Arctic Emergency: Top Scientists Explain How Arctic Warming is Wrecking Our Weather and Pushing World To Rapidly Cross Climate Tipping Points

(Must-watch video that includes direct observation and analysis of Arctic tipping points provided by a number of the world’s top climate scientists.)

You don’t want to mess with Arctic warming. It’s an engine of destruction straining to be set loose. A mad burning beast of a thing. One whose fires we are now in the process of stoking to dangerous extremes.

Don’t believe me? Then just listen to top scientists like Dr. Jennifer Francis, Dr. Jason Box, Dr. Jeff Masters, Dr. Natalia Shakhova, Dr. Igor Semiletov, Dr. Peter Wadhams, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Steve Vavrus, Dr. Ron Prinn, Dr. Kevin Schaefer, Dr. Nikita Zimov, Dr. Jorien Vonk, and a growing list of many, many more (also see above video).

An Arctic that Appears on the Verge of Large Carbon Emissions Adding to an Already Dangerous Human Warming

At issue is the fact that the Arctic is very sensitive to global heat forcing. And any small warming there can rapidly trigger a number of feedbacks that generate more warming for the Arctic and the globe. These feedbacks include but are not limited to:

Snow and sea ice melt resulting in darker surfaces absorbing more sunlight during summer times, a warming global ocean system transporting a high percentage of the added heat north and southward along the ocean bottom and at the surface, rising temperatures in the Arctic slowing and increasing the waviness of the Jet Stream which generates more south to north transfer of temperate and tropical warmth into the Arctic together with a greater export of Arctic cold to the lower latitudes, added greenhouse gasses resulting in much warmer Arctic winters during the times of darkness when greenhouse gas trapping of long wave radiation is most efficient, and an increasing release of carbon from stores sequestered in the Arctic for millions of years, adding to the overall greenhouse gas burden in this, very sensitive, region.

Many of these feedbacks and resulting weather alterations are now in play.

We have observed sea ice reductions of up to 80 percent in total volume losses together with major snow cover reductions since the 1970s. We have observed substantial and growing releases of methane from the Arctic environment in the form of emissions in the region of the submerged permafrost on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. We have witnessed strange methane emissions emerging in the smoke of major wildfires that have spread over large regions of the Arctic during summer. We’ve seen very troubling emissions in the form of methane eruptions coming from the permafrost and possibly reaching as deep as the methane clathrate layer beneath the permafrost. We’ve seen increasing methane releases from permafrost melt lakes. And we’ve seen increasing CO2 emissions from the dry decay of permafrost and from the direct burning of permafrost and boreal forests by Arctic wildfires.

Trio of Siberian Wildfires August 3, 2014

(Trio of massive Siberian Wildfires raging on August 3, 2014. Burn scar size ranges from 90 to 350+ square miles. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

In total, according to scientists in the above video, under an unmitigated and continuously rising heat forcing from human greenhouse gas emissions, the Arctic could release 120 gigatons of carbon or more by the end of this century. Given that humans now dump 13 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, the Arctic emission would be like adding another decade of current human emissions on top of an already rapidly warming system. Even worse, a significant portion of the Arctic  carbon emission could appear in the form of methane — a gas that traps heat far more rapidly than CO2, equaling a heat forcing that is about 60 times CO2 by volume.

A Call From Scientists For Rapid Mitigation

It is important to note that, though strange and terrifying as they may be, current Arctic feedbacks and related carbon emissions are minor when compared to the changes we will unlock if we continue to release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Under BAU, it is possible that we will set in place a regime of Arctic carbon emissions that is equal to 30% or more of the current human greenhouse gas emission. This sizeable release would likely then last for centuries until much of the Arctic carbon store of 1,500+ gigatons locked in permafrost and untold other gigatons locked in clathrates were exhausted. Such releases would result in a mini-runaway that could lock in dangerous hothouse climate conditions for millions of years to come.

Due to the extreme nature of the current situation, some damage is now unavoidable, as we probably hit at least 2-3 C warming long term even if human greenhouse gas emissions suddenly halt. But major damage can still be prevented through direct and coordinated action on the part of nations.  For this reason, climate scientists are calling for an 80% or greater reduction in near term human greenhouse gas emissions. A strong direct urging from some of the best scientists in the world and one that we should take very seriously as it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Arctic is now in the process of crossing a number of extremely dangerous tipping points.

I implore you to watch the above video and to do everything in your power to support policies that rapidly draw down the human greenhouse gas emission. Our timeframe window for effective response is rapidly closing and we need swift, direct action now.

Links:

Arctic Emergency — Scientists Speak

The Arctic Methane Monster Exhales

LANCE-MODIS

 

 

 

 

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79 Comments

  1. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2014

    Nine Swedes saved from massive forest fire

    UPDATED: Nine volunteers were rescued on Monday afternoon after they’d been trapped for over an hour by the flames of the worst fire in Sweden’s modern history.

    The fire began on Thursday in Sala, Västmanland, central Sweden. It is unclear how the fire began, but the flames now engulf somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 hectares.

    Emergency services trying to control the fire have called it the “biggest fire of modern times” in Sweden.

    “It’s burning deep down into the ground and across large surfaces,” fireman chief Per Hultman told newspaper Expressen. “It’s going to take months to extinguish.”

    http://www.thelocal.se/20140804/five-day-forest-fire-rages-out-of-control

    Reply
    • Yeah, I’m getting these things popping up across western Russia and Scandinavia now.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the link Bob. Robert, do you think compiling a map and marking out the areas that have been and still are ablaze this summer around the globe, may be a useful thing to do? MSM outlets such as the Guardian will report on, say, fires in but one state in the USA and there seems to be a concerted effort not to place those fires in a global context, and to obfuscate just how widespread they are around the globe.

        Reply
        • NASA/MODIS Rapid response generally does a good job. Overall, high Arctic fires are well above average for this year. Record NWT fires and Russia having a bad year as well.

          Will look at putting a record together by end season for the high Arctic.

      • Thanks Robert.

        Reply
  2. Gerald Spezio

     /  August 4, 2014

    Robert, your numbers are off by a considerable margin.
    You state; “Given that humans now dump 13 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere each year,”
    A scientifically sound number for human emissions of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, is on the order of 36 – 39 gigatons.

    Reply
    • Base carbon molecular weight, Gerald, is now at 13 gigatons carbon. The 120 gigatons carbon in permafrost, by the same measure is about 360 gigatons as CO2 when the oxygen is added.

      Reply
  3. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2014

    SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — A fire that raged in forest land in and around Yosemite National Park has left a contiguous barren moonscape in the Sierra Nevada mountains that experts say is larger than any burned in centuries.
    The fire has consumed about 400 square miles, and within that footprint are a solid 60 square miles that burned so intensely that everything is dead, researchers said.
    “In other words, it’s nuked,” said Jay Miller, senior wildland fire ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “If you asked most of the fire ecologists working in the Sierra Nevada, they would call this unprecedented.”

    http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/08/03/scientists-find-scorched-yosemite-rim-fire-land-sierra-moonscape/

    Reply
  4. Mark from New England

     /  August 4, 2014

    Robert,

    Great summary and article in relation to the film.

    When you write: …”Under BAU, it is possible that we will set in place a regime of Arctic carbon emissions that is equal to 30% or more of the current human greenhouse gas emission. This sizeable release would likely then last for centuries until much of the Arctic carbon store of 1,500+ gigatons locked in permafrost and untold other gigatons locked in clathrates were exhausted.”

    Is that 30% per annum, or cumulatively by end century? It also sounds like a linear projection, whereas I suspect we may have some discontinuously large rapid methane belches amongst the more modest burps in the decades and centuries ahead. No matter, the end result is the infernal hothouse Eaarth you describe. And it will last millions of years.

    Reply
    • So about 3-4 gigatons carbon per year by the end of this century counting CO2 and methane under BAU. Without BAU, we can probably limit that to about 1 gigaton of carbon emission per year by the end of this century. Anything in this range is bad but 1 gigaton C is far better than 3-4 gigatons C.

      May want to consider that it would take a flood basalt on every continent to equal the current human emission.

      Reply
  5. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2014

    Poof, it’s gone

    One of the reasons for setting up the Arctic Sea Ice Forum, was to increase interaction and make more space for visual gems that do not fit the narrow comment section of this blog (check out for instance the Jakobshavn glacier thread).

    One of those gems was posted yesterday by commenter epiphyte, who for the past month tracked one single ice floe in the Laptev Sea. What I like about this, beside the visual appeal of the images of course, is that it shows that ice doesn’t disappear gradually, but suddenly. That’s to say, for those who are watching from above.

    Here’s epiphyte’s explanation of what he did:

    http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2014/08/poof-its-gone.html?cid=6a0133f03a1e37970b01a3fd404c6f970b#comment-form

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  August 4, 2014

      Thanks for that one. And thanks to (somewhat ironically named) ‘epiphyte’ for doing the work.

      Reply
      • I think this ice was disassociated and then shoved into the ice front by winds blowing across the Laptev. Still quite dramatic.

        Reply
  6. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2014

    Comment #1 –
    Note what the fire chief said , “It’s burning deep into the ground.” This fire behavior in the far North I have been watching for 7 years now. The trees are not the only thing burning now , the fires around the far North are burning 5 and 6 feet into the Earth. In the poorest combustion conditions one will ever see. The same kind of poor combustion , killed 58,000 Russians when their peat deposits burned in 2010 around Moscow. These fires make really , really nasty smoke.

    Reply
    • You can see this in the amount of material they cast into the air and in how long the same fires just continue to burn and burn. It’s a mess.

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  August 4, 2014

        And the thick boiling clouds, with a yellow cast, when the wind lays down. They look like a pile of mashed potatoes , when the winds are clam.

        Reply
  7. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2014

    Spain sees sharp rise in forest fires this summer

    MADRID, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) — The Spanish Minister of Agriculture confirmed on Monday that there has been a sharp rise in the number of forest fires registered in the country during 2014.

    The first six months of the year saw over 31,000 hectares of land consumed by flames, with a total of 2,000 different fires

    Link

    Reply
  8. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2014

    Let’s be clear , forest management in Siberia, California, Spain,Sweden, and the NWT in Canada, are not the same.

    So our fire policy in the 20 century , is biting us in the ass , but something else is a foot . Believe me the Russians had no fire policy in the 20th century in Siberia. If those forests are burning, it’s not because a Russian Smoky Bear raced 2,000 miles to pee on it. Trust me , the Canadians didn’t send fire teams to the NWT to fight fires in the 20 century.

    These p;aces are burning without , 100 years of American fire policy..

    And climate models said we see the giant fires. The climate models say that Spain will be a desert .
    How do we make Spain a desert > first you burn everything green.

    Reply
  9. eleggua

     /  August 4, 2014

    http://www.oregonlive.com/wildfires/index.ssf/2014/08/wildfire_roundup_three_new_fir.html
    August 04, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    ‘Wildfire roundup: Three new fires of concern in Oregon and Washington, progress on Oregon Gulch fire’

    Three new large fires in the Pacific Northwest—two in Oregon and one in Washington—are of particular concern to firefighters after a hot, lightning-fueled weekend…

    Whereas a few weeks ago the Northwest was the epicenter of the nation’s wildfires, activity throughout the West, including Californian, has accelerated. This means that national resources are moving elsewhere.

    “Crews are stretched really thin,” Knappenberger said. “We really don’t need any human caused fires.”

    Reply
    • We need to fund them. Apparently the fire suppression monies are again about to run out.

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  August 4, 2014

        There’s an abundance of green (money, etc) in Humboldt Co. And it’s still a couple of months from harvest season. Some folks there with vested interest ought to pony up funds asap.

        Reply
  10. eleggua

     /  August 4, 2014

    http://lostcoastoutpost.com/2014/aug/3/fires-burning-across-northern-california/
    Yesterday @ 5:05 p.m.

    ‘Multiple Fires Strain Critical Resources in Humboldt County’
    “Danger,” warns the Fruitland Fire Department’s Facebook page, “Our county resources are at an all-time low… . NO AIRCRAFT available! We are drawn down to bare bones.” Humboldt’s fire resources are being sent to other places as blazes devour woodlands and threaten homes. Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency “due to the wildfires burning in Northern California.”

    ……

    In addition, more fires may be in store for Humboldt. There is lightning predicted for eastern Humboldt. “We are worried about Dinsmore, Willow Creek and Bridgeville,” Fruitland’s Facebook page said.

    (Perhaps Loni can fill us in with a report from the front.)

    Reply
    • This happened last year as well. More nonsense we can heap at the feet of ‘hate all things public,’ apparently including public safety, republicans.

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  August 4, 2014

        The fire fighters up there are incredible folks. Mostly volunteer plus some ‘work crews’ recruited from local jails. It’s customary to cheer the trucks and crews as they pass through town, or give them a honk and a wave of thanks, passing on the road.

        Reply
    • Griffin

       /  August 4, 2014

      If only beautiful country and numbers of registered voters were not mutually exclusive of one another, then resources may be allocated to help.

      Reply
    • wharf rat

       /  August 5, 2014

      Big Government showed up and held a town meeting yesterday, about our wildfire. NOAA/NWS, BLM, Air Quality, various fire guys. Public servants, one and all, provided thru the courtesy of the taxpayers of these United States.
      “We want you to think of us as your fire dept.” They were applauded; everybody likes Big Government this week, especially when the sheriff said, “We won’t see your plants.”
      As of 15 minutes ago, 3,527 acres & 15% contained, one of the smaller fires. Humboldt’s air coverage is just across the county line. There are 14 choppers working the Lodge fire, altho visibility is a problem at the moment. Haven’t seen any bombers in a few days. They detached a chopper yesterday to fight a small fire in Leggett, also Mendo Co.

      Sounds like it’s mostly been burning the understory, which isn’t too bad. It’s a Wilderness Area, very steep and rugged territory.
      http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/2472823-181/mendocino-county-fire-scorches-2900

      Water is creating some problems. Laytonville Water had to ban private water haulers, cuz Calfire was sucking it up so fast. Without private trucks, the district can re-fill their storage tanks. As a consequence, some haulers went south to Willits, hooked up to hydrants, and said they were for the fire.
      Busted.
      https://www.facebook.com/WillitsNews

      Reply
      • “Big Government” is doing a bang up job saving lives and property, I would say.

        In any case, it’s pretty sick that private interests are using the blaze as a cover for looting public water supplies. Not a surprise, sadly, but still quite sick. Communities should not take these offenses lightly and should press all available charges against the thieves.

        Reply
      • wharf rat

         /  August 5, 2014

        Rat’s daughter said at least some of the water trucks in Willits were legit; they just hadn’t completed the paperwork.

        Reply
      • eleggua

         /  August 5, 2014

        Willits was figuring their water supply would run out earlier this year. Have to check and see how that’s worked out. They’re also running that 101 bypass through wetlands west of town, though not sure if that’s been shifted; was some good protest.

        Aha:
        http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/NR14-019.aspx
        ‘CDPH Approves $250,000 for Willits Water Supply ‘

        “They were applauded; everybody likes Big Government this week, especially when the sheriff said, “We won’t see your plants.””

        Yeah’ll, I’ll bet that was met with loud cheers.

        Reply
  11. eleggua

     /  August 4, 2014

    http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/31965727-75/hazy-lane-county-skies-caused-by-california-forest-fires.html.csp
    12:05 p.m., Aug. 4, 2014
    ‘Hazy Lane County skies caused by California forest fires’

    …But Svedlund said the overall outlook for the state’s air quality for the next several weeks is grim, given the large California fires, winds blowing from the south, the large number of forest fires in the state, and the continued possibility of thunderstorms over the next number of days sparking more fires.

    “Over the next six weeks we’re going to be in a tough situation,” he predicted.

    http://www.kval.com/news/local/Fires-SE-of-Oakridge-burning-in–269872311.html
    Aug 4, 2014 at 12:45 PM PDT

    …The skies over Eugene turned a hazy shade over the weekend thanks to the Oregon Gulch Fire in the Beaver Complex near Klamath Falls and other southwest Oregon and northern California fires.

    Reply
  12. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2014

    eleggua –
    The models said we would see giant fires , The deniers say it’s our fire policy for the last 110 years . The Russians has been on fire for years . It’s been burning to the ground for years. They never when out and fought any fire , because they never thought they had to. It was Siberia

    Now they fight fires like an Americans.

    Reply
  13. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2014

    RS double llnk in the spam trap.

    Reply
  14. Colorado Bob

     /  August 4, 2014

    New heat record sizzles and strikes Sweden
    Published: 04 Aug 2014 09:35 GMT 02:00
    Sunday’s balmy weather broke the heat record for August days in Sweden since 1992 – and more tropical temperatures, rain and thunder included, are on the way.
    The town of Haersnaes in Oestergoetland measured the mercury at 34C yesterday, marking the high for August weather since 1992. It was also the warmest August day ever recorded in Visby, Gotland, at 32.9C.
    But that doesn’t mean Swedes are still lounging in their swimsuits. The summer has turned hot, heavy and humid, with storms whipping the country.
    On Sunday night 47,901 lightning strikes were recorded – beating this year’s previous record of 45,000 by a long shot.
    “It’s the highest number of strikes we have seen since we started recording them in 2002,” Linnea Rehn, meteorologist at SMHI, told news agency TT. …

    http://www.thelocal.se/20140804/new-heat-record-sizzles-sweden

    Reply
  15. Colorado Bob

     /  August 5, 2014

    98. barbamz
    9:58 PM GMT on August 04, 2014
    New heat record sizzles and strikes Sweden

    Town faces evacuation amid huge forest fire

    Norway pounded by rain and hail

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/RickyRood/comment.html?entrynum=305#commenttop

    Reply
    • Ha! Ninja’d.

      Reply
    • Melt wedge in the ESS now. Rapid retreat on three sides. We’re back at the 2013 line or below in most monitors now. Area likely to break through tomorrow.

      The next week will be interesting. Huge heat pulse on the Siberian side.

      Reply
    • Bernard

       /  August 5, 2014

      Comment #84 by pcola57 in that thread:

      “Is anyone signing up for this Coursera course that starts August 11?

      Climate Change

      Offered by University of Melbourne:

      This course offers you an introduction to different disciplinary perspectives on Climate Change to help you think about how Climate Change affects you as an individual, as a member of your local community, as a citizen of your country and as a member of the global community. We have designed the presentations, discussions, activities and assessment tasks in this course to help you understand what Climate Change is and what you 2013 and we 2013 should do about it.”

      Link: https://www.coursera.org/course/climatechange

      Reply
  16. As long as it is cool over North America then the entire world is OK and not in any danger …. or so say the Paid Political Propagandists (I refuse to call them simply Deniers anymore and now identify them by what they truly are)

    If it is cooler than normal over North America (actually is closer to normal which after the last 20 years only seems cooler than normal) that means one thing, it’s warmer than normal somewhere else because you can’t magically make Heat Energy disappear. (Or any form of Energy for that matter)

    If the Paid Political Propagandists and their Sponsors/Employers have a way around this simple truth of physics and can make Energy disappear then they hold the key to Free Energy and we don’t need Fossil Fuels (or nuclear water boiling) any longer anyways

    Reply
    • The PPPs won’t let me be…

      I like that.

      And you’re absolutely right.

      The upshot of the wavy Jet is that it delivers more heat into the Arctic — exactly where we don’t want it.

      Arctic at +1.23 C in summertime yesterday is a bad result. But this winter you’ll probably see deviations of +4-7 C as the greenhouse effect kicks in over the long Arctic winter.

      Reply
  17. wili

     /  August 6, 2014

    Speaking of Arctic emergency:

    ‘We’re F’d’: Methane Plumes Seep From Frozen Ocean Floors’

    “The SWERUS-C3 expedition is really well equipped to detect the release of methane,” chief scientist Örjan Gustafsson wrote a week into his expedition.

    “For 72 hours now, we have been in the thick of extensive investigations of methane releases from the outer Laptev Sea system,” he wrote on July 20.

    According to Stokholm University, the discovery of these releases came as a bit of a surprise, not because the plumes were unexpected, but because of their concentration. An increased concentration of methane release, Gustafsson suspects, may be coming from collapsing “methane hydrates” – pockets of the gas that were once trapped in frozen water on the ocean floor.

    “It has recently been documented that a tongue of relatively warm Atlantic water, with a core at depths of 200-600 [meters] may have warmed up some in recent years,” Gustafsson explained. “As this Atlantic water, the last remnants of the Gulf Stream, propagates eastward along the upper slope of the East Siberian margin, our SWERUS-C3 program is hypothesizing that this heating may lead to destabilization of upper portion of the slope methane hydrates. This may be what we now for the first time are observing.”

    The researchers are quick to point out that they are just a few weeks into their work, and this is a very much speculation. However, the very fact that these plumes are there is worrying enough.

    http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/8401/20140805/fd-methane-plumes-seep-frozen-ocean-floors.htm

    Perhaps the whole SWERUS-C3 expedition might be worthy of a main post? (In all your free time ‘-))

    Reply
  18. The video Arctic Emergency: Scientists Speak that Robert included in his blog strongly presents the case that we are in a climate emergency. At the end they suggest dramatically reducing CO2 emissions.

    Let’s expand on that answer. If we ask what tends to increase CO2 emissions, it turns out that the operation of virtually the whole of mainstream society is involved. Key factors include industrial expansion driven by trade agreements and the perceived necessity of economic growth, inefficient industrial design, consumerism, and corporate control of governments. The changes needed to solve global warming are so comprehensive – and indeed so good hearted – that we may speak of whole system change to a life-sustaining society.

    I am with Be The Change Australia. In our view successfully turning things around is dependent upon inspiring thoughtful passionate mainstream commitment to the needed whole system changes. A big ask, for sure, but global warming is in our face.

    Therefore we are instigating a Great Transition initiative as a vehicle for individuals and groups around the world that care about this stuff to seed transformative ideas into mainstream culture. I would love it if those of you reading this thread would pick up on it. Go to http://www.greattransitioninitiative.net.

    Reply
  19. dizzysparkle

     /  August 7, 2014

    The only blog that I always read through all the comments of

    Reply
  20. wili

     /  August 9, 2014

    We seem to be in the midst of a “flash melt” or “poof” event for Arctic sea ice right now. See especially recent posts by Friv at neven’s forums. http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,778.msg33864.html#msg33864

    Reply
  1. Arctic Emergency: Top Scientists Explain How Ar...
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