota Prius Prime’s plug in hybrid rounded out the top 3 at 2,922.

In the past, sales rates in excess of around 500 for individual models in any given month was seen as significant. And from the Chrysler Pacifica plug in hybrid (480) on upward to the Chevy Volt (1,782) and Tesla Model X (2,825), fully ten attractive models (outside of the top 3) fall within this range at present. These include both the Chevy Bolt (1,774) and the Nissan Leaf (1,500). Bolt, a long range all-electric vehicle rated at over 200 miles produced significant sales in the 2,000s to low 3,000s per month late last year. But as the Model 3 production ramp has increased, Bolt sales have lagged. A 151 mile range version of the Nissan Leaf (1,500) is one of the top selling EVs globally. However, the new Leaf’s production ramp in the U.S. has been a bit slower. That said, it’s expected that the Nissan sales effort for the Leaf in the U.S. will be substantial going forward.

Sales Surge Due to Multiple Factors

Meanwhile, the long tale of models selling between 100 and 400 is extending — with fully 16 models accounted for in that range.

(The U.S. saw a major surge in electrical vehicle sales during March. The start of a trend that will likely continue through the end of 2018. Image source: Inside EVs.)

The primary drivers of the major sales surge, therefore, are multiple. First, Tesla’s own production effort creates a lot of momentum for the surge — so far adding a net gain of around 3,000 vehicles all by itself. A second surge comes in the form of the advent of more attractive long range EV models like the Bolt and the Leaf — both of which are drawing intense interest from buyers. A proliferation of attractive plug in electric hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius Prime, The Chrysler Pacifica, The Honda Clarity (1070), and the Chevy Volt is leading a third wave in the surge. A final push comes simply due to model proliferation and increased general sales efforts.

Due to these combined trends, and due to the fact that additional attractive long range EV models are likely to become available during 2018, the 300,000 EV per year mark appears to be well within reach for the U.S. during 2018. Hitting so high would represent more than 50 percent growth over 2017. However, if major EV manufacturers like Tesla manage to step up their production game further, even the 300,000 mark could be substantially overcome.

Exciting if uncertain times.

 

Rapid Sea Level Rise Possible as Ocean Floods into Antarctica at up to 400 Meters Per Year

From west to east and in a growing number of places, a warming ocean is cutting its way deep into Antarctica. Grounding lines — the bases upon which mile-high glaciers come to rest as they meet the water — are in rapid retreat. And this ocean, heated by human fossil fuel burning, is beginning to flood chasms that tunnel for hundreds of miles beneath great mountains of ice.

Such an immense flood has the effect of speeding up glaciers as far away as 500 miles from the point of invasion. It does this by generating a kind of abyssal pit that the glacier more swiftly falls into. And as these watery pits widen, they risk pumping sea level rise to catastrophic levels of ten feet or more by the end of this Century.

(A new study in Nature is the first to survey the rate of grounding line movement around Antarctica’s entire perimeter. What it found was disturbing. A large number of major glaciers are seeing historically rapid rates of grounding line retreat [red arrows] as only a few glaciers show very slow rates of grounding line advance [blue arrows]. Image source: Hannes Konrad et al, Nature, University of Leeds.)

The great ocean invasion is clearly on the march. Not yet proceeding everywhere, the advance is happening in enough places to cause major worry. In West Antarctica, 22 percent of its glaciers are seeing their grounding lines move inland by more than 25 meters per year. In the Antarctic Peninsula, 10 percent of glaciers are experiencing this retreat. And in East Antarctica, where the ice is piled thickest, 3 percent of glaciers are affected by the swift invasion.

The most rapid retreat — at up to 400 meters per year — is presently happening at Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. Thwaites alone encompasses enough ice to lift the world’s oceans by 3 meters. And the rate of inland ocean water invasion at this single location is a very serious concern.

(Grounding line retreat is just one of many factors that increase the risk of rapid sea level rise. Ice cliff instability, increased rainfall over glaciers, large floods of water into glaciers from melt ponds that then refreeze and fracture the ice, and a number of other factors all compound as the Earth is heated up by fossil fuel burning. Video source: International Business Times.)

But the issue is not one of single glaciers. It’s one where many very large mounds of ice all around Antarctica are under threat. And in much the same way that a dike risks breaking apart when it is punched through by a growing number of holes, Antarctica’s own flood gates to rapid sea level rise are threatened by each grounding line in quickening retreat. Another such ‘hole’ has formed at the Totten Glacier where the grounding line is retreating at around 150 to 175 meters per year. And Totten could produce another 3.4 meters of sea level rise if it collapsed into the Southern Ocean.

Continuing the dike anology, Antarctica holds back enough water as ice, in total, to lift the world’s ocean levels by an average of 200 feet. By greater or lesser degrees, each retreating glacier contains a portion of the potentially massive flood. And the overall rate of loss in the form of new glaciers going into retreat together with the pace of inland ocean invasion is speeding up.

This new set of research provides a more complete if fearsome picture of Antarctic melt. And though models aren’t yet able to pinpoint how fast sea level rise will be, a growing body of evidence points to greater than previously expected risk for rapid sea level rise this Century. So for the sake of our coastlines and of so many cities around the world, the time to act as swiftly as possible to reduce carbon emissions and their terrible related impacts is now.

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