Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole Toward a Second Great Dying? World Ocean Shows Signs of Coming Extinction.

The last time Earth experienced a Great Dying was during a dangerous transition from glaciation and to hothouse. We’re doing the same thing by burning fossil fuels today. And if we are sensitive to the lessons of our geological past, we’ll put a stop to it soon. Or else doesn’t even begin to characterize this necessary, moral choice.

*    *    *    *    *

The Great Dying of 252 million years ago began, as it does today, with a great burning and release of ancient carbon. The Siberian flood basalts erupted. Spilling lava over ancient coal beds, they dumped carbon into the air at a rate of around 1-2 billion tons per year. Greenhouse gasses built in the atmosphere and the world warmed. Glacier melt and episodes of increasingly violent rainfall over the single land mass — Pangaea — generated an ocean in which large volumes of fresh water pooled at the top. Because fresh water is less dense than salt water, it floats at the surface — creating a layer that is resistant to mixing with water at other levels.

Algae Blooms and Red Tides in the Stratified Ocean

This stratified ocean state began to cut the life-giving thread of the world’s great waters. Reduced mixing meant the great ocean currents slowed. Oxygen transport into the depths declined. Moreover, a constant rain of debris in the form of particulate matter from burning forests and nitrogen oxides from the smoldering coal beds fertilized the ocean surface. Food for algae also came from increasing continental run-off. And a spike in iron loading due to glacial melt added yet more fertilizer. Great microbial blooms covered the world ocean, painting its face neon green, blue, or blood red.


(Stratified Ocean waters hosting massive algae blooms. It’s a combination that can quickly rob ocean waters of oxygen. During the Permian, a transition to stratified and then Canfield Ocean conditions led to the worst mass extinction event in the history of life on Earth. Today, the Southern Ocean’s waters are increasingly stratified due to glacial melt run-off of fresh water. In addition, these waters also host very large algae blooms like the ones seen above in a NASA satellite shot from 2012. Image source: NASA and Live Science.)

Rising CO2 levels increased ocean acidification even as the blooms spread toxins through the waters. When the blooms finally exhausted all the available food in their given region, they died off en masse. And by decay they further robbed the waters of life-giving oxygen. At this point the strains to ocean life became extreme and the first mass deaths began to occur. The stress opened pathways for disease. And the warming, de-oxygenating waters forced migrations to different Latitudinal zones and ocean depths. What life there was that couldn’t move, or couldn’t move fast enough died in place.

Transitioning to a Canfield Ocean

At first, ocean deaths appeared prominently in the bottom regions that saw the most rapid declines in oxygen levels and the swiftest increases in temperatures. For not only did the fresh water at the surface of the world’s oceans prevent mixing — it also prevented the oceans from ventilating heat into the air. Instead, the ocean heat was increasingly trapped at depth. Aiding this process of heat transport into the world’s deeps was a bottom water formation that issued from the hot Equator. There, evaporation at the surface increased saltiness. The heavier, hotter, saltier waters sank — carrying with them the Equatorial surface heat which they then delivered to the ocean bottom.

The hot, low oxygen bottom water became increasingly loaded with methane as the heat activated frozen stores. It created an environment where a nasty little set of primordial, hydrogen sulfide producing, creatures could thrive.  These little microbes cannot live in oxygen rich environments. But warm, anoxic bottom waters are more like the ancient environments from which they emerged. Times long past when the world was ruled by microbes in conditions that were simply deadly to the more complex and cold-loving life forms of later times. To most life, the hydrogen sulfide gas produced by these little monsters is a deadly toxin.

Ancient ocean conditions

(Oxygen, iron and hydrogen sulfide content of the world’s oceans over the past 4 billion years. Ancient oceans were hotter than today. They were rich in iron and densely populated with hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria. They were also anoxic. During hothouse events, oceans can again lapse into these ancient ocean states. Called Canfield Ocean environments and named after Dr. Donald Canfield who discovered them, these states are extremely deadly to ocean life. If they become too deeply entrenched, Canfield Oceans can also transform the global atmosphere, resulting in extinctions of land animals as well. Such an event was thought to be the primary killing mechanism during the Permian Extinction. Image source: Nature.)

The rotten-eggs stinking, hydrogen sulfide filled waters at first did their dirty work in silence at the bottom of the warming world ocean. But, steadily, anoxia progressed upward, providing pathways for the hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria to fill up the oceans. Death expanded from the bottom toward the surface.

In all the great mass extinction events but, possibly, one, this heat-driven filling up of the world ocean with deadly hydrogen sulfide gas during hothouse periods represents the major killing mechanism. The other impacts of hothouse waters — ocean acidification and habitat displacement — do provide killing stresses. But the combined zero oxygen environment filled with a deadly gas generates zones of near absolute death in which few things but microbes and jellyfish can live. In rock strata, the anoxic, zones are marked by regions of black as the hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria-filled waters eventually take on the color of tar. In the lesser extinctions, these black zones are confined to the lower ocean levels. In the greater ones, they rise higher and higher.

During the Great Dying, the oceans brimmed full of the stuff. Black, purple and neon green waters bubbled to the surface to belch their lethal loads of hydrogen sulfide gas into the airs. The gas was deadly toxic to land plants and animals alike. And it eventually wafted into the skies, turning it from blue to green and eating away at the protective ozone layer.

In this terrible way, more than 99 percent of all living things were killed off. Of species, about 95 percent of ocean forms were lost with around 80 percent of the land forms being wiped out.

Early Signs of a New Ocean Extinction

The Great Dying of the Permian Extinction 200 million years ago should be a warning to anyone still enamored with the notion that today’s terrifying fossil fuel burning results in any future that is not horrible, wretched, bleak. Today, we dump 11 billion tons of carbon into the air each year — at least six times faster than during the Great Dying. Today, the great melting glaciers are beginning the painful process of ocean death by spreading out their films of stratifying, iron-loaded fresh water. Today fossil fuel industry, industrial farming and warming all together are fertilizing the ocean surface with nitrous oxides, particulates, phosphates flushed down rivers, and an overall increased runoff due to a multiplication of extreme rainfall events.

(The hot blob in the Pacific Ocean is setting off the largest red tide on record. Just one of many dangerous impacts to sea life due to this large region of abnormally warm water.)

And the impacts are visible to anyone who cares to look. In the Pacific Ocean, a climate change related blob of hot water is resulting in mass ocean creature die offs. Low oxygen waters beneath the blob are wrecking large zones of ocean productivity and risking the proliferation of deadly hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria. The largest red tide on record has spun off the hot blob. Covering waters 40 miles wide and 600 feet deep, it has left piles and piles of dead shellfish rotting on beaches across the North American West Coast.

Across the Continent, the Chesapeake Bay suffers a proliferation of dead zones and greatly reduced productivity. There’s a rising risk that, during coming years, increased warming will deliver a heavy blow to life in the Bay and turn one of the world’s greatest estuaries into a large hydrogen sulfide production zone similar to the Baltic Sea. In the Gulf of Mexico, a similar dead zone emerges near the outlet of the Mississippi. And out in the Atlantic Ocean, mobile dead zones now swirl providing a roving surface hazard to both the deep open waters and to the coastal regions that now sit in the firing line.

In the Arctic, recently ice-freed waters are now the host of massive blue and green Algae blooms.

Barent Algae Bloom July 2015

(Large blue and green algae bloom covering the southern Barents Sea during late July of 2015. Large algae blooms are now a frequent feature of previously ice covered waters in a warming Arctic. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

Ever since the mid 2000s a massive algae bloom like the one pictured above has dominated the Barents Sea during summer time. Often running as deep as 400 feet, this sprawling mat can rapidly deplete northern waters of vitalizing oxygen and result in mass fish kills. Waters around Greenland, in the East Siberian Sea, the Chukchi, and the Beaufort have also hosted large, and potentially ocean-health threatening algae blooms.

And, in the polynyas and open waters off a melting Antarctica, massive algae blooms are also starting to form. Some of the blooms are so dense they emit a nasty rotten-eggs smell — a sign that sulfide producing bacteria may already be active in some of these waters. Fed by iron from melting glaciers, these immense blooms represent rapid explosions of life that can equally rapidly deplete waters of nutrients and then oxygen as they die off.

The blooms and the related expanding, low oxygen dead zones now range the entire world ocean. And where we see the red, the neon green, the cloudy light blue what we see are the signs of another ocean extinction in the making. An extinction that is likely building faster than at any time in the geological past. But we may still be able to avoid another great dying. The amount of carbon we’ve emitted into the world’s airs is immense, but it is still but a fraction of the carbon explosion that resulted in the Permian die-off. It is still a tiny fraction of the carbon that remains in the ground. The carbon that could be burned but shouldn’t. And a rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning now should, hopefully, be enough to prevent another hothouse spurred great dying in the oceans and upon the lands.

As for continued burning of fossil fuels — that results in ever greater risk of unleashing the horrors of the ancient hothouse. A set of now stirring monsters that we should carefully allow to fall back into slumber — leaving them to rest in dreams of the great long ago where they belong.


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

Antarctic Glaciers are Loading the Southern Ocean Up With Iron (Not the Good News Some Are Making it Out to Be)

Large Algae Blooms off Antarctica

Under A Green Sky

Awakening the Horrors of the Ancient Hothouse

Canfield Oceans


K-T Extinction — Impact or Hothouse Caused?

Climate Change Happening Faster Than Scientists Predicted

How Global Warming Sets off Extreme Weather

Hot Pacific Ocean Runs Bloody

Pacific Algae Bloom is The Biggest Red Tide We’ve Ever Seen

Chesapeake Bay Dead Zones

The Atlantic Ocean’s Whirlpool Dead Zones


Leave a comment


  1. Recently, the U.N. projected Earth’s human population will reach 11.2 billion in the year 2100. Considering this and other climate-related developments, I’d say theirs was an overly optimistic projection.

  2. Thank you Robert as always for your amazing insights. My only problem with the information is my limitation to worry about too many things at the same time. It seems more and more to block me from taking in other aspects of the unfolding disaster. With extreme weather through climate change, arctic ice decrease, stuck jetstreams, heat domes and droughts, fresh water crises, resource depletion, overpopulation, deforestation, food production faltering, species extinction and mass migration of desperate people, my head simply fills up. How do you do it?

    • One crisis at a time…

      It’s all pretty simple once you start looking at the solutions. Cessation of fossil fuel burning, population restraint, shift toward lower meat consumption, shift toward economies geared toward preserving and enhancing the life giving capacity of Earth Systems. Cessation of fossil fuel burning tops the list for a reason. Nothing else is possible without it.

      • Completely agree with the solutions, but we have years, not decades for a turn around and we need to go carbon negative fast, maybe by 2030? Your guess is better than mine.

      • Steven Blaisdell

         /  August 14, 2015

        “… shift toward economies geared toward preserving and enhancing the life giving capacity of Earth Systems.”

        Here’s my first shot:
        First Commandment: Know the Earth as thy only home. There is no other.
        Second Commandment: Honor, love, and cherish all aspects of Earth
        Third Commandment: Thou shalt know humans as one aspect of life on Earth
        Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt not hold one aspect of life on Earth above another
        Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt, first, last and always, consider the effect thou hast on Earth, and all it contains
        Sixth Commandment: Thou shalt cause to be fruitful and multiply ALL aspects of life on Earth
        Seventh Commandment: Live simply, in accordance with all life on Earth
        Eighth Commandment: Remember the Earth from whence thou came
        Ninth Commandment: Know daily the Earth from whence thou came
        Tenth Commandment: Return to the Earth more than thou taketh

  3. – Right on target for our current situation Robert.
    – Always emphasize the nutrient loading that FF combustion adds to the algal food chain. To stop its growth — stop feeding it.

  4. -Off topic but the short vids in this piece re: drones and wildlife are worth a view. The kangaroo is a mother instinctively protecting its young. A dignified reflex to a threat. Nothing to debate, you know.
    Its a reflexive action sorely lacking in our so much of our society.

    – The Guardian

    Eagle attacking drone mid-air shows animals as averse to UAVs as humans

    People aren’t the only ones threatened by drones invading their privacy, as spate of attacks caught on camera shows wildlife fighting back

  5. – 0813 USA Heat in the heartland.

  6. James Burton

     /  August 13, 2015

    This is just what that old SciFi movie “Soylent Green” predicted in it’s global warming world. Land temperatures making life miserable, but the dying oceans being the real ultimate threat to mankind.
    I just can’t believe that, with what we know as fact right now, the world is not already in an emergency crash program to end fossil fuels, and learn to live in a different way.
    As our mothers told us with medicine we didn’t like. “It ain’t gonna kill ya, and you’ll feel a hole lot better when the medicine kicks in.”
    I know it sounds like I am beating a dead horse, but our leaders have to know what the scientific reality is, we pay military and CIA intelligence a lot of money to keep our leaders fully informed of threats. Global Warming is THE threat. Ocean degradation strikes at the core of life on earth.

    • The CIA and the military don’t pay for the leaders’ golden ring. The plutocrats do, as one of them revealed to the Republican base / debate viewership Friday night.

  7. – NOX etc. UK GOV
    – Q: Are these ‘jobs’ not mercenary in essence? Their actions are certain to cause many deaths.

    The Guardian:

    UK lobbying for even weaker EU air pollution laws, leaked papers show

    Conservative government argues that already watered-down laws to limit toxic pollution that causes tens of thousands of deaths each year will cause job losses in the coal mining sector

    Leaked documents show the UK is pushing for watered-down EU air pollution laws to be weakened further, arguing they would cause pit closures leading to substantial job losses and the need to import coal.

    The EU rules could help curb toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, although campaigners criticised them following revelations that they were partly drafted by the same companies they were meant to regulate.

    But a confidential government submission to Brussels, seen by the Guardian, says that the UK would have to import coal from Russia, Colombia and South Africa to meet the new standards, because British coal has such a high sulphur content.

  8. dnem

     /  August 13, 2015

    Amazing output these past weeks, Robert, just amazing! (You’ve got a typo “crabon” up there in ppg 2, btw)

    • I admit, feeling a bit fizzled. But this is what I should be doing. The ocean pieces are harder than most. The stuff is heavy.

      • Steven Blaisdell

         /  August 14, 2015

        The most important source of information I know of – right here.

      • Agreed. Some very interesting material, and well presented (as always) in recent weeks. Juxtaposed with the news it becomes very clear: in our modern culture, the forces of status quo depend heavily on distraction to ensure that potentially thinking and acting people will make no progress toward meaningful change. I sure wish we could figure out how to get people to stop and change course.

      • Abel Adamski

         /  August 14, 2015

        Reprising an interesting article (well written) relative to the dinosaur extinction based on recent higher resolution geological assessment.
        Maybe knock that “except one” out

  9. climatehawk1

     /  August 13, 2015

    Tweet scheduled.

  10. labmonkey2

     /  August 13, 2015

    Another excellent treatise of our current treatment of the biosphere. Yes, in this we can see that everything is connected. The web of life is in delicate balance with its host – Our Earth. We, and all life on this planet are a direct result of the planets chemistry and physics. Mess with this balance and suffer the consequences – just like adding too much salt to the soup (yuck).
    Musical Interlude:

    Ball of Confusion

  11. Consistently insightful scientific outlook on increasingly relevant threats. So rarefied in social media. Its why I follow the work here. I had a thought to ask what missing pieces of information would be helpful to link to continue the analysis, but then I recall this is a free-form space and people tend to add new content on their own volition.

    As a non-scientist I can only heap another “thank you” to the pile. However, The short summary of solutions posted in the comments above reminded me on the limits of communication. Knowing this isn’t the place or audience for a social-structural policy discussion to enable previously mentioned solutions, I trust a reader to believe there will be people ready with workable ideas on how to implement the needed changes.

    In many ways, how the changes are presented, discussed, and structured matter a great deal. The capitalist social hierarchy [the levers of power] is not conducive to empowering ideas that are ideologically opposed to it. Politics is always a slow game and not adequate to the task before us. Task? To create rapid policy change with long range planning. Short and decisive change in history comes predictably with the “gun.” Whereas, truth/justice is often very slow, and creates small change over generations of people updating their social values. I view the cessation of fossil fuels in the slow truth/justice camp.

    The longer it takes [to enact social policy change and cease fossil fuel lifestyle] the more destruction and loss of life forms within Earth’s Systems. What troubles me is that this potentiality fits too tightly with “creative destruction” theory [originally a Marxist idea later incorporated into capitalist thought] and enables our troublesome social hierarchies to reform itself [as culture is suppose to do] in to something equally destructive. Like what? Consider a technocratic society for example and then evaluate [if you can] the potential risk to Earth’s Systems under such social system. I don’t feel secure in predicting or anticipating what the world will choose.

    How we go about the social changes and cessation of fossil fuels matters. I worry that concept will become lost under the threat of too many destructive climate weather events. I don’t want to live in a future where we abandon “sections” of Earth’s Systems and talk about “saving what we can” in an obviously unethical scenario of change that comes too slow. Change that fails the test of human compassion is not change I want to endure….

    • Please feel free to provide ideas for effecting rapid and beneficial transformation, if you like. We’re all too well aware of the social inertia — a good bit that comes from a failure to believe that rapid change is possible.

      • Abel Adamski

         /  August 14, 2015

        Mobilisation and repurposing for the World Wars, shows it can be achieved

        • It absolutely can be achieved. We outlawed slavery, beat the Great Depression, mass mobilized for two world wars, and prevented CFCs from devouring the protective ozone layer. All of these activities ran against the short term well being of certain monied interests. And yet we achieved them all. If we make the right choices, we can certainly rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and greatly reduce the intensity of the climate crisis.

          There’s a lot of ideation as to why we can’t or why we won’t. To me, that’s just an exercise in a suicidal thought process. The mental energy should not be going to can’t and won’t it should be going to how and will.

      • Do I come across as negative and doubtful? I’m not sure how to help a reader understand my communication better. My caution comes from an uncommonly broad study of human culture, history, and warfare. I am well versed in human fallibility.

        I will not ignore the human hubris or history attached to how a society is organized and structured to achieve a goal. I personally wish the WWI and/or WWII mobilization metaphor to cease as an example of how to do anything related to cessation of fossil fuel use. That isn’t the organizational structure I would use to alter society. President JFK demanded his staff to read of the organizational mistakes made by western cultures [Germany] that directly propagated WWI for good reason. WWII is directly tied to cultural bitterness, hate, arrogance [jingoism] in the peace accord ending the first great war. Western cultural ideology of “total war,” cannot be separated and should not be ignored from the WWI & WWII “mobilization” of society. Nor should the racism, destruction, politics, war crimes, or insane military and civilian death toll. No, we shouldn’t emulate the organization or structure of those conflicts. The “organization” and “structure” of a society cannot be plucked from history without the baggage.

        “Outlawing” slavery is another weak example because institutional slavery was tied to institutional racism and white supremacist policy, both of which remained unchanged. It did not de facto end after President Lincoln made his proclamation. The conclusion of the Civil War ended the militant support of slavery. He [Lincoln] was racist himself for the majority of his life and the 14th Amendment was a political move to undermine the South to hasten the end of an unexpectedly devastating Civil War. That was its primary purpose. The rest of it was empty words. Your find his contemporary, Fredrick Douglas, correctly identifying the state of affairs after the 14th Amendment. He is a good cultural “weathervane.”

        The Great Depression example I don’t like because those terrible years were directly manufactured by the worst of capitalist theory and greed. Ending the global economic decline of those decades with another world war [Germany] is hardly worth emulating. The US policy decisions that addressed the Great Depression came late and were bitterly opposed. I don’t want to lengthen this with more supporting details. I don’t agree we ought emulate the “organization” or “structure” of how we handled that crisis. I recommend the social critique of John Steinbeck to supplement understanding of our organization and structure during the Great Depression. No, we must do better than this example.

        There is no historical example that fits what we need to do. We must accomplish what is requested by science. Our contemporary state policy choices will not reflect reality. I suggest we need an entirely new creation separate from historical analogies. History is no guide for us this time. If people must have something historical, then I would turn to “survivor” groups like North American First Nations. I would want to work with the Haudenosaunee and build something new. I would say to them, “you were absolutely correct about us. We f***ed up. Young western culture is responsible for this dangerous state of affairs faced by all people. Now we need to change and learn a lifestyle that respects Earth’s Systems. The entirety of Western Culture has no example to follow of building a resilient society to survive a modified climate. Please help us create a world our children can inherit.” That is where I would start.

        • There’s too much talk-talking here, Chris. Too much ideation. Too many traps you’re making for yourself and others with your own assumptions and asserted worldviews.

          Of course there are historical references that apply -whether you’re ideologically comfortable with them or not. Ending slavery, mass-mobilization during the world wars, the choice to limit DDT, the choice to limit CFCs all have relevance.

          Given the length and breathlessness of these increasingly rambling posts, I’m beginning to suspect a bit of trolling.

          How about I give you one more shot?

      • Are you completely or only partially rejecting my post? I’m surprised by your reply. I’m serious about everything I wrote. I’m not familiar with “talk-talking.” Too much ideation is not in my vocabulary either. I live and breath idea creation. I’m unaware of any traps? You mean thought traps? I don’t follow you.

        Right, the DDT and CFC examples. I left those out of my post. I considered them and I “think” I’m OK with those. I’m still thinking about it.

        I just don’t agree with the application of the other historical references. I recommend starting fresh and creating a new cultural narrative. That was in my post.

        You find fault in my writing? Its OK if you didn’t understand my views? I wrote my ideas and optimistically hoped they would be understood without much forethought. Can we relax with the accusations of trolling? Based on your reply it looks like this exchange was a total failure. I’m disappointed, and I would like to get back to reading the science posted here. Sorry if I confused anyone Robert.

  12. labmonkey2

     /  August 13, 2015

    It’s not always the weather we have to watch out for in this capitalist society. Disturbing news.

    • – From the piece – C8, heat, vapor, fine powder:

      ” For years, he measured levels of a chemical called C8 in various products. The chemical “was everywhere,” as Wamsley remembers it, bubbling out of the glass flasks he used to transport it, wafting into a smelly vapor that formed when he heated it. A fine powder, possibly C8, dusted the laboratory drawers and floated in the hazy lab air.

      At the time, Wamsley and his coworkers weren’t particularly concerned about the strange stuff. “We never thought about it, never worried about it,” he said recently. He believed it was harmless

      “UNTIL RECENTLY, FEW PEOPLE had heard much about chemicals like C8. One of tens of thousands of unregulated industrial chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA — also called C8 because of the eight-carbon chain that makes up its chemical backbone — had gone unnoticed for most of its eight or so decades on earth, even as it helped cement the success of one of the world’s largest corporations.

      Several blockbuster discoveries, including nylon, Lycra, and Tyvek, helped transform the E. I. du Pont de Nemours company from a 19th-century gunpowder mill into “one of the most successful and sustained industrial enterprises in the world,” …

      • labmonkey2

         /  August 14, 2015

        Death by a million molecules… to borrow a phrase.

      • danabanana

         /  August 14, 2015

        They (DP) also brought you CFC’s and HCFC’s. Like with the Fossil fuel and tabacco industries, Du Pont lied about the dangers posed by Fluorides for the sake of money. The whole story makes an interesting read. Du Pont are my number 2 most hated.

  13. Neil Gundel

     /  August 13, 2015

    Yeah, but Carly Fiorina says that Obama’s Clean Power Plan by itself is nowhere near enough to solve the problem, so we shouldn’t do anything about it. Judity Curry agrees that this is the “sweet spot”, so I guess that what good republicans will start to believe.

    Sounds logical. Like “Bobby, help your father and me bail out the boat before we drown!”
    “No, Mommy, if we bail out the boat and none of the other families help, we’ll drown anyway. Besides, I want to finish watching Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump discuss the important stuff.”

    Sorry, just had to vent 🙂

  14. We are ignoring natures final warning. Today may be too late, tomorrow will be to late.

  15. – The power of industrial chemistry in action likely the result of mixing heat with vapor, or fine particulate in Tianjin, China.

    The two explosions that ripped through an industrial area in the coastal city of Tianjin, China, on Wednesday night created huge fireballs, knocked down doors and shattered windows up to several miles away. At least 50 people were killed and more than 500 injured

  16. Now this is bad. I’m hoping if we go to RCP 2.8, 4.5 or even 6.5 of the latest IPCC report, we’d avoid this. Now I’m not so sure.

    (I asked you about the latter two, and you may have answered my question, but I can’t get at it without hitting a glitch that shuts down my web browser.)

  17. Another piece with information that we don’t get anywhere else, Robert. Your ability to connect the dots–especially for those of us not schooled/nor experienced with all the aspects of climate nor even meteorology weather phenomena. Thanks so much(and to DT and CB who fill in and round out your reports)—-for doing your part(s) in helping our planet to stay in alignment with Her natural rhythms.

  18. labmonkey2

     /  August 14, 2015

    Found a very interesting article relating to climate history in a cave in China. Correlation AND causation noted.
    This stood out:
    “In addition to the obvious impact of droughts, they have also been linked to the downfall of cultures – when people don’t have enough water, hardship is inevitable and conflict arises,” said Dr Sebastian Breitenbach of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, one of the paper’s co-authors. “In the past decade, records found in caves and lakes have shown a possible link between climate change and the demise of several Chinese dynasties during the last 1800 years, such as the Tang, Yuan and Ming Dynasties.” –

    And this, too:
    “The researchers then used their results to construct a model of future precipitation in the region, starting in 1982. Their model correlated with a drought that occurred in the 1990s and suggests another drought in the late 2030s. The observed droughts also correspond with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. Due to the likelihood that climate change caused by humans will make ENSO events more severe, the region may be in for more serious droughts in the future.”

    • Fascinating find. Thank you for sharing labmonkey2. The Chinese state is hyper aware of its history and the connection of natural disasters with political collapse. I can only imagine they will take extreme measures to repel drought related threats with massive public works. I recall they are already engaged in a long term water transport restructuring projects involving extensive new water canals. They have the financial resources to finish. I suspect they will be hyper sensitive to any external threats with the potential to disrupt engineering plans. I extrapolate that future climate events would compel the Chinese culture-state to isolate and insulate from external global politics until they can insure their own safety. Obviously, this is just a counterfactual conditional, and we have yet to experience the choices of the 2030’s [the time period of predicted severe drought in that region of China and the corresponding state decisions].

      I feel like it would be more confusing to determine what the US response would be if the same set of conditions existed. The current climate factors that cause the conditions that are drying out the Southwest US and our “fix it later” state policy choices do not reassure me that domestic long term planning will prevail.

  19. Andy in SD

     /  August 14, 2015

    A Vice article on the explosion of mosquito populations. Earlier melt, more melt ponds for larva and a longer season. Also, Caribou population has dropped from over 450,000 to 32,000 from 1980’s to ~2010.

  20. wili

     /  August 14, 2015

    rs, my 19-year-old daughter rarely ‘likes’ anything I post on facebook. She ‘liked’ this one. I asked her why, especially since it seemed like such a grim title and topic. She said she liked the language of the title. So keep crafting effective language! People notice.

    Not as full of poetry, but also nicely allusive:

    “‘Godzilla’ weather pattern may hit California in fall, winter”

    • 😉 re: your daughter, wili. This godzilla Él Niño even made it into the NY Daily News but I’ll post the NYT link which is more informative and gives a heads up to Bob Dylan.

      In other words, Dr. Patzert said, “Bob Dylan says it all: The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Without the relaxation of the trade winds, he said, “this will turn out to be a modest El Niño, with a huge sigh of disappointment here in the West.”

      Reading Robert’s and other commenters concerns about the ridge and the blob interfering with Él Niño’s usual behavior worries me re: the media outlets going overboard with these headlines. Losing trust in the scientists is what concerns me most. Their caveats are not being underlined and bolded, imo.

      • We have one and a half months above 1.5 C in Niño 3.4. We are already well outside modest. We left modest back in June. Strength of rain in California is not a determiner of El Niño strength. I feel sorry for the weather forecasters. Different world, different rules when SSTs are +4 C above average just off shore.

      • Strength of rain in California is not a determiner of El Niño strength.

        I’m learning this but the general public who doesn’t get past the headlines/first paragraph to read the caveats?—I’m concerned—there are plumbers advertising their services in the local papers with “be prepared for the upcoming monster Él Niño!” Ouch….Speaking for myself, even though I try to stay informed, read entire articles, if I’d not been reading your blog, I’d not be so tentative/realistic about it.

      • I’d not be so tentative/realistic about it. The CA rainfall, that is.

    • Good writing is telepathy. You don’t even see the words. Sometimes I happen to get there… Glad it worked for your daughter. Trying to help make this right for her and my own 11 year old niece too.

      • -Writing

        Maybe it’s my love of music (Nice rich tones riding on a moving skeleton of rhythm — rhythm is everything to me.)
        I, personally have a very hard time writing about something (it may be very important too) that I can’t find a rhythm that fits the subject, and that matches any urgency.
        Sometimes it’s a voice, or a timbre, that sometimes sends me off and running — or tumbling across the keyboard, hitting the wrong key, watching the cursor jump with a mind of its own whenever I drag my palm across the touch-pad.

        • Dtlange, that’s what happens to me. Unfortunately, my muse has been absent for quite some time now. That’s why my posts are short these days, when I actually post. (Fin Des Voies Rapides)

    • Indeed: ” keep crafting effective language! People notice.”
      Alchemy where it counts.

  21. redskylite

     /  August 14, 2015

    Thanks Robert for a beautifully written and collated piece, I can see no reason why a small minority (but highly vocal) are ignoring the paleoclimatology evidence of previous states of our world. Can money & riches today be worth the lives of our future generations tomorrow ? What sort of people are so strongly motivated by greed ?, I wonder.

    This abstract from a paper by the University of London, highlighting the importance of ocean currents, caught my eye this morning . .

    “This study highlights the important impact that changes in ocean circulation can have on climate, due to the ocean’s capacity to redistribute vast quantities of heat around the globe. For example, scientists are currently concerned that ongoing changes in ocean circulation may result in warmer subsurface water that will cause enhanced melting and retreat of certain ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

  22. redskylite

     /  August 14, 2015

    This short discussion of the effects of CO2 on Ocean life in two recently published papers, substantiates the dangerous path we are on ..

    “Using these CO2 seeps, we’ve been able to get a unique preview of what the future ocean will look like under current projections for the end of the century – and it’s not good,”

  23. redskylite

     /  August 14, 2015

    I have to remind myself that this is research by actual scientists and not fiction from Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov or Frederik Pohl . . .

    This from Oregon State University . . .

    Toxic blue-green algae pose increasing threat to nation’s drinking, recreational water

  24. wili

     /  August 14, 2015

    Looks more and more like a southern route NW Passage is now open:

    Would that be a new record for how early it is?

  25. Andy in SD

     /  August 14, 2015

    As the algae blooms go through their life cycle, we have all discussed the hypoxia and other knock on effects. In the Caribbean, the algae blooms are slaughtering the seaweed, killing it, and it is piling up on the islands and beaches.

    Now one can think of the life forms that depend on sea weed, and add them to the list of “mass deaths” occurring or coming up.

    • Abel Adamski

       /  August 14, 2015

      Andy, further down on that site

      ” Much More Toxic Mercury Is Blowing In From Asia Than Thought ”

      No other link to particular article

      Scientists discover that twice as much of the metal is being emitted into the atmosphere from coal-fired power plants.
      (mainly from Asia)

      • It’s a pity that scientists have to “discover” something when it is inherent to the subject or process.
        Thanks for noticing these aspects Andy.

  26. wili

     /  August 14, 2015

    Once again, July comes in as the hottest on record:

  27. Tom

     /  August 14, 2015

    Summary of Hypothesis
    The seas, lakes and oceans are now pluming deadly hydrogen sulfide and suffocating methane. Hydrogen sulfide is a highly toxic water-soluble heavier-than-air gas and will accumulate in low-lying areas. Methane is slightly more buoyant than normal air and so will be all around, but will tend to contaminate our atmosphere from the top down. These gases are sickening and killing oxygen-using life all around the world, including human life, as our atmosphere is increasingly poisoned. Because both gases are highly flammable and because our entire civilization is built around fire and flammable fuels, this is leading to more fires and explosions. This is an extinction level event and will likely decimate both the biosphere and human population and it is debatable whether humankind can survive this event.

    A. More fires and more explosions, especially along the coasts, but everywhere generally.
    B. Many more animal die-offs, of all kinds, and especially oceanic species.
    C. More multiples of people will be found dead in their homes, as if they’d dropped dead.
    D. More corpses found in low-lying areas, all over the world.
    E. More unusual vehicular accidents.
    F. Improved unemployment numbers as people die off.

    [click on the link for typical examples of the above (and more) that are posted every day]

  28. Harquebus

     /  August 14, 2015

    Please include a date on your articles. Very unprofessional.

    • Abel Adamski

       /  August 14, 2015

      At the end of the article, always has been
      “by robertscribbler on August 13, 2015 • Permalink”

    • wili

       /  August 14, 2015

      Harq, please read more attentively before presuming to criticize–very unprofessional…and just damn rude.

    • Harquebus

       /  August 15, 2015

      Oh, there it is.
      My apologies.
      Would it be too much to ask to include it at the top where it should be if one was professional.

  29. Abel Adamski

     /  August 14, 2015

    More interesting research (from Oz)
    Plankton Graveyards Revealed in First Digital Map of Seafloor

    ” Surprisingly, the new map reveals that masses of dead diatoms on the seafloor in the Southern Ocean are not in the same places where diatoms bloom on the ocean surface.

    “This disconnect demonstrates that we understand the carbon source, but not the sink,” study researcher Dietmar Muller, a geophysicist also of the University of Sydney, said in the statement.”

  30. Educational article on how to change electricity markets to encourage more solar and wind generation:

    • Greg

       /  August 14, 2015

      Adoption rates on new technologies have been accelerating and provide hope for those who believe we can use new technology and electrical sources as a major part of the way out of the worst of our predicament:

  31. Chinese Cave Graffiti Contains 500 Years of Climate Data

    An international team of researchers have discovered a cave that contains inscriptions detailing the crippling effects of climate change on a region.

    In a study published today in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from the UK and China describe finding inscriptions on the walls of the Dayu Cave in the Qinling Mountains of central China that date back to between 1520 and 1920. The inscriptions detail the impact of droughts on the society, politics, and economy of the region, and they correlate with geochemical data gleaned from an analysis of the cave’s interior. This allows the researchers to cross-reference and check their geochemical data with real records left behind by humans.

    “This is the first time we have direct historical evidence [of climate change] from the same place (inside the cave) to compare the geochemical information with,” Sebastian Breitenbach, a researcher at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, told me. “What’s cool about this is that we’ve never seen a cave where people actually wrote that it was drier than usual, which caused cannibalism or people migrating to different places, or not trusting their political systems or leaders anymore.”

    The researchers used mass spectrometry (a chemistry technique that analyses the amount and type of chemicals in samples) to analyse the ratios of stable isotopes of oxygen, carbon, and other elements within the cave deposits. Climate change is known to affect all of these elements within caves, and the researchers found that higher carbon and oxygen isotope ratios corresponded with lower rainfall levels. They cross-referenced these findings with the writings discovered on the walls, and found a strong link between the two. For example, cave deposits from the late 1800s that provided evidence for drought in the region corresponded with the written records on the cave.

    “There are examples of things like human remains, tools, and pottery being found in caves, but it’s exceptional to find something like these date inscriptions,” said Liangcheng Tan, the study’s lead author from the Institute of Earth Environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a press statement.

    The researchers believe that though this is the first discovery of cave writings detailing the impact of climate change in China, there may well be more discoveries like it in the future.

    They also modelled a prediction of what the climate could look like in the region in 2030, based on their results. Breitenbach said that their models showed a likelihood of longer and more intense droughts in the coming years in the region, and said that it was therefore important to implement a strategy to deal with this environmental shift.

    “The Qinling Mountains are a habitat for the panda, which is an iconic animal for the Chinese, and of course they’ll want to do everything they can to save it from extinction,” he said. “So it’s important to understand what the climate change will be like in that region, and think of ways in which we can mitigate it, so that we can make it easier for animals and humans.”

    • -This YouTube is of my, not- graffiti as a metric, study of black soot in a 2011 coastal community.

      Not until 2015, did I realize that climate change was involved — in that a warming Arctic altered the jet stream, and weakened the normal NW winds which likely caused an accumulation of suspended aerosol pollutants to drop on the landscape, and the ocean.
      This showed itself as black and gray gooey soot deposits which I exploited for educational and public safety reasons.

      Three fingers of mine were used to swab and illuminate the prevalence of the carbon black.
      The two remaining but clean digits (my pinky and my handy-dandy opposable thumb) were then free to grasp as needed.
      The local cleanup workers in the Parks Dept. thought there was some ‘Tres Fingers’ tagger running around leaving their ‘tag’ .
      At each soot location I found, I would go to the soot, swab it with clean fingers, then merely place a sample in a more visible spot at the same location.
      I made the present reality just a bit more visible. Which in the case of Santa Barbara was quite easy with all of the Spanish style white (stucco) walls, and cute red tiles on the roofs.

      – Uploaded on Aug 23, 2011 (43 sec.)
      ‘A very quick peek at the dark, yet very public, underbelly of a coastal community in California, and to question why it is so black. Outdoor eateries, public sidewalks nears schools, and other public areas are shown.’

      • Ps I add that NAFTA (North American – Free Trade Agreement) signed in 1992 added a huge injection of FF emissions and traffic dust on the West Coast, including the Pacific Ocean.

      • Wow dt, that stuff is on everything! Just horrible! As a runner, it’s troubling to think of all the particulates I breathe in just trying to participate in a “healthy” activity.

    • An early robertscribbler!

  32. Kevin Jones

     /  August 14, 2015

    Dear Robert: Just out. Hansen’s site. Global Temperatures. More Figures page. Monthly Analysis. THEN: PDF. July (preliminary) new monthly record. All the best, good man.

  33. Brian#2

     /  August 14, 2015

    Just found time to start reading Naomi Klein’s, ‘This Changes Everything.’ She has an interesting take on why the Deniers cling so stubbornly to their talking points and are so impervious to reason or data that refutes their ideology – to the point where they think the world’s climate scientists are all lying and blogsters like Watts and Goddard are somehow telling them the gospel truth.

    For the wealthy capitalists, of course, it is all about the dough. The longer you can stave off costly emission reductions, the greater you can maximize profit. The health of the planet for future generations is not even a consideration.

    But for those not tied directly into the fossil fuel industry, it is really about maintaining at all costs the libertarian, idea of a free market, deregulated economy that exalts greed as a high virtue of individualism and freedom.

    The very idea of combatting climate change implies collectivism and planning and resource management on a scale that is unthinkable to libertarian world-view. Never mind that it doesn’t have to be that way. I personally don’t believe that we need to be slaves to market fundamentalism but I also see no reason that market forces along with a proper regulatory framework cannot be part of the solution going forward.

    The problem is that for the true neo-liberal ideologue and all the believers they have managed to cultivate to the free market worship we have been living under for the last 35 years, to admit for a moment that climate change might be real is to allow the whole house of cards they have been living under and rationalizing to come tumbling down and to admit that the hated “greenies” and “leftists” may have had a point after all. Imagine admitting and accepting that everything you had come to believe was wrong and that markets actually can be regulated and managed for the greater good.

    This is what we are up against and why in the present political climate it is so hard to have a grown-up discussion about how unfettered, free-market capitalism is working and how it relates to the crisis of climate change.

    Klein’s book is very good so far. I’d recommend it to anyone.

    (Sorry for being so off topic but Robert did say it was okay to discuss ideas for transformation up-thread)

    • OK, one wrong-think idea in this one. But it’s a doozy.

      Here’s the correction — it’s only expensive to those with capital in fossil fuels to transition to renewables. For everyone else, it’s actually less costly.

      But, yeah, free market fundamentalism is a huge problem. And it’s one of the reasons why the US and the West in general has become so calcified and so unwilling to make any kind of change other than cut taxes, give heaploads of money to the rich, and privatize the commons. So we absolutely have to challenging that thinking and prove its many and obvious failings. Climate change requires group action to reduce the damage and to help those who will inevitably be harmed. A pure free market can’t manage this crisis. A pure free market attempts to prey on the victims but then ends up going down with the ship.

      • Brian#2

         /  August 14, 2015

        I agree entirely with you Robert – even on the point about renewables :-).

        And that is why blogs like yours with so much current information concentrated in one place is so valuable in helping people understand the science and overcome all the obstacles free neo-Liberal ideology has put up.

        As frustrating as it is, I think it is so important to keep talking and agitating and getting the message out there. People are listening. I’m not a socialist per se but Richard Wolff is in demand to speak all over the country and Bernie Sanders is drawing 30,000 to rallies.

        It is slowly percolating – people want change.

        Trouble is we need to act on climate change now.

  34. Brian

     /  August 14, 2015

    Robert, always ahead of the curve and setting the bar!
    “Environmentalists Sue EPA Over Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico”

  35. Leland Palmer

     /  August 15, 2015

    It’s another prediction of the methane hydrate dissociation hypothesis, I think, that extinction events that follow glacial periods would be more severe than those that don’t.

    Methane hydrate formation is a function of both pressure and temperature, but it seems reasonable that cold ocean temperatures could favor hydrate formation – hydrates are a form of water ice.

    We don’t really know what the global methane hydrate inventory is – published estimates range from 0.4 to 77 trillion tons of carbon in the hydrates – a huge range. Dickens says the hydrate stability zone could shrink by 50% in the coming decades and centuries… so whatever is down there on the continental shelves, half of it is coming out, if we keep on going the way we are.

    But, methane hydrate inventories could reasonably be large during glacial periods. Suddenly releasing some of that methane could cause a hyperthermal event. The oceanic and especially atmospheric chemistry effects of that release could amplify the methane contribution, as methane exhausts the hydroxyl radical oxidation mechanism of the atmosphere and increases its own lifetime.

    Certainly in the past flood basalt volcanic activity seems to be the trigger…but the extinction events themselves correlate with a carbon isotope excursion consistent with methane release.

    The methane hydrate dissociation general theory of mass extinctions is alive and well. It predicts large carbon isotope excursions during mass extinction events, as C12 enriched carbon from methane is released. These are in fact seen. It seems to predict that extinction events following glacial periods would be more severe than other events and this fits in with the severity of the End Permian. The methane hydrate dissociation hypothesis even makes quantitative predictions – the carbon isotope excursions correlate with the hyperthermal events both quantitatively and qualitatively.

    The oceanic effects of methane release could also fit right in with ocean acidification and anoxia. Modeling by the IMPACTS group of national labs and universities shows an anoxic plume from hydrate deposits in the Sea of Okhotsk, stretching across the North Pacific, and flowing down the west coast of North America all the way to Baja California, wandering out into the Pacific, then continuing in diluted form down the west coast of South America.
    Elliott, S., M. Maltrud, M. Reagan, G. Moridis, and P. Cameron‐Smith (2011), Marine methane cycle simulations for
    the period of early global warming

    • And so the Second Permian Exstinktion begins. 😦

      We really need to get rid of the present debt finance / fossil fuel capitalist paradigm as soon as possible, to forestall the rest.

      • Leland Palmer

         /  August 15, 2015

        Yes, absolutely. Leave the present paradigm ASAP, and hope it’s not too late.

        It appeared to me that the oil corporations like ExxonMobil did not like the methane hydrate dissociation general theory of mass extinction events and the methane hydrate inventory estimates that the scientific community was coming up with, a decade or more ago.

        So, they went out and bought some science and some lower hydrate estimates that they liked better, I think.

        If this occurred, it was not even illegal.

        Only my opinion, I have no proof. But Milkov did work for BP, when he made his (low) hydrate inventory estimates. Archer does work for the University of Chicago, a private university founded and endowed by Rockefelller oil money, home of Naomi Klein’s “Chicago Boys” group of economists that championed radical pro-business economics. And Archer has co-authored scientific papers with ExxonMobil chief scientist Haroon Kheshgi.

        Dickens apparently thought that there was something inappropriate about the discussion of methane hydrate dissociation hypotheses, and wrote a paper on it that has a title very appropriate for this thread:

        Down the Rabbit Hole: toward appropriate discussion of methane
        release from gas hydrate systems during the Paleocene-Eocene
        thermal maximum and other past hyperthermal events

        “The total mass of carbon stored as CH4 in present-day marine
        gas hydrates has been estimated numerous times using
        different approaches as reviewed in several papers (Dickens,
        2001b; Milkov, 2004; Archer, 2007). Prior to 2001, several
        estimates converged on 10 000 Gt, and this “consensus mass”
        (Kvenvolden, 1993) was often cited in the literature. However,
        the convergence of estimates was fortuitous because
        different authors arrived at nearly the same mass but with
        widely varying assumptions; an appropriate range across the
        studies was 5000–20 000 Gt (Dickens, 2001b). In the last
        ten years, estimates have ranged from 500-2500 Gt (Milkov,
        2004), ∼700–1200 Gt (Archer et al., 2009), and 4–995 Gt
        (Burwicz et al., 2011) to 74 400 Gt (Klauda and Sandler,
        2005). The latter is almost assuredly too high (Archer, 2007).
        The others are probably too low.
        End Quote

        If we have 74 trillion tons of carbon in the hydrates, we’re screwed, I think. If we have 0.4 trillion tons, we’re probably OK. This number, the size of the hydrate inventory, matters.

        If the oil corporations did this – went out and bought science they liked better – this is the crime against humanity that they should fry for, I think. But this is business as usual and is not even illegal, although there might be civil liability attached.

        • redskylite

           /  August 16, 2015

          Interesting piece, but have to say that with Professor Davis Archer, is that what you see is what you get. Having taken a massive online course, you get straight science, and he is rock solid. I understand industries get profit from war (Krupps), ecological damage and can be completely unethical, Prof Archer is well above all that….he is a climate scientist ,……. is he also a musician ?

        • redskylite

           /  August 16, 2015

          Correction .. David not Davis

      • Leland Palmer

         /  August 18, 2015

        Hi redskylite-

        About Archer – don’t think so. His language is loaded with conceptual frames about how long global warming is going to take – his book “The Long Thaw” for example. He’s talking a 100,000 year time frame. He has a very substantial online presence and a huge number of online and real time students – many of them infected with this CO2 based global warming gradualism.

        To me, some of his papers read like he was given a target value for the global methane hydrate inventory, then he worked very hard to justify that target. The title of Dickens “Down the Rabbit Hole” paper “Toward appropriate discussion…” suggests that he thinks some of the discussion he’s seeing is inappropriate.

        Archer has co-authored scientific papers with Haroon Kheshgi, Chief Scientist at ExxonMobil. This was listed on a webpage on the ExxonMobil website for a while, under the heading ExxonMobil sponsored papers on climate change, I think. It’s hard to say for sure since this page has been taken down. Was he paid for his work in these papers?

        ExxonMobil likely knows what the true global methane hydrate inventory is – they do after all employ a huge number of geologists, and have the money to do the seismic mapping studies and modeling necessary to determine that. They have done many, many such studies. They are not talking about the global methane hydrate inventory, so far as I am aware, and considering their record of deliberately obscuring the truth, perhaps that’s just as well.

        So far as I’m concerned, I’ll get my information on climate change from people who have not co-authored scientific papers with the ExxonMobil Chief Scientist.

        There’s a published paper that calculates that a minimum of 12 trillion tons of carbon (16 trillion tons of methane) came out of the hydrates,within about 20,000 years, during the End Triassic, working from a sudden and massive carbon isotope excursion at that time. That makes Archer’s number of 0.7 to 1.2 trillion tons of carbon in the hydrates look very low -inappropriately low.

        Atmospheric Carbon Injection Linked to End Triassic Mass Extinction.

        The end-Triassic mass extinction (~201.4 million years ago), marked by terrestrial ecosystem turnover and up to ~50% loss in marine biodiversity, has been attributed to intensified volcanic activity during the break-up of Pangaea. Here, we present compound specific carbon-isotope data of long-chain n-alkanes derived from waxes of land plants, showing a ~8.5 per mil negative excursion, coincident with the extinction interval. These data indicate strong carbon-13 depletion of the end-Triassic atmosphere, within only 10,000 to 20,000 years. The magnitude and rate of this carbon-cycle disruption can be explained by the injection of at least ~12 × 103 gigatons of isotopically depleted carbon as methane into the atmosphere. Concurrent vegetation changes reflect strong warming and an enhanced hydrological cycle. Hence, end-Triassic events are robustly linked to methane-derived massive carbon release and associated climate change.

      • Leland, the amount and time span of that excess Carbon equates to about 0.6 to 1.2 GT of excess Carbon per year. We’re coughing up… how much?… 50 GT or so. That’s a massive manifold increase p.a. from the end-Triassic extinction’s Carbon influx.

      • Thanks, Robert.

        Still, our increase in Carbon is about tenfold p.a. compared to the end-Triassic. $#!#.

        • x6 to x10 is probably a good range given the proxies we have. But, yeah, it’s extremely fast. Nothing in geology like what we’re doing through fossil fuel burning.

      • Leland Palmer

         /  August 19, 2015

        Hi Ed-M and Robert
        Well, there was a high resolution strata paper from China that put an upper bound on the PETM carbon isotope excursyion of about 200 years, they claimed, for something over a trillion tons of carbon from the hydrates.
        But, as we’ve all said, imitating mass extinction events is not a hobby with any sort of future, sad to say.

      • Leland Palmer

         /  August 19, 2015

        Here’s that paper I mentioned above. Two hundred ten years for the first injection of carbon, with something like 0.3 trillion tons of carbon, for the first rapid carbon isotope excursion, looking at the graph.

        In terms of GWP, though, a lot of that is methane, and because it was injected so rapidly it probably saturated the hydroxyl radical oxidation mechanism and increased its own lifetime, not to mention the secondary CO2, stratospheric water vapor, and tropospheric ozone methane generates via atmospheric chemistry. Still, methane is so potent partially because it’s concentration is so low – as the concentration goes up, the absorption lines tend to saturate, and it becomes less potent. And heating from any source, be it CO2 or methane or whatever, would bump up the water vapor concentration, of course.

        Still – it was global warming on steroids with enough heating and rapid enough to extinguish a significant fraction of the species on earth. Our carbon release is more like the CO2 released by flood volcanism than it is like these events – but more rapid than flood volcanism was. Sorry about the typos in the above post, posting on my IPhone is probably not a good idea.

        The PETM, the End Triassic, the End Permian, the Toarcian anoxic oceanic event, and several other events stretching back into the Cambrian all show these sudden carbon isotope ratio excursions, consistent with methane release from the hydrates – triggered by flood basalt volcanic activity, likely, but driven likely by positive feedback warming.

        • So the PETM feedback to initial warming is, possibly, in the range of 1.5 billion tons of carbon per year. In net carbon volume that’s about 1/6 to 1/7 what we see today — AS FEEDBACK. I don’t usually use capslock. But this is not quite in the same context. It’s the response to a longer, slower initial warming. A geophysical response.

          The fact that so much of the carbon was in the form of methane generated a heat spike — one that tailed out for some time as the methane oxidized into CO2.

          The hundreds of billions of tons of carbon that we’re emitting at a much faster rate and in greater and greater overall volumes will do its damage over longer periods. Our current, far more rapid than at any time in the geological past, accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere is an initial forcing in a world in which there’s far more carbon locked away in stores than during the time of the PETM.

          For these reasons the unprecedented volume of the human emission matters. And it’s one we really need to get a handle on very, very soon. We’re living in a world where quite a lot of carbon is locked away. And it will be rapidly accessed if we keep dumping carbon into the atmosphere at such an unpredented rate.

        • Only 300 billion tons of Carbon in methane to set off the PETM. And we’ve coughed up some 550 billion tons in the form of C02. And how many billion tons are waiting to be unleashed from the clathrates in the form of methane? I think it’s about 6,800 billion; at any rate, it’s at least 500 billion, up to 20,000 billion. (Yes, I’ve read the snippet in this thread or another elsewhere where there was an outlier estimate of 74,000 billion tons.)

        • The 300 billion ton methane burp is hypothesized to have resulted in the peak spike of the PETM. The overall carbon emission due to the Indian plate plowing over a carbon rich ocean zone was a bit greater.

          The real number to look at is potential fossil fuel reserves. Humans are far better at tapping into this ancient carbon and releasing it into the atmosphere than nature ever was. And that total is in the range of 20,000 billion tons.

          Continuing to burn that risks release some of the natural carbon stores. And failing to cease burning risks release of it all. That is until it is no longer possible to burn because societies have collapsed in an increasingly disruptive and toxic geophysical system.

        • Ed-M

           /  August 21, 2015

          Or because society can no longer afford the fossil fuels at a price the companies can profitably extract. May that come first!

  1. Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole Toward a Second Great Dying? World Ocean Shows a Face Now Shadowed With the Early Signs of Extinction. | GarryRogers Nature Conservation and Science Fiction (#EcoSciFi)
  2. Posts August 2015 | Earth Info
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  4. Rolling Info & Action Posts. | Matt Clowes

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