Through The Looking Glass of The Great Dying: New Study Finds Ocean Stratification Proceeded Rapidly Over Past 150 Years

During the terrible mass extinction event at the Permian-Triassic boundary about 250 million years ago nearly all life on Earth was snuffed out. The event, which geologists have dubbed “The Great Dying,” occurred during a period of rapid warming on the tail end of a long period of glaciation (see A Deadly Climb From Glaciation to Hothouse: Why the Permian-Triassic Extinction is Pertinent to Human Warming). According to reports by Dr. Peter Ward, a prominent geologist specializing in causes of previous mass extinctions, the Permian extinction was composed of three smaller extinction events occurring over the course of about 50,000 to 80,000 years which together wiped out 96% of all marine species and 70% of all land species. Ward’s book “Under a Green Sky,” in my view, together with Hansen’s seminal “Storms of My Grandchildren” provide an excellent if terrible rough allegory of the climate beast we seem to be in the process of awakening.

A2 model run

(NCAR A2 model run shows global surface temperatures near those last seen during the PETM and Permian/Triassic extinction events by 2090 under a middle-range fossil fuel emissions scenario. A2 does include some added emissions via amplifying feedbacks from massive polar methane or CO2 stores along with other Earth Systems feedbacks. It is worth nothing that the P/T extinction occurred at the end of a glacial period while the PETM did not and was notably less pronounced. It also worth noting that global average temperatures are currently about .2 C above those seen in the 1990s.)

As noted above, Ward’s work focused on causes and what he found at numerous dig sites around the world was evidence of a ‘Great Dying’ that began at the ocean floor, proceeded upward from the depths, and eventually came to transcend the ocean boundary and inflict a similar, if less pronounced, lethality upon terrestrial organisms. The mechanism Ward proposed for the worst extinction in Earth’s geological memory involved how oceans and, in particular, living creatures in the oceans, respond to rapid warming. Ward found that during periods of high heat called hothouse states, oceans first became anoxic and stratified and then, during the worst events, transitioned to a deadly primordial state called a Canfield Ocean.

A stratified ocean is one in which the layers become inverted and do not mix. Warm water is avected toward the ocean bottom and a cooler layer on top keeps that warm layer in place. The warmer water beneath is oxygen poor and this results in more anaerobic microbes living in the deep ocean. Overall, global ocean warming also contributes to an anoxic state. Many of these microbes produce toxins that are deadly to oxygen dependent organisms. As they multiplied, the combined low oxygen/high toxicity environment created a layer of death that slowly rose up through the world ocean system.

The primary lethal agent Ward proposed for this action was hydrogen sulfide gas. This deadly gas, which has an effect similar to that of cyanide gas, is produced in prodigious quantities by an anaerobic bacteria whose remnants lurk in the world’s deep oceans. In lower quantities they turn the water pink or purple, in greater quantities — black. Oxygen is toxic to these primordial bacteria. And so, in the mixed oceans of the Holocene all the way back to the PETM boundary layer, these little monsters were kept in check by a relatively high oxygen content. But start to shut down ocean mixing, start to make the oceans more stratified and less oxygen rich and you begin to let these dragons of our past out of their ancient cages. And once they get on the move, these creatures of Earth’s deep history can do extreme and severe harm.

Ward hypothesized that these ancient organisms and the gas they produced eventually came to fill the oceans and then spill out into the atmosphere.

An anoxic, stratified ocean full of anaerobic organisms and out-gassing hydrogen sulfide to the atmosphere is a primordial sea state known as a Canfield Ocean. And Ward found that such hot, toxic waters were the lethal agent that most likely snuffed out nearly all life 250 million years ago.

A Climate Hockey Stick for the World Ocean System: Oceans Show Marked and Rapid Stratification Over the Past 150 Years

Peter Ward’s tone was nothing if not fearful in his book ‘Under a Green Sky.’ He wrote with the wisdom of a man who has come face to face with terrible limits time and time again. He wrote with the wisdom of a man shocked by some of the hardest truths of our world. He also made a plea — could scientists and experts of different fields please work together to give humanity a better measure of the risks he saw to be plainly visible.

Chief among these risks, according to Ward, included a rapidly warming planet. Ward found that both extreme high heat conditions as well as a relatively rapid pace of warming, in geological terms, increased the speed of transition to stratified ocean and Canfield Ocean states. Ward acknowledged that high rates of water runoff from continents likely contributed to anoxia. Recent studies have also indicated that rapid glacial melt combined with rapid global heating may contribute to a an increasingly stratified and anoxic ocean system.

Now, a new study of deep ocean corals entitled Increasing subtropical North Pacific Ocean nitrogen fixation since the Little Ice Age and conducted by researchers at the University of Santa Cruz and published in Nature has discovered proxy evidence that ocean stratification over the past 150 years advanced at the most rapid pace in at least the last 12,000 years. The study analyzed the sediment composition of coral growth layers to determine changes in ocean states since the 1850s. As the corals sucked up the dead bodies of micro-organisms over the past 1,000 years, the researchers were able to analyze what was happening to the cyanobacteria at the base of the food web.

What they found was that the bacteria increased their rate of nitrogen fixation by about 17 to 27 percent over the past 150 year period. And that this pace of change was ten times more rapid than that observed at the end of the Pliestocene and beginning of the Holocene 12,000 years ago.

Nitrogen Proxy Records and Their Relationship to Climate Change

(The Ocean’s Hockey Stick? Nitrogen Proxy Levels and Their Relationship to Climate Change.)

Increasing nitrogen fixation is an indicator of ocean stratification because cyanobacteria species under stress evolve to fix higher amounts of nitrogen from the surface transfer boundary with the air if particulate nitrogen levels in their environment drop. In a healthy, mixed ocean environment, nitrogen from various sources (terrestrial, run-off, etc), is readily traded between ocean layers due to the mixing action of ocean currents. In cooler oceans, more nitrogen is also held in suspension. But as oceans become warmer and more stratified, a loss of mixing and solubility results in lower nitrogen levels.

The researchers believe that this increase in nitrogen fixation is a clear indication that the region of the Pacific they observed is rapidly becoming more stratified and that this rate of increase is probably an order of magnitude faster than what occurred during the last major transition at the end of the last ice age.

“In comparison to other transitions in the paleoceanographic record, it’s gigantic,” Lead author Sherwood noted. “It’s comparable to the change observed at the transition between the Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs, except that it happens an order of magnitude faster.”

A separate study analyzing the nitrogen content of sea bird bones also provided proxy indication of a shift among cyanobacteria toward greater rates of nitrogen fixation, providing some additional confirmation for the increased ocean stratification observation. (An excellent article providing a more in depth exploration of these studies is available here.)

These studies combine with numerous observations of declining ocean health, increasing ocean hypoxia and anoxia, and an increasing number of observed mechanisms that may result in a more and more stratified ocean state as human warming intensifies to increase concern that the worst fears of Dr. Peter Ward and colleagues may be in the process of realization. (See: Dead Dolphins,  Climate Change Devastating Ocean Fishermen, and Mass Starfish Die-off for more indicators of failing ocean health.)

Concerned Journalists and Terrified Ecologists

Put into various contexts, the current state of climate and environmental health does channel our worst fears that the Permian Extinction event may well be in for a human-caused repeat. The current estimated background extinction rate of 100-250 species per day is possibly the most rapid in all of geological history. The current CO2 level, near 400 parts per million, is higher than at any time during which human beings walked the Earth. The pace of greenhouse gas emissions is at least six times faster than at any time in the geological record. And the current, very large, forcing provided by humans does not yet include a probable powerful and unpredictable response from the Earth’s natural systems.

As Ecologist Guy McPherson notes — Nature Bats Last. And we should not be comforted by this notion. Because Nature carries the biggest stick of all. A consequence hanging over our heads that grows larger and more dangerous with each passing year during which our insults to her continue.

Among the pessimists regarding the end consequences of human caused climate change and related pollution, ecologists are the worst of the bunch. This is likely due to the fact that ecologists are very intimately involved in the study of how communities of organisms succeed or fail in natural settings. Among all groups of scientists, they are perhaps the ones most intimately familiar with the way in which all living things are connected to both one another and to the natural world. Ecologists know all too well that small shifts can mean huge changes to biodiversity, the rate of death among living beings, and the distribution of species in a given environment. But the changes humans inflict are not small in the least. They roughly ripple through the natural world in ways that ecologists know all too well have never before been seen.

Dr. McPherson is such an ecologist and one with such great conscience and concern that he, years ago, abandoned most of the luxuries of modern civilization to live in a fashion that produced the least harm possible. Not that this action has resulted in more optimism on his part. In fact, Guy is one of a growing group of people who believe that no action is likely to save humankind. That our insults to the natural world have already grown too great.

McPherson notes:

“We’ve never been here as a species and the implications are truly dire and profound for our species and the rest of the living planet.”

In this observation, Guy is probably right. But I sincerely hope that his and my own worst fears do not emerge.

It was Guy’s ongoing tracking of various dangerous alterations to world climate systems and assertion that human extinction may well be nigh that drew the attention of prominent journalist Dahr Jamail. Jamail recently penned the article: “The Great Dying Redux: Shocking Parallels Between Ancient Mass Extinction and Climate Change.

Reading professor emeritus Guy McPherson’s blog was enough to convince Mr. Jamail of the risk that current warming could result in an extinction event to rival that of the Great Dying so long ago. Mr. Jamail notes:

It is possible that, on top of the vast quantities of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that continue to enter the atmosphere in record amounts yearly, an increased release of methane could signal the beginning of the sort of process that led to the Great Dying. Some scientists fear that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible — even in the course of just the next few decades.

And so we come full circle. Rapid human warming leads to troubling ocean changes that hint at those feared to have resulted in mass extinctions during the Permian-Triassic boundary event. And the very rapid human warming puts at risk the catastrophically rapid release of Arctic methane which would certainly consign Earth to a rapid jump from a glacial to a hothouse state and potentially produce the kind of Canfield Oceans Dr. Ward fears. It is a deadly transition for which we have growing evidence with almost each passing day, one that McPherson and others fear could truly make an end to us and to so many other living creatures on this world.

So many scientists, so much valid reason to be dreadfully concerned, and yet we continue on the path toward a great burning never before seen in Earth’s history…

Links (Read them!):

A Deadly Climb From Glaciation to Hothouse: Why the Permian-Triassic Extinction is Pertinent to Human Warming

Increasing subtropical North Pacific Ocean nitrogen fixation since the Little Ice Age

The Great Dying Redux: Shocking Parallels Between Ancient Mass Extinction and Climate Change.

Deep Sea Corals Record Dramatic Long-Term Shift in Pacific Ocean Ecosystem

Nature Bats Last

Colorado Bob’s Climate Feed

Dead Dolphins

Mass Starfish Die-off

Climate Change Devastating Ocean Fishermen

NCAR A2 Model Run

Hat Tip to David Goldstein

Leave a comment


  1. Steve

     /  December 18, 2013

    Makes me think of the dolphins. About two weeks ago I read a report from Florida that it was getting worse there with the dying dolphins and they had exceeded 800 on the East Coast for the year. Many more dying on the west coast also, but I guess that didn’t want to mix the two since the west coast could very well be oil spill related. I can’t find anything since that report.
    There was a blogger that said he had been told by someone in the media that they had been requested to stop reporting on this event. The information was pretty vague so I didn’t think much of it at the time, but since it’s been 13 days now since the last report when the numbers were increasing makes me wonder if there wasn’t some truth to it.

    • Interesting.
      I haven’t seen reports on it recently and all my queries to various marine science institutes have referred me to a public affairs officer. Since when do scientific organizations need public affairs ala the military? It is a bit odd.. Will see if I can dig up an update at some time.

  2. Steve

     /  December 18, 2013

    Mulder: Hey Scully! Look at this report its from Dec 4th and reports that 65 dolphin strandings in Florida since Sept 1. Local reports were that deaths were increasing. They noted it brought annual total to 1200. Nothing has been reported in two weeks. Weird!

    Scully: Mulder? Look at this! This report came in yesterday and says that it is reporting on the ninth dolphin death in East Central Florida this month. Doesn’t this wording seem rather odd?

    Mulder: It sounds rather contrived. I had a source that I couldn’t confirm much from, but claimed that his source had been asked to keep quiet!

  3. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Linked To Dolphin Lung Damage And Hormonal Imbalances

    Dolphins living in an area hit hard by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill are suffering from lung damage and hormonal levels that are lower than in any other recorded dolphin population, a new study has found.

    The study‘s findings are “consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity” and lend further insight to the NOAA-led Natural Resource Damage Assessment, an effort to find and quantify the environmental damage of the 2010 disaster. Researchers captured and ran tests on 29 bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana — an area that “received heavy and prolonged oiling” in 2010 as well as substantial dispersant exposure — and compared their findings to dolphins captured from Sarasota Bay, which was not affected by the oil spill.

  4. David Goldstein

     /  December 18, 2013

    Here is a link to an article that highlights hypoxic events encountered by fisherman off the coast of Oregon — one witnessed baby octopuses climbing out of the water to escape a low oxygen zone: This article originally appeared in my local Oregon paper – I immediately wrote into a scene in my screenplay that essentially elaborates on the octopus and jellyfish horrors recounted in the article.

    • Thanks for this, David.

      Wonder if it would be worthwhile to do a broad survey for these kinds of stories? Dolphins, starfish, now octopus. Also, needing higher res satellite shots to track algae blooms.


    • Thank you for contributing. Added your recommended article to the text body along with a hat-tip.

      PS I think this will make an excellent scene.

  5. David Goldstein

     /  December 18, 2013

    make that, ‘I immediately wrote IT into a scene…”

  6. mikkel

     /  December 19, 2013

    If you have not read this piece, I strongly suggest it

    “The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront this problem, and the sooner we realize there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.

    The choice is a clear one. We can continue acting as if tomorrow will be just like yesterday, growing less and less prepared for each new disaster as it comes, and more and more desperately invested in a life we can’t sustain. Or we can learn to see each day as the death of what came before, freeing ourselves to deal with whatever problems the present offers without attachment or fear.

    If we want to learn to live in the Anthropocene, we must first learn ”

    On a personal level I feel “society” (current civilization) is dead (>95% chance) that “civilization” is critical (50-60% chance of collapse in the next 100 years) and that extinction is possible due to issues like this post talks about (20% chance).

    But going through the process like the piece above as allowed me to continue living through the transition, whatever it may be. So now I feel little fear…most of the time.

    I was talking with a friend last week who acknowledges that extinction level events are possible but said that he isn’t that pessimistic even about civilization because solutions are exponential in addition to the problems. I stated that while this is true, that resource scarcity would lead to all our efforts put into mass conflict that will destroy our productive and population bases to the point we can’t actually repair the damage we’ve caused to the earth. He couldn’t disagree with this.

    But then I said, “of course if you are already dead then everything is possible because no rules apply.” Serendipitously, I came across that nytimes blog the next day.

    All of this is to say that at some point the open minded must realize that “awareness” is based in attachment and thus fear, while becoming undead is liberating.

    • I prefer to remain attached, attempt to prevent as much harm as possible, and hold the perpetrators of crimes against both us and our world accountable.

      The only real zombies of this world are the megacorps who’ve rendered most viable action impossible and the executives and wealthy share holders who perpetuate such a system indefinitely.

      Sorry, but quiet and accepting detachment is not for me. Life wishes to live and will fight to do so. And justice demands that those responsible for harm be held to account.

      • mikkel

         /  December 19, 2013

        Fair enough but I’ll poke you once more to see if you get what I’m saying.

        In order to fight something you must have rules, or at least a strategy which takes the rules into account. But the rules of the system itself have been created by the very entity you wish to fight, so that at best victory merely changes the players, not the roles. This is why revolutions fail so drastically, and where green industrialism is strongly headed.

        By contrast, if you accept that the megacorps are already dead and are merely in existence by being parasitic, then why not nurture instead of fight? By nurturing the creation of a new existence, you are weakening the zombies because you are reducing the numbers of victims they can prey on.

        But nurturing with expectation is a recipe for therapy all around. Proper parenting recognizes wisdom can be imparted but the instantiation of that wisdom is out of your control. The best you can do is guide. Present in the process, but detached in the outcome.

        For several years, I tried to make people aware of what was going on environmentally and financially by putting together all the pieces for them and showing how bad things would turn out if nothing changed; if we didn’t fight against the system. This was met with frustration, anger and fear but never change, even on a personal level. Even after 2008 hit, suddenly everyone was saying the same things I had counselled about but much were much poorer.

        Yet the last couple of years I’ve focused on growing myself, my yard and the people around me. I ask people what they truly want to do in life and it is almost always fulfilling and sustainable, so then I go out of my way to help them do it. In turn I teach them how to help others do the same.

        It is much more practical and fun, not to mention insurrectionist. It’s gotten to the point where I am often told by people used to working with the rich and powerful that what we are doing is “not possible” but then I explain our intent and they instantly see what we are doing makes sense in a perverted way. Now they are helping us even though they don’t understand how it is working.

        What I’m getting at — and Buddhism talks about this a lot — is that detachment isn’t about being quiet and still, but instead is about life for its own sake. By accepting that we are “dead” it allows our energy to nurture our replacement. I think it’s our only chance of survival.

        Thanks, take care.

        • Ah.

          Well said sir. I will re-read the article and reconsider your very wise, moderate and well-thought out suggestions.

          Warmest regards.

  7. james cole

     /  December 19, 2013

    Bit off topic, but the Siberian Times and the British Daily Mail just ran stories on the epic Siberian heat wave. It is raining now, and even night time temperatures have at times failed to reach freezing point. Little if any snow and the great Siberian rivers flow freely! Now imagine, it is nearly Christmas. An 83 year old Siberian living in Russia’s northern most major city was asked if he had seen such weather. His answer. “Never”. So, here is another unprecedented weather event, and what gives it real effect is the size of the heat wave. Not a local weather event, but a Siberian wide climate event. Lets see how long it holds.
    The last few posts dealt with the methane problem, I dare suggest that today’s Siberian heat wave is just what is needed to push methane and other feed backs to an early critical point.
    Lets remember too, these great Siberian rivers as flushing warmer than normal water into the Arctic Seas. They are open and flowing and that means warmer than normal water.
    It is all connected, one thing is not on it’s own, it spreads down stream.
    Next summer will be interesting up north.

  8. Denise

     /  December 19, 2013

    Robert, I’ve been avidly reading your blog for some time. Was digging around for more on McPherson and found this group of scientists (oceanographers, marine chemists and others) who refute some of his data (e.g. how quickly hydrogem sulphide can form in the oceans) and dispute near-term extinction probabilities, even while acknowledging the positive feedbacks and dire situation we face. Would be interested in your reactions:

    • I don’t think things are quite as dire as McPherson assumes. Although I wouldn’t conflate him with Dr. Ward, who is another animal entirely. I’ll take a look at the scientists claims. In my perspective, I generally have not been comforted by various model simulations that show slower results. That said, I don’t believe a Canfield Ocean could emerge extraordinarily rapidly. My opinion is that stratified states will continue to progress through this century along with hypoxia and anoxia. Ward notes that a Canfield Ocean could most rapidly develop over the course of a few more centuries of current warming. But the thing that really gets me is we’re pushing the systems so hard and so fast that we just don’t know.


      I’ve read the discourse and believe it is a good discussion on the topic. For my part, I believe H2S, based on my reading of the literature, to be a valid threat (end term) to global ocean systems and, in extreme cases, terrestrial life. I also see anoxia and acidification as separate but related threats.

      I don’t agree with McPherson on the issue of certain extinction. In this, he is clearly a member of the ‘doomer’ camp, of which I am not a part. That said, I find his views to be valid in the sense of a warning of the worst case. I would caveat this statement by saying that human extinction given current conditions, long-term, is possible. And that is not at all a comfortable notion.

      I have brought him forward at this time because I fear his assertions, as they appear in the more moderate, though still very dark, Salon article, may well be correct, certain mass extinction aside.

      The other point is to put anoxia, ocean stratification, acidification and H2S on the map. These are issues we will likely struggle to understand as time moves forward.

      I hope this clairifies my position on the issue.

      Warmest regards.


    • Denise –
      I would add one point, that the anaerobic bacteria , are going to be operating in a warmer environment . Their production of H2S may well indeed speed-up .

  9. Tom

     /  December 19, 2013

    I’m completely in the McPherson “doomer” camp (have been since I was a teen and realized civilization was doing everything wrong and that there would be no future sooner or later – but then it was mostly about population growth and pollution). This doesn’t mean I don’t act on it or am ignoring it – I’m active in the anti-fracking fight locally and do what I can, though it seems hopeless at times.

    In fact, I don’t see how extinction before 2030 can be avoided now. Just temperature alone could kill us off by then, but adding Fukushima radiation (among others), disease spread (bubonic plague in Madagascar, H7N9 and now H10N8 in China, and a mystery disease in Texas lately indicates “problems”), trees dying all over the globe and the over two dozen positive feedback loops that have been crossed and it’s a wonder we’re still here. I’m expecting abrupt climate change to cause the widespread collapse of civilization any year now (but probably around 2019). We can already see the effects our continued pollution of the biosphere has had on the earth, and we aren’t changing anything! How does that Einstein quote go? “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

    I reposted this article over on Xraymike’s Collapse blog. Great job Robert – keep up the good work.

  10. Hi Rob,

    I checked out that “The Great Dying Redux: Shocking Parallels Between Ancient Mass Extinction and Climate Change.” article and I wasn’t at all impressed with the level of journalism.

    For example, take that timeline of climate predictions going from 2007-2013, I followed each of the links to the original source and not one of them wasn’t either badly misquoted or cherry-picked out of context. The journalist clearly doesn’t know anything about the subject and he hasn’t checked his sources!

    The whole article struck me as “alarmist” or part of the “doomer” camp as you put it. It seems very unhelpful and likely to engender unnecessary despair or apathy in the uncritical reader, taking us further away from building the necessary support for taking action on climate change.


  11. h/t pfgetty2013:

    ‘Whole world’ at risk from simultaneous droughts, famines, epidemics: scientists

    Research published by US National Academy of Sciences warns climate change impacts could be worse than thought.

  12. Gerald Spezio

     /  December 19, 2013

    The Center for Inquiry is selling a grand trip to the Galapagos Islands for $7,700 TO $24,000.

    CFI is posta be a scientific bunch, or something resembling it.






























    • Steve

       /  December 19, 2013

      Gerald, you’ve mentioned being upset at people flying before. Is there a reason this particular issue bothers you so much? I find people needlessly driving gas hogs everyday much more upsetting than someone flying somewhere on vacation. I personally want to see governments making big changes before I would start holding people accountable in my mind for something like flying.

  13. Atlantic Amphipods don’t listen to AM talk radio –

    Atlantic Amphipods Spreading Into The Arctic Ocean

    Amphipods typically found in the Atlantic Ocean are now reproducing in the Arctic waters west of Spitsbergen, Norway, and according to research appearing in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, the discovery could signify a shift in the region%u2019s zooplankton community.

    The presence of these creatures was discovered by biologists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), who believe that the main victims of this invasive species could be marine birds, fish and whales. The primary reason for this, they explained in a statement last week, is that the amphipods are smaller than Arctic zooplankton and less nutritious to predators.

  14. Gerald Spezio

     /  December 20, 2013

    Steve, Calculate an international plane trip at 2 lbs of CO2 per passenger mile – a gigantic cost in pollution.

    Much of the cost is from the weight of the fuel.

    An fully loaded Airbus 380 weighs 600 tons on takeoff – HALF OF THE WEIGHT IS FUEL.

    Humans can change the environment in which they live.

    Humans with limited technology make small changes.

    Many humans with powerful technology make huge changes.

    Following A.J. Lotka’s principle of our exosomatic tools giving humans tremendous power to consume & pollute.

    Here are some powerful yet short phrases to drive home the catastrophic ENERGY COST of jet air travel.

    Some wisearse Brits call it; PLANE STUPID.

    “Let’s make clear what this means. A long international flight once per year has an energy
    cost slightly bigger than leaving a 1 kW electric heater (1000 watts) on, non-stop, 24 hours
    a day, all year.”

    Moreover, One intercontinental flight produces two pounds of CO2 absorbed into our planet’s atmosphere PER PASSENGER PER MILE.

    This is caused largely by the weight of the extra fuel.

    Therefore, a six thousand mile intercontinental flight from San Francisco to Paris (12 thousand miles round trip) produces a total of 12 tons of CO2 per passenger.

    12 TONS!

    Here is part five of David MacKay’s book entitled; “Planes.”

    Mackay made the entire book available online because he knows that the FUTURE OF HUMANITY IS ON THE LINE.

    • Gerald Spezio –
      Last night PBS reran some shows about ice, and volcanoes . One was about Antarctica, and getting fuel to the South Pole Station, via air. We burn 3 gallons of Jet-A to get 2 gallons from McMurdo to the South Pole.

      I am in your camp, we throw all that fuel to save all that time. And all the carbon goes ” off the books ” and into the air.

    • Steve

       /  December 20, 2013

      Have you seen any direct comparisons between auto and plane? For example, how much CO2 is produced by 300 people driving seperate vehicles from SF to DC compared to what a flight produces? I would expect flying to be higher but I’m curious by how much.

  15. james cole

     /  December 20, 2013

    Been reading about the record heat for November. What keeps coming into my mind is “Where is El Nino?” It has been some time since it has been around. I understand that when it comes, it will bring the possibility for more heat, and we are breaking records without an El Nino in place. Is there any room for an upcoming post on the implications for our global temps if and when the next major El Nino comes into place. I hear rumors that some are looking for one in 2014. I shudder to think of the heat waves if this is true.
    As to the Siberian story. I love to check the Siberian Times looking for weather and climate stories. Having been to Russia, I can say I have never crossed to the East of the Urals. That dream is still waiting to happen.

    • What keeps coming into my mind is “Where is El Nino?”

      You, me, and Kevin Trenberth …………………

      ” “There is also a very strong relationship with winds and sea level, according to Trenberth. Water is piling up in the western Pacific Ocean at a rate of around 10mm per year which is three times the global average. This has led to a difference in sea level, measured by satellite radars, between the western and eastern Pacific. “The sea level is 20cm higher in the western Pacific and the only way to keep it there is for strong winds to pile up the water. It is these changes in the winds that change the ocean currents and affect where the heat is going,” he explained. “But this can’t keep going for ever. The ocean wants to slop back to the east.”

      Trenberth points to three lines of evidence that support this idea: measurable and recorded changes in the wind strength, satellite altimeter radar measurements of sea level and an analysis of ocean heat data ”

  16. Bugs, Fungal Infections Put World’s Banana Supply In Peril

    However, Magda Gonzalez, director of the Costa Rican agriculture ministry’s State Phytosanitary Services (SFE), told local media outlets that up to 24,000 hectares of banana fields have been affected by an increase in the number of mealybugs and scale insects on the country’s Atlantic coast regions.

    Gonzalez added that the increase in those insect populations could be explained by global climate change – specifically, due to increasing temperatures and changes in rain patterns. Those factors could reduce the reproduction cycle of the mealybugs and scale insects by one-third, she added. Both types of insects weaken plants and cause blemishes on the fruits, noted Adam Withnall of The Independent.


    • It a warming world, the creatures that reproduce the fastest , have the upper hand. Viruses, bacteria, fungus, molds, and bugs. They are all making the leap to the new normal. All the slower creatures will have their asses kicked by these first adapters.

      • This is what the deniers fail to understand , that the bacteria and bugs have already changed. And they don’t listen to AM talk radio.

  17. And now, because this shit is so grim –
    Amazing Rhythm Aces – Typical American Boy

  18. It’s great song .

  19. Tom

     /  December 20, 2013

    Gerald, I agree that planes contribute pollution to the system, but you’re only concentrating on one aspect of civilization – ALL of which is polluting, using up resources (especially water), and overpopulating. The pollution coming from Fukushima is orders of magnitude worse than all the planes that have ever flown, all the cars, ocean liners, factories, power plants and the rest that are emitting CO2 because radiation kills in much less time and we have no way to stop it now, while it’s immediate and devastating effects on marine life and it raining out of the atmosphere on us every day is worse from now on. The Pacific Ocean – one-third of the planet’s water is now being polluted with radiation that will be with us for thousands of years. It’s getting into the ground water and the food supply, migrating birds are being affected, plants are absorbing it, fish are surrounded by it, and we’re ingesting and breathing this cancer-causing toxin as a result.

    We should be concentrating on shutting down and decommissioning all nuclear power plants before we can’t (due to the steady decrease in available energy), then try to deal with all the toxic waste its created over the years that can’t be disposed of easily.

    We can stop driving and flying and sailing, but we can’t stop nuclear fission once it gets going, so we should avoid the problem by not allowing new nuke plants to be built while taking the others off-line before they too go critical on us.

  20. Gerald Spezio

     /  December 21, 2013

    Steve, an easy way to calculate the energy cost of our fossil fuel consuming behavior;

    A gallon of fossil fuel (diesel, gasoline, or jet fuel) weighs about 6.5 lbs.
    When burned with oxygen, that one gallon produces 19,4 lbs of CO2.

    Driving 100 miles in a vehicle that gets 20 mpg produces 100 lbs of CO2.

    Flying round trip from Denver, CO to Switzerland for skiing produces a prodigious 24 tons per passenger.

    Yuppies, who never fail to recycle their wine bottles from France, do it regularly.

    CO2 causes the greenhouse/heating effect.

    The greenhouse effect causes methane release.

    Runaway arctic methane release is happening now.

    Always, the inexorable laws of thermodynamics put a precise number on our fossil fuel consuming behavior.

    Nicholas Georgescu-Rogen told us in simple language in 1971.

    His prescient book, The Entropy law & the Economic Process, was largely ignored.

    Our days are numbered too, & there are NOT TOO MANY LEFT.

    So we had best make the most of them.

  21. Gerald Spezio

     /  December 21, 2013

    Runaway methane release in the arctic has already begun.

    Although Sam Carana advocates geoengineering as a possible solution, his techno-fix hopes are pie-in-the-sky.

    We cannot turn it around or stop it.

    “The warming of the Arctic seems likely to lead to the total melting of the Arctic Sea Ice in late summer no later than the summer of 2018 and to massive release of Methane from the melting of Methane Hydrates beneath the ESAS by the same date leading to runaway Global Warming and the end of most life on earth.

    In 2018, and probably before, the Arctic will be much warmer and the rate of Methane emissions by 2016 will cause alarm worldwide. In 2016 it will probably no longer be possible to prevent a runaway greenhouse event.

    The problem is that until after a runaway event has started, drastic climate impacts will not occur, so most people will not be alarmed by the situation. Nonetheless, immediate action is essential to cool the arctic.”


    Guy McPherson is one of the few, who openly says that the human experiment is doomed, & soon.

    McPherson says that our best strategy is to live our lives as if we are already in hospice.

  22. Gerald Spezio

     /  December 22, 2013

    Yuppies, narcissism, & runaway global heating …

  23. Sun’s role in climate change ‘minimal’.

    22 December 2013, by Alex Peel.

    The Sun’s influence on changes in Earth’s climate throughout the past millennium has been minimal, and it’s unlikely to play an important role in the coming centuries, according to a new study.
    The paper, published in Nature Geoscience, says volcanic eruptions and greenhouse gases were the dominant factors behind the substantial shifts in Earth’s climate since 1,000 AD.

  24. You’ll want release my last from moderation.

  25. This water is 5 to 50 meters below the surface. 2 more melt seasons like 2012 , and it will flood off Greenland. It’s 70,000 km2 , it’s the size Ireland .

  26. ” We estimate, using a regional climate model, aquifer area at about 70,000 km2 and the depth to the top of the water table as 5–50 m. ”

    2 more hot summers like 2012 , and this could all just flow right into the ocean.

  27. This would be a tipping point. Because it’s all fresh water the size of Ireland pouring into Greenland waters.

  28. Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Walkin’ Blues

  29. Elvin Bishop , Paul Butterfield , Mike Bloomfield. America was never more perfect. 46 years ago.

    • It was recorded at the famed Chess Studios on 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It peaked at #65 on the Billboard pop albums chart.

  30. Steve

     /  December 23, 2013

    Three seperate die-offs going on with dolphins in Florida. 1) Indian River 2) Gulf of Mexico 3)Atlantic (Started in summer in NY). I thought the Gulf deaths was due to oil spill but this articles says that the deaths started in Louisiana before the spill.

    • Record number of manatee deaths reported in 2013

      ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The number of manatee deaths has topped 800 for the first time since such record-keeping began in the 1970s, state wildlife officials said.

      According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, 803 manatee deaths have been recorded this year. That’s about 16 percent of the state’s estimated population of 5,000 manatees.

      Martine DeWit of the institute’s Marine Mammal Pathology Laboratory tells the Tampa Bay Times that 173 of the dead were breeding-age females. It’s unclear what effect these deaths will have on the endangered species’ population.

      Last year, 392 manatee deaths were recorded, which officials consider normal.

      Read more:

  31. Tom

     /  December 24, 2013

    Yes and a noticeable die-off of pelicans and small marine life along Pacific coast of Canada and U.S. too. While we’re at it, the weather is hampering crop production all over the globe, so we’ll see that ripple through the system as time goes on – less food means more civil disruption.

  32. Gerald Spezio

     /  December 24, 2013

    Sherwood Rowland, the Nobel laureate in chemistry who faced years of industry criticism of his work on the link between chlorofluorocarbons and depletion of the Earth’s protective sheath of ozone, showed us the way ahead;

    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”

    Before you die give yourself the pure intellectual & SCIENTIFIC joy of David Stove’s magnificent demolishing of 200 PAINFUL YEARS of David Hume’s “uncertainty of induction.”

    Stove takes pompous SIR Karl Popper to the intellectual woodshed & beats the bastard to a pulp.

    Popper’s dutiful hacks; Lakatos, Kuhn, & Feyerabend get it right in the arse too.

    Don’t miss it – the read of a lifetime, especially if you always asked how such Humean flapdoodle could wash for so long.


  33. Gerald Spezio

     /  December 24, 2013

    Colorado Bob, how are you dealing with the upcoming horrors & our impending deaths?

    I am living as if I am already in hospice.

  34. Under Arctic Ice, Photographer Captures Climate Shifts In Earth’s Most Rapidly Changing Place

    What does the future hold for the parts of the world that will be most affected by Earth’s warming climate? This spring and summer, St. Louis-based photojournalist Randall Hyman spent four months getting a preview in Arctic Norway, a place he’s visited again and again since the mid-1970s.

    What struck him most on this trip, a Fulbright Scholarship project between April and August, was a pace of change that “has really picked up in the last decade,” Hyman said, since trips he made there in 2006 and 2007.

    “In that short space, less than a decade, right away I’m seeing differences like where the fisheries are richest, which ones are thriving and which ones are dying off,” he added.

  35. Back to China last summer –
    03:05 UTC

    Haze over eastern China

    I love how we call that nest of poison air , “haze”.

  36. Tom

     /  December 25, 2013

    Colorado Bob, do you have a website or blog?

    Happy holidays everyone; Robert – keep up the great site! Enjoy while it lasts.

  37. Gerald Spezio

     /  December 26, 2013

    JUST ONE OF SEVERAL GLARING & EGREGIOUS FUDGES from the National Academies of “Science.”

    “… or a rapid release of methane from high-latitude permafrost or undersea ice are now known to be unlikely this century, although these potential abrupt changes are still worrisome over longer time horizons. ”

    Scientific Irrational-ism & then some.

    Abstract of the “SURPRISES” report.

    • Steve

       /  December 26, 2013

      I was in disbelief over that also Gerald. I liked how after they stated this, they went on to say that they can’t see all the risks and we will probably be blindsided by something they couldn’t predict because everything doesn’t occur in a linear trend.

  38. Steve

     /  December 26, 2013

    This might not be unusual but with everything else being reported in waters recently it caught my attention. The article wasn’t real informative, but I’m guessing that if people thought there was even a minimal chance this could happen, they wouldn’t have been there.

  39. A 1959 Scientific American article by Dr Gilbert Plass on what were then new discoveries about atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    Plass’ work on IR radiation was funded by the US Air Force, who wanted to be sure their heat-seeking missiles would work. Yes, folks, global warming was confirmed in many ways by the US Military-Industrial Complex.


    We shall be able to test the carbon dioxide theory against other theories of climatic change quite conclusively during the next half-century. Since we now can measure the sun’s energy output independent of the distorting influence of the atmosphere, we shall see whether the earth’s temperature trend correlates with measured fluctuations in solar radiation. If volcanic dust is the more important factor, then we may observe the earth’s temperature following fluctuations in the number of large volcanic eruptions. But if carbon dioxide is the most important factor, long-term temperature records will rise continuously as long as man consumes the earth’s reserves of fossil fuels.

  40. Robert –
    Yet another Robert , but this guy makes you and me look like 2 hookers jumping out of a birthday cake.

    Robert Callaghan · Top Commenter · W.C. Eckett

    Carbon Negative, Prognosis Negative.
    – Lion populations down 90% in 20 years.
    – Half of all vertebrate species may disappear before 2040.
    – 200 species per day are going extinct.
    – Land Animal populations down 28% since 1970.
    – Marine Bird populations down 30% since 1995.
    – Big Ocean Fish populations down 90% since 1950.
    – Fresh Water Fish populations down 50% since 1987,
    – All Marine Animal populations down 28% since 1970.
    – Plankton populations down 40% since 1950.
    – Bumblebee populations down 70% since 1970.
    – Species extinction is 1,000 times faster than normal.
    – Human sperm counts down 50% since 1950.
    – Human population up to 9 billion by 2050.
    – Ocean acidification to double by 2050.
    We don’t have enough resources in the world to make solar-wind power for 7 billion people.
    The pulse of carbon and toxic metals would put us over the edge.
    Climate change is only one of six reasons for inevitable mass extinction of life on earth.
    So, don’t worry about sea level rise and temperature rise because we will be toast well before that. We are at the apex of civilization. In a couple of generations, we will be in the death throes of a dying planet. The transition will not be smooth. It will be chaotic and violent. This is why resilience communities will be unsustainable against the upcoming and oncoming hordes.

    • I so hate this creeping Facebook thing where you can’t comment or read full comments without logging into that horrible site.

  41. Thanks for the post. I believe that our current problems arise out of a more or less ontological belief about what human beings and nature are. We view nature in a utilitarian sense, as evidenced by the way we monetize nature by seeing its exchange value and not its use value. And, in the same regard, we commodify human activity in the sociology of exchange. Neither human beings nor nature are understood beyond the historical process which defines them. In order to come to a place where we can see beyond our subjective development we need to have a new definition of what a human being is, and how humanity is placed on the evolutionary scale. What is human consciousness? Why does humanity exist and how does conscious humanity serve the evolution of the planet? These questions come up since humanity is now, as a species, destroying the evolutionary potential of the planet. It is an intensely philosophical question; the kind of questions that may come to our consciousness when we face our own individual mortality, but here on a global and species scale. We must be able to answer these questions if we are to approach these problems, which are facing the entire species.

  42. Olson: The second was having zero strategy to deal with an all-out assault on “the brand” by climate skeptics, culminating in 2009 with “Climate Gate” that spun circles around the climate crowd, as they had zero ability to do “damage control.”

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: How could the climate community have prevented the damage to its reputation?

    Olson: By having a coherent, singular strategy worked out in advance. Corporations have singular heads called CEOs. The science world has no such coherence, cohesion or cooperation. It’s a bunch of academics who were raised on the idea of communication being a frivolous add-on.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: Many scientists are not so negative about this. Asked about the communication problem, they are happy to refer to the fact that they answer questions openly at public talks, that occasionally journalists call and that some blogs generate many comments.

    Olson: Climate definitely interests the climate crowd at some science magazines, talks or blogs. Some blogs are amazing. They will post one comment about one graph of temperature records from tree rings and get over a thousand comments. Which is boredom so purified and crystalized it’s in an unadulterated form that could make even a robot want to commit suicide.

    • mikkel

       /  December 30, 2013

      It’s not just a lack of narrative, AGW has a fundamental error in framing that creates weak propaganda.

      Instead of focusing on temperatures, the community should have *always* focused on increased storms and droughts. Not only is this much more visceral (and what actually matters), but it is also more accurate since air temperature is a product of many influences that modulate it while increasing system energy directly and inexorably leads to increasing “weirdness.”

      Then instead of saying “we can’t attribute any single event, but statistically blahblahblah” (terrible psychological framing) the community should always say “this is a sign that we are correct.”

      If this were the framing from the very beginning then it would be nearly unassailable now. There should be a table in every paper showing the running 100+ year droughts/floods happening around the world right now and listing the aggregate number over the last 10 years; it is incredible that this isn’t widely available.

      By focusing on extreme events and variability, the propaganda writes itself. Sea ice drops to historical low? That fits into the narrative. Sea ice rebounds 50%? That fits into the narrative too because it is the greatest rebound recorded, showing the amount of variability has increased.

      “Skeptics” would counter that we’re just making it so no matter what happens we win, but they do that already. The difference is that they can do it effectively because the establishment started with the most grade school premise possible and then had to keep adding caveats, whereas this alternative framing would have consistent messaging front to back.

      That is the secret of good propaganda. The problem is that scientists shun propaganda and then just flail about and complain.

      At this point they should realize that the side with the most effective propaganda will win, but AGW propaganda has the benefit of being true so it should be easier and easier to spread. Instead it’s proving more and more difficult as bifurcations/long term cycles become apparent.

  43. It’s not an either or problem , it’s 7 billion problems.

  44. Tom

     /  December 30, 2013

    mikkel: good points, but there isn’t any “winning” when the whole system is collapsing, only continual and unrelenting loss. Those that choose to ignore climate change can only do so until it affects them (oh THEN we’ll hear a different tune). It’s far too late now to do anything effective, so just enjoy the days you have left and do what you can to help in the meantime.

    • mikkel

       /  December 30, 2013

      The “winning” reference is only in context of how deniers think since they act like the world is zero sum. In reality that’s obviously not the case.

      As I stated up above where I said extinction is a definite possibility, let alone civilization collapse, I agree with your statement in principle but in truth the ways to help and the ways to find contentment are largely one and the same.

      By framing climate change in terms of increased variability and thus destroyer of all planning, I’ve had good success in convincing several people close to me to start living more in the present and turn away from soulless corporate jobs that are fuelling the system. This has had the nice benefit of helping them find contentment and purpose.

      Before being convinced, they had thought that climate change just meant certain areas would win and lose so they’d just move to where ever was turning out OK.

      So on a personal level I feel like that framing is effective. Plus, the world is so complex we never know what will happen; there are many more bifurcations that will arise in both the climate and society. I have let go of the feeling that I need to try to ascertain final outcomes, and instead seek to live in the flow as it appears.

      This is why I do not like the hospice analogy and instead prefer the soldier like the NYT linked above. We are not helpless and in need of care, for there is no one to alleviate suffering. Instead we are as healthy as we’ve ever been; we’re just stuck in a war with ourselves. Like all wars, death will be random and frequent, so there is no use in planning for a future, but there is a chance that we will survive either through renewed strategy or dumb luck as long as we aim to persevere.

  45. Tom

     /  December 30, 2013

    mikkel: Thanks for explaining further and my point was only to the obvious. As to your conclusion, I wish I could agree but in fact see no way out and have come to accept that. Now I try to live via working to mitigate situations as they arise and to help as much as possible on the way out. After listening to the Lester Brown talk above, I just nod my head because it all seems so uncompromisingly real and I (like you) have seen this coming for a long time. When I was a college student (back when Silent Spring and The Population Bomb were published) I began to connect the dots and sound the alarm. Nobody paid the slightest attention to any of it and the industries just found ways around the inconvenient truths of pesticides and global economy and the rest – leading to where we are now, committing species-cide and destroying our own habitat living the way we do.

    We can’t change direction because the political and corporate will isn’t there, and once it becomes apparent to the masses (and far too late), chaos will result – not changes that will help or change our trajectory. There’s no reversing course because we can’t live without computers and electricity any more – we don’t know how. Food scarcity is going to be our unraveling and it’s happening now and will get progressively worse as climate change bites hard in the coming years.

    • mikkel

       /  December 31, 2013

      Well Tom, as I stated above, I’m not so interested in outcome as much as process.

      They say that we are doomed because we need fertilized farms to grow food, and yet I know of people who get > 80% of their calorie needs from their ~1/4 acre yard using no chemical fertilizers.

      They say that droughts and floods will be the death of us, yet there are working examples of growing plenty of food in the middle of a desert and systems of terraced/contoured land leading to various stages of wetlands that can survive immense downpours.

      It might seem we need electricity for all basics, but in reality most energy is consumed for thermodynamic reasons and I know architects and engineers who can create buildings that need almost no energy at all except a modest amount of sun.

      They say bees are endangered yet it’s nearly impossible to walk barefoot in my yard since there are thousands of them over hundreds of different species of flower.

      A big gap in my understanding has been over grains, for I haven’t met anyone that has grown them effectively in the same manner as other foods, but I have been reading this ( and see they are not particularly unique. It is written by a Japanese farmer who decided to leave a formal research position because he was frustrated with the reductionism of the scientific method and eventually created a farm that required no weeding, fertilizing or tilling and yet was one of the most productive in all of Japan: over 1200kg/year per 1/4 acre.

      I could go on.

      All of this is to say that there are countless reasons why society will not be saved and go crashing down, and I used to despair over this as well…and allured by temptation of despondency and fatalism.

      Yet then I looked to save only myself and came to realize that the process of doing so requires so much learning, developing of skills and building of social connections, that in reality I was helping to build new communities.

      What I discovered is that there are thousands of little oases all over the world and so when people are ready they can find one near them. The point is to not try to stop collapse from happening, but to be ready to help people when they want to drop out and live in a different way — whenever that may be.

      While I agree nothing will change except out of suffering, the number of suffering is growing exponentially and so the opportunity for true change is as well.

      By my estimation, if all the people who actually wanted to live differently recognized there is a huge population just like them (10-20% of the population I’d reckon) then there would be the economic opportunity for everyone to do so. I think it’ll just take the creation of alternative economic/banking opportunities to usher it in; a few projects I’m working on are going in this direction and will soon have the financial resources to succeed.

      In the end it’ll probably be for naught, but who knows? It certainly is much more fulfilling and fun than to spend all my time fretting about things and spending hrs a day searching the internet for confirmation/getting into pointless argumentation (that is now reduced solely to this blog because Robert actually has new and crisp info).

      In the end each of us will be dead — rather shortly in the scheme of things — and yet we go on with the feeling that we will have experiences and changes in ourselves. So why should it be any different for society?

      • As long as one is alive, why not try to live as humans should be living? There doesn’t have to be a further plan.

  46. Vladimir Putin celebrates New Year with the victims of September floods in Russia’s Far East

    No a word about the current conditions on the Amur River, or the victims of the floods.

  47. Hey Robert,

    You might find this study very useful. It seems to be pertinent to current drought in California. It might help future of drought in California.


  48. What’s Driving Chaotic Dismantling of Canada’s Science Libraries?

    Scientists reject Harper gov’t claims vital material is being saved digitally.

  49. This extinction event could be worse than the one 250 million years ago.

    The heat earth receives from the sun is slightly greater now so that the temperature that earth finally reaches could be higher.

    Human civilisation is even more vulnerable. Once most people realise, especially those with most power realise, that there is going to be severe ecological problems for the planet which will affect humanity the global stock markets will collapse and worse than that a mood of despondency will set in. This will cause humans to be destructive of their civilisation and chaos and collapse will quickly emerge. It is very difficult to know how close we are to this precipice.

    John B Davies

    • Without awareness of the problem there can be no sense of urgency for an effective response. Market BAU is probably even more destructive than market malaise. At least malaise would provide an opening for the new, zero carbon, systems that are now being fought tooth and nail by some of the powerful traditional industries.

  50. It scares me to know that the series of ice ages over the last couple of million years might have cocked and loaded our “clathrate gun” by building up a large methane hydrate inventory. I’ve been saying that should be true, after all, low water temperatures should expand the hydrate stability zone, but I didn’t know for sure. It’s scary to know that people who know more about it are also making that connection.

    The global methane hydrate inventory is poorly known, with estimates ranging from 0.4 to about 77 trillion metric tons. What if we are at the high end of the range? The atmosphere now contains about 5 billion tons of methane. So, the hydrates could contain as much as 17,500 times as much methane as resides now in the atmosphere.

    Ocean acidification and anoxia are proceeding very quickly now. I wonder myself how much of the acidification we are seeing in deep up-welling water is due to the methane hydrates starting to dissociate on the shallow end of the hydrate stability zone, and oxidation of methane to CO2.

    This link is to a site that explores the scenario in detail, The formatting is a little awkward but the information seems to be very solid, to me:

    • Oh, shoot, that’s 0.4 to 77 trillion metric tons of carbon as methane, or a high end of about 100 trillion tons of methane, compared to about 5 billion tons of methane in the atmosphere . So , make that about 20,000 times as much methane in the high end estimates of the methane hydrates as currently resides in the atmosphere right now.

      Dickens’ “consensus estimate” based on all his good hard work is 5 to 20 trillion metric tons of carbon in the methane hydrates or about 1000 to 4000 times as much methane in the hydrates as currently resides in the atmosphere.

      There is some comfort in knowing that the optical greenhouse potency of methane will decrease as it’s concentration increases, but not much, especially since increased levels of methane will start to exhaust the hydroxyl radical oxidation mechanism of the atmosphere and increase its lifetime. Also, massive methane release into the oceans will make them both acidic and anoxic, and according to the modeling done by the IMPACTS group of national labs and universities will start to overwhelm the local ability of the oceans to oxidize methane, leading to more direct release of methane into the atmosphere.

      All of this stuff, the whirlpools of anoxic water, and so on, have apparently happened before in several mass extinction events, not just the End Permian. Only, this time the sun is about 2 percent or so hotter than it was during the End Permian, an effect Hansen says is equivalent to about 1000 ppm of CO2.

      This could in fact be the mother of all mass extinctions, that we are triggering.

  1. Awakening the Horrors of the Ancient Hothouse — Hydrogen Sulfide in the World’s Warming Oceans | robertscribbler
  2. 2013 4th Hottest Year on Record, Deep Ocean Warming Fastest, NASA, NOAA Find No Pause in Long-Term Warming Trend | robertscribbler
  3. The Neverending Deluge: Pacific Heat + Fixed Jet Stream Parks Anomalous January Cyclone Lingling Over Philippines For Two Weeks | robertscribbler
  4. Ocean Dead Zones Swirl Off Africa, Threatening Coastlines with Mass Fish Kills | robertscribbler
  5. Dead Zone | Quality of Life Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: