New Study Finds that Present CO2 Levels are Capable of Melting Large Portions of East and West Antarctica

If you’re a regular reader of this blog and its comments section, you’re probably more than a little worried about two bits of climate science in particular:

Our understanding of past climates (paleoclimate) and 5-6 C long term climate sensitivity.

And if you’re a frequent returner, you’ve probably figured out by now that the two go hand in glove.

******

Looking back to a period of time called the Pliocene climate epoch of 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago, we find that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were somewhat lower than they are at present — ranging from 390 to 400 parts per million. We also find that global temperatures were between 2 to 3 degrees Celsius warmer than 1880s ranges, that glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland were significantly reduced, and that sea levels were about 25 meters (82 feet) higher than they are today.

(The Totten Glacier is one of many Antarctic land ice systems that are under threat of melt due to human-forced warming. A new paleoclimate study has recently found that levels of atmospheric greenhouse gasses that are below those presently in our atmosphere caused substantial Antarctic melt 4.23 million years ago. Image source: antarctica.gov.)

Given that atmospheric CO2 levels during 2017 will average around 407 parts per million, given that these levels are above those when sea levels were considerably higher than today, and given that these levels of heat trapping gasses are rapidly rising due to continued fossil fuel burning, both the present level of greenhouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere and our understanding of past climates should give us substantial cause for concern.

This past week, even more fuel was thrown onto the fire as a paleoclimate-based model study led by Nick Golledge has found that under 400 parts per million CO2 heat forcing during the Pliocene, substantial portions of Antarctica melted over a rather brief period of decades and centuries.

Notably, the model found that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed in just 100-300 years under the steady 400 ppm CO2 forcing at 4.23 million years ago. In addition, the Wilkes Basin section of Antarctica collapsed within 1-2 thousand years under a similar heat forcing. In total, the study found that Antarctica contributed to 8.6 meters of sea level rise at the time due to the loss of these large formations of land ice.

From the study:

We conclude that the Antarctic ice sheet contributed 8.6 ± 2.8 m to global sea level at this time, under an atmospheric CO2concentration identical to present (400 ppm). Warmer-than-present ocean temperatures led to the collapse of West Antarctica over centuries, whereas higher air temperatures initiated surface melting in parts of East Antarctica that over one to two millennia led to lowering of the ice-sheet surface, flotation of grounded margins in some areas, and retreat of the ice sheet into the Wilkes Subglacial Basin. The results show that regional variations in climate, ice-sheet geometry, and topography produce long-term sea-level contributions that are non-linear with respect to the applied forcings, and which under certain conditions exhibit threshold behaviour associated with behavioural tipping points (emphasis added).

This study began the publication process in 2016 when year-end atmospheric CO2 averages hit around 405 parts per million. By end 2017, those averages will be in the range of 407 parts per million. Even more worrying is the fact that CO2 equivalent forcing from all the various greenhouse gasses that fossil fuel burning and related industrial activity has pumped into the atmosphere (methane, nitrogen oxides, CFCs and others) will, by end 2017 hit around 492 ppm.

As a result, though conditions in Antarctica are presently cooler than during 4.23 million years ago, the considerably higher atmospheric greenhouse gas loading implies that there’s quite a lot more warming in store for both Antarctica and the rest of the world. A warming that, even if atmospheric greenhouse gasses remain at present highly elevated levels and do not continue to rise, could bring about a substantially more significant and rapid melt than during the Pliocene.

Links:

Antarctic Climate and Ice Sheet Configuration During Early Pliocene Interglacial at 4.23 Ma

NOAA ESRL CO2 Trends

NOAA’s Greenhouse Gas Index

East Antarctic Ice Sheet More Vulnerable to Melting than We Thought

Pliocene Climate

antarctica.gov

Hat tip to Spike

Advertisements
Leave a comment

76 Comments

  1. climatehawk1

     /  August 1, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  2. Allan Barr

     /  August 1, 2017

    Many believe that 4 C above 1750 temps may lead to total collapse of our current civilization due to loss of viable biosphere, while some believe 4 to 6 C may lead to self extinction. Its becoming more apparent that we are barreling full speed ahead into uncharted waters. Despite an ever exponential uptake into renewables total amount of carbon burned has not declined yet unfortunately. Without massive carbon sequestration from an as yet unknown technology we are left in a pretty grim place, according to James Hansen. Q Robert, its becoming more and more apparent that we may very well venture into the 4 to 6 C arena, jeesh even Exons internal studies conducted way back in 1982 suggested this, in light of these facts just how do you see this playing out as we enter this faster than expected world of change?

    Reply
    • At 2 C collapse pressure is pretty high. I think at that point, we’d see a number of Syria-like collapse events in the more marginal regions, but also some pretty hard stress even in the wealthier areas. At 4 C, there’s very widespread collapse pressure. Present civilization probably can’t make it in its current form under such a circumstance. Regions will likely be more fragmented, although you probably have some counter-trend hold outs as well. Adaptation levels would have to be very high to deal with 4 C effectively. In any case, it’s a world we wouldn’t recognize — with many regions rendered uninhabitable by large populations and many nations essentially emptied out.

      Reply
  3. Allan Barr

     /  August 1, 2017

    I would also appreciate and enjoy your thoughts about this as well Robert, https://futurism.com/images/global-warming-scenarios/

    Reply
    • A bit over the mark in some respects accurate in broad brush in others.

      1 C = present warming. Actually, we’re at 1.2 C now. We do have loaded dice for heatwaves capable of producing mass injury and mortality. So far, it appears that our heat readiness has increased as well. Damages to agriculture are on the rise. Threats to water supplies are also increasing. Severe weather is intensifying.

      1.5 C appears to be a threshold where we start to see some relatively considerable carbon store feedbacks — perhaps half a billion tons per year addition vs the 20th Century from the Earth System or about 4 percent of the present human emission. Maybe a bit more.

      2 C The statements for rates of sea level rise are tough to prove. That said, at 1.5 to 2.5 C there appears to be considerable risk of crossing various melt thresholds that produce multimeter sea level rise per Century. Extinction pressure from compounded factors including climate change makes the 1/3 number possible at 2 C. Climate pressure alone probably represents more than half of this. See:

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/25/half-all-species-extinct-end-century-vatican-conference

      It will be tough to avoid 2 C warming by the end of this Century if we do not rapidly cut fossil fuel burning as the article suggests. The 492 CO2e number concerns me quite a bit because it implies 2.1 to 2.3 C warming by the end of this Century. If we get to zero fossil fuel burning by 2040, that still implies about 520 CO2e which perhaps drops back to 480 or 490 as methane falls out. That’s still very close to the mark. It looks to me like we have to both perform that rapid cut and look at atmospheric carbon capture by various means. In any case, these very high CO2e levels are highly unsafe, in my view.

      Passing 2 C probably implies about 800 million to 1 billion tons per year of carbon feedback from the Earth System by end Century. That’s about 7-9 percent of the present human emission.

      I think in this range we hit a bit of a warming speed bump as glaciers start going down more rapidly and seas begin to really rise. As a result, you’re probably looking at a number of decades and possibly Centuries of very severe storm impacts and very unstable and difficult to predict weather. The ice sheets dumping into the oceans and harming AMOC and other ocean circulation patterns will also tend to disrupt regional and global weather. So it’s here that you get into a period of rapid ocean stratification and extraordinarily bad weather conditions.

      I know I’ve said that we are on a path to 4 C under typical warming scenarios, but I think we also need to hold out what happens if ice sheet response becomes quite large.

      3 C: Traditional agriculture is going to be taking very hard hits even leading up to 3 C. Post 3 C probably does represent an decline threshold. Adaptation will require very extensive indoor vertical farming on the order of requiring national policy initiatives to support their build-out. Carbon feedbacks do become a bit more of a problem as you start pushing at stores that were laid down more than 5 million years ago. The sea ice and salt water incursion scenarios are in the ballpark.

      4 C: You’re probably well past major thresholds for a number of glacier systems. 50 meters of long term sea level rise is probably locked in at this point, although you don’t get all that SLR all at once. Cities at 118 F — well, we have cities out west that are predicted to hit 116 this week. So that’s not too far fetched at all.Wet bulb at 35 C becomes pretty common in a number of regions during hot periods at this threshold. Agricultural collapse pressure is very high. A number of regions including Europe, the U.S. West, China, large parts of Africa, India and many more are all likely to be well outside of growing temperature ranges at this time. Loss of 500 billion tons of carbon from the Arctic at 4 C over 500 years is probably possible at this time. Total annual carbon feedback is probably edging into a range of 1.5 billion tons per year from the Earth System.

      5 C: It’s probably enough to completely bring down both Greenland and Antarctic ice over a number of Centuries if warming stopped at 5 C — faster if you keep warming beyond it. Economic damages are certainly quite severe due to very long term crisis. You’re basically looking at a much poorer world where natural resources are much more constrained. Unless the human system produces wealth internally, poverty will be quite rampant. 5 C warming is about 4-7 C cooler than peak PETM warming. It’s worth noting that a lot of the damages will come from a high velocity rate of warming in this scenario in which natural systems would usually have thousands of years to adapt to changes that could occur within a Century or so. Without a collective response, competition over resources would become quite difficult and potentially very vicious.

      6 C: Peak Permian Extinction warming was about 14 C warmer than 1880s. 6 C is not comparable to worst case Permian levels. That said, the level of greenhouse gas emission (approx 1200 ppm CO2e implied) that would achieve 6 C warming at end Century could produce a Permian type extinction event over longer periods (many centuries).

      At 6 C you’re not quite yet in the range where you’re worried about full-on Canfield Ocean type effects. However, you probably have regional dead zones that look a lot like a Canfield Ocean and are full of hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria. Sea creatures that enter these dead zones would mostly perish producing various ocean boneyards. I think at this point you probably have 50-60 percent of species threatened with extinction if this warming occurs very rapidly along a 1 Century to 150 year timescale. That said, if you achieve 6 C warming you are pushing at carbon stores that are 30 million years old or more. So you’ve probably set off a long term run up to a hyperthermal like the PETM or possibly the Permian if the carbon stores are deep enough and release long enough. In my opinion, you probably get something closer to the PETM if you peaked human fossil fuel based emissions to an 800 ppm CO2e level (implied 5 C warming at end Century and 10 C warming long term from the base forcing). If you keep burning fossil fuels, through end Century and achieve a base forcing of around 1,200 ppm CO2e or more (implied 6 C warming at end Century and 12 C warming long term from the base forcing) then what you get in the end may well resemble the Permian (or worse) due to combined human emission and Earth System feedbacks.

      Reply
  4. Frank B

     /  August 1, 2017

    The implication of those observations is crystal clear. The question isn’t whether we will get a sea-level rise of several meters, only when. The small islands that were most fervent about getting 1.5C into the agenda are a lost cause already. So are major coastal regions and metropoles. Since we are at ~500ppm CO2ev already, nothing is stopping that momentum.
    What we need to figure out is how we will cope and manage those major changes in human civilization without absolute and utter destruction. It is going to be the most interesting time for our species. And we have no previous experience to draw from. The time to start is now, before dire circumstances will force large-scale migrations.

    Reply
    • So Dr. James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Al Gore and other climate leaders have suggested an appropriate response that includes a rapid energy transition away from fossil fuels coupled with serious national and international efforts to draw down atmospheric greenhouse gasses. This is an effective strategy if we adopt it. And the only one that holds out hope of preventing considerable and ramping damages. Of course it is likely that we will suffer some damages. But the longer we wait for this kind of response suggested by those like 350.org, the worse it’s going to be for everyone.

      Reply
      • mr elastomeric

         /  August 1, 2017

        But Robert isn’t there a 30 year lag in Carbon that we’ve already burned? Also who is this Adapt 2030 guy says we’re going into a mini ice age thanks, again

        Reply
        • Mini Ice Age = misinformation. I don’t know who this guy is, but clearly he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Looks like another distraction to me. We’ve burned enough carbon to avoid all future ice ages for millenia to come. The present low solar activity may knock off about 0.1 to 0.2 watts per meter squared of heat forcing. Considerably more than an order of magnitude weaker than the present human forcing which is nearing 3 watts per meter squared in the gross positive range presently.

          As for the lag… Carbon hitting the atmosphere has an almost immediate effect equal to about 1/3 potential warming in about a decade timescale. At 492 CO2e constant we are at approx 1.16 C immediate, 2.3 C by 2100, and 4.6 C over the very long term in the higher sensitivity range. This tracking is pretty accurate to present warming rates. Lower sensitivity yields 1.05 C immediate, 2.1 C by 2100 and 4.2 C long term. It’s worth noting that present warming rates include the longer term effect of approximately 350 ppm CO2 and approx 400 ppm CO2e (which would push present warming higher) and aerosol negative feedback which knocks off the effect of about 30 to 50 ppm CO2e (which keeps present warming cooler). In any case, we’re in the ballpark at 1 to 1.2 C above 1880s values.

          Avoiding 2 C is predicated, in my view, on a substantial portion of CH4 falling out after considerable reduction in fossil fuel use. Given the size of the global gas infrastructure, this is certainly possible with rapid cuts to those systems coincident with other emissions cuts as well. For example, you could lose about 30 to 40 ppm CO2e from methane falling out. But it looks like getting to 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050 still puts us on a path for 3 C by 2100 and 6 C over the very long term. We’d have to be far more aggressive with emissions cuts and subsequent atmospheric carbon sequestration to have a shot hitting below 2 C warming this Century. And it’s worth noting that atmospheric carbon capture is likely to be limited to around 1-2 billion tons of carbon drawn down per year as a practical constraint. So we want to make sure Earth System feedbacks do not exceed that range.

          In other words, the most pressing and urgent thing we need to do is halt carbon emissions into the atmosphere as swiftly as possible. The next most pressing and urgent matter is trying to gear the human system to draw down carbon. Cuts to zero fossil fuel emissions as fast as possible need to take precedence, however, as that deals with the 11 billion tons per year of carbon that is now hitting the atmosphere. An emission whose vast size would be impossible to deal with using atmospheric capture alone.

          In other words, we could cover the Earth with forests, but it wouldn’t amount to much more than a drop in the bucket if we kept burning fossil fuels. The fossil fuel burning has to go.

        • wili

           /  August 2, 2017

          I think it was Hansen who pointed out that if we really wanted to avoid the next ice age (and if we hadn’t already blasted way more ghgs into the atmosphere to make this a complete non-issue), we would have only needed a few large factories making CFCs, chemicals 10-20,000 times more powerful than CO2 as a ghg (on 500 year time scales), and they stay in the atmosphere for 10-50,000 years! (Of course, this would entails certain other…problems…)

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas

        • Hansen noted that a single coal plant was probably enough to stave off another ice age.

    • DJ LX

       /  August 2, 2017

      Here’s a question: how many nuclear power plants will be submerged by rising sea levels? And how will we deal with this — decommission them and move the radioactive fuel to Yucca Mountain before they’re submerged?

      Reply
      • In the U.S., this study indicates that 13 nuclear stations are at risk from sea level rise that’s possible in the coming decades:

        http://news.nationalgeographic.com/energy/2015/12/151215-as-sea-levels-rise-are-coastal-nuclear-plants-ready/

        Globally, there are probably many more.

        With seas rising, the near coastal nuke facilities will need to be shut down and have their sites cleared and cleaned well in advance to ensure that ocean and coastal water contamination does not occur. One can certainly imagine the need for a global initiative aimed at safeguarding these sites.

        In addition to the 13 nuke plants within striking distance of possible sea level rise over the coming decades, you’ve got another 300 or so fossil fuel power stations and refineries that are also in that zone.

        Reply
    • Judith Haran

       /  August 2, 2017

      In response to Frank B: I mentioned something to this effect in a post last September that AFAIK was never published. No one that I know of, no major voice, is speaking about the need to PLAN for what we really do know is going to happen. Not to plan to reduce FF consumption. . . plenty of people talk about that. But to plan to relocate coastal populations before the seawater hits the kitchen cabinets, to plan now to relocate essential agriculture (i.e., grain production, NOT all those lovely trendy veggies). Perhaps the military has done some planning along these lines, but if so they are keeping it close to the vest. How difficult would it be to build/reconstruct villages/camps/whatever in the interior NOW so that when TSHTF, people will have a roof over their heads? I know that politically it would be hard, but logistically, it makes a lot of sense. Even if we have to convince the Quakers to do it, or some other highly rational group that knows how to cope with dire events.

      Reply
      • Threat response paradigm =

        1. Prevention/Mitigation
        2. Planning
        3. Response (Adaptation)

        With climate change, #1 considerably reduces the need for #2 and #3. And failure to push #1 enough results in situations in which it becomes difficult or increasingly impossible to respond/adapt.

        That said, we should certainly be planning to deal with the effects that we choose to lock in with our policies. If Paris puts us on a 3 C path, then governments should be putting together plans to deal with 3 C warming.

        In any case, considering the damage, we absolutely want to pursue mitigation will every resource available.

        Reply
  5. Mike Campbell

     /  August 1, 2017

    Do climate scientists give a value to the rather large amounts of heat that is generated by these fires in Siberia,Canada,Western U.S.?It is heat in place and most will remain in our atmosphere.Not to mention all the heat given off by each ice powered vehicle.

    Reply
    • Wildfires taking down forests can result in an Earth System carbon feedback if the damage to forests is considerable and permanent. This appears to be the case in a number of regions, but I don’t believe the science has a full accounting of the related or potential losses to these carbon sinks and stores.

      It is, however, certainly considerably smaller than the fossil fuel based greenhouse gas emission produced by vehicles, powerplants and planes, primarily, which is on the order of 11 billion tons of carbon per year or more than ten times faster than the annual emission during the most recent hyperthermal event.

      Reply
      • wili

         /  August 2, 2017

        But the heat itself is an insignificant contributor, right? It’s much more about how much of that heat is allowed to get out to space and how quickly, right?

        Reply
        • The additional 4 hiroshima bombs of heat trapped by ghg every second is extraordinarily significant. It’s warmed the entire Earth already by 1.2 C and is starting to make a real mess of our climate.

        • wili

           /  August 3, 2017

          Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Compared to that enormous amount of energy kept near the earth by ghgs, the added amount of direct heat from the fires themselves is insignificant, as I understand it.

        • On the heat issue, in case there is some miscommunication in the discussion so far, here’s a look at waste heat from industry compared with the heat buildup due to greenhouse gases:

          https://skepticalscience.com/waste-heat-global-warming.htm

  6. Marcel Guldemond

     /  August 1, 2017

    Thanks for your continued posting RS. I might not have time to comment any more, but I appreciate reading your posts.

    I’m also happy to say that I just put a deposit on a Nissan Leaf, apparently the last one available in Canada East of the Rockies. I guess they’re selling them aggressively ahead of the release of the updated 2018 Leaf.

    And glad to see that the Tesla MOdel 3 effort looks like it’s going to keep pushing the EV revolution hard.

    Reply
  7. Robert, may I quote your comments on the Futurism Global Warming Infographic?

    Reply
    • Absolutely! Thanks for asking.

      Reply
        • Thanks, Garry. Fast response.

        • Just an added comment —

          So the Permian killed off 90 to 95 percent of all species in the ocean and about 75 percent of all species on land. The various killing mechanisms didn’t kill off all plant life. But the world was very barren, lifeless, and toxic compared to the rich bounty we enjoy today.

          It’s worth noting that the hydrogen sulfide venting effect likely produced a number of killing mechanisms for land forms. Some would include direct poisoning. But venting into the upper atmosphere would have harmed the ozone layer which would have hit land forms very hard as well.

          I think the direct testament to the danger of sulfur related compounds like hydrogen sulfide have been deeply ingrained in land forms to this day. Even a small amount of sulfur is detectable by the noses of mammals — to produce a danger response. This is probably an evolutionary mechanism that came up from the dangers of hothouse times.

        • Thank you for expanding this.

  8. Mike Campbell

     /  August 1, 2017

    Robert
    I want to Thank You for the work you have shared with all of us followers.I am much more grounded and knowledgeable about this very complicated topic of climate change since I began reading your blog.So easy to use and always fresh with news and perspective.
    Now regarding my earlier post about heat generated from fires and vehicles.When I drive my pickup I know that the exhaust pipe carries out the waste (various pollutants,some heat),but a lot of heat escapes from my vehicle into the outside air as that air is used as a coolant.Likewise with a forest fire various pollutants rise from the fire mixed with convective heat and not easily separated.What I am getting at is with all the quantifying data on the polluting gases,I wonder if just heat has been separated to give a number of say btu’s generated per each square mile of a forest fire event.All this fire heat has to be tremendous
    but may not show or be counted in the co2,ch4,etc numbers.Heat building under the blanket of an affected sky.
    Mike

    Reply
    • Hello Mike —

      Thanks for the question.

      If you’re looking at net btus, the amount of thermal energy coming from the heat trapping gasses are many orders of magnitude greater than the thermal energy coming from burning fossil fuels themselves. The present rate of heat gain from the greenhouse gasses we’ve added to the atmosphere is on the order of 4 hiroshima bombs each and every second:

      https://www.skepticalscience.com/4-Hiroshima-bombs-worth-of-heat-per-second.html

      All the cars, all the boats, all the planes and powerplants and engines and wildfires in the world do not even hold a candle to this amount of thermal heat gain.

      In other words, the ICE and fossil fuels are far more effective at adding energy to the Earth’s atmosphere in the form of heat from the gasses they release than they are at generating energy in the form of usable btus for human beings.

      Reply
  9. Keith Antonysen

     /  August 1, 2017

    Thanks Robert.
    While the reference provided is not about Antarctica, it does indicate the rapid changes happening in the Arctic.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/30/siberian-craters-big-releases-of-methane-could-pose-broad-problems.html

    “”The last time we saw a permafrost melting was 130,000 years ago. It’s a natural phenomenon because of changes in the earth’s orbit,” said professor of earth sciences at the University of Oxford, Dr. Gideon Henderson.”

    And:

    “”But what is definitely unprecedented is the rate of warming. The warming that happened 130,000 years ago happened over thousands of years … What we see happening now is warming over decades or a century.”

    We are therefore seeing a much more rapid collapse of the permafrost, Henderson said.”

    Reply
    • The Eemian warmed into a range that’s about 1-2 C warmer than 1880s levels. It took thousands of years. By burning fossil fuels, we’ve warmed the Earth by this amount in just 135 years. The permafrost feedback would thus be concentrated into that shorter period. Such a concentration would tend to be a greater insult on the carbon cycle. However, the sad truth is that the present human carbon emission from fossil fuel burning is probably x50 to x100 the present added carbon feedback coming from permafrost.

      Reply
  10. DJ LX

     /  August 2, 2017

    Another question – after a tree dies it rots (or burns) and releases the CO2 back into the atmosphere. What of the roots? Do they successfully sequester the CO2 in the ground over the long haul, or does the CO2 escape into the atmosphere after they rot?

    Reply
    • Roots rot. Their carbon ends up in the atmosphere as CO2.

      The only significant exceptions I can think of are permafrost, where decay is limited by low temperature, and peat boys where decay is limited by an acid environment.

      Reply
      • Different forest types have different rates of carbon sequestration. The colder regions are certainly among the most efficient. Tropical rainforests and peat bogs, however, also have been very efficient at sequestering carbon on the natural scale of things. In net, a substantial portion of a root system would tend to return to the air as carbon due to decomposition. However, a portion is sequestered and remains as soil carbon. In other words, decomposition doesn’t have a 100 percent efficiency rate even in the least efficient forests. That said, soil carbon cycles as well and, as the Earth warms, both soil and forests are a less efficient carbon sink and a less safe store.

        Reply
        • wili

           /  August 2, 2017

          As I recall, in mid latitudes, native grasses, which keep 90 some % of their biomass below the surface, are more effective than trees. Also they are a better option here partly because trees decrease albedo in winter.

    • wpNSAlito

       /  August 2, 2017

      Paleontologically, swamps and lowlands would sequester the carbon of plant material in some combination of subsidence and burial and by pressure, typically evolving into various forms of coal. In modern times, I wonder how much of the repeatedly-cropped timber (as in pine tree crops), has been “sequestered” into A-frame housing, furniture and the like.

      Reply
      • It’s not likely that housing is presently an effective carbon sink due to the fact that wood exposed to air and the elements isn’t too well protected from rot in the multi-decade timeframe. Although it might be worthwhile to look at methods for effectively sequestering housing stored carbon…

        Reply
    • Decomposition does release a portion of the carbon back to the atmosphere over time — even for buried root systems. Some of the carbon is ultimately sequestered for a far longer period, however.

      https://www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/topics/forests-carbon

      Forests, other plants, and weathering have sequestered enough carbon since the Eocene to considerably reduce atmospheric CO2 levels all while taking down the added emission coming from volcanoes.

      Human fossil fuel burning has greatly perturbed the carbon cycle in that there is absolutely no way for plants and weathering to keep up. The rate of human carbon emission is more than ten times faster than the environmental emission that occurred during the last hyperthermal event — the PETM.

      Reply
  11. Greg

     /  August 2, 2017

    cnn town hall with Al Gore now (U.S. at least) one hour, I believe

    Reply
  12. Greg

     /  August 2, 2017
    Temperature anomalies arranged by country 1900 - 2016.

    Antti Lipponen video now breaks down individual countries temp anomalies since 1880’s in a short video. Nicely shows the changes in temp visually.

    Reply
  13. Greg

     /  August 2, 2017

    This plane went through the “freak” hail storm this week in Turkey,and landed thanks to a very good pilot. Higher storm heights due to more energy and heat lead to bigger hail:
    https://www.yahoo.com/sy/ny/api/res/1.2/AeULROMrOQecrc9f5gdcXw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjtzbT0xO3c9ODAw/http://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/homerun/the_telegraph_258/7f9c09d0349a3011e6f4e36be360c463

    Reply
  14. wili

     /  August 2, 2017

    “Suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers linked to climate change, study claims”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/31/suicides-of-nearly-60000-indian-farmers-linked-to-climate-change-study-claims

    Extract: “Rising temperatures and the resultant stress on India’s agricultural sector may have contributed to increase in suicides over the past 30 years, research shows”

    Reply
  15. Methane madness

     /  August 2, 2017

    Australia logs in record July of 2.6 c above av…..wtf.. denialists seen deepening trenches.

    Reply
  16. Greg

     /  August 2, 2017

    That surprise “pop-up” tropical storm that just hit Florida overloaded Miami. “The rain overpowered the city’s new stormwater system. Miami Beach Assistant City Manager Eric Carpenter told CNN affiliate WPLG that Tuesday’s rain had “significantly higher intensity” than what the system is designed to handle: nearly 8 inches of rainfall and a peak of intensity of around 3 inches per hour.” The city is spending nearly a half a billion dollars on the pump system but clearly is heading to be an Atlantis.
    http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/02/us/miami-severe-flooding/index.html

    Reply
    • wpNSAlito

       /  August 2, 2017

      South Florida used to rely on a passive, gravity-driven system of storm-water runoff. Active systems of pumps are much more expensive and harder to maintain. Stronger pumps won’t help the water supply, though, as the local aquifer’s lens of freshwater is encroached by surrounding salt water.

      Reply
    • Reminds me of the combined sea level rise, heavy rainfall risk to coastal cities cited in a recent paper someone posted here. That reality appears to be now.

      Reply
    • Scheduling tweet on this, thanks.

      Reply
  17. Andy_in_SD

     /  August 2, 2017

    A potential triple wammy?

    1) Pesticide and herbicide use has caused weeds to develop immunity.

    2) Crops that are not genetically modified to survive a pesticide / herbicide does not survive exposure to it.

    3) Changes in atmospheric conditions such as increased wind / moisture content / heat may potentially increase the probability for dispersal of pesticides / herbicides beyond their intended use area (affecting non custom engineered crops).

    ie: Spray the herbicide, water the plants, increased heat causes higher evaporation thus allowing herbicide laden air to propagate.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pesticides-farmers-idUSKBN1AI1I2

    Reply
  18. Hallyx

     /  August 2, 2017

    Sorry if OT, but “persuasion” is a salient area of interest — now that the science is settled and denialism has become a universal bete noire. This relates to the Wells-Mann controversy. I may have gotten this link from an article posted here.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17524032.2017.1333965

    “… these arguments demonstrate the pitfalls of attempting to quantify consensus in the scientific literature … in order to produce “proof” for persuading the public. Rather than securing certainty that was absent before, this exercise has invited intense scrutiny … and generated further doubt. …that doing more research on politically controversial, high-stakes policy matters typically increases uncertainty …as different parties are motivated to undercut each other’s claims…

    “Contributing to public debate and policy therefore calls for…efforts made to communicate and engage with the implications of different positions, not all derived from science.This brings us to the rationale for consensus quantification….as a means of public communication and persuasion.”

    Reply
    • I think it’s important to understand that the fact that human beings are causing climate change is a settled matter in the science. That said, there are other matters with regards to the details of how a climate crisis will unfold that are not settled. These are separate values and should be viewed as such. For example, we have a very clear certainty that humans are causing climate change. We are less clear as to what are the exact effects of 4 C warming, for example. We generally know that it’s pretty darn bad. But it’s tough to see all the outcomes. Science will necessarily differ in its descriptions of effects and potential harms related to given levels of warming. This is why scenario and range based studies and discussions are helpful.

      That said, attacking studies that highlight scientific consensus with regards to the overall view that humans cause global warming is not generally helpful. There has been a serious attempt to discredit the strong science that points toward anthropogenic climate change. And Cook’s consensus based studies in this regard have been very helpful to the overall communication. However, conflating scientific consensus on the issue of climate change being caused by humans with the less clear understanding of risks and impacts is not as generally helpful. But what we can say is that a serious investigation of risks, dangers, and potential harms arising from future warming scenarios is a needed growth area for the sciences. Furthermore, we can add that effective messaging involves clearly pointing toward pathways to avoid future harmful warming scenarios — primarily various methods for reducing harmful fossil fuel based carbon emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy systems.

      Cook has been mostly right in these respects. And Cook has been an extraordinarily effective climate communicator overall. But I think we should be careful not to apply a straitjacket to the overall discussion. In any case, I agree with ATTP below, this particular paper is pretty rife with strawman argumentation.

      Reply
    • 12volt dan

       /  August 2, 2017

      there’s a blog about that paper over at “And then there’s physics” https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/beyond-climate-consensus/ which takes this paper apart and does a good dissemination. comments are always good over there as well.

      I lurk over there a lot too

      Reply
      • Thanks for this response, 12 volt. ATTP usually provides excellent analysis.

        Reply
      • From the link:

        “At the end of the day, the goal of consensus studies and consensus messaging is very simple. Consensus studies aim to quantify the level of consensus with regards to humans causing global warming and consensus messaging is simply a strategy aimed at addressing public misconceptions about the level of consensus. It’s not intended to be the only messaging strategy; it’s not intended to replace, or undermine, alternative strategies; it is intended to be complementary to alternatives and aims to provide a very simple message about the basics of this scientific topic.

        Given the above, a great deal of the Pearce et al. commentary appears to be simply savaging strawmen. Of course there are complexities that consensus studies/messaging does not address. It isn’t intended to address these complexities, nor is it intended that these complexities should be ignored. There is no claim (explicit, or implicit) that there is a consensus about all aspects of this topic; the only claim is that the level of agreement about the basics is high. If anything, a goal of consensus studies/messaging is to get people to accept this high level of agreement about the basics so that it becomes easier to discuss the complexities. In fact, I don’t even really see how you can start addressing the complexities if there isn’t an acceptance that there is a lot of agreement about the basics.”

        I think this is very relevant commentary.

        Reply
        • Hallyx

           /  August 2, 2017

          Thank you, 12v and RS. This is why I lurk around here.

  19. Shawn Redmond

     /  August 2, 2017

    And here in Canada we’re doing our level best to make sure it all melts!

    Yet under immense pressure from industry, the federal government decided to delay the implementation of its methane regulations. The original plan was to introduce some of the regulations in 2018, with the remainder in 2020. Now, that’s been pushed back three years to between 2020 and 2023, saving industry around $1 billion over a 17-year period.
    According to Environmental Defence, that will result in the unnecessary release of a massive 55 megatonnes in methane emissions. The Canadian government has calculated that the “social cost of methane” is $1,165/tonne in 2012 dollars.
    https://thetyee.ca/News/2017/08/02/Alberta-Crackdown-Methane-Emissions/

    Reply
    • So if I am doing my math correctly, $1,165/tonne x 55 megatonnes = $64,075,000,000, or just over $65 billion. How can our governments possibly think that saving one industry $1 billion is better than saving the entire world $65 billion?

      Couldn’t insurance companies, real estate companies, seaside resorts, and all the other kinds of industries that are already being hit with some of these costs get together to fight the FF lobbyists?

      Isn’t there anyone sane left in government at all?

      Reply
  20. Spike

     /  August 2, 2017

    Thanks for hat tip Robert, and for dissecting the details as always. Just seen this report on future heatwaves in S Asia from MIT – no surprise to regulars here but good to inform the public of the reality of the impending catastrophe unless they support strong climate policy.

    http://news.mit.edu/2017/deadly-heat-waves-could-hit-south-asia-century-0802

    Reply
  21. This fine study contains much interesting information that should not be overlooked. The authors deliberately chose a relatively brief period when austral insolation associated with the combined effect of the three Milankovich cycles was at a maximum peak. Such peaks arrive about every 20,000 years, varying greatly in magnitude. This one added about 15% to incoming solar radiation around Antarctica, which was the maximum for the entire Pliocene. Helped along by certain feedbacks, the study shows how that increase was independently responsible for adding more than ten degrees (up to 25!) to air temperatures over the continent in a number of regions, for around 1000 years, which could do a lot of extra surface melting. Thankfully we won’t see anything quite like this again for a very long time. GHG forcing all by itself gives us plenty to worry about but a rare and extreme case of radiation forcing is still kind of an interesting thing to learn about.

    Reply
  22. I have some more information to offer that is maybe even more interesting. I have always wondered about the weird events that took place during the Eemian, just 120,000 or so years ago, when the CO2 level got no higher than 280, global temperatures reached a level much like that of today, and sea level, toward the end, climbed as high as 9 meters above that of today. A lot of the answers can be found by studying a paper written by Hansen et al in 2016, about “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: etc.” Here is the website, which has open access– https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/16/3761/2016/acp-16-3761-2016.pdf.
    There is some really good information about insolation anomalies and how powerful they can be, and the way they alternate at the poles, starting on page 26. Adding radiation of 40 watts per square meter to the mean, for a particular region, is worth a temporary temperature input of something like 30C, as I recall. Enjoy.

    Reply
  1. What Happens as the Earth Warms and Climate Adjusts | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: