Unprecedented Cyclone Chapala Bears Down on Yemen

Chapala, now the unprecedented 23rd category 4 or category 5 tropical cyclone to form during 2015, is bearing down on the nation of Yemen. A nation that is likely to experience hurricane force winds and may receive as much as 8 years worth of rainfall from Chapala’s intense spiral bands over a 24-48 hour period.

Chapala Bears down on Yemen

(Unprecedented category 4 Chapala bears down on Yemen in the Halloween satellite shot. Image source: NOAA.)

* * * * *

After a rapid bombification on Friday, Cyclone Chapala became the most intense storm on record to form so far south in the Indian Ocean. Like Patricia, this storm gathered strength in waters that were much hotter than normal (+1 to +2 C above average for the region). Like Patricia, the storm rapidly intensified in a single 24 hour period — gaining 90 mph of wind intensity in just one day. And like the 5 billion dollar weather event that was Patricia, Chapala threatens severe damage along its likely land-falling path. A hothouse storm for a hothouse world that in 2015 has seen the previous record for the rate of formation of the most intense tropical cyclones shattered by five storms so far this year. The previous record, set in 2004 was for 18 such storms over a one year period. Now, the new record is 23 and counting.

Chapala is expected to track west-by-northwest, weakening to a category 1 or 2 storm just before making landfall in Yemen on Monday. At that point the storm is predicted to dump as much as 12 to 16 inches of rain over parts of Yemen. If this happens as current weather models predict, parts of Yemen which typically receive less than 2 inches of rain per year may see as much as 8 years or more worth of rain fall over the course of a day or two.

Chapala predicted path

(Chapala’s predicted path and intensity brings an unprecedented rain-maker to Yemen. One that is capable of delivering as much as 8 years worth of rainfall in 1-2 days. Image source: Joint Typhoon Warning Center.)

Large, powerful storms of this kind do not typically track into Yemen. And the predicted and possible rainfall amounts would almost certainly shatter all-time records for the arid state. A potential event that Dr. Jeff Masters over at WeatherUnderground yesterday called unprecedented. Such heavy rains would hit a region that is not at all equipped for dealing with so much water falling from the skies. Dry lands that form a hard baked surface will tend to enhance pooling and run-off. Regions that typically see extreme flooding from just 1 or 2 inches of rainfall could see 5 to 10 times as much. Needless to say, this is a developing and dangerous situation that bears careful monitoring.

Conditions in Context — Powerful Hurricanes in a Hothouse World

2015 will close out as the hottest year in the 135 year climate record. It will hit temperatures, globally, about 1.1 to 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages. This extreme temperature departure, is nearly 1/3 of the difference between 1880 and the last ice age — but on the side of hot. An extreme heating that is starting to force the glaciers of the world to rapidly melt, the seas to rapidly rise, the oceans to rapidly decline in health, and climates around the world to rapidly destabilize.

The oceans of the world draw in more than 90 percent of this excess heat energy. The added energy at the ocean surface, in its turn, provides more fuel for the most intense category 4 and category 5 tropical cyclones. These storms draw their energy directly from heat and moisture at the ocean surface. So as we, through our burning of fossil fuels and emitting of greenhouse gasses which in turn warms the climate, are unwittingly both increasing the frequency of strong storms as well as adding to their maximum potential energy.

During recent years, we have seen greater and greater numbers of the most intense versions of these storms globally. During 2004 a new record number for category 4 and 5 cyclones was breached, only to be supplanted this year with the formation, so far, of 23 of these monster cyclones. In addition, the number of records for most intense storms for regions seems to be falling at an increasing rate. In 2013, cyclone Haiyan, roared into the record books as one of the most intense storms the world had ever seen. And this year we have two basin records — Patricia (Western Hemisphere) and Chapala (strongest to form so far south in the Indian Ocean).

The human hothouse, thus appears to be providing more storms of high intensity. And with more warming in store — with nations, corporations, and politicians continuing to fight to delay climate action, ever more dangerous storms are coming.

Links:

NOAA

Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Cyclone Chapala Likely to Make Rare, Destructive Landfall

2015 Sets Record for Most Category 4 or Category 5 Hurricanes

Weather Channel Update on Chapala

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

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A World Where Heat Haunts Us — 2015 May See Worst El Nino Ever as Global Temperatures Rocket Past 1 C Mark

It’s a world that’s adding more than 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gasses to the atmosphere every single year. It’s a year where, according to Ralph Keeling, we are likely to never see atmospheric CO2 levels in the 300-399 parts per million range ever again in our lifetimes. And it’s a time when global temperatures are at their hottest ever recorded by human instruments — likely to hit a very dangerous range between  1 and 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages during 2015 and 2016.

Tracking the 2 C limit

(As of August 2015, 12 month averages were in the range of 0.926 C below the so called ‘safe limit’ of 2 C warming since 1880. What may become the worst El Nino on record may combine with a growing overburden of human hothouse gasses to push global temperatures to within between 0.9 to 0.8 C of the +2 C limit during 2015 and 2016. For reference, the current pace of warming at approx 0.17 C per decade is more than 25 times faster than at the end of the last ice age. Image source: Skeptical Science.)

This is the context we all live in today. A world that’s sweltering in a toxic atmospheric stew of human hothouse gas emissions. But underneath that heat-amplifying context, the traditional ebb and flow of natural variability still has its own set of influences. And this year, the warm side of natural variability — in what may become the strongest El Nino ever recorded — is coming back to haunt us with a vengeance.

Previous Worst El Nino On Record

Forget the so called ‘2 C safe limit’ set by international government bodies for a moment and think about all the extreme weather, the droughts, the wildfires, the loss of access to water, the increasing rates of sea level rise, the increasing rates of glacial destabilization, and the rapid declines in ocean health that have all happened since 1997 — the previous worst El Nino year on record.

Back then, atmospheric CO2 levels had just breached the 360 parts per million mark. And, in that year a powerful El Nino — the peak of the natural variability hot side — shoved global temperatures into the range of 0.85 C above 1880s averages. It was the strongest El Nino ever recorded in the modern age. And it was occurring in a climate in which greenhouse gas concentrations were the highest seen in about 1 million years. It was a confluence of forces that propelled the Earth toward a new, more violent climate state. One not seen for millennia and one that was increasingly outside the ice-age and inter-glacial norm in which human beings evolved and learned to flourish.

Over the 2000s and early 2010s, despite a swing in atmospheric natural variability back toward ‘cool,’ negative PDO, conditions, global temperatures continued to climb. Greenhouse gasses were building up in the atmosphere at record rates. Rates about 6 times faster than during the Permian hothouse extinction event that wiped out 75 percent of life on land and more than 90 percent of life in the oceans. As a result, new global high temperature records were hit in 2005 and 2010 even as the oceans drew in a massive amount of atmospheric heat. Heat that, according to Dr, Kevin Trenberth, would again back up into the atmosphere as the natural limits for ocean heat uptake were eventually reached.

By 2014, as CO2 levels climbed into the 400 parts per million range and atmospheric heat uptake built, it appeared those limits had, indeed, been overwhelmed. Heat in the upper Equatorial Pacific Ocean began to spike as massive and powerful Kelvin Waves rippled across the world’s largest ocean, setting the stage for a new, monster El Nino. An El Nino that appeared to be building toward an event that would rival even the record 1997 El Nino.

2015 El Nino May Become Worst Ever Over Next Few Weeks

At first, the climb toward a record El Nino was slow. Even as ocean heat hit El Nino thresholds during the summer of 2014, the atmospheric response lagged — resulting in a steady climb into weak El Nino conditions through early 2015. Despite this slow advance, underlying conditions hinted at an extreme amount of available heat. The Oceanic hot pool was widespread and very intense — generating a heat bleed that pushed global atmospheric temperatures to new records for the year of 2014 and intensifying into 2015. By late Fall of 2015, atmospheric temperatures had rocketed into a range near 1.1 C above 1880s averages. But the top of the temperature spike was likely still to come.

For throughout October El Nino continued to strengthen, reaching a new height of 2.5 C above average in the benchmark Nino 3.4 zone last week. This temperature spike is comparable to a record in the same region at 2.7 C above average for peak weekly values during the 1997 El Nino.

image

(Setting up for a strongest El Nino on record? Global climate measures now show the Equatorial Pacific is becoming hot enough to challenge ocean surface temperature records previously set by the 1997 El Nino. If new record values are set, they could occur by early to mid November. Ocean temperature anomaly image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Unfortunately, heat continues to build in this benchmark region of the Pacific. A rudimentary grid analysis of ocean models and readings for this week indicate daily measures in the range of 2.5 to 2.8 C above average. Daily measures that show a consistent warming trend. A trend that, if it continues, is likely to push Nino 3.4 temperatures into a range comparable with or exceeding the 1997 El Nino high temperature mark by early-to-mid November.

In other words, the 2015 Monster El Nino event appears to be setting up to tie or beat the record-shattering 1997 El Nino over the next few weeks.

Max Temperature Spike is Coming

Regardless of whether we see the 1997 record shattered, it is likely that heat bleeding off the current Monster El Nino will continue to amplify atmospheric temperatures on through early Spring of 2016. What this means is that we haven’t seen the hottest global temperatures out of this event yet. Preliminary estimates for October are coming in the range of 1.1 to 1.3 C+ above 1880s values. Meanwhile, a peak in atmospheric temperature is likely to occur within 1-4 months after El Nino itself peaks. So though 2015 has been a record breaker so far, we may see global heat intensifying through to 2016 with new monthly temperatures testing never before seen ranges. This added heat provided from a Monster El Nino makes it a distinct possibility that we will see three back-to-back record hot years — 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Links:

Is This the Last Year Below 400 ppm CO2?

Global Development of Policy Regimes to Combat Climate Change

Deep Ocean Warming Coming Back to Haunt Us

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths

NASA GISS

Skeptical Science

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

Earth Nullschool

“A Crime Against Humanity” — Hothouse Wildfire Smoke Sickens 500,000 As Indonesian Officials Plan For Mass Evacuations

It’s official. In terms of economic damage and human displacement, the 2015 Indonesian wildfires are the worst that Island nation has ever experienced. Worse than even the terrible 1997 wildfires and possibly the worst wildfire disaster ever. And it’s all an upshot of what happens when slash and burn agriculture meets a once lush land now sweltering in a human hothouse world.

* * * *

There’s been something dreadfully wrong with Indonesia’s forests and peatlands ever since massive fires ignited across that island nation back in 1997. Back then, a monster El Nino — combined with heat from massive human greenhouse gas emissions — pushed the world to 0.7 to 0.8 C hotter than 1880s averages. Equatorial temperatures would never again fall to a normal threshold. And as the lands and surrounding oceans warmed, the dry season lengthened and the rainy season shortened.

Slash and burn agriculture, a mainstay practice for the region ever since industrial farms began to take root there in the middle 20th Century, always generated some fires. But before human greenhouse emissions brought on added heat and dryness, the situation was one of slow degradation rather than violent conflagration. Even during the dry season, mid-to-late 20th Century moisture levels were much higher and fires tended to be naturally suppressed by the lush wetness of the region. But now, with the added heat of human warming creating droughts in the peatlands, slash and burn agriculture essentially amounted to throwing burning embers into a powder keg.

Kuala Lumpur

(Kuala Lumpur, Maylasia swelters under peat-fire smog during late September of 2015. Ever since 1997, Indonesia has suffered severe seasonal wildfires. These fires are often set by corporate and individual farmers who use the fires to clear land. However, increased heat and drought caused by an increasingly vicious human-forced warming of the globe are creating a climate in which these fires, once set, tend to rage out of control. Image source: ALERT.)

As the heatwaves and droughts lengthened with amplifying human-forced warming, wildfires became endemic. Each year, the farmers burned more peatlands. Each year, the peatlands belched toxic smoke into the air, burning deeper and deeper into the carbon-rich ground, adding to and compounding the problem of human fossil fuel emissions and causing mass sickness and hospitalizations. In this dangerous new equatorial hothouse climate, even under the rains, the ground still smoldered, waiting for the longer, hotter dry seasons to return before again erupting into flame. All throughout the 2000s and 2010s, the situation worsened as temperatures back-filled into the new upper range set by the 1997 El Nino and then advanced still further.

Now, human greenhouse gas emissions are again amplifying peak global temperatures as a Monster El Nino that threatens to be worse than the 1997 event is sweltering the globe. Now temperatures worldwide are hitting 1 to 1.2 C above 1880s averages. And now the Indonesia wildfires are growing from an annual nation-spanning disaster, to an epic conflagration that threatens to destabilize an entire region.

The Worst Fire on Record, Again

To say that the Indonesian fires this year have been bad may well be the understatement to end all understatements. As of mid October more than 100,000 individual fires had been reported. By late October, damages to the Indonesian economy were estimated to have reached 30 billion dollars (or more than six times the economic impact of the 1997 wildfires). More than 6,000 schools were closed as an international firefighting effort involving an army of 22,000 firefighters proved inadequate to contain the massive-country spanning blazes.

An entire nation fell choking under black, gray, or toxic yellow skies. 500,000 people were reported sick. But not one person among the affected regions’ 43 million residents could pass a day without feeling the dark fingers of the peat smoke squeezing into their chest and lungs, doing untold future damage.

Thousands of miles away, places like Guam were forced to issue air quality alerts as the massive Indonesian smoke cloud was swept across vast swaths of ocean by storms or other weather systems. Indonesia’s peat fire smoke had now become a toxic export and neighboring nations were not at all happy at the vast, dark clouds spreading out from the burning lands.

Indonesia Wildfires

(Satellite shot of a smoke covered Indonesia on October 26 of 2015. Due to a combination of human forced warming of the globe and a Monster El Nino, Indonesia’s current record spate of wildfires could continue to burn until December. As of now, extremely hazardous air quality has Indonesian officials planning mass evacuations from smoke filled regions to hospitals and even to ships off shore. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

The situation has gotten so bad that Indonesia has now set in place mass evacuation plans for the hardest hit regions. The government has distributed 7,000 air purifiers as part of its ‘shelter in place’ program. But for those who simply cannot manage the stifling airs, authorities are planning for transport into hospitals and, if that doesn’t work, to military, hospital, and converted cruise vessels waiting off shore. Government actions, in this case, speak louder than the official words. What they may as well be saying is that, for an ever-growing number of Indonesian citizens, human-forced climate change and slash and burn agriculture has rendered the land uninhabitable.

A Crime Against Humanity

Sutopo Puro Nugroho, the spokesperson for the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency neatly summed it up by stating: “This is a crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions…” The official then went on to state that now was not the time to point fingers. Now was the time to attempt to save lives.

And he’s right. The time to point fingers was years and years ago, before this disaster began to fully unfold. Back then, in the late 20th Century we had a chance to address the endemic corruption of political and economic systems made to depend on dangerous and amoral industries. But at least now we can acknowledge what should have been said long ago — slash and burn agriculture, in this case, joins with the fossil fuel industry to form what could best be described as a global climate crimes syndicate. One whose dark fruits are now coming into an ugly ripeness over Indonesia.

For this year, there’s no neat end in sight. This year, the rainy season may be delayed until at least December. And until that time the hothouse stoked, slash and burn lit fires will continue to belch their awful fume, continue to stifle Indonesia’s inhabitants, continue to add more greenhouse gasses to an already sweltering atmosphere. That is, until the rains do come. And when they do, it’s just a six month wait for another ridiculous burning season, a 1-6 year wait for another new fire-worsening global temperature record, and a 7-20 year wait for another monster El Nino. In the end, the final wait until all of Indonesia’s peatlands are burned may be as little as 30-100 years. A once lush and forested land turning to ruin before our very eyes.

Links:

Indonesia’s Fires Labeled ‘A Crime Against Humanity

Indonesia Fire Season Puts Chokehold on Record Books

Indonesia Under Fire

Choking Smoke — The Growing Curse of Indonesia’s Wildfires

Top 10 Devastating Wildfires

LANCE MODIS

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Greg

Patricia’s Epic Bombification — Monster El Nino + Climate Change Serves Up Strongest Western Hemisphere Hurricane Ever

Now this is scary. A tragic development you’d tend to see in a disaster movie screenplay and not in any typical meteorological record for any 36 hour period. But here we have it.

Patricia, as of 36 hours ago, was a rather mild tropical storm churning through the human hothouse and El Nino warmed Eastern Pacific. The storm was predicted to make landfall in Western Mexico as a hurricane, then turn north into Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi — dumping extreme rains over a drought stricken region. But there was little hint as to what would happen next.

(Patricia becomes the strongest Western Hemisphere storm ever recorded as it sets sights on a swath from the Pacific Mexican Coast and on through to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Video Source.)

Favorable atmospheric conditions and next to zero wind shear set the stage for strengthening. But the main driver was the hot ocean water which Patricia could tap as fuel for rapid intensification. For the entire region now features ocean surface temperatures in the range of 30 to 31 C (86 to 88 F) or about 2-3 degrees Celsius above average. It’s heat fed by an El Nino that could be one of the top three strongest on record. Heat further intensified by a human forced warming of the globe that has now hit about 1 C above 1880s levels. Heat that would allow Patricia to hit never before seen heights of storm force in a period of extraordinarily rapid intensification.

They call it bombification for a reason. Pressures drop rapidly, wind speeds rage to epic force, and the storm presents a tell-tale angry red signature in the infrared satellite shot. During recent years, bombification has become an all-too-common word associated with ocean storms that are now feeding on unprecedented amounts of heat, moisture, and temperature differentials. Some have even claimed that Hansen’s terrifying ‘Storms of My Grandchildren’ are starting to arrive early. But what happened with Patricia was even outside the new abnormal bombification ‘norm.’

Patricia Stadium Effect

(Enhanced image from NOAA’s twitter feed shows stadium effect and a deadly symmetry similar to that of Typhoon Haiyan. As of the 2 PM EST National Hurricane Center update, Patricia featured a 879 mb minimum central pressure — or lower than that of Haiyan at 895 mb. Image source: NOAA Satellite Pictures)

Though weather models did forecast a rapid strengthening for Patricia, the kind of strengthening we ended up with was something freakish, historic and extraordinary. In a 36 hour period pressures plunged from a mild 990s mb storm to a system featuring an 880 mb minimum central pressure. This raging period of ocean-shattering intensification propelled Patricia to a dubious status of most intense storm ever recorded for the Western Hemisphere over centuries of barometric readings. Winds also rapidly strengthened — roaring up from 40 miles per hour to a current top intensity of 200 miles per hour. That’s 160 mph of wind intensification in a little more than 36 hours.

According to meteorologist Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University in USA Today:

Patricia’s winds intensified a whopping 109 mph during Thursday, rising from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane. It was the fastest intensification ever recorded in the eastern Pacific Ocean, according to meteorologist Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University (emphasis added).

It was a never-before-seen pace of intensification. One that begs the question — how can we prepare for major storms if bombification starts to occur more rapidly than we can respond?

At current intensity, the storm is now comparable to the monster western Pacific Storms — Haiyan (195 mph and 895 mb) and Tip (195 mph and 870 mb) — otherwise known as the strongest storms ever recorded. And all this fury now aimed at a well-populated swath from the Pacific Coast of Mexico through to the Gulf Coast of the United States.

An Unimaginably Dangerous Storm Following a Ridiculously Dangerous Path

The potential for tragedy in this situation cannot be understated. A similar strength Hurricane Haiyan — also fueled by abnormally hot waters made hotter by human-forced warming — rendered tens of thousands homeless even as it resulted in the horrible loss of 6,300 souls.

Patricia falls into this high-danger category for a few reasons. The first is that the storm is expected to maintain its extreme Category 5 intensity all the way through to landfall — which is predicted to occur within the next 10-12 hours. Abnormally intense ocean heat content along the path of Patricia, as seen in the graphic below, will continue to provide the powerful storm with fuel as it encroaches upon the Mexico Coast.

Ocean Heat Content and Patricia Track

(Ocean heat content and predicted storm path by Colorado State University.)

As a result, a 15-30 mile swath of the Mexican coast may experience sustained winds near or in excess of 200 mph with gusts up to as high as 250 mph. That’s tornado intensity winds — with the ability to flatten homes or hurl cars through the air — but spread out over an area the size of a small state. Storm surges and related onshore waves are expected to be ‘catastrophic’ (the National Hurricane Center’s words). How catastrophic is unclear (no specific surge height predictions are given), but taking such extreme wind speeds and low pressures into account, we could certainly expect surges near and to the right side of the storm center to be in the range of 20-30 feet+.

If Patricia slams into the coast at a direct angle, then impacts will be limited to a smaller area. But recent tracking has set Patricia on a more oblique path — which means numerous communities may see severe impacts if Patricia spends hours skirting the coast. In total, more than 7 million residents live in the coastal regions along the path of this storm with more than a million in the zone likely to be impacted by the most intense winds and storm surges (see more here).

As Patricia begins to interact with the mountainous terrain near the coast, it should begin to weaken even as it dumps heavy rainfall predicted to be in excess of 20 inches over a broad region. Already, moisture and storm outflow from Patricia are being caught up in the Jet Stream and pulled north and eastward over Texas. By Sunday, the remnants of Patricia are expected to combine with a non-tropical cyclone in a kind of hybrid system which is predicted to, in turn, dump between 5 and 12 inches of rain over a wide section of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas even as it lashes coastal regions with 60+ mph winds.

Severe rainfall Texas

(NOAA 5 day precipitation forecasts show severe rains hitting drought stricken regions of Texas, Arkansas and Lousiana as the remnants of Patrica track northward. Image source: NOAA.)

This storm will provide yet one more weather whiplash to a region that experienced severe flooding this past Winter and Spring only to be replaced by severe flash drought conditions and extreme wildfire outbreaks during late Summer and early Fall. Patricia’s expected flooding rains will begin what is predicted to be an extremely wet Winter for the region — providing no relief from the highly varied conditions that have impacted this area for some time now. The kind of extreme weather variation that scientists warned was also a potential upshot of human-forced climate change. And, in this case, a record strength storm fueled by a near record El Nino, forming in a record hot world, and feeding on record hot Pacific Ocean waters is the delivery mechanism for the predicted switch.

UPDATE: Patricia is now in the process of making landfall about 20-30 miles to the west of Manzanilla, Mexico. According to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center, maximum sustained winds have fallen slightly to a still ridiculous 190 mph even as the minimum central pressure has backed off to around 900 mb. Such an intensity still likely puts it in the range of strongest landfalling storms in North America after the Labor Day Hurricane (892 mb).

Patricia Landfall

(Patricia is making landfall just west of Manzanillo, Mexico. Image source: NOAA/NHC.)

Thoughts and prayers go out to all in the path of this monster. Please stay safe!

Links:

National Hurricane Center

Patricia is the Strongest Hurricane Ever Measured

Hurricane Patricia, The Strongest Storm Ever Recorded

Hurricane Patricia Hits Cat 5 En Route to Mexico Coast

Colorado State University

NOAA

NOAA Satellite Pictures

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Greg

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

“Too Furious For Human Intervention” — Climate Feedbacks Spur Out of Control Wildfires From Indonesia to Brazil

There is “no way human intervention can put out the fires,” Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Malaysia’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, to the Australian Broadcasting Company on the issue of Indonesian wildfires in a recent Weather Channel Report.

*****

Outbreaks of Equatorial wildfires. It’s something that can happen during strong El Ninos. These periods of warming in the Equatorial Pacific can set off a chain of events leading to dangerous heatwaves, droughts and wildfires breaking out all over the Earth’s mid-section.

But put a strong El Nino into the context of the overall human-forced warming of the global environment by 1 C hotter than 1880s values and you start to get into some serious trouble. The added heat amplifies the warming already being set off by El Nino conditions, it worsens droughts, and it provides an environment for some ridiculously intense wildfire outbreaks. Outbreaks of a strength and ferocity we would not have seen had we not forced the world to warm by so much.

CAMS CO2

(Copernicus’s Atmospheric Monitoring Service [CAMS] shows very intense point source CO2 emissions from wildfires now raging out of control in the Amazon and in Indonesia. These massive fires have been set off due to a combination of poor land use practices and excessive heat and and drought spurred by El Nino and the added heating effect of human-forced climate change. Image source: CAMS.)

Over the past month, very intense and widespread wildfires have been breaking out in two heavily forested Equatorial regions — the Amazon and Indonesia. You can see the point source CO2 emissions for these fires in the CAMS graphic above. And what we see is that current emissions from these wildfires now exceeds that of the massive industrial Northern Hemisphere sources.

In essence, the vast carbon stores contained in the forested regions of the Amazon and Indonesia are burning and releasing into the atmosphere. This burning is due, in substantial part, to the added heat human fossil fuel based industry has forced into the global climate system. Thus, these extraordinary fires are the very definition of an amplifying feedback. And they will likely result in net global carbon emissions from all sources hitting a pretty extreme spike for 2015.

According to a recent report in Bits of Science:

In 1997 Indonesian drought and forest fires increased global CO2 emissions by 13-40 percent. In 2010 Amazon drought and forest fires increased global antropogenic CO2 emissions (energy and land use!) by an estimated 25 percent.

Given these ominous precedents, and given the extent of Equatorial wildfires in rainforest regions this year, we may see increases in global emissions hit or even exceed the ranges mentioned above.

11,000 Forest Fires in Brazil So Far

Last year, during one of Brazil’s worst droughts on record, more than 7,000 wildfires raged over Brazil’s forested regions. The rate of burning was so great that many scientists and environmentalists wondered if human warming was already starting to take down the massive and majestic rainforest — an impact that was not considered likely until the earth warmed up by another 1-3 degrees C on top of the heat forcing we’ve already provided.

But though the Amazon was left smoldering after a terrible drought and wildfire outbreak last year, the damage continued to increase through 2015. By early October, and with nearly 3 months of 2015 still remaining, more than 11,000 wildfires were reported to have burned in Brazil and the Amazon — a 47 percent increase in the number of wildfires from the severe burning of 2014. A stark statistic that will only grow worse as El Nino continues to spike global and Equatorial temperatures into new record ranges. A wretched example of how human-forced climate change can really turn El Nino into a monstrous weather phenomena.

Amazon Wildfires October 18

(Smoke from Amazon wildfires visible in the October 18,2015 LANCE MODIS satellite shot. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

As with the ongoing water shortage disaster in Sao Paulo, mainstream media accounts of this massive wildfire outbreak in Brazil have been sparse. However, given the fact that we have a near 50 percent increase in the rate of burning from last year’s terrible base-line, we can only imagine that conditions on the ground in Brazil and in the Amazon are rather dire.

Huge Areas of Indonesia Burning — Some Fires Too Intense to Fight

Though the rate of Amazon burning is massive, but obscure in media reports, similarly immense Indonesia wildfires on the other side of the globe suffer no lack of media attention. Just 24 minutes ago, a report from The Weather Channel cited officials stating that some of the fires in region were now “too intense for human intervention.”

There, fires are so intense that smoke from them has forced the cancellation of flights, school children have been asked to stay home to avoid hazardous air, and the country is calling in firefighting forces from all over the globe. Malaysia, Singapore, and even Russia have contributed firefighting aircraft to the cause. But as of now, there appears little that can be done to help an out of control fire situation that has left a vast region sweltering under a hot, dense cloud of smoke.

“The government has tried hard to extinguish the wildfires across the country,” said Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya in a report to AP, “but it has gotten out of control.”

Rapid Response Indonesia Wildfires

(NASA Rapid Response MODIS satellite image shows very dense plumes of smoke rising off massive burn areas over Indonesia today. Smoke coverage was so dense that health warnings were issued, flights canceled, and school children sent home. With fires now raging out of control the best hope is the arrival of the mid-November rains. But added Equatorial heat due to El Nino and human-forced warming may force hot, dry conditions to remain in place. Image source: Rapid Response.)

An annual outbreak of wildfires has now become commonplace in Indonesia where corporations illegally burn to clear away forested land for Palm Oil and other crops. This year, record heat and dryness set off by a powerful El Nino acting in combination with human-forced climate change has added yet more danger to the dubious and harmful activity.

Not only are fires now so widespread and intense that they burn completely out of control, but the pall of smoke cast by the fires generates its own fire hazard — helping to prevent rain cloud formation. In total, more than 3,500 hot spots are now visible in the satellite image. In Borneo and Sumatra, more than 4.2 million acres or about 6,500 square miles have burned so far.

The situation is so dire that officials and residents alike are forced to pin their hopes on the seasonal emergence of rains by mid-November. Hopes that may be dashed as a strong El Nino combines with already intense human warming to force ever more extreme conditions.

Links:

Indonesian Wildfires Now Too Furious For Human Intervention

This is What Carbon Climate Feedbacks Look Like!!

CAMS

Rapid Response

LANCE MODIS

Amazon Rainforest Wildfires Scorch Through Drought-Plagued Brazil

Hat Tip to both Colorado Bob and DT Lange for their amazing research on the subject

Is Human Warming Prodding A Sleeping Methane Monster off Oregon’s Coast?

We’ve talked quite a bit about the Arctic Methane Monster — the potential that a rapidly warming Arctic will force the release of disproportionately large volumes of methane from organic material locked in permafrost and in frozen sea bed hydrates composing volumes of this powerful greenhouse gas large enough to significantly increase the pace of human-forced global warming. But if we consider the globe as a whole, the Arctic isn’t the only place where large methane stores lurk — laying in wait for the heat we’ve already added to the world’s oceans and atmosphere to trigger their release. And a new study out of the University of Washington provides yet another indication that the continental shelf off Oregon and Washington may be one of many emerging methane release hot spots.

For all around the world, and beneath the broad, blue expanse of the world’s seas, rest billions and billions of tons of frozen methane hydrate.

A kind of methane and ice combination, frozen hydrate is one of the world’s most effective natural methods of trapping and sequestering carbon. Over long ages, organic material at the bottom of the oceans decompose into hydrocarbons, often breaking down into methane gas. At high pressure and low temperature, this methane gas can be locked away in a frozen water-ice hydrate lattice, which is then often buried beneath the sea bed where it can safely remain for thousands or even millions of years.

Plume2_nolabels_cropped

(Plume of methane bubbles rising from the sea floor off the Oregon Coast. This image shows methane bubbles originating from the sea bed about 515 meters below the surface before dissolving into the water column at about 180 meters depth. Image source: American Geophysical Union.)

Most of these deposits lay well beneath the sea bed or at extreme ocean depths of one mile or greater. And so far, human forced warming hasn’t been great enough to risk the destabilization of most of these deep ocean carbon stores. But some hydrate deposits rest in the shallower waters of continental slope systems and at depths where current warming may now be causing them to destabilize.

Scientists Think Methane Hydrates May be Destabilizing off Oregon

Enter a new study by University of Washington scientists which found “an unusually high number of bubble plumes at the depth where methane hydrate would decompose if seawater has warmed.” The scientists concluded that these bubble plumes were likely evidence of methane hydrate destabilization due to a human forced warming of the water column in the range of about 500 meters of depth.

The warm waters, ironically, come from a region off Siberia where the deep waters have, over recent decades, been heated to unprecedented temperatures. These waters have, in turn, through ocean current exchange, circulated to the off-shore region of Washington and Oregon where they appear to have gone to work destabilizing methane hydrate in the continental slope zone. A paper published during 2014 hypothesized that these warm waters would have an impact on hydrates. And the new paper is the first potential confirmation of these earlier predictions.

In total about 168 methane plumes are now observed to be bubbling out of the sea bed off the Washington and Oregon coasts. Of these, 14 are located in the 500 meter depth range where ocean warming has pushed temperatures to levels at which hydrate could begin to destabilize. University of Washington researchers noted that the number of plumes at this depth range was disproportionately high, which also served as an indirect indicator that human heating may be causing this methane to release.

PlumesMap

(Locations of methane plumes in the continental slope zone off Washington and Oregon. The location of a disproportionate number of these plumes in a zone now featuring a warming water column is an indication that the human-forced heating of ocean currents is starting to drive some methane hydrate structures to destabilize. Image source: AGU.)

Lead author H. Paul Johnson, a University of Washington professor of oceanography noted in AGU:

“So it is not likely to be just emitted from the sediments; this appears to be coming from the decomposition of methane that has been frozen for thousands of years… What we’re seeing is possible confirmation of what we predicted from the water temperatures: Methane hydrate appears to be decomposing and releasing a lot of gas. If you look systematically, the location on the margin where you’re getting the largest number of methane plumes per square meter, it is right at that critical depth of 500 meters.””

Implications For Ocean Health, Carbon Cycle

Most methane released at this depth never reaches the atmosphere. Instead, it either oxidizes to CO2 in the water column or is converted by ocean bacteria. That said, expanding zones of methane release can rob the surrounding ocean of vital oxygen even as it can saturate the water column with carbon — increasing ocean acidification and reducing the local ocean’s ability to draw carbon out of the atmosphere. Such a response can indirectly increase the volume of heat trapping gasses in the atmosphere by reducing the overall rate of ocean carbon uptake. In more extreme cases, methane bubbles reach the surface where they then vent directly into the atmosphere, proportionately adding to the human-produced greenhouse gasses that have already put the world into a regime of rapid warming.

It has been hypothesized that large methane releases from ocean hydrate stores contributed to past hothouse warming events and related mass extinctions like the Permian and the PETM (See A Deadly Climb From Glaciation to Hothouse). But the more immediate consequences of smaller scale releases are related to declining ocean health.

According to AGU and Dr. Johnson, the study author:

Marine microbes convert the methane into carbon dioxide, producing lower-oxygen, more-acidic conditions in the deeper offshore water, which eventually wells up along the coast and surges into coastal waterways. “Current environmental changes in Washington and Oregon are already impacting local biology and fisheries, and these changes would be amplified by the further release of methane,” Johnson said.

Instances of mass sea life die-off have already occurred at a very high frequency off the Washington and Oregon Coasts. And many of these instances have been associated with a combination of low oxygen content in the near and off shore waters, increasing ocean acidification, increasing dangerous algae blooms, and an overall warming ocean system. It’s important to note that ocean acidification, though often cited in the media, is just one of many threats to ocean life and health. In many cases, low oxygen dead zones and large microbial blooms can be even more deadly. And in the most extreme low oxygen regions, the water column can start to fill up with deadly hydrogen sulfide gas — a toxic substance that, at high enough concentrations, kills off pretty much all oxygen-based life (See Hydrogen Sulfide in the World’s Warming Oceans).

During recent years, mass sea life deaths have been linked to a ‘hot blob’ forming in nearby waters (See Mass Whale Death in Northeast Pacific — Hot Blob’s Record Algae Bloom to Blame?). However, indicators of low oxygen in the waters near Washington and Oregon have been growing in frequency since the early 2000s. Though the paper does not state this explicitly — increasing rates of methane release in the off-shore waters due to hydrate destabilization may already be contributing to declining ocean health in the region.

Slope Collapse, Conditions in Context

A final risk associated with methane hydrate destabilization in the continental slope zone is an increased prevalence of potential slope collapse. As methane hydrate releases, it can deform the sea bed structures within slope systems. Such systems become less stable, increasing the potential for large underwater landslides. Not only could these large landslides displace significant volumes of water or even set off tsunamis, slope collapse events also risk uncovering and exposing more hydrate systems to the warming ocean in a kind of amplifying feedback.

In context, the total volume of methane being released into the off-shore environment is currently estimated to be about 0.1 million metric tons each year. That’s about the same rate of hydrocarbon release seen from the Deepwater Horizon blowout. A locally large release but still rather small in size compared to the whopping 10+ billion tons of carbon being dumped into the atmosphere each year through human fossil fuel burning. However, this release is widespread, uncontrolled, un-cappable and, if scientists are correct in their indications of a human warming influence, likely to continue to increase as the oceans warm further.

Links:

Bubble Plumes off Washington and Oregon Suggest Warmer Ocean May be Releasing Frozen Methane

Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Warming Oceans May be Spewing Methane off US West Coast

Concern Over Catastrophic Methane Release

Hydrogen Sulfide in the World’s Warming Oceans

Mass Whale Death in Northeast Pacific — Hot Blob’s Record Algae Bloom to Blame?

A Deadly Climb From Glaciation to Hothouse

Hat tip to Humortra

Japan Meteorological Agency — September of 2015 was Hottest on Record — NASA not Far Behind

With a monster El Nino firing off in the Pacific and with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations now in excess of 480 parts per millions CO2 equivalent, global temperatures for 2015 continue to shatter new all-time records. It’s a sad upshot of continued energy dominance by myopic fossil fuel special interests and the big money investors who have backed them now for the better part of 135 years.

As of September of 2015, temperatures in the global measure provided by Japan’s Meteorological Agency rocketed to 0.5 C above the 1981 to 2000 average or about 1.2 C above average temperatures last seen at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Global temperature anomalies September of 2015

(Japan’s Meteorological Agency shows that global temperatures sky-rocketed to a new record in September. Image source: JMA.)

This departure is a whopping 0.4 C above baseline rates of increase and a significant 0.15 C above the old record high for September set just last year (2014). Perhaps more notable is that all of the five hottest Septembers have occurred since 2009. A very strong global warming signal for the month and one that has left the 1997-1998 El Nino years in the dust.

NASA Shows September of 2015 was Second Hottest on Record

Though NOAA has yet to chime in with its monthly global temperature and climate analysis, NASA’s own GISS temperature monitor also shows September hitting near record heat. According to NASA, September of 2015 came in 0.81 C hotter than its own 20th Century benchmark average and about 1.01 C hotter than 1880s averages. This puts September of 2015 as a solid 2nd hottest in NASA’s record and just behind the new record set for September just last year.

NASA’s measure shows that four of the five hottest Septembers have all occurred since 2012 (ranking 2014 first hottest at +0.90 C, 2015 second hottest at +0.81 C, 2013 tied for third hottest with 2005 at +0.77 C, and 2012 as fourth hottest at +0.75 C). 2015’s +0.81 C departure is also well in excess of the +0.56 C departure seen in 1997 during the ramp up of what was then the strongest El Nino on record with averages for Septembers of 2014 and 2015 now at about +0.30 C above 1997 levels. A jump that falls neatly in the range of temperature increases predicted by IPCC and following the +0.15 to +0.20 C per decade accelerated rate of increase seen globally since around 1980.

Despite Strong El Nino, Northern Hemisphere Polar Amplification Really Heats up in September

NASA’s geographic distribution of temperature anomalies map tells a rather interesting tale for September. One that may have implications for Northern Hemisphere weather further down the line as Fall and Winter progress.

Land Ocean Temp Map September of 2015

(NASA’s global temperature anomalies map shows strong warming at both the Equator and the Northern Hemisphere Pole during September. A signature that hints strong south to north heat transfers are at play. Image source: NASA GISS.)

As expected with a strong El Nino, we see a lot of heat building up along the Equatorial zone and especially in the Eastern Pacific where land-ocean temperatures hit a strong range of +2 to +4 C above average. A bit odd, however, is a strong heat plume visibly rising off this hot zone, traversing the western land mass of North America and entering the Arctic through the gateway of the Canadian Archipelago (CAA). Notably, high Arctic temperature anomalies in the zone north of the CAA also spike to levels in the range of +2 to +4 C above average. It’s a kind of south to north heat transfer that we would expect to see less and less of as El Nino strengthens and the storm track flattens out. But ridging over the North American West along with associated heat continued to remain in force throughout September providing a pathway for heat to enter the upper Latitudes.

Other strong, though somewhat less robust, Equator to Pole heat transfers appear visible over Europe on up through Scandinavia, and ranging along a diagonal between India, China, Mongolia and Kamchatka. It’s a heat signature picture of a mangled Jet Stream completed by trough zones and cool pools over Alaska, in the ominous region of the North Atlantic between Greenland and England, in Central Asia, and just east of Japan. Most notably, the cool pool associated with a weakening Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and all-too-likely due to the decadally increasing rates of glacial melt outflows from Greenland remains a dominant feature in the North Atlantic. It’s a cool pool signature that was predicted in almost all the global climate models in association with overall human forced warming of the atmosphere and ocean. One that can drive weather instability in the North Atlantic. And one that has been a nearly constant features since at least 2012.

NASA zonal anomalies

(Zonal anomalies graphic also shows strong equatorial and polar warming. Image source. NASA.)

NASA’s zonal anomalies map paints a picture of both Equatorial and Northern Hemisphere Polar heat with temperatures well above average over most regions of the world. The primary exception is Antarctica and the Southern Ocean which, during recent years, has acted as an atmosphere-to-ocean heat sink. Notably, a very strong storm track in the region of 50 South Latitude has driven powerful winds which have forced atmospheric heat into the ocean depths while also forming an atmospheric barrier to heat conveyance over Antarctica.

High Latitude regions between 85 and 90 North showed the most extreme temperature departures with a +1.6 C positive anomaly for the region. Temperatures drop somewhat to between +1 and +1.3 C from 30 to 70 North before rising again to around +1.4 C near the Equator. Anomalies drop off southward ranging from near +0.7 C around 30 South before dropping into negative values in the atmosphere to ocean heat uptake zone in the Southern Ocean near 60 South.

Winter Weather for 2015 May Feature Some Unexpected Twists

Overall dispersal of heat shows a notably high degree of Northern Hemisphere polar amplification at a time when El Nino should be spiking heat at the Equator, increasing Jet Stream strength, and pushing the Northern Hemisphere Polar zone to cool somewhat. The fact that the Pole remained at higher positive temperature anomalies than the Equator during September even as El Nino cracked +2 C above average heat in the Nino 3.4 zone hints that this Winter may show more waviness in the Jet Stream than is typical during a strong El Nino year. As a result, weather patterns typical to El Nino during Northern Hemisphere Winter may show marked variance.

If this is the case, rainfall amounts for Southern and Central California may be less than expected for a typical strong El Nino year. Heavy rainfall events may shift northward toward Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. A northward angling storm track over Western North America would tend to reinforce trough development in the east while providing major storms for the US East Coast and Northeast as the higher amplitude Jet Stream wave taps more Arctic air than is typical. Meanwhile, warm waters off the US East Coast in the range of +2 to +5 C above average will provide both heat and moisture as fuel for storms moving down any trough feature. Extra heat and moisture provided by El Nino will also tend to preferentially increase storm intensity all along the storm track even as temperature differentials at the sea surface in the North Atlantic provide further instability for storms that are likely to hit high intensity along a track between Iceland and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, these features, combined with warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the newly ice-liberated Barents, could result in warmer and stormier conditions for Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Globally, we are likely in for a record hot Northern Hemisphere winter for 2015. Combined with one of the strongest El Ninos on record, such a high temperature excession may well put us into a number of entirely new, and potentially very stormy, weather contexts. Comprehensive monitoring and updates to follow.

Links:

Japan’s Meteorological Agency

NASA GISS

Monster El Nino + Climate Change Means Not Normal Winter is On the Way

World Ocean Heartbeat Fading?

Living in a World at 480 CO2e

NASA: Monster El Nino + Climate Change Means ‘Not Normal’ Winter is On the Way

“Over North America, this winter will definitely not be normal. However, the climatic events of the past decade make ‘normal’ difficult to define.”  — Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA’s JPL speaking in Earth Observatory today.

****

It’s official, as of this Monday’s weekly NOAA ENSO report, a still growing 2015 El Nino had taken yet one more step into monster event territory. Hitting a +1.5 C sea surface temperature anomaly in the benchmark Nino 3.4 zone over the period of July through September even as weekly values rocketed to an amazing +2.4 C above average, the 2015 El Nino heightened yet again — making a substantial jump in overall ocean heat content. But according to a recent report out of NASA’s Earth Observatory, it appears we’re just beginning to see the full potential of this thing.

As Big or Bigger in Ocean Heat Content Than 1997-1998

For the 2015 El Nino, an event that NASA scientists are now calling ‘too big to fail,’ appears bound to continue strengthening through late Fall and Early Winter. Growing into a climate and weather wrenching oceanic and atmospheric heavyweight that will significantly impact North American weather patterns during the Winter of 2015-2016. This extreme climate event — which is currently building to an extraordinary ocean heat content anomaly in the Central and Eastern Pacific — is now comparable to the top three strongest El Ninos on record. In other words, and according to NASA: “El Niño is strengthening and it looks a lot like the strong event that occurred in 1997–98.”

Sea surface height anomalies

(Sea surface height anomaly graphic provided by NASA shows a pattern very similar to 1997. Positive ocean surface height anomalies, indicated in red above, are the hallmark of an El Nino that is currently ranked among the top three strongest events observed for October. Image source: NASA.)

Ocean surface heights, as seen in the Earth Observatory graphic above, now show a pattern very similar to the monster 1997-1998 El Nino.

In a typical El Nino, Kelvin Waves transfer Equatorial Pacific Ocean heat from west to east which in turn sets off a rise in sea surface heights by thermally expanding the water column throughout the traditional Nino zones. And during the Fall of 2015 what we’re seeing is a big thermal and related ocean surface bulge swelling seas throughout the Eastern and Central Equatorial Pacific. To this point, Earth Observatory notes: “October sea level height anomalies show that 2015 is as big or bigger in heat content than 1997.”

Strong Westerly Wind Burst Lends More Energy to El Nino

Supporting NASA’s conclusions that El Nino intensity during 2015-2016 may hit near or beyond the top of the chart is a recent intensification of westerly winds over the Western Equatorial Pacific. Throughout 2014 and growing into 2015, these westerly wind bursts have fed El Nino by pushing warmer, Western Pacific waters eastward — thus increasing ocean heat content in the El Nino zone to near record levels.

Over the past week, another very strong westerly wind burst was again supplying El Nino with a warm water recharge. By tomorrow, the Global Forecast System model shows not one but four cyclones driving a strong westerly wind pattern from the Philippines all the way to the Date Line:

image

(Yet one more strong westerly wind burst is providing the already powerful 2015 El Nino with another boost. Note the extensive reverse trade wind pattern stretching all the way to the Date Line. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

It’s a pretty significant westerly wind pattern — near to par with some of the related weather events (MJO) earlier this year that were among the strongest in the meteorological record. These winds will rise to near gale-force gusts in some regions and provide a dominant fetch from west to east across a 1,500 mile section of Pacific Ocean. According to NASA:

“This [weakening of the trades] should strengthen this El Niño. All multi-model averages predict a peak in late fall/early winter. The forecaster consensus unanimously favors a strong El Niño…Overall, there is an approximately 95 percent chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015–16.”

Not Normal Winter Weather on the Way

A typical powerful El Nino of this kind would tend to drive a very intense train of moisture into the West Coast of the US, make for a cool and very wet winter across the southern US, and drive warmer temperatures and drier conditions across the northern tier. Climatologists, however, are uncertain how interactions between the current powerful El Nino and a globally changing weather pattern set off by a human-forced warming of the atmosphere to 1 C above 1880s levels (or about 1/4th the difference between the 20th Century and the last ice age, but on the side of hot) will interact.

Very warm sea surface temperatures, likely due to both a climate change-forced heating of ocean surface waters and a weakening of the Gulf Stream, off the Eastern Seaboard hint that storms along the US East Coast and particularly for the US Southeast may hit extreme intensity if an El Nino associated trough digs in. Meanwhile extraordinarily intense sea surface temperature anomalies in the range of +2 to near +6 C above average off the US West Coast associated with a ‘hot blob’ that has lingered in this region for many seasons has caused some to question whether California will see the high intensity rainfall events typical of powerful El Ninos during the latter half of the 20th Century.

image

(Extreme sea surface temperatures off the US West Coast can generate a kind of atmospheric inertia in which high pressure systems tend to develop — deflecting or weakening storms moving across the meridional Pacific northward toward Canada, Alaska and even the Polar region. Alternatively, an El Nino strong enough to over-ride this ocean and atmospheric block is likely to generate some very extreme storms — spurring events possibly exceeding those in the modern climate record. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

For the US West Coast, the region may be balancing on a razor’s edge. If El Nino is strong enough to overwhelm the atmospheric and ocean inertia generated by the hot blob, storms running into that region could be extremely intense. On the other hand, if the hot blob holds or deflects the moisture stream northward, California may not see a drought-busting delivery of rainfall (See Godzilla El Nino vs the Hot Blob).

To this point, we’ll leave Earth Observatory with the next to last word:

“[The] elements of our changing climate are too new to say with certainty what the winter will bring.”

A pretty significant statement when one begins to fully take in its meaning — that climate change may be starting to set weather forecasting out of the context of the latter 20th Century. That it’s NASA’s view that aspects of modern weather prediction for El Nino events may have already been set off kilter by ‘elements of our changing climate.’

New Global Temperature Records For 2015 Likely a Lock

But what we do know is that the ocean-to-atmosphere heat back-up generated by what could be a record El Nino, when combined with the enormous added heat forcing provided by human fossil fuel emissions, will almost certainly set new global high temperature records for 2015 and possibly for 2016. This, unfortunately, means that we’ve already started on a dangerous path toward the far more disruptive +1.5 and +2 C above 1880s benchmarks. A range that many scientists associate with a greatly increased risk of hitting climate tipping points.

Links:

Earth Observatory: El Nino Strengthening

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

Earth Nullschool

Godzilla El Nino vs the Hot Blob

Dr. Lenton’s (somewhat conservative) Exploration of Climate Tipping Points

Climate Change’s Hot Blob Still Blankets Northeastern Pacific

Halfway to 2 C

Nasty Signs North Atlantic Overturning Circulation is Weakening

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Graph — Global Sea Level Rise Just Went off the Chart

From end 2014 through Fall of 2015 global sea levels surged. Building heat hitting +1 C above 1880s averages in the atmosphere-ocean system continued to set off a range of what appear to be ramping impacts. Thermal expansion grew more dramatic as oceans continued to heat up during what may be a record El Nino year. Rates of land ice melt continued to increase — providing a greater and greater fraction of overall global sea level rise. And global ocean currents showed signs of a melt-spurred change — which resulted in an uneven distribution of this overall rise.

We’re Going to Need A Bigger Graph

During that less than one year time, seas rose by fully 1 centimeter. That’s three times the ‘normal’ rate that’s been roughly ongoing since the early 1990s. A big bump that’s now part of a three-and-a-half-year, 3-centimeter surge. One more sign that global sea level rise is starting to really ramp up.

AVISO Sea level rise

(Global sea level rise since 1992 hits past the 8 centimeter mark in the AVISO altimetric graph. Image source: AVISO.)

This big, one-centimeter, jump topped the previous AVISO graph, which went up to 8 centimeters, forcing the measure to generate a new graph with a 9 centimeter top like. In other words, ‘we’re gonna need a bigger graph’ (See the old, smaller, graph here). Unfortunately, with some of the world’s top scientists predicting the potential for an exponentially increasing rate of sea level rise through this Century, it appears that ‘we’re gonna need a bigger graph’ may well become the scientific rallying cry of the age.

Possibility of Exponential Increase in Rate of Sea Level Rise

This year’s seemingly-staggering, 1 centimeter and counting, jump in sea level in less than one year, if maintained over the course of a century would result in a more than 1 meter global rise. Sadly, many new studies on the rate of glacier destabilization in Antarctica and Greenland hint that such a significant jump in sea level is not only likely, but may even be significantly exceeded under business as usual or even a moderately curtailed rate of fossil fuel burning.

A new study led by former NASA GISS head Dr. James Hansen points to the possibility of as much as 3 meters of sea level rise by mid Century and 7 meters or more of sea level rise by end Century even if the global economy somewhat steps off its current high trajectory of fossil fuel burning.

hansen-sea-level-rise

(Steadily ramping sea level rise that may be the start of an exponential curve. Image source: Research Conducted by Dr. James Hansen.)

Such massive rates of sea level rise would clearly be catastrophic.

In such cases, we’d start to see these kinds of exponential increases really begin to ramp up over the next 10, 20, and 30 years. And, given the rather large bumps we’re seeing in the AVISO measure for the past 3 and a half years, it’s possible we’re at the start of one of these potential step changes.

Links:

AVISO Sea Level Rise

Halfway to 2 C — World Approaching Dangerous Climate Milestone

Global Sea Level Rise Going Exponential?

Human-Warmed Southern Ocean Takes Aim at East Antarctica

Warning From Scientists: Age of Superstorms, Rapid Sea Level Rise Likely on the Way

Dr. James Hansen Columbia University

 

 

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