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Key Heat Trapping Gas Crosses 410 Parts Per Million Threshold — Highest Level in Past 5-20 Million Years

This past week, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed a new ominous milestone.

Clocking in at 410.7 parts per million at the Mauna Loa Observatory, this key heat trapping gas hit a range not seen on Earth for many millions of years.

(The world crossed the 410 part per million milestone in the daily measure this week. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

These levels now correspond with the Miocene Climate Epoch when seas were 120 to 190 feet higher than today and when global temperatures ranged from 3 to 5 degrees Celsius hotter than preindustrial averages.

Record Rates of Accumulation

These new records come following two years of record rates of atmospheric CO2 accumulation. According to NOAA, carbon dioxide accumulated by 3.03 parts per million during 2015 and by 3.00 parts per million during 2016. These now represent the two fastest rates of carbon dioxide accumulation in the climate record to date. By comparison, the substantial warming at the end of the last ice age was accompanied by an approximate 0.01 part per million per year rate of CO2 increase averaged over 10,000 years.

2017 rates of atmospheric CO2 accumulation, according to NOAA, appear to have backed off somewhat in the first quarter. Comparative gains from Q1 2016 to Q1 2017 are about 2.8 parts per million. A weak La Nina in the Pacific during late 2016 probably helped ocean surfaces to cool and to draw down a bit more CO2. However, the rate of increase is still disturbingly rapid. A 2.8 ppm increase in 2017, should it emerge, would be the 4th highest annual rate of increase in the record and would be substantially above past decadal averages. Hopefully, this still-disturbingly-rapid rate of increase will continue to tail off a bit through the year. But it is increasingly clear that the time for urgent action to reduce carbon emissions and this very harmful related rate of accumulation is now upon us.

(The CO2 growth rate has recently been ramping higher due to record carbon emissions during the present decade. Rates of carbon emission will need to fall away from record high rates in order to tamp down the presently high rate of accumulation which will tend to trend higher even if such emissions remain at plateau due to various faltering carbon sinks and leaking natural carbon stores. Image source: NOAA.)

The total CO2 increase since major fossil fuel burning began in the 19th Century is now in the range of 130 parts per million from 280 (ppm) to today’s high of 410 (ppm). By comparison, during the end of the last ice age, levels of this heat trapping gas jumped by about 100 (ppm) from around 180 (ppm) to 280 (ppm). Atmospheric averages for 2017 should range about 3-4 ppm lower than the April-May high mark (which might still hit daily highs of 411 ppm or more). But at present rates of increase, we’ll be leaving the 410 ppm threshold level in even the lower average months behind in just a handful of years.

Depending on How You Look at it, We’re 5 to 30 Million Years Out of the Holocene Context

The primary driver of the present extreme rate of CO2 increase is global carbon emissions (primarily from fossil fuel burning) in a record range near 11 billion tons per year (or nearly 50 billion tons of CO2 equivalent gas each year). Though 2014 through 2016 saw a plateau in the rate of global carbon emission, the decadal average accumulation of this emission is still at record highs. Meanwhile, it appears that warming oceans, lands more susceptible to deluges and wildfires, increasingly deforested regions like the Amazon, and thawing Arctic permafrost are less able to take in this record excess. As a result of these factors, human fossil fuel emissions will need to fall for a number of years before we are likely to see an impact on the average annual rate of atmospheric accumulation of this potent heat-trapping gas.

(Past paleoclimate proxy records show that we are millions of years out of the Holocene context when it comes to present levels of atmospheric CO2 accumulation. Image source: Skeptical Science.)

Paleoclimate studies of past epochs are unable to provide 100 percent accuracy for past atmospheric CO2 levels. However, proxy data provides a good range of estimates. Based on these measures, it appears that the most recent likely time when atmospheric CO2 levels were comparable to those we now see today occurred around 5 million years ago. Meanwhile, it appears possible that the last time CO2 levels were so high extended as far back as 20 to 25 million years ago.

Unfortunately, carbon dioxide is not the only heat trapping gas humans have emitted into the atmosphere. Add in methane and other greenhouse gasses and you end up with a heat forcing roughly equivalent to 493 parts per million of CO2 (CO2e) during 2017 at present rates of increase. This level is very close to the maximum Miocene boundary level of 500 parts per million — a total amount of heat forcing that likely hasn’t been seen in 20-30 million years.

Serious, Concerted Action Required to Avoid Worsening Disasters

The only safe and reliable way to halt the rapid rise of heat trapping gasses and concurrent warming is to cease emitting carbon to the atmosphere. Such an undertaking would primarily involve a major shift away from fossil fuel burning machines and infrastructure. Present low-cost renewable energy provides a powerful option for just such a transition. In addition, various forms of atmospheric carbon capture from changes to land use, to biofuel-based carbon capture, to materials-based carbon capture will be necessary to draw down the extraordinarily high level of carbon overburden that has already been emitted. Failing such an undertaking, however ambitious, would consign the world to increasingly harmful temperature increases and related damaging geophysical changes for the foreseeable future.

Links:

The Keeling Curve

NOAA

Skeptical Science

Entering the Middle Miocene

Renewable Energy Technology is Now Powerful Enough to Significantly Soften the Climate Crisis

Hat tip to Ryan in New England

Hat tip to Wili

Hat tip to Erik Frederickson

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88 Comments

  1. coloradobob

     /  April 26, 2017

    Global Warming Costs Mount as Heatwave Hits Chile’s Glaciers

    High, high up in the Andes mountains above Chile’s capital, at the foot of the glaciers that date from the last ice age, the temperatures were almost balmy this summer. That threatens long-term water supplies to the city of seven million spread out on the plain below.

    At the Olivares Alfa glacier, 4,420 meters above sea level, temperatures rose above 10 Celsius on several days in January and rarely fell below zero, said Andres Rivera, a glaciologist at the Center of Scientific Studies in Valdivia.

    “It is not rare to have above-zero temperatures during summer, but high temperatures day and night, for several days in a row, that was unprecedented,” Rivera said.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-26/global-warming-costs-mount-as-heatwave-hits-chile-s-glaciers

    Reply
  2. Connecticut Gordon

     /  April 26, 2017

    Hi Robert

    Nice report as usual.

    I asked this question a few weeks ago and got a couple of replies from other people, but nothing definitive. Perhaps you may know more.

    My question is this:

    “Is there any linear or other mathematical direct correlation to a rise of say 5% in the CO2 levels that converts to an increase in Celsius temperatures. If so, then I presume the maths [sorry for the plural, but I’m British!] is based upon percentage increases in Kelvin temperatures rather than simply Celsius.”

    Reply
    • For the purpose of this discussion, a rough and simplified explanation of an expanded equation (see entropicman’s explanation below) could be viewed as follows:

      Under each doubling of CO2 ECS climate sensitivity which is likely to be valid on 1 century timescales produces approximately 3 degrees Celsius warming. Under the same doubling, longer term warming or ESS climate sensitivity produces about 5-6 degrees Celsius of warming. If our present understanding of CO2e is an appropriate corrolary, then we have already achieved 0.75 percent of one doubling which equals approx 2.25 C warming this Century and 3.75 to 4.5 C long term. And if you’re only solving for CO2, then you’ve locked in 1.4 C warming this Century and 2.3 C to 2.8 C long term. Of course, we have already achieved a 1 to 1.1 C decadal warming during 2010 to 2017 which is very close to the 1.4 C mark. And adding in both CO2e and aerosols (negative forcing) this is probably the net effect of an approx 430 CO2e actual forcing which would produce 1.6 C warming this Century and 2.7 to 3.2 C warming long term.

      Because warming is based on CO2 or CO2e doubling, it is not a linear function.

      Further complicating the matter are various feedbacks that will tend to act in a positive way to amplify warming. Albedo feedback is already baked in to the ESS climate sensitivity number and water vapor feedback is already baked into both ECS and ESS. But carbon system feedbacks are not. In this case, Y, where Y equals carbon feedback due to initial warming, is a relatively unknown variable.

      During recent paleoclimate observations, a relatively mild warming (but more intense at the poles) due to Earth’s slowly changing aspect angle in relationship to the sun at the end of the last ice age produced approximately a 100 ppm CO2 carbon feedback and probably about a 20 percent increase in atmospheric methane over the course of the 10,000 year warming, but probably concentrating in a 2,000 year ‘burp’ period. The atmospheric accumulation from this feedback was thus far slower than today — probably hitting a maximum average rate of around 0.05 ppm CO2 per year. This is not very helpful as a corollary considering the fact that present rates of warming are far faster, forcing levels are far higher, and rates of carbon feedback are likely to be amplified under present forcings.

      A decent set of studies appears to approximate a potential for a 90 to 150 gigaton carbon feedback for this Century under RCP 4.5 to RCP 8.5 climate scenarios which would roughly equate to about 0.5 to 0.8 ppm CO2 per year — or an order of magnitude faster than the ice age burp. But, again, this is relatively uncertain. It could be faster or it could be slower.

      In any case, if you were to develop a decent rudimentary equation to try and solve for warming you’d need to provide something like —

      Total warming long term = Earth System Climate Sensitivity x percent doubling of CO2 (or CO2e) + (Carbon Feedback which equals Earth System Climate Sensitivity x [additional] percent doubling of CO2 [or CO2e]).

      Of course you could simplify to the first half of the equation once you know the volume of the warming related carbon feedbacks and just add it to the percent doubling of CO2 total. But since you don’t know how much that will be, separating that part of the simplified equation lets you test for different scenarios.

      We should be clear that the level of complexity increases if you add in human atmospheric carbon capture — which reduces the CO2 or CO2e forcing variable over time and helps to mitigate or entirely removes the related carbon feedback variable. In essence, this serves to either mitigate the feedback and/or to break the present warming lock-in value. In addition, since ESS + carbon feedback is a function of elapsed time (of at least 500 years) to produce the full forcing, then faster feedbacks play more of a role in situations where carbon mitigation strategies are employed.

      So definitely not a linear function.

      Reply
      • Connecticut Gordon

         /  April 27, 2017

        Many thanks Robert.

        I understand this far better now and from your reply and other posts below I wonder how any scientist could still hope for the temperature increase limit to be just 2C let alone 1.5C. Don’t the politicians who were at Paris ever take science into consideration? They cannot all be stupid.

        Reply
        • If we decrease global emissions to zero on a 25 year timescale and manage to add in atmospheric carbon capture, it’s possible to miss the 2 C target. Beyond that, we’d have to be very lucky to miss it if we say, hit zero global carbon emissions in 35 years and net negative 5 years later.

          I think the proper way to characterize the argument is that we should be trying to hit the 2 C target or below. That we should do everything we can to miss it. But we should understand what’s required to do this as well. That actions need to be very ambitious at this time.

          Further, I wouldn’t say that 2 C represents some doomsday line in the sand. But 2 C is bad. And warming so much in so short a period produces very bad impacts.

    • webej

       /  April 27, 2017

      Not an expert, but there is a mathematical relationship. You can calculate the extra radiative forcing per doubling of CO² levels (+3.7 W/m2), so it’s a logarithmic scale. I think the value is about 1° C per doubling. So a 5% increase is about 0.072 K.
      We are currently looking at a doubling from 280ppm pre-industrial levels. The ultimate temperature however is determined by many other effects: inertia in the climate system and ocean warmth exchange, swings in the background radiation energy (Malkovitch cycles), strenth of solar radiation (has increased over hundreds of millions of years), amplification due to extra water vapour (itself a potent green house gas), effects on the vegetation and albedo, configuration of ocean currents and tectonic plates, etc. CO² levels themselves also interact dynamically with the whole carbon cycle. Added up, this means the mathematical relationship alone is not all that interesting, even disregarding that local effects or day/night will trump average earth temperatures by orders of magnitude. Many factors are also not constant functions, e.g,. the amount of water vapour feed-back will not be proportional to temperature changes (+10 K will not increase the water vapour as much at 10 K [ice] as at 290). Water vapour itself saturates some of the same energy bands as does CO², so the effect of the one will diminish the effect of the other, also depending on how high up the atmospheric column you are measuring.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the added discussion.

        The added complexity is one of the reasons why there’s such a large range of climate sensitivity estimates. It’s also why the paleoclimate proxies (though also not exact) are so important. For the purposes of the present context, 3 C ECS and 5-6 C ESS is likely to be very accurate — and present IPCC models based on the 3 C ECS number have very accurately predicted the present rate of warming.

        There is a lot of complexity. But we should be clear that the present science on the matter has been quite accurate.

        Reply
      • webej

         /  April 27, 2017

        Should have refreshed the browser window before posting — lots of other people have jumped in meantime.

        Reply
        • I’m glad you did post. What you’ve mentioned helps to raise the issue of various systemic inertias as well.

  3. climatehawk1

     /  April 27, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  4. entropicman

     /  April 27, 2017

    Connecticut Gordon

    There is an empirical formula you can use to calculate the effect on global temperature of an increase in CO2.

    ∆T = 5.35ln(C/Co)climate sensitivity/effect of forcing on temperature

    ∆T is the temperature change
    Co is the initial CO2 concentration
    C is the final concentration
    IPCC estimate mid-range climate sensitivity is 3.0 and the effect of forcing is 3.7W/degree C

    A 5% increase in CO2 could be from 400 to 420ppm, but because the effect is logarithmic any 5% increase would give a similar temperature change.

    ∆T = 5.35ln(420/400)3/3.7 = 0.21C

    Reply
    • Spike

       /  April 27, 2017

      Thanks – that’s very useful and is something I’ve always wondered how to do.

      Reply
    • Connecticut Gordon

       /  April 27, 2017

      Wow, thanks so much for that fantastic explanation. So, based on a rough 2ppm increase per year we would get to the 2C increase fairly quickly. As much future CO2 increase is already baked in, as Robert has consistently stated, then the 2C maximum increase is a pipe-dream no matter what anyone does today. That is disheartening but an ‘inconvenient truth’. Perhaps we should concentrate efforts on focussing to stop an increase above 3C increase over next 50-60 years.

      Reply
    • Thanks for this.

      We’d need a very considerable effort to include substantial atmospheric carbon capture by or before mid Century and a total switch away from fossil fuels over the same time period to avoid 2 C warming. On the present path, without those substantial carbon emissions reductions, we probably hit 2 C by 2035 to 2050 — or well before the end of this Century. Solving for total CO2e now produces about 2.25 C warming this Century and accounting for aerosols gives us just about 12 more years of present emissions before we lock 2 C in this Century so long as the aerosol negative feedback remains stable. Emissions would have to tail off to zero in about 25 years (and aerosol loading would need to remain stable) to miss this target. And that doesn’t include the carbon feedbacks that are likely coming (which is why a complete energy transition plus atmospheric carbon capture is now necessary).

      I went ahead and simplified the delta T equation above and also added in an explanation of carbon feedbacks — which should be included. Hopefully, this is helpful to the lay reader. Of course, entropicman provides the formal equation — which should be used as the technical mathematical reference, but does not include the carbon feedback object (which is a simple repeat of the same equation added to the initial warming once carbon feedbacks are realized).

      Reply
  5. Just wait four to six years for 420 ppm to be reached… maybe not as obvious a psychological threshold as 400 ppm, but 50% higher than the preindustrial level, and halfway to doubling it.

    Reply
    • Hatrack

       /  April 27, 2017

      It’s probably not going to take that long. It took not quite four years to go from breaching 400 ppm (May 2013) to breaching 410 (April 2017). Given the overall rates of increase, it’ll be sooner than that.

      Reply
  6. generativity

     /  April 27, 2017

    Before reading post, I must commend the title…yes, the ‘heat trapping gasses’, CO2e, together force climate change. Accuracy in text aids agreement on what matters.

    Folks should know that some greenhouse gasses like chlorofluorocarbons devour the ozone layer, and it’s easy to continue limiting the worst by pushing manufacturing redesign…innovation is good.

    Reply
    • The lion’s share of the forcing comes from CO2. If we don’t tackle that, we’re basically screwed. Of course, we will also have to tackle the other trace gasses. But drawing attention away from CO2 by over-focusing on the more marginal issues isn’t really that helpful.

      Reply
  7. Near 120W 40N

     /  April 27, 2017

    entropicman wrote: “∆T = 5.35ln(C/Co) climate sensitivity/effect of forcing on temperature”

    That equation is missing an important piece: time. Given thermal inertia, how long until that temperature increase is felt? As Robert posted, we are at 410 ppm today but the weather and climate are lagging behind. How many months or years until the weather, climate and sea level actually catch up to this level of heat entrapment?

    Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 27, 2017

      The sea level which historically go with the current CO2 is around 25m higher I believe which would likely take at least 500 years. From a 2016 paper by DeConto and Pollard on Antarctica (remember there’s Greenland as well).

      “Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500, if emissions continue unabated.”

      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v531/n7596/full/nature17145.html

      Reply
    • Devon Macintosh

       /  April 27, 2017

      Exactly Near 120W 40N. It’s amazing how few people of those that do understand the GW impact of added CO2 also understand thermal inertia. To think that today’s weather is still lagging 3-4 decades behind the emissions already spewed into the atmosphere is daunting because we’re already seeing wild weather as compared to the way it use to be just a couple of decades ago. My opinion is we would have to not only cease adding to the CO2e level but also sequester on a grand scale to make a dent in putting the brakes on a situation with decades worth of momentum coming down the pike.

      It’s really too bad it takes so much to get through to naysayers and politicians because they really don’t understand how poised we already are for some really powerful climate changes. As back up to this, take a read from info. in the article above; “These levels now correspond with the Miocene Climate Epoch when seas were 120 to 190 feet higher than today and when global temperatures ranged from 3 to 5 degrees Celsius hotter than preindustrial averages.” Meaning, all we need to do is wait for thermal inertia to come back to bite us over the coming decades from what we’ve already emitted to get to those higher sea levels and higher temperatures. We actually don’t have to add anymore GHG’s to charge right past 2C.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the added comment, Devon. It’s a very real and very sobering problem. But it’s one we absolutely need to come to grips with.

        Reply
    • See above discussion. The first delta T equation is very simplified and based on a 3 C Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity assumption. This assumption is probably more valid on the 1 Century timescale. Longer term Earth System Sensitivity is probably 5-6 C for each doubling of CO2(e).

      Reply
  8. wili

     /  April 27, 2017

    We seem to be getting better at these specific attributions:

    “Global warming accounts for tripling of extreme West African Sahel storms”

    https://phys.org/news/2017-04-global-accounts-tripling-extreme-west.html

    Reply
  9. wili

     /  April 27, 2017

    Apologies if this has already been posted. Gore and team have a new energy transition plan. Not likely to be adopted, but pretty clear indication that there is a lot we could be doing to avoid the very worst case scenarios.

    Reply
      • Given present technology, this path would be very easy to achieve. But it is difficult for me to see how it would result in avoiding 2 C warming this Century. This is more a 2.5 to 3 C target path. Of course, if the curve continues to bend post 2040 and you get to near zero by, say, 2055, you’re a bit closer to sub 2.5 C. The near 2 C path needs to hit 80 to 100 percent carbon emissions reductions by 2050 and net negative soon after. Emissions reductions need to start now to 2020 and escalate as time moves forward. Atmospheric carbon capture needs to be part of the goal. But the primary drive is a complete transition away from emitting energy sources.

        I think we also need to account for the present price trend with regards to renewable energy which opens up opportunities that weren’t even visible in 2015 when this study was produced.

        Reply
  10. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    Frost hits European apple and stonefruit crops

    The frosty conditions in central Europe over the weekend have resulted in major losses to European apple and stonefruit crops, from France to Poland

    http://www.fruitnet.com/eurofruit/article/172023/frosts-hit-european-apple-crops

    Reply
  11. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    Trump orders review of national monuments, vows to ‘end these abuses and return control to the people’

    President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday instructing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review any national monument created since Jan. 1, 1996, that spans at least 100,000 acres in a move he said would “end another egregious use of government power.”

    Referring to the 1906 law that empowers a president to take unilateral action to protect cultural, historic or natural resources on federal land that is under threat, Trump declared, “The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time that we ended this abusive practice.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/04/25/zinke-to-review-large-national-monuments-created-since-1996-to-make-sure-the-people-have-a-voice/?utm_term=.bd35a5752579

    Reply
    • Trump is the anti-Teddy Roosevelt. He, apparently, considers setting aside land and resources for use by the public to be an abuse of what he considers to be a ‘divine right of corporations’ to harmfully exploit those resources and keep the largess for a wealthy few. He appears to consider reigning in the bad actions of the powerful and helping the people of the United States an ‘abuse.’ It’s a very Sheriff on Nottingham way of looking at things.

      Reply
  12. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    PORT MAHON, Delaware (AP) — Federal officials say humpback whales have been dying in unusually large numbers along the Atlantic Coast.

    Scientists seek cause of 2nd whale’s death in Virginia waters
    Biologists are running tests on a second humpback whale found dead in Virginia waters in the span of a just a few days. Scientists believe the first whale died from a propeller wound, although they’re waiting for a pathologist to confirm that.
    The News Journal reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries declared it an “unusual mortality event,” which is called when higher-than-normal numbers of marine mammals die for unknown reasons. An agency spokeswoman says details will be provided Thursday.

    http://wtop.com/science/2017/04/high-numbers-humpback-whales-dying-off-atlantic-coast/

    Reply
  13. entropicman

     /  April 27, 2017

    Near 120W 40N

    There is indeed a lag.
    1.3 billion cubic kilometres of ocean is a considerable heat sink.

    How big is the lag?

    Calculate a temperature/time curve from 1880 to the prsent using the available CO2 data. When you lay it over the observed temperaure curve you get the best fit if you allow a 25 year delay.

    This is a bit depressing. We are currently experiencing a global temperature set by CO2 levels in the early 1990s, _~1C from 1880.

    In 25 years we will see the effect of current CO2 levels, That will be ~1.6C.

    If my numbers are correct, we have already locked in more warming than the Paris 1.5C target.

    Reply
    • webej

       /  April 27, 2017

      Yes, if you go back to pre-industrial values, which were lower than the 1880’s, we are already skirting the agreed ceiling now. There is no margin any more. We need to start thinking about defense-spending order of magnitude efforts to carry out enhanced weathering (spreading crushed olivine rocks in the tropics) to rescue our home, the earth. [Not a big believer in CSS (expensive sexy technology to enable continued fossil fuel burning).] But we aren’t even expending emergency efforts to switch to sustainable energy.

      Reply
    • Thanks for the added discussion.

      I think we should also note that Paris recognized the fact that the 1.5 C target was likely to be missed. It was the urging of various nations around the world that added the target. Nations that would be buried by sea level rise or seriously harmed by other events if the 1.5 C target was exceeded for long.

      I think this really underlines the necessity of response. Of trying hit as little warming as possible. People talk about how hard it is to move away from the status quo and transition to different energy sources and removal of carbon from the atmosphere. But the status quo is a nation devouring, mass extinction producing beast. And we should’t keep feeding it.

      Reply
  14. Ryan in New England

     /  April 27, 2017

    Great article by Bob Henson on Arctic amplification and it’s effect on weather on the mid-latitudes.

    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/whats-arctic-doing-to-midlatitude-weather-vice-versa

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  April 27, 2017

      I was just about to post this Ryan. It is a great explanation…worth the read and share.

      Reply
      • wharf rat

         /  April 27, 2017

        I’m going to a sign-making party this afternoon for the Women’s Action Group demo on Sat. I’m on the steering committee. It’s taught me that a man has to work 25 times as hard as a woman to get ahead in life.
        :>)

        Reply
    • Thanks for posting. Excellent bit here by Bob.

      Reply
  15. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    Global warming accounts for tripling of extreme West African Sahel storms, study shows
    Case study – flooding in Burkina Faso
    Dr Abdoulaye Diarra, Senior Researcher at the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso:
    “A total of 77 flood events have been recorded in Burkina Faso during the 31 year period from 1986 to 2016. The floods dynamic has increased in the Burkina from a frequency of 11 major events over 10 years (1.1 flood event/year) between1986 to 2005 to a frequency of 55 over 11 years (5 flood events/year) from 2006 to 2016.

    Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-04-global-accounts-tripling-extreme-west.html#jCp

    Reply
    • Ouch. And thanks for this. Multiple postings on this topic. It really does seem like the attribution studies are starting to kick into a higher gear. Good to see.

      Reply
  16. entropicman

     /  April 27, 2017

    The CO2 concentration at which we lock in 2C of warming is 445ppm. At a representative rate of change of 2.5ppm/year that would occur in 14 years time, in 2031.

    The 2C rise would become measurable in the temperature record around 2056.

    I know that RS considers me a pessimist and advocates positive action, but it always useful to know how big your problem is. If someone has numbers that suggest we can reduce emissions enough to stabilise CO2 at or below 445ppm, I would be very relieved to see them.

    Reply
    • You’re a realist when it comes to CO2 numbers and sensitivity, but a detractor of the necessary transition to renewable energy and atmospheric carbon capture as recommended by the IPCC. One part is helpful. The other part is not.

      How rapidly you scale renewable energy replacement and atmospheric carbon directly determines how much warming you ultimately mitigate, lock-in, and remove.

      With such a response, the ultimate warming is that of a wave function in which peak warming hits X values and in which longer term cooling may be achieved if responses hit an adequate scale.

      In fact, such responses are necessary and so shouldn’t be up for debate by moral people.

      Reply
  17. Thank you Robert, as always. One question that has been troubling me in the underlying logic – or lack thereof: if the increase in atmospheric GHG over the past 100 years or so is unprecedented in its speed, why then do we compare the outcomes to historic corollaries that took thousands or tens of thousands of years to reach the same levels? As an analogue, we have lots of evidence about what happens to an adult who eats >4000 calories per day for years…they get grossly overweight and suffer from any number of fatal conditions. However, this outcome is not what would result if a person attempted to eat 500,000 calories in one sitting. They would die. Quickly.
    Why do we expect the earth to respond the same way to gradual increases as it does to a rapid increase?

    Reply
    • DJ

       /  April 27, 2017

      I strongly agree with your observation. I suppose the reason to reference similar levels in the past is that this all we have by way of reference, and it at least provides a directional indicator, but there’ll probably be some surprises that come with the unprecedented rate at which the current change is happening.

      Reply
      • entropicman

         /  April 27, 2017

        If the rate of change is slow, there is time for heat to distribute itself evenly through the system. It stays near equilibrium and extreme weather remains rare.

        Rapid change produces big deviations from equilibrium. Jennifer Francis may have spotted one consequence. The Arctic is warming at an unprecedented rate, much faster than at mid-latitudes. The reduced temperature gradient means that jet stream is weakening and becoming prone to large meanders.

        Would this instability occur in a slowly warming world?

        Reply
        • We must be in for some big surprises. I haven’t been able to get my head around a rate of CO2 accumulation 300X that of the ice ages, per Robert above.
          The Phanerozoic CO2 graphs (with their limitations) show a maximum stabilization temp of around 21-23C earth average following ice age/extinctions events (graph won’t copy but here is the url; http://deforestation.geologist-1011.net/PhanerozoicCO2-Temperatures.png. The oceans contain 38,000 GtC. What if there is enough ramp up heat to kick start a comparable ocean release and another slope up?

        • 4 C, I think, is the threshold where you need to start getting concerned about seabed sequestered ocean carbon. Direct ocean CO2 feedback is a bit murky. But I don’t think the Earth System is generally capable of coming close to matching the present human forcing except, perhaps, in the worst case methane release scenarios (which are very low risk at this time, but worsening with warming).

          I think the thing we need to be most concerned about now is when we can possibly hit zero and net negative carbon on a global scale. There are a lot of risk factors out there that we don’t want to mess with. So limiting the peak warming threshold should be a critical goal at this time.

    • The ultimate warming function is roughly the same (excluding carbon feedbacks). What is not the same is the amount of related instability in the system.

      Rapid rates of warming produce more stress to weather, wildlife, the ocean and to Earth’s vital life support systems. So under rapid warming would would expect extinction pressure and other geophysical events to advance more swiftly and on a greater scale.

      It is not helpful to conflate climate instability (which rates of warming exaggerate) fully with amplifying feedbacks (which rates of warming may trigger earlier but that do not always have a mulltiplier effect on end warming).

      The one potential exception is the size of the carbon feedback which is a relatively unknown value but is also likely to proceed more rapidly than in the past especially as certain threshold ranges are reached (1.5 to 2.5 C for permafrost and 4 C for ocean hydrates). That said, it appears that 90 to 150 gigatons of total carbon feedback at RCP 4.5 to 8.5 ranges this century is a probably a good estimate. Of course values may be higher or lower, ultimately.

      Reply
      • Allan Barr

         /  April 27, 2017

        Do you have any links for that 4 C for ocean hydrates Robert? I had thought Natalia Shakova had suggested back in 2012 along with her husband that they could destabilize at any time, literally. Its been a great deal of angst for me personally.

        Reply
        • I am basing my estimate on the likely threshold for when a majority of the present ocean methane sequestration occurred. The East Siberian Arctic Shelf issue is relatively unique given the fact that it is submerged permafrost and is likely subject to the 1.5 to 2.5 C threshold for that form of sequestered carbon. The approximate 200 to 500 billion tons of carbon in the region will likely contribute to the estimated 90 to 150 billion tons that may be released as feedback over this century under RCP 4.5 to RCP 8.5 scenarios.

  18. New daily high of 412.63 at Mauna Loa, may be an outlier but still!

    https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/monthly.html

    Reply
    • Yep. It’s in the top threshold zone we identified last week at 411 to 413 ppm. Might hit outside that. But it’s the most likely range.

      Reply
  19. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    Mr. Burt is the weather historian @ WU –

    Barrow, Alaska: 16 Months Above Normal and Counting

    Christopher C. Burt · April 27, 2017

    Above: An aerial image of Barrow (Utqiagvik), Alaska. Barrow is located at a latitude of 71°17’26”, about 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Every month since December 2015 the temperature has averaged above normal here and, in addition, no daily record low has been set for almost 10 years now. As is obvious from the image, the unusual warmth that has occurred in recent years cannot be attributed to the “urban heat-island effect” nor to a climate cycle of some kind, at least for the city’s period of record since 1920. Image credit: Wikipedia.

    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/barrow-alaska-16-months-above-normal-and-counting

    Reply
  20. Suzanne

     /  April 27, 2017

    At the Miami Herald this week..”Melting Ice Means High Seas in South Florida” :
    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article146511584.html

    A new assessment of polar ice melt could mean bad news for South Florida: higher sea rise than previously thought.

    Based on new evidence, the Arctic Council — a cooperative effort among eight nations to monitor climate change — concluded that the Arctic warmed faster between 2011 and 2015 than any time on record, with glaciers and sea ice melting faster than expected. That means a United Nations estimate for sea rise, considered among the most conservative, could be off by as much as 10 inches.

    Reply
  21. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    Women Artists Are Bringing the Reality of Climate Change Into Your Living Room
    This week falls in between two of the largest planned protests for the environmental movement in recent history: last Saturday’s Earth Day March for Science and this coming Saturday’s People’s Climate March. Being a part of the resistance against an administration of climate change deniers can be a frustrating and sometimes soul-crushing experience (especially when you still have to get through a whole workweek between rallies). But in the meantime, we can find inspiration from female artists whose work helps remind us what we’re fighting for.

    http://jezebel.com/women-artists-are-bringing-the-reality-of-climate-chang-1794710222

    Reply
  22. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    Climate Change And Shifts In The Migration Patterns Of Birds

    Just in time for World Migratory Bird Day, May 10, an article in the April issue of Animal Behaviour explores the impact of shifting migration patterns in one population of migratory birds.

    An international team of biologists and ecologists used GPS and body-acceleration data on juvenile white storks to report on shifts in the birds’ migratory behaviors. They concluded that “wintering in Europe instead of Africa enhances juvenile survival in a long-distance migrant,” which is also the title of their paper.
    http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2017/04/27/525830183/climate-change-and-shifts-in-the-migration-patterns-of-birds

    Reply
  23. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    As climate change reshapes the Arctic, scientists are struggling to keep up

    It is likely that many people alive today will see the end of the Arctic as we know it. The vast expanses of summer sea ice trod by polar bears, the pods of narwhals coursing by, the day-long herds of caribou crossing the tundra, all are threatened by current and future climate change. This change will have an impact on life in the Arctic, and in the rest of the world. This is the stark conclusion from the most complete assessment of Arctic climate in six years. – polar ecologist Martin Sommerkorn, writing in The Arctic Journal.

    https://www.minnpost.com/earth-journal/2017/04/climate-change-reshapes-arctic-scientists-are-struggling-keep

    Reply
  24. Suzanne

     /  April 27, 2017

    At Reuters…”Trump Advisers to Discuss whether U.S. Stays in Paris Climate pact”
    http://news.trust.org/item/20170426190232-jka93/

    WASHINGTON, April 26 (Reuters) – White House advisers and Trump administration officials will meet on Thursday to discuss whether the United States should remain in the Paris climate agreement, a White House official said on Wednesday.

    The meeting, which will include member of the National Economic Council and cabinet officials such as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, was scheduled for 1:30 P.M. EDT (1730 GMT) after being postponed earlier this month.

    The administration is expected to make a decision on whether to remain a party to the deal by the time leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations meet in late May, but members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle are divided on whether to stay or go.

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  April 27, 2017

      And this Today….”Republican lawmakers urge Trump to WEAKEN Paris Climate pact pledge”
      http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-climate-idUSKBN17T2JS

      A group of nine Republican lawmakers urged President Donald Trump to keep the United States in the 2015 Paris climate agreement but to reduce its pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as Trump advisors were set on Thursday to discuss whether to leave the pact.

      Representative Kevin Cramer of oil-producing North Dakota and eight other members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Trump urging him to use the country’s “seat at the Paris table to defend and promote our commercial interest, including our manufacturing and fossil fuel sectors.”

      If the United States is to stay in the 2015 agreement, Washington should present a new emissions cutting pledge that “does no harm to our economy,” the letter said.
      ————————————————-
      The G.O.P is now officially Grand Oligarchs Party. Just disgusted.

      Reply
      • They’re the most destructively amoral party ever to inhabit the halls of the U.S. Congress. Chomsky’s statements could not have been more timely.

        Reply
  25. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    Trump Might Not Believe In The Risks Of Climate Change – But Investors Do And They Are Taking Action
    The 45th President of the United States might think climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, but there is a fair chance that the investors who put money into his hotels and casinos think it is rather more serious than that.

    New research from the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) reveals that 60% of the world’s 500 biggest asset owners (AOs), representing assets under management of $27 trillion, now recognise the financial risks of climate change and the opportunities that are created by the transition to a low carbon economy. That figure, revealed in AODP’s fifth Global Climate Index, is not just startling in itself, but it is an 18% increase on the figure last year.

    The research suggests that regardless of Trump’s position, investors will continue to press for change because they do not want to see their returns harmed by climate-related issues – whether those are physical (such as extreme weather events and sea level rise), regulatory (such as the UK’s Climate Change Act and France’s new world-first law requiring investors to disclose climate risk) or global initiatives such as the Paris Agreement that commits governments to cutting emissions to keep average temperature rises below 2°C.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikescott/2017/04/27/trump-might-not-believe-in-the-risks-of-climate-change-but-investors-do-and-they-are-taking-action/#2f9a7af5aa13

    Reply
  26. Vaughn Anderson

     /  April 27, 2017

    Here is a handy map showing air quality monitoring in the world. Individual locations show some or several individual pollutants. It is easy to zoom into particular areas and individual locations:

    Air Pollution in World: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map

    http://aqicn.org/map/world/

    I have monitored this map for several years. Weather, of course, affects air quality in a particular area at any given time. This map shows many locations where much of the human produced greenhouse gasses are being produced.

    One particular area of interest is China. Winter pollution index levels have dropped from many locations being over 400 down to 200 – 300 this winter and some under 200. On April 27, 2017 nearly all locations in China had an index under 200. Sulfur dioxide is one of the pollutants that appears to have been particularly reduced due to the reduced burning of dirty coal particularly in winter. These pollution levels are still poor but they are a far cry from an index level of 800.

    Reply
  27. coloradobob

     /  April 27, 2017

    The camel’s nose enters the tent –
    Why the Scariest Response to Climate Change Is Finally Being Taken Seriously

    We’re not doing such a great job solving the whole climate change problem, which is why some experts think it’s time to study more radical tactics. The notion of geoengineering—hacking the climate to cool the planet—is controversial, awe-inspiring, and to many, terrifying. And yet, despite their own grave concerns with the idea, a group of researchers believes the time has come to explore whether planet-hacking might really work.

    Earlier this month, Harvard University officially launched a Solar Geoengineering Research Program, which brings together academics from the hard and social sciences to explore the feasibility of stalling global warming by altering the composition of the stratosphere to block incoming sunlight. If you think this sounds extremely risky and a tad dystopian, you’re in good company: The researchers themselves are terrified of what solar engineering could lead to. But when it comes to studying the idea, they say we have to weigh risk versus reward. And frankly, the risks of unchecked climate change are also pretty scary.

    http://gizmodo.com/why-the-scariest-response-to-climate-change-is-finally-1794307922

    Reply
    • Big money appears to be always ready to follow a bad or destructive idea. I’ve been putting off writing a response to the most recent ground-swell on this issue. Looks like I’m going to have to slate another debunking article for next week.

      Reply
      • coloradobob

         /  April 27, 2017

        “Big money appears to be always ready to follow a bad or destructive idea.”

        I knew this would raise your hackles as much as it did mine. I watched Tavis Smiley last night , he had on Jane Mayer …………. who wrote “Dark Money”.
        Very depressing , but like all things this billionaire’s zeppelin is flying into the new supercharged system .

        Reply
        • Like you’ve said a few times this week — a big hydrogen fueled zeppelin in search of a lightning bolt.

    • coloradobob

       /  April 27, 2017

      Oh good, a solution to drunk driving , and crack addiction …………….. Look for the oily money to pour into Harvard.

      Reply

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