Current Sea Level Rise is Faster Than at Any Time in Last 6,000 Years

Antarctica October 14

(NASA satellite shot of Antarctica on October 13 of 2014. Recent scientific papers point toward a vicious cycle of Antarctic glacial melt. Expanding sea ice results from increased cold, fresh water outflows from melting land-anchored glaciers spreading out along the ocean surface and protecting the floating ice. Meanwhile, rapidly warming waters concentrate in a layer beneath the ice to further accelerate melting of the giant glaciers’ bases. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

With fewer and fewer logical straws to grasp for plausibly denying an obvious and inexorable warming of the global climate system, climate change deniers have resorted to pointing toward an expanding veil of sea ice near Antarctica as ‘proof positive’ that global warming really isn’t happening.

But recent scientific papers reveal that what may well appear to be a soothing light at the end of an imaginary cooling tunnel is more a freight train of global heat aimed directly at the ice sheets’ weak underbellies. For the last time the cool, fresh waters of an initial Antarctic melt expanded out along the surface, likely temporarily enhancing the range of sea ice as well, below-surface warmth ran beneath the ice and rapidly melted sea-fronting glaciers, leading to a sea level rise of about 14 feet in just one century.

In essence, the expanding skein of ice and fresh water concentrated warmth where it was needed least — at the bases of massive glaciers submerged in hundreds of feet of warming water. The heat melted the glacier from the bottom up, floated the glaciers and then flooding further inland beneath the ice to do still more damage.

And it is the start of just this process that we are witnessing now. How fast it proceeds will be critical to the rate of sea level rise going forward.

As for all that extra sea ice? Well, that’s merely the last gasp of coolness running along the surface waters — sent out by the dying glaciers.

Current Sea Level Rise Unprecedented in 6,000 Years

Past and future sea level rise WG 1 AR 5

(Past and future sea level rise as shown in this IPCC AR5 WG1 graphic. Note the steady rate of sea level increase beginning at around 1880 and continuing on through the 21st Century. Also note the recent uptick in observed sea level rise together with end 21st Century projections by the IPCC. It is also worth noting that many still consider the IPCC projections to be a bit too conservative, especially when considering business as usual projections of 3-5 C or greater warming by the end of this century. Image source: IPCC.)

It is likely that we are just in the first stages of such a catastrophic process of ice sheet decline. A process that will last for centuries, but one that is already having a profound impact on the world’s oceans and coastlines.

For a new study, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found that sea level rise over the past century is the fastest it has been since the end of the last ice age — when vast surges of water erupted from the melting glaciers.

The study, which compiled over 1,000 measurements of sea level over the past 35,000 years from sediment samples, found that at no time during the most stable period of the Holocene have seas ever risen so fast as they are now rising. This 6,000 year period saw no increase or decrease in sea level exceeding 15-20 centimeters over 200 year time-frames. But during the 100 years from 1900 to 2000, seas rose by 20 centimeters, more than doubling highest rates of variance during the last 6,000 years.

Increasing Heat Melts Glaciers, Swells Seas

The increases to sea level are a result of added ocean and atmospheric heat. A warming pushed ever-higher by a rapidly expanding heat-trapping gas emission.

Such direct heating of the ocean causes water to thermally expand. The added atmospheric and ocean heat also goes to work melting glaciers at the surface and where the glaciers contact the warming seas. These glaciers, in turn, add great volumes of water to the world’s oceans. The upshot of a 0.6 degree Celsius warming of the atmosphere and near surface world ocean during the 20th Century.

But both this heating and melt were just the start. For the atmospheric warming hit 0.8 C by the early second decade of the 21st Century even as top 700 meter ocean heat content spiked to unexpectedly high levels. Meanwhile, forecast rates for rising seas and temperatures are even more extreme for the coming years and decades.

Sediment plumes from Greenland Sep 2014

(Tell-tale 100 km long plumes of sediment carried out from beneath Greenland’s glaciers by floods of melt water as seen in this NASA satellite shot from September of 2014. Surface melt from Greenland tunnels through the ice sheet base. Once there, it flows from beneath the ice sheet and out into the oceans — carrying with it loads of sediment flushed from beneath the glacier. Melt from both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets has greatly increased during recent years. Image source: Earth Observatory.)

Current Rate of Sea Level Rise More than 60% Faster Than 20th Century Mean

If the average rate of sea level rise was 2 mm per year during the 20th Century, the past two decades have witnessed a more than 60% rate of increase over even that unprecedented rate. For current sea level rise measures show a 3.27 mm per year increase.

Most scientists expect an ever more extreme rate of atmospheric warming over the 21st Century to ramp this already rapid rate higher — with annual increases likely to exceed 1 cm before 2100 arrives. Such rates would push end 21st Century sea level rise well into the end ice age range of 1.2 meters every 100 years — with chances for even greater rates of increase going forward.

The IPCC has identified a likely sea level rise in the range of 2-3 feet by the end of this Century (60-100 cm), with many outside analysts identifying a range between 2-9 feet (60-300 cm) as possible given the potential for 3-5 C warming under business as usual fossil fuel emissions (Researchers at the Neils Bohr Institute recently established a range from 2-6 feet but note that sea level rises of 80 cm [2.5 feet] are most likely this century and increases of greater than 6 feet have a probability of less than 5% through 2100).

Sea level rise 1993 to 2014

(Current rate of sea level rise as measured by AVISO. Note the 3.27 mm per year rise that has been ongoing since 1992 with an increasing flux beginning around 2010. Image source: AVISO.)

For context, current global CO2e atmospheric heat forcing is in the range of 481 ppm CO2e. The last time CO2 equivalent heat forcing hit such levels, millions of years ago, oceans were 75-120 feet higher and temperatures were about 3.6 C warmer than they are today.

It is also worth noting that it took 10,000 years for the Earth to warm by about 5 C at the end of the last ice age. Current and expected human greenhouse gas emissions (without a rapid transition to renewable energy sources and zero carbon civilizations) could well achieve a similar level of warming in just 180 to 270 years (1880 to 2150) — a pace more than 30 times faster than what was witnessed then.


Sea Level and Global Ice Volumes From Last Glacial Maximum to the Holocene

New Study Finds 3-4 Meter Sea Level Rise May Be Imminent

It’s Worse Than We Thought — New Study Finds Earth is Warming Far Faster than Expected


Earth Observatory


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  1. Rising sea levels of 1.8 meters in worst-case scenario

    “We have created a picture of the propable limits for how much global sea levels will rise in this century. Our calculations show that the seas will likely rise around 80 cm. An increase of more than 180 cm has a likelihood of less than 5 percent. We find that a rise in sea levels of more than 2 meters is improbable,” Aslak Grinsted, but points that the results only concern this century and the sea levels will continue to rise for centuries to come.

    • Saw this, TDG.

    • wili

       /  October 14, 2014

      From the PNAS paper by Lambeck et alia that you link, in the abstract: “from ∼16.5 ka BP to ∼8.2 ka BP at an average rate of rise of 12 m⋅ka−1 punctuated by periods of greater, particularly at 14.5–14.0 ka BP at ≥40 mm⋅y−1 (MWP-1A)”

      As I mentioned before, doesn’t that come to _over four meters_ per century?

      Why are some still talking about 1.8 meters being an upper limit if there is precedent for a rate more than twice that high when warming was (as you point out) much more gradual than the current rate?

      Is it just that it seems unlikely to ramp up to such melt rates by the end of this century since we’re just at the early stages of what will be a centuries- to millennia-long process?


      Robert, at the end of your (as usual, excellent) article, you say that 5 degrees C “could well achieve a similar level of warming in just 180 to 270 years (1880 to 2150)”

      So do you mean we could reach 5 C by (1880 + 180 =) 2060?

      If so, who is making this prediction at this point (just so I can reference it to others)?

      Sorry for all the pesky questions, and thanks ahead of time for any illumination (and of course for another great post).

      • Only the most extreme warming scenarios show 5 C by 2060. I provide the range to include the outliers as boundaries. For example, the strongest plausible warming scenarios I’ve seen show a potential for 9 C warming by 2100. IPCC still puts the range at 3-5 C.

        The strongest rates of glacial outflow in the observed record achieved 4 meters per century. Part of the reason current sea level rise predictions are well below that measure, despite a rapid warming, is that it takes some time for the glaciers to build ocean ward speed and due to the fact that we have somewhat less ice to melt than before.

        However, those unprecedented rates of temperature increase could prove an extraordinary blow to these glaciers and predicted rates of SLR now could well seem a bit conservative by later this Century. We do, after all, have about 250 feet of SLR left in the world’s ice. My opinion is still that the range is 3-9 feet. So I’m among the less conservative analysts, but I have seen some scientists put the range as high as 16 feet this century.

        If we hit 5 C this century, we are at the very least probably looking at an extraordinary rate of sea level rise for the 22nd Century.

      • wili

         /  October 14, 2014

        ” the strongest plausible warming scenarios I’ve seen show a potential for 9 C warming by 2100″

        Wow! Whose scenario is that, if I may ask?

        The need for time to build up speed makes sense to me. The less-ice-to-melt thing makes sense too, but more for explaining why we shouldn’t expect that high a rate to last over many centuries than for why it shouldn’t happen in any one century. The discussions between sidd and ASLR over at neven’s Arctic sea ice forum are quite informative on these topics, I find.

        But here’s one factor that wouldn’t have been a major forcing in earlier melt events, though I’m not sure how large a part it would ever play relative to larger forcings of direct heating:

        • Worst case 4.5 C ECS scenario RCP 8.5:

          The scenario provides the average of the model runs. So, yeah, we have some ranging as high as 9 in the absolute worst case.

          My opinion is that ECS is about 3 C and ESS 6 C. So my own worst case is in the range of 6 C.

        • I think we’re probably at least outside the usual context a bit. Methane response may be stronger/faster than expected, initial ramping of SLR is probably worse. And then you have these chemical changes to consider.

          Even with the IPCC base case for BAU, though, it all looks very tough to manage. And we don’t even get into ocean changes with that assessment.

      • wili

         /  October 15, 2014

        OK, rs, thanks…I guess.

        I teach young women. What do you suggest I tell them about their futures and their childrens’ futures? I’m really at a loss, here.

        • I would tell them that we have a very narrow window for action. But that if we work together and act by responsibly removing fossil fuel and carbon based emissions. By replacing fossil fuels with renewables. And by forging carbon negative economies. That we can make it through.

      • I’d teach those young women they don’t need the latest iPhone, and understand that the behaviour of wanting it is part of the problem too. Teach them to make stuff last and to reduce their dreams of jetsetting all around the world as well as filling the days with endless driving treks to “make a full life”. Tell them to run to the gym and not drive there. Tell them to save energy whenever possible. Tell them to acknowledge that our high energy lifestyles is what formed industrial civilization, as well as supporting it with new ways to waste energy because its “good for business”.

      • wili

         /  October 15, 2014

        Thanks, rs and JCL. Those are pretty much what I try to get across. They take footprint quizzes that point out how they could reduce their personal impact, and they construct and attempt to implement projects on campus (and sometimes off) that could reduce our institution’s carbon footprint.

        I’m always a bit shy about introducing the scariest sides of the science, though. And of course I do sometimes get a few ‘but God wouldn’t let that happen’ responses. Any further suggestions from any sides would be most welcome, though.

        • I tend to present the scarier science as a way to show why action is absolutely necessary, and why strong action is needed now. The more active the political movement, the less effective those opposing comprehensive action become. So I would encourage them to join political movements like and to push for the campus to divest any and all investment capital from fossil fuels.

          In addition, students can play a very strong role in the community. Some examples are campaigns to put solar panels on schools and libraries (fundraisers to do just that), community lobbying efforts at banks asking for loan programs for solar panels similar to those available for automobiles, helping retirement homes and communities plant gardens, lobbying for bike lanes on community roads, working to prevent development on vacant land and farmland, promoting vegetarianism and veganism (having vegan dinners for the community), working to reclaim abandoned developed zones (abandoned strip malls etc) and, yes, protesting the local coal or natural gas power plant.

          Any combination of efforts that encourage renewable energy development and adoption, jettison fossil fuel use, reduce consumption of materials and energy while improving health and well being, foster community and individual resiliency and independence from centralized food, material and energy sources, and look to preserve or restore natural environments are positive actions. Pushing existing financial and governing bodies to take these actions is an extraordinarily positive and worthwhile effort — certainly ones that students are uniquely suited to engage in.

          In the end, we are responsible for their future. And if students ask for and demand change, they have a very powerful voice. As a teacher, you can encourage them and encourage other teachers to do the same.

  2. Raymond DeBrane

     /  October 14, 2014

    Add to this mess that the IPCC’s predictions do not include massive releases of methane from the Arctic and Siberia. So expect things to get much worse much sooner.

  3. Great post Robert.
    Liked your easy to understand explanation of “extra” sea ice, “Well, that’s merely the last gasp of coolness running along the surface waters — sent out by the dying glaciers.”

  4. I discuss the long history of rapid sea level rises in this week’s Radio Ecoshock show with Eelco Rohling is a Professor of Ocean and Climate Change at the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton, in Australia. There have been cases of 5 meters (over 16 feet) of sea level rise in a single century. But that was when there was twice as much ice over the Earth, including massive glaciers over North America.

    Blonder thinks the current melt looks like about 120 earlier such deglaciations. The average was about 1.5 meters per century (still horrible). This melting and sea level rise peaks at about 400 years, and continues for centuries thereafter.

    Our descendents will no longer talk about “sea level” as any constant used in maps. It will always be relative, and always be rising.

    This Radio Ecoshock program, with 3 scientists on cutting edge papers, is available now here:
    [audio src="" /]

    Rohling the co-author of the paper ” “Sea-level variability over five glacial cycles.” That was just published in the journal Nature Communications.

    • Thanks for posting, Alex. Look forward to listening.

    • I think Robert touched in a comment above on an important factor when looking retrospectively at previous melt reconstructions – there is much less ice today then when Earth comes out of an ice age. This will naturally limit the rate of melt somewhat, although forcing today is of course rising at a speed insanely higher than the natural one too. Still even 1 meter sea level rise is disaster for a lot of the planets inhabitants.

      I sort of joke about this with people today whenever they discuss a new tram-rail here in Bergen, if its going in front of “Bryggen” (a well known old Hanseatic part of the city) or in a tunnel. That it probably doesnt matter as in 2100 they will both be inundated in sea water unless we build a serious sea wall. I sometimes get strange looks ofc. 🙂

  5. I should add that in my opinion, this abnormally fast and forced climate change may move outside the bounds of any previous deglaciation. It’s a grand experiment. We may experience sea level rise well beyond 1.5 meters this century, and beyond any previous rate on the planet. Who knows?

    • 5 C warming of a still glaciated planet within two centuries (1880-2100) is extraordinarily fast. Most rapid warming spikes over shirt periods occurred when there were no glaciers. So we are truly in uncharted territory.

  6. Robert, I’d still like to arrange your return appearance on Radio Ecoshock. Can you drop me an email? I had a computer crash and lost your address.

  7. Changes in ocean levels presage changes in coastal currents and therefore have an impact on shoreline erosion. Is modeling of this type of effect being done anywhere, particularly as regards the vulnerable east coast of the US?

    • Great question. There does appear to be some work on the issue:

      Haven’t seen too much recently.

      One interesting point is that slowing of the Gulf Stream, also due to climate change, has resulted in more water piling up along the East Coast. The reason for this is that the northward flow of the Gulf Stream generates a suction that draws water away from the coast. But as the Gulf Stream slows due to more freshwater outflows from Greenland, the water backs up along the East Coast. It’s one reason why the US East Coast is among the first places to see impacts from climate related sea level rise.

  8. Jay M

     /  October 15, 2014

    Sea level rise seems to be the universal problem, since most highly productive civilizations are on the littoral. Floating freight is simply cheaper, and creates a central point for exploitation of resources. Abrupt release of melting, which is possible vis a vis Agassize, could inundate large regions. Where I live the seashore was a ways out when there was more frozen water and the coastline reflected a lower level of water in the ocean.

    • Human beings have always gravitated toward the coasts. These is a wealth in these littorals that we are in the process of losing.

      There are so many reasons why a future that includes fossil fuel burning is a future of economic collapse and radical contraction. But the loss of the stable coastlines we have known for so long is a huge blow.

      We are losing this stability now. And there will probably be at least some impacts due to what we’ve already locked in. But if we keep burning fossil fuels and emitting carbon, we lock in centuries of the worst kind of damage to our coastal civilizations.

    • Where are you located, Jay?

      • Jay M

         /  October 16, 2014

        SF Bay Region. It seems obvious that there were people living out on the considerable territory that was inundated prior to the holocene–there had to have been a retreat or “catastrophe” during an Agassize type water eruption into the world ocean system. Everybody thinks we live in interesting times.

    • Reports from the Marshall Islands show impact sea level rise there is having already

      • To hit 1.5 this century, we need to go strongly carbon negative by mid century and zero carbon as soon as possible.

        This is the kind of action we should all be pushing for.

      • Thirty men and women from 13 Pacific islands have set sail towards Australia in traditional canoes that they made themselves.

        On Friday, they will paddle into the harbour of Newcastle, the world’s biggest port, to stop coal exports for a day. The port ships around 560,000 tonnes of coal every day, and if it were a country would be the 9th highest emitter.

        The islanders, which are part of the green group, will then travel across Australia to tell the story of their sinking homelands.

        Every islander family should choose a member to do this. Blockading coal shipments is something that is absolutely necessary in this day.

  9. Reblogged this on GarryRogers Nature Conservation and commented:
    Clearly, we are changing Earth’s climate at an unprecedented rate. It’s hard to predict how this will change human society. The possibilities are discussed in the next post from xraymike79. Important reading.

  10. Big ‘ol low between Labrador and Ireland. The 96 hr prediction shows it being pretty sticky.

  11. Spike

     /  October 15, 2014

    Big storm affects SE Australia

    Lisbon Portugal also flooded in places – wonder if that huge mid Atlantic storm will track towards Iberia, or more northerly towards France and UK.

  12. Colorado Bob

     /  October 15, 2014

    Speaking of Big ‘ol lows –
    ‘Once every 100 years’: what made the Sydney storm so ferocious

    Read more:

  13. Colorado Bob

     /  October 15, 2014

    NASA study finds 1934 had worst North American drought of last thousand years

    Two sets of conditions led to the severity and extent of the 1934 drought. First, a high-pressure system in winter sat over the west coast of the United States and turned away wet weather — a pattern similar to that which occurred in the winter of 2013-14. Second, the spring of 1934 saw dust storms, caused by poor land management practices, suppress rainfall.

    “In combination then, these two different phenomena managed to bring almost the entire nation into a drought at that time,” said co-author Richard Seager, professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in New York. “The fact that it was the worst of the millennium was probably in part because of the human role.”

    • Humans absolutely played a role. The Brazil drought is another example. Clear cutting of the Amazon combined with human-spurred warming is taking down that forest and removing the water resources from South and Central America.

  14. Gerald Spezio

     /  October 15, 2014

    Go to Arctic news immediately;

    from Semelitov & Shakhova’s letter to the Royal Society;

    To date, we are the only scientists to have long-term observational data on methane in the ESAS. Despite peculiarities in regulation that limit access of foreign scientists to the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone, where the ESAS is located, over the years we have welcomed scientists from Sweden, the USA, The Netherlands, the UK, and other countries to work alongside us. A large international expedition performed in 2008 (ISSS-2008) was recognized as the best biogeochemical study of the IPY (2007-2008). The knowledge and experience we accumulated throughout these years of work laid the basis for an extensive Russian-Swedish expedition onboard I/B ODEN (SWERUS-3) that allowed more than 80 scientists from all over the world to collect more data from this unique area. The expedition was successfully concluded just a few days ago.”

    “To our dismay, we were not invited to present our data at the Royal Society meeting. Furthermore, this week we discovered, via a twitter Storify summary (circulated by Dr. Brandon), that Dr. G. Schmidt was instead invited to discuss the methane issue and explicitly attacked our work using the model of another scholar, whose modelling effort is based on theoretical, untested assumptions having nothing to do with observations in the ESAS. While Dr. Schmidt has expertise in climate modelling, he is an expert neither on methane, nor on this region of the Arctic. Both scientists therefore have no observational knowledge on methane and associated processes in this area. Let us recall that your motto “Nullus in verba” was chosen by the founders of the Royal Society to express their resistance to the domination of authority; the principle so expressed requires all claims to be supported by facts that have been established by experiment. In our opinion, not only the words but also the actions of the organizers deliberately betrayed the principles of the Royal Society as expressed by the words “Nullus in verba.”

    • I’ve been waiting for this…

      S&S did not deserve this treatment. And ignoring the observational science at such a critical time is the height of recklessness.

      • Apneaman

         /  October 15, 2014

        Shameless careerism and professional jealousy with billions of peoples lives on the line. Typical of leadership in the 21st century. Personally, I will never trust anything that man says again.

  15. Gerald Spezio

     /  October 15, 2014

    When the SWERUS expedition of 2014 did NOT publish any quantified statements about ESAS plumes & methane release, I was flabbergasted.
    SWERUS did state that they observed “vast methane plumes.”
    SWERUS was NOT a literary expedition looking for metaphors & similes.
    I screamed red flags in the porridge.
    Our lives are in the balance.

    WE already had Semiletov’s 2011 blockbuster observations of monstrous methane plumes that were one km in diameter.
    Moreover, his observations were empirical confirmation of earlier predictions by both himself & Shakhova.
    Eighteen months later in 2013 as more confirmation of the methane clathrate thesis, CARVE researchers published their observations of methane plumes that were 150 km in diameter.

    I unabashedly accuse the Royal Society of allowing political expediency to trump hard won life or death empirical scientific data.
    I have listened to Gavin Schmidt for many years.
    I have concluded that he is a despicable careerist & the antithesis of an objective scientist.
    I will go to my death with complete respect for Igor Semiletov & Natalia Shakhova.
    When the very best scientists are NOT allowed to speak, we had better realize what we are up against.

  16. Gerald Spezio

     /  October 15, 2014

    It is highly probable that S. & S. have RECENT powerful quantified data from the SWERUS expedition announcing our upcoming near term extinction – just as long suffering Guy McPherson has tried to tell us based on unequivocal earlier data.

    “Yabut, if the proles find out they are screwed & good, they won’t pay their bills,” Henry Pauson exclaims to his fellow well healed banksters.

    • OK Gerald. We’ve heard your concerns.

      Let’s keep calm until we can find out what’s actually happening. S&S were excluded. SWERUS is practically silent on methane right now. And the web appears to have taken down most of the S&S links. Go ahead and try a Google news search on Semiletov… You get nothing.

      So it appears we may be in the process of going dark on Arctic methane — not a good sign. That said, let’s see how many dots we can connect before completely jumping off the deep end.

  17. Gerald Spezio

     /  October 15, 2014

    The two most respected credentialed scientists with an exemplary track record of 12 years of carefully gathered empirical data, including demonstrated predictive power, are excluded from the highest level scientific forum on the planet is earth shattering – literally.
    Who is jumping off the deep end here?
    “We may be in the process in the process of going dark on Arctic methane,” is no small darkness.
    The factual data about Arctic methane release available from S & S is clearly being suppressed.

    • I think what’s happening is that the modelers are defending their models. They’re backed into a corner and they’re using clout to suppress science that is in opposition to their views. So, yes, it’s a big deal. But we can keep a level head about it.

      • Apneaman

         /  October 15, 2014

        If that is the case then the modelers have some heavy duty clout just for a professional dispute. If it was a scientific beef over dinosaur bones, what are the chances of the same clout being exercised? I suspect there is more too it, but I shall wait calmly Captain.

        • When climate change was remote, modeling was the only way to track it. Now climate change is real and in your face. Observation can track too, now. And the observation is starting to challenge some of the model based science. When the established science is based on two generations of work by modelers that can cause a bit of an upheaval. And that’s probably what we are seeing now.

      • Colorado Bob

         /  October 15, 2014

        I remember a complaint years ago the modelers got too much money, but I’m glad they did. Just because they have pushed the science. so much.

        Now the real world number takers need to have money as well . Because the model makers will sharpen their forecasts.

        And one more thing about models , every airplane in the world is designed as model in a computer. So if one thinks models are bogus, don’t get on an airplane.

        • The models are built based on observed physical laws. That’s why they work with airplanes. The physical system in which it’s build is enclosed and well understood.

          The modelers were broadly and consistently right about climate change. They had good science to base their models upon.

          With the Arctic as with other climate subsystems, there’s a bit that is not understood at the micro level and so there are things in the ebb and flow that the modelers can miss. As with both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. As for methane release. Well, I think that’s more like trying to model a volcano.

          An airplane is a far less complex machine than a climate system. But, perhaps, we should consider not flying in any case for other reasons entirely related to climate 😉

    • OT:

      We did not have the complete loss of sea ice some expected at the end of this summer 😉 So though things are bad, they may not be as bad as some seem to think.

      In any case, if we play the victim, then we will be the victim. In my experience, it helps to take the high ground and to not act irrationally at every sleight. Better to just keep a steady hand on the tiller and continue to sail on.

  18. Colorado Bob

     /  October 15, 2014

    Gerald Spezio

    Clearly Paul Nurse is place to put pressure , I wait your petition drive to him. I’ll even help you seed on the web. I too what to hear what the Oden found this summer.

    • Colorado Bob

       /  October 15, 2014

      I have always written “what” when I wanted to write “want”. It drives me crazy.

    • I’m interested. I’ve even sent a few emails RE Oden. Nothing back as yet…

      • Colorado Bob

         /  October 15, 2014

        Another thing, they sailed to Barrow, and the press was it covering , they changed crews on the return trip not a word.

        And you are right , I have Igor Semiletov, on my google feed. he never pops up.

        It is gold rush world up there, now. That breeds secrets . Science dies when secrets rise.

  19. Ann

     /  October 15, 2014

    Robert, this may be the wrong place to ask this question, but I’ll do it anyway. I watch the Greenland Surface Melting graphs every day:

    It is now October 15th and we still see above freezing temperatures in some parts of Greenland. The graph to the right shows the percentage melt is outside of the 2 standard deviation grey shaded area, and has been for two weeks. What is curious to me is that some of the melting is happening in the extreme northeast of Greenland. This area should be extremely cold, but the Cumulative Melt Day graph shows that this area has had more than 100 melt days this year. What could be causing such warm temperatures there?

    • It’s probable that some of these data are artifacts at this time. A couple of weeks ago, temperatures in the north were warm enough to support melt in some areas. Now, we have temps in the northeast at -20 C. So either the melt is from residual heat in the ice or there’s an artifact in the NSIDC data. This has happened before during winter time — a set which NSIDC corrected.

      I’ll see if I can contact them to get comment.

    • Colorado Bob

       /  October 15, 2014

      Ann –

      4 years ago :
      Narsarsuaq, Greenland at 9:50 PM WGT / 12-29-2010

      50F degrees east wind at 24 mph. This is today’s high so far , the temp went up 9F since noon. Max wind today was 54 mph.

      This current reading is 22F above average max temp., and sets a new daily record by 6F. Beating 44F set way back in 2002.

      The average min temp is 14F, since this reading is at 10 o’clock at night , this measurement is 36F above that average.

      Narsarsuaq started this streak on Nov. 19th they set the new daily record of 42F . Then they set new high records for 4 days, peaking with one of 57F.
      Add in another 11 new high records since, and this station in Greenland has set 16 new daily high temp. records in 60 days.

      A 6 week heat wave in Greenland in the dark, in the darkest portion of winter.

      Since I began this post the temperature has gone up another 2F degrees. It’s 52F there now.

    • Ann —

      For reference to Colorado Bob’s post Narsarsuaq is on the extreme southern tip of Greenland. The temp reading I have for it at 8 PM is 43 F.

      Overall, there is probably enough heat for some residual melting. But the NE melt which is showing up on the NSIDC map is not due to atmospheric heat as we have -22 C in that region currently.

    • And, overall, Greenland today is not quite as above normal as it has been over the past couple of weeks.

    • Globe still hot, though. And, man look at that Laptev!

  20. Ann

     /  October 15, 2014

    Thx. Now back to methane:

    SWERUS C-3: Second Methane Release Saturates East Siberian Sea to 3188 ppb

    dated September 21, 2014.

  21. Colorado Bob

     /  October 15, 2014

    This is great video from Greenland , and explains much of our modern world, only the very rich see this :

    VLJ Embraer Phenom 100 Landing at Narsarsuaq Airport in Greenland (BGBW)

    And it’s 4 years old.

  22. What is the relationship between equilibrium sea level rise and the mass of CO2 emitted?

    • According to paleoclimate, 550 to 600 ppm CO2e is enough to melt all the permanent ice in the global climate system.

      So in answer to what I think is your question any emission of carbon that is beyond the ability of Earth’s carbon sinks to capture will result in sea level rise over time until all the ice melts or until the excess carbon emission halts.

      Beyond the 550 to 600 ppm CO2e forcing, we still have a thermal expansion to contend with. So SLR continues, albeit at a much slower pace with added CO2e heat forcing and related warming.

        • Joni —

          This is a general comment and not directed at you.

          I’ve recently had a few climate change confusers attempting to post misinformation showing sea level rise is decelerating. As we can see from the above paper and data this is frankly a ludicrous claim.

          The misinformation appears to be coming from an intentional misrepresentation of tidal gauge measures combined with the ridiculous claim that AVISO satellite based measures of sea level rise are somehow invalid.

          To this point, I will add a measure of global tidal gauge SLR acceleration since 1880:

 (note the upward sloping curve)

          (Aggregate rate of increase — note that the increase rate now is even higher at +3.2~ mm per year in the aggregate tidal gauge measurements)

          A general warning — anyone claiming that sea level rise is slowing or flat is manipulating the information, cherry picking the information, or outright lying. Individual tidal gauges show large variance due to local conditions (land rise or subsistence, current change, loss or deposition of wetlands at a river delta etc.). As such, it is relatively easy to pick from a handful of the slowest rate tidal gauges or from tidal gauges where local conditions have resulted in a slower sea level rise.

          But the science on the issue is very clear. The seas are rising in aggregate and the rate of aggregate rise is accelerating. Anyone saying anything different is a fool or wants you to be a fool.

  23. Colorado Bob

     /  October 15, 2014

    Last year when then the Russian floods happened , you had 17 or 18 comments.

    Keep up the good work .

    • 🙂 you’ve been a huge help here, my friend. I promise to keep doing my best for you guys.

    • I see Guy McPherson calling me conservative. This makes me want to smile. I must be very optimistic if all that I report convinces Guy that NTHE is inevitable so soon and I can still keep on calling for action and pointing toward a way out.

      But I do agree with a Guy in this instance — 2050 looks terrible by any reasonable standard under BAU.

      • Mark from New England

         /  October 16, 2014

        And that is not that long from now!

        ‘Soylent Green – it’s what’s for dinner in 2080’

        • Raymond Debrane

           /  October 16, 2014

          Guy is a brilliant guy, I think he’s right about nthe, and about that there is no politically viable solution to climate change.

        • There are clearly solutions. Whether we will take them up is another matter entirely.

        • Raymond DeBrane

           /  October 16, 2014

          I don’t think the US government is going to take up solutions because the Republicans and some Democrats in Congress (as seen on the net) who have been co-opted by oil and coal billionaires (Koch Brothers) who pay them to deny the climate problem and block legislation and also threaten them with the ruination of their careers if they step out of line. The Australian government seems to have been co-optsed by the large coal industry in Australia. So there’s not much hope there either.

        • If the governments won’t change, then the next route is active, broad-scale revolution.

        • Raymond DeBrane

           /  October 16, 2014

          Revolution? I have to laugh. Back in the Revolutionary War, the British and the colonists had similar weaponry. Not so now. The government/military has enough firepower to put a revolution down in a day, or hours. And the police are becoming more militarized, (which some people object to, but I don’t because they often in the past have faced criminals with assault weapons). So good luck with your revolution. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, if you communicate with anyone to organize a revolution, by email, cell phone, smoke signal etc, you’ll end up in prison, and under the Patriot Act, you will be railroaded in a Kangaroo court and imprisoned for life or even disappeared to an offshore goolag.

        • And good luck to you with your cynicism.

          Some are trying to change things for the better. Others join an entirely non productive peanut gallery that represents little more than suicide pact therapy. Which will you be?

        • In any case, Raymond. We have organization and we are getting stronger. Global organization, I might add.

          I prefer that to apathy that serves nothing but a deadly status quo any day of the week.

        • Raymond Debrane

           /  October 16, 2014

          Do you have big money? The oil and coal industry does. It takes lots of money to bribe politicians. That’s what you’ll have to do if you are to have a chance to fix things.

        • What does money do? Buy votes. If you can’t buy the votes, then what good is money?

          All I see are excuses and excuses. Do something to help or get out of the way.

        • Raymond Debrane

           /  October 16, 2014

          I am trying to help. Big money will help fund decent independent candidate’scampaighns. I suggest you start raising money and when you get enough, at least get one good guy in office and keep giving him money during his time in office to make sure he has enough so he won’t need to take Money from the special interests.

        • OK, fair enough.

        • But I still see this line of thinking as entirely too cynical.

        • Raymond Debrane

           /  October 17, 2014

          Can you blame me for being cynical when the oil and coal industry has a lot of paid off puppets in the US and Australia and China is building more coal plants, third world countries are burning more fossil fuels? add to that Guy McPherson’s conclusion that we waited too long I believe is correct. Eve. Mainstream climate scientist say there is a 40 year lag in emissions and their effect on the climate. James Hanson, I believe is the guy who said it might be as low as 25 years. Either way, it don’t look good based on what’s now happening in the arctic and also dangerous record temps in Australia. It’s their summer season coming up. I keep an eye on what’s happening there. The news gets worse ever year.

        • There are certainly reasons for cynicism. And there are many who encourage it. It is still decidedly unhelpful.

          If we look back it is not difficult to find times in the lash that we’re similarly desperate, when people had even less influence than we exercise today. So though the situation is quite difficult, it is not entirely hopeless.

        • Raymond Debrane

           /  October 17, 2014

          It takes big money to fight the fossil fuel interests. Do you have any ideas on how to raise that kind of money? I’ve been thinking about starting a website called or .com whichever would be more effective. What do you think of that?

        • There are other ways to influence Congress and fight big oil. Blockading pipelines and coal shipments is certainly one way.

        • If we think about Australia — the primary reason for the current government coming to power was a very real threat to fossil fuel interests. That threat is alive and continues to make gains despite best efforts of these very wealthy and influential groups. There is certainly a battle though. And this makes the outcome in doubt. But being a battle, one can choose to participate, or not.

        • Du not underestimate the power of not buying from polluting industries and backing away from climate denier businesses. When there is a critical shift in peoples opinion about something they will shy away from anyone who relate themselves to planet-wrecking ventures – and hence a silent “revolution” and change in mindset. I still have hope as we can clearly see all kinds of signs that people recognize and is willing to take action if the costs aren’t too high. When people see benefits of return on investment on e.g. renewables in 10-15 years it really becomes a no-brainer for many with some capital. Furthermore the signs of the fossil fuel era coming to an end is getting clearer by the day (at least here in Norway, its widely discussed now, especially as Statoil is laying of people in the thousands). People do not want to be taken by surprise by a collapse in trade and economy because of lack of energy to do even vital things, so there will be a “revolution” in retrospect although it seems to drag out longer than we would have hoped.

          Very likely the temperature will go past the +2C “goal”, but questions still remain if we will be able to reverse the CO2 emissions by then. It’s a gamble for sure especially how long we have dragged this now, but I am sure there is more change around the corner as we speak.

        • Raymond Debrane

           /  October 17, 2014

          It’s interesting chatting with someone from another country. In in the US. I’m ashamed of my country for letting a corpora are takeover of our government, which was at one time the nation the world look to for leadership that was ethical but no longer.
          Reducing CO2. As Guy McPerson pointed out, it’s there to stay for thousands of years. And if we go green everything, sulfate swill fall from the sky and within days, the average global temp willl increase by 1.1C, bringing us to over 2C. Oh now that’s bad, especially with temp lagging emissions by 40 years. And then the methane monster really kicks in. If humans manage to survive in military bunkers, what a tragic history they will write about our foolishness.
          Here’s another helpful siuggestion, boycott advertisers of US conservative radio networks. Then buy time on those networks that tell the truth about the climate crisis, half the people in the US have been brainwashed and made very hostile to people who tell climate truth. It’s all capitalist propaganda, and to think we used to fear communist propaganda. Now we have capitalist propaganda and capitalist infiltration everywhere. Google Kich brothers amazing climate denial machine.

        • For methane…

          The Arctic scientists most concerned with observation show a contribution from the Arctic carbon store equal to 10% of the human emission if we have rapid mitigation and reduction of human emissions. This is manageable only if humans can achieve a net negative carbon emission long term. Under BAU, the Arctic carbon contribution, according to these scientists is in the range of 35 percent + of the human emission. Under no currently conceivable circumstance is this manageable without massive geo engineering of a scale perhaps dreamed of in science fiction. And without some coordinated government action, which the ideologues block at every opportunity, there’s not much chance of that.

          All that said, the very rapid methane release scenario is a lower risk, even if the outcomes are far worse. So we shouldn’t ignore it. But it’s very tough to build a string scientific case showing that it is inevitable now.

        • Raymond Debrane

           /  October 17, 2014

          No strong scientific case? The hand writing is on the wall.
          Warm sea water melting the ice and releasing methane, the methane causing a greenhouse effect melting more ice, the subs heat absorbed by the ocean where there used to be ice, an ice free arctic for a month or two coming up a few years away, ice free arctic belching out more methane, continued emissions rise Fromm fossil fuels, more warming from the 40 year emiisions last, 30 some self reinforcing feed backs in play. Geez! A blind man could see what’s going to happen and how dire the situation is and how short a time we have before life on Earth is threatened with nthe. Google scientist Jason Box. He used the F word about methane when he heard the bad news from the latest arctic expedition by two Russian scientists.

        • I’m well aware of the risk and the various forces involved, Raymond. And yes, I’m aware of Jason Box, too, Raymond. Part of the reason Jason used the ‘F’ word was due to work over at Arctic News. Sam, the writer there, regularly posts my work to his facebook page. And, Jason, you should realize, is pushing for a rapid response by swiftly reducing and eliminating fossil fuel use. Jason does not endorse a ‘give up because the end of the world is coming now’ stance. And Sam endorses a very swift reduction of ghg emissions by 2020.

          I can agree with Sam to many degrees and Jason to most degrees because they identify risk and support swift response, but do not bludgeon people with a false certitude and tell them it’s hopeless. I also prefer their view because they are both, like me, pushing for radical and rapid response to what is a terrible threat.

          So don’t ‘Geez!’ me.

          Guy uses my own work to justify his apocalyptic visions which so many there use as an excuse for non-action. He has been nabbing bits of my posts for the better part of a year and a half, so maybe it is me who should be saying ‘Geez!’ to those of you who refuse to get it.

          Yes, we have amplifying feedbacks in the Arctic and Antarctic. And yes, more of that heat than some scientists recognize is hitting the methane stores.

          But can we say we are on a ramp to catastrophic methane release with absolute certainty now? Not by a long shot. In essence, we are flying blind.

          When we look at what’s happening in the Arctic we do see substantial rates of increase for methane release sources that we can measure. In the peat bogs, for example, we have a 50% increase in methane release from melt lakes over the last decade. And, anecdotally, we might assume that some of the observed doubling of the ESAS release within 5 years was due to under-estimation of the observed release at that time. But that’s not catastrophic release, even if it is a very troubling rumbling.

          If we had better measures, and knew the rate of overall Arctic release, then we could say with more certainty whether or not there was a ramping to the kind of event that Guy or AMEG describes. And then we could say with more certainty that, yes, the potential NTHE train is on a roll or, no, we’re just dealing with some troubling feedbacks that serve to amplify an already terrible human emission. But we don’t have these measures and so we have no evidence other than contextual evidence. And, as the recent CARVE press release shows, we don’t even have a good model for current release.

          It’s like investigating a murder scene and finding a recently fired gun, but not yet finding a bullet hole in the victim and having a list of potential perps, but having no finger print match. In essence, the investigation is incomplete and we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions now lest we risk being horribly wrong.

          To this point, I’d like to emphasize that there’s a huge difference between identified risk and certainty. We cannot say with certainty that methane release will be catastrophically rapid now, tomorrow, or within ten years or even a hundred years. Nor can we say with certainty that it will take a thousand years under BAU warming (as others believe). The problem with the identification of a mechanism, especially a catastrophic one, is that you don’t know exactly how it will function until you watch it in action. Of course, at that point it is too late. Which is why we should err so greatly on the side of caution RE methane release. And why we should act now as if the worst case could well happen, even though we know it might not happen.

          If Guy is going to take my information, he should at least listen to some of my explanations as to the related risk and the potential time frames for most likely release. If we are to talk about risk, we need to identify ranges and potentials, not take positions on things that are uncertain now and defend them. Risk analysis is an investigation, not the defense of a thesis. And if you look at uncertain threats in terms of absolutes, your power of prediction radically falls to near zero.

          In the larger game of the science, someone taking an absolute position may well end up being right, or be perceived to be right. And this will tend to affect the science. But it is not my goal to engage in the scientific process by taking a position and fighting it out. It is my goal to remain aware of risk, which is anything but an absolute and to, like an investigator, gather information at the scene to determine identifiable proofs.

          I have no use for thesis defense until the proofs are collected. That’s part of the problem we are dealing with now. Lots of thesis defense. Not enough proofs.

          Now, what I can say is that we are in serious trouble now and if we don’t act soon, human civilizations are absolutely at risk. From this point forward, everything looks more and more difficult. With the 2020s looking bad, the 2030s looking worse and the 2040s looking terrible. And this is without a large-scale methane release.

          We can say that we are now undergoing a 6th mass extinction event among many forms of animals now, to the point that even insects have become effected. And we can say that this will continue to grow worse without massive draw downs in the carbon emission and major changes to other ways in which humans radically impact the Earth System.

          And we can definitely say that if we continue as we are human extinction is a potential — more likely in the range of over hundreds of years given that humans are so radically adaptable — but certainly in the cards.

          But most importantly, we should be fighting to preserve as much as we can now. We should not be focusing on simply giving up, but on changing how we do things to improve things. And this is where I can really say ‘Geez!’

          Because Guy has used my work to convince people to do nothing. And that is a terrible disservice to both my work’s intent and to its content.

          You have been warned Raymond. And if you continue to malinger, perhaps it would be best that you return to suicide camp over there at the Guy McPherson blog. Or, perhaps, you could do some good work and convince some there that action is better than malaise. I hope that would be the case. But the ugly part of this fight is finding out that people will make every excuse to do nothing — ‘it being hopeless to do anything’ as common an excuse as climate change denial itself.

        • To this point, I refuse to eat meat and get peeved any time even one of my dollars goes to the fossil fuel folks. We can certainly fight with our wallets the same way we fight politically and in our communities.

          Great points.

  24. Colorado Bob

     /  October 15, 2014

    I was informed by Mr. Wizard, when I was about 8 , he tossed a ping pong ball on to a ping pong table. It was covered completely with mouse traps each trap had a ping pong ball where the bait should rest.

    He was explaining the the nature of a chain reaction before he tossed one ping pong ball on to the table.

    That little experiment , goes way beyond a simple chain reaction in a bomb that can kill millions.

    I wish someone would reproduce it . The effect when the first ball lands is small , but the table explodes in seconds.

    It informs how one small thing, can change the world
    And it still shows how bombs explode.

  25. Colorado Bob

     /  October 16, 2014

    PBS –

    Is about to start a new series. “How We got Here” .

    30 years ago James Burk did “Connections” . And James Burk was the first that had this idea.

    Lot’s of people are stealing from James Burk.

  26. Kevin Jones

     /  October 17, 2014

    Ha! Why Robert, yer just a kid! The author of The Heat is On and Boiling Point said the same to me 16 years ago…. Here”s my nifty idea: 1. Don’t like creating more enemies than are killed? Ground the bombers. 2. Don’t like a rapidly destabilized climate? Ground commercial aviation. Worry about Ebola going airborne? Ditto. (tragically, I’m serious)
    I mean 100 years ago we were not doing This badly without ’em. I regard Doctors Without Borders as the authority on that mess. My earlier comment regarding sending US troops as possibly not the best response was grounded in the belief that Ebola is not the German Army of 1941. It is as though we are playing chess (all we know) and that virus only knows go…….any bets, anyone, on whether this will ‘fly’?

    • I’m a kid who edited the Chem-bio response guide used to train many of the responders to these outbreaks. But, just like the guys at CDC and AMRIID, apparently I know nothing?

      If we don’t stop the outbreak in Africa, it will spread, regardless of whether we ground flights. Part of stopping the outbreak involves getting as many resources on the ground to isolate patients and identify contacts now. If we don’t do that, this thing is at risk of surging through Africa to India and hitting such numbers that all infrastructure is overwhelmed.

      We can contain single transmission chains here in the US. What we cannot contain is thousands to tens of thousands of transmission chains.

      Fortress America conservatives want to build what is the disease equivalent of the Maginot Line. But diseases can easily jump containment if you can’t track contacts and you kill your contact tracking if you institute outright bans as people are incentivized to go dark on their exposures.

      We are behind this disease for one reason now and one reason only — lack of available resources on the ground to stop it when it started, insufficient funding of the means of response that put us behind the 8-ball, degradation of the infrastructure in the countries first affected, and failure of political will to provide the resources needed at the site of the outbreak as swiftly as possible to contain it.

      The ironic thing, is that if we ban travel and lose the highly effective contact tracing we have now, it will almost certainly fly, get into a group we won’t know about, and then we’ll find it cropping up days or weeks after the fact and have ID hundreds to thousands of contacts, rather than scores.

      Nigeria stopped its outbreak without a travel ban. They did it because they were smart and brutally effective.

      In any case, there is no guarantee that we can stop this as it is so large now. But a travel ban will make matters worse, not better, as it will, ironically, remove much of our ability to control the situation.

  27. Kevin Jones

     /  October 17, 2014

    No intention of slighting in the least, my friend. And I certainly didn’t intend a “fortress America” notion. I do know a little of epidemiology and a lot of this dysfunctional government. My concern is that in 6 months or so we will all know whether we did what was necessary or not. The analogy to climate change is too dear. That is the Long Emergency, along with energy and species extinction, and they keep getting shorter. This could be that in the blink of an eye. No panic. Yes, serious and timely response. And Very Clear Reporting. Mainstream media, so far, I find disappointing…. Where is the leadership?

    • Got it, Kevin and thanks for clarifying.

      The comments are certainly an imperfect means of communicating, to say the least. So sorry for the misunderstanding.

      These are good points as are the following comments. And I certainly think we could do with a stricter quarantine.

      For those of us who are happy about reductions in air travel, this Ebola situation is certainly going to put a damper on flights regardless of bans. Fossil fuel consumption will also take a hit through the crisis. I would prefer that catastrophe not be the instigator for such reductions. Rational action being the better part of valor, as the saying goes.

  28. Kevin Jones

     /  October 17, 2014

    p.s. wasn’t thinking travel ban. just longing for the olden days of sail and highly effective quarantine regulations.

  29. jyyh

     /  October 18, 2014 presents a well-conducted (at least it looks like one to me) study that estimates a reasonable (to me) minimum speed of sea level rise when glaciers are in the melting mode naturally, of course there aren’t many examples (if any) of the kind of forcings current period of warming has on the ice sheets, (fe, PETM didn’t have any icesheets to melt).

    • It’s an important aspect the science hasn’t taken a hard look at in depth — rapid warming in the context of glaciers and how that alters various potential abrupt climate change tipping points.

      SS as usual puts together a good summary of current scientific thinking.


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