Half-way to Catastrophe — Global Hothouse Extinction to be Triggered by or Before 2100 Without Rapid Emissions Cuts

Over recent years, concern about a coming hothouse mass extinction set off by human carbon emissions has been on the rise. Studies of Earth’s deep history reveal that at least 4 out of the 5 major mass extinctions occurred during both hothouse periods and during times when atmospheric and oceanic carbon spiked to much higher than normal ranges. Now a new scientific study reveals that we have already emitted 50 percent of the carbon needed to set off such a major global catastrophe.

Fossil Fuel Burning = Race Toward a 6th Mass Extinction

The primary driver of these events is rising atmospheric CO2 levels — often caused in the past by the emergence of masses of volcanoes or large flood basalt provinces (LIP in image below). In the case of the worst mass extinction — the Permian — the Siberian flood basalts were thought to have injected magma into peat and coal formations which then injected a very large amount of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans.

(In the Earth’s deep past, the worst global mass extinctions were driven by large igneous provinces like the eruptions across Siberia during the Permian. The initial killing mechanism during these extinctions was a result of the upshot ocean anoxia, acidification, and biochemistry change. During the Permian, effects eventually spilled over to land and possibly the upper atmosphere. Today’s human carbon emissions will ultimately produce worse impacts over shorter time scales than the Permian. Image source: Skeptical Science and The History of Seawater Carbonate Chemistry, Atmospheric CO2, and Ocean Acidification.)

Higher atmospheric and ocean carbon drove both environmental and geochemical changes — ultimately setting off hyperthermal temperature spikes and ocean anoxic events that were possibly assisted by methane hydrate releases and other climate and geophysical feedbacks. The net result of these events was major species die-offs in the ocean and, during the worst events, on land.

Considering the fact that present human activities, primarily through fossil fuel burning, are releasing vast quantities of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans at a rate never before seen in the geological past, it appears that the world is racing toward another major mass extinction. In the past, the location of this dangerous precipice was a bit murky. But a recent study in Science Advances attempts to better define the threshold at which the worst of the worst mass extinction events — set off by rising ocean and atmospheric carbon — occur.

310 Billion Tons Carbon Entering Ocean = Mass Extinction Threshold

The study used a relatively easy to identify marker — ocean carbon uptake — in an attempt to identify a boundary limit at which such mass extinctions tend to occur. And the study found that when about 310 billion tons of carbon gets taken in by the oceans, a critical boundary is crossed and a global mass extinction event is likely to occur.

Presently, human beings are dumping carbon into the atmosphere at an extremely high rate of around 11 billion tons per year. Today, about 2.6 billion tons per year of this carbon ends up in the ocean. In total, since 1850, humans have added about 155 billion tons of carbon to the Earth’s oceans — leaving us with about another 155 billion tons before Rothman’s (the study author) extinction threshold is crossed.

(Thresholds of Catastrophe in the Earth System finds that present carbon emissions bring us about halfway to the global mass extinction boundary limit. That carbon emissions cuts need to be more aggressive than the most aggressive present international policy scenario to reliably avoid risk of setting off a global mass extinction event.)

At the presently high rate of fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gas emissions from humans, that gives us about 60 years. This is true even if emissions levels remain steady and do not increase. If emissions increase along a business as usual pathway, we could cross that threshold by or before the 2050s. And under all present emissions scenarios identified by international climate policy, the 310 billion ton threshold is either closely approached or greatly exceeded by 2100.

This should set off warning bells for global governments and climate policy advocates alike. What it means is that halting fossil fuel burning and transitioning to renewable energy needs to occur at rather swift rates — with annual global carbon emissions peaking within the next 1-10 years and then rapidly diminishing to zero — if we are to avoid a high risk of setting off another major global mass extinction. Of course, this does not mean that such a response will avoid harmful climate impacts — a number of which have already been locked in. Just that such a major response would be needed to avoid a high risk of setting off a catastrophic global mass extinction event equal to some of the worst in all of Earth’s deep history.

Rapid Movement Toward Terrible Long-Term Global Consequences

The study notes that past major extinctions like the Permian occurred on 10,000 to 100,000 year time-scales. And that during these events the changes inflicted upon the global environment by major carbon additions to the ocean and atmosphere occurred too swiftly for organisms to adapt. The pace of human carbon addition is presently faster than even during the Permian — the worst mass extinction event. So if this very large carbon spike were to continue it has the potential to set off impacts as bad, or worse than the Permian and over much shorter time horizons.

The study also notes that it takes about 10,000 years for the worst impacts of a mass extinction carbon spike to be fully realized. So hitting the 310 billion ton threshold by or before 2100 runs a high risk of consigning the world to many, many centuries of increasingly worsening climate impacts.

Links:

Thresholds of Catastrophe in the Earth System

History of Seawater Carbonate Chemistry, Atmospheric CO2, and Ocean Acidification

Today’s Climate Change is More Comparable to Earth’s Worst Mass Extinction

Heading Toward a Permian Future

Hat tip to Abel

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183 Comments

  1. Bill h

     /  September 22, 2017

    On a point of information from your previous post, Robert, you mentioned damage now of 160 billion dollars for the 2017 huŕricane season However, Harvey alone is, as I understand, estimated at 180 billion, so the damage looks to be much worse.

    Reply
    • I’m looking at the official consensus estimates that tend to lag projections. Present top range projections for Harvey are in the range of 200 billion for that storm alone. Irma probably likely to top 100 billion in the end. Maria may be worse, overall, than Irma. Worth noting that damage assessments always tend to start smaller and grow over time as more and more reports come in.

      Reply
  2. Godfrey

     /  September 22, 2017

    Hi Robert. The world wildlife fund figures for loss of invertebrate and vertebrate life, ocean and land indicate a terrible loss of numbers and species. I worked and lived in a farming village in north UK in the 1960s. If we had woken up one morning and seen the the bird and animal life at today’s numbers we would have thought we were in a strangely quiet nightmare. Even the common houseflies are almost non-existent this year. Whatever is happening in relation to technical extinction, the numbers of many wildlife species are collapsing.

    Reply
    • I appreciate the comment.

      No one is saying that rates of extinction are not now higher than they have been in the more recent past. And yes, present multiple impacts are producing a mass extinction type loss even now. The current impacts include but are not limited to: habitat destruction, overhunting, toxic pollution, invasion by alien species and climate change.

      It’s just that the pace of this event gets much worse as the climate change signal grows — particularly in the oceans. And that by or before 2100, climate change alone is enough to produce a mass extinction on the scale of one of the five worst, if not the Permian or worse itself.

      Present extinction rates and loss rates of individuals, in other words are bad enough. If we keep burning fossil fuels, they get much worse.

      I’ll add that in the case of corals and coral reef habitats, the risk of mass individual die off has arrived now and that we could see a 90 percent loss of all the world’s corals before 2050. This is an example of a serious loss of diversity that would risk another mass extinction trigger prior to the 2100 timeframe. That said, even as bad as impacts would appear along the present path by 2050, 2100 looks considerably worse in any scenario that does not halt fossil fuel burning by or before mid century.

      So, yes, I will agree that the broad-brush study above does not hit a number of key details. Or even describe the terrible situation that is happening now. However, I think it is useful for looking at thresholds for the worst of worst case events and climate change outcomes relating to the most catastrophic losses of life on Earth.

      Reply
      • Godfrey

         /  September 22, 2017

        What I am saying is that what is happening now is terrifying to those of us who have worked the land. I don’t understand how the system is maintaining any kind of stability. The web of Life is clearly right now under great strain. It is no ‘straw man’ to experience the catastrophic loss of insect, bird and animal life. I appreciate the various factors- all a product of an over abundance of one species – I think we need to help each other right now with all we have….and by ‘each other ‘ I mean all life. Very sadly, it is a real effort to stay upright with the lack of forthright leadership, media amelioration and a scientific community that, in general, does not make it plain and simple. Thanks for all you do, dear Robert. I value this community.

        Reply
        • OK. I’ve got your particular experiential frame of reference, Godfrey. And I absolutely sympathize. I just want to clarify that as bad and rough and scary as all this stuff is now, it gets worse if we don’t do what you’re asking. Thank you for your own work in this regard. I’m very sad that the broader communication, thus far, has been both so narrow and so unconcerned.

        • eleggua

           /  September 22, 2017

          “by ‘each other ‘ I mean all life. ”

          Yes. Transition of human awareness.

        • So I’ve added a few clarifications based on our discussion.

  3. Jim

     /  September 22, 2017

    Here’s a quiz. Mankind started emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in 1751. What year marked the period where we emitted half of the current anthropogenic CO2e? Most people I’ve asked guess 1940’s to 1950’s, and they’re shocked to learn the halfway point was crossed in 1988. That’s right, in just 28 years we’ve emitted as much greenhouse gases as the previous 236 years.

    I’ve never liked the climate predictions that go out to 2100. I think it creates a psychological “comfort blanket” that’s at the end of our children’s lifespans – near enough to cause concern, but far enough away to avert serious concern for most moderately informed people. In reality, BAU means there will be serious environmental consequences to be faced by the current generation of young people.

    https://b8f65cb373b1b7b15feb-c70d8ead6ced550b4d987d7c03fcdd1d.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/cms/reports/documents/000/002/327/original/Carbon-Majors-Report-2017.pdf?1499431371

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 22, 2017

      “I’ve never liked the climate predictions that go out to 2100. I think it creates a psychological “comfort blanket” that’s at the end of our children’s lifespans – near enough to cause concern, but far enough away to avert serious concern for most moderately informed people.”

      Total agreement here with all of those points. Magnify concern ‘now’ not ‘then’ or ‘when’.

      Reply
    • With regards to this particular study, it doesn’t look to me like the 2100 reference point was one based on confirmation bias, just on consensus forecasting. You move the line back to 2050s range and you find that RCP 8.5 has already exceeded the threshold mark.

      Reply
      • Allan Barr

         /  September 23, 2017

        So if one includes the ever rising amounts of Ch4 from clathrates and permafrost melting is it fair to suggest we will cross over the mass extinction boundary by or before 2050?

        Reply
        • I keep learning more and more about clathrate. And though clathrate is a potential driver of hyperthermal events, the primary driver of global mass extinction is carbon in the air and water. Direct carbon influence on the overall Earth system with regards to a larger hyperthermal (producing multiple potential follow-on impacts including but not limited to clathrate release) has a heavier, longer term impact.

          For example, the PETM likely exhibited substantial methane release, but the impacts to oceans were less than during the Permian. Net ocean carbon uptake was lower in the PETM than in the Permian. So the primary driver appears to be overall atmospheric and ocean carbon add.

          This is not to say that clathrate release did not play a role in hyperthermals. But that the ocean and atmospheric chemistry change related to net overall carbon uptake may well have been the larger primary driver of mass extinction intensity of the worst hothouse extinction events.

          More and more, if you’re looking for signal, you’re looking at net carbon addition. Methane spikes, however, may be catastrophic enablers of hyperthermals. But the bar you need to be looking at with regards to potential overall lethality of a hyperthermal is net carbon add to atmosphere and oceans.

  4. eleggua

     /  September 22, 2017

    Note, some houses on stilts and above the flood line.

    Reply
  5. eleggua

     /  September 22, 2017

    ‘Climate Change & Anthropocene Extinction 20: Amazon tree transpiration crucial to keep rainforest wet’
    Posted on September 4, 2017 by Rolf Schuttenhelm

    http://www.bitsofscience.org/climate-change-amazon-rainforest-trees-7511/

    “The individual trees in the Amazon rainforest play a crucial role in keeping the rainforest intact. Not just because the trees together create the forest, but also because – together – they create the climate (through something called the shallow moisture convection pump).

    Take home message: in order to preserve the Amazon, deforestation really has to stop completely. A ‘meeting in the middle’ compromise does not work – as (amplified by global climate change) that promotes devastating droughts in the remaining part of the forest…….”

    Reply
  6. eleggua

     /  September 22, 2017

    Other than this ‘disturbance’, nothing over the horizon. A brief respite.

    “1. A small area of low pressure, associated with the remnants of Lee,
    is located over the central Atlantic Ocean almost a thousand miles
    east-southeast of Bermuda. The low is producing a concentrated area
    of showers and thunderstorms, although the circulation appears
    somewhat elongated. Some additional development of this system is
    possible during the next few days while it moves slowly northward
    through early next week.
    * Formation chance through 48 hours…medium…40 percent.
    * Formation chance through 5 days…medium…50 percent.”

    Reply
    • Maria to last for at least 4 more days. And we do have some large storms still firing over Africa. But it is nice to see that there’s not another one in the pipe at the moment.

      Reply
    • And Lee is back as a hurricane. WTH?

      ACE closing in on 200 for 2017.

      http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/Realtime/index.php?loc=northatlantic

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  September 25, 2017

        Hurricane Lee

        http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCPAT4+shtml/251437.shtml

        SUMMARY OF 1100 AM AST…1500 UTC…INFORMATION
        ———————————————–
        LOCATION…30.8N 49.9W
        ABOUT 880 MI…1420 KM E OF BERMUDA
        ABOUT 1390 MI…2240 KM WSW OF THE AZORES
        MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS…90 MPH…150 KM/H
        PRESENT MOVEMENT…SSW OR 200 DEGREES AT 2 MPH…4 KM/H
        MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE…980 MB…28.94 INCHES

        WATCHES AND WARNINGS
        ——————–
        There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect.

        DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK
        ——————————
        At 1100 AM AST (1500 UTC), the center of Hurricane Lee was located
        near latitude 30.8 North, longitude 49.9 West. Lee is moving toward
        the south-southwest near 2 mph (4 km/h). The hurricane is expected
        to turn toward the west by Tuesday and toward the west-northwest by
        Wednesday at a slightly faster forward speed.

        Maximum sustained winds are near 90 mph (150 km/h) with higher
        gusts. Little change in strength is forecast during the next 48
        hours.

        Lee is a tiny hurricane. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to
        10 miles (20 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds
        extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km).

        The estimated minimum central pressure is 980 mb (28.94 inches).

        Reply
  7. eleggua

     /  September 22, 2017

    Come Shell or high water.

    “People walk next to a flooded gas station in Humacao, Puerto Rico on Wednesday. “

    Reply
  8. Vic

     /  September 23, 2017

    A 90 year old dam in Puerto Rico has developed a crack that threatens to unleash a man made lake that spans two square miles. 70,000 residents near by are being urgently evacuated.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/22/puerto-rico-hurricane-maria-dam

    Reply
  9. eleggua

     /  September 23, 2017

    “Regarding the herds of majestic horses that roam the island, many have been killed in the storm.”

    ‘A Plea For Help From The Maria-Ravaged Island Of Vieques’
    09/22/2017

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-plea-for-help-from-the-maria-raged-island-of-vieques_us_59c55b99e4b08d6615504234

    “The Caribbean island of Vieques, a former home to the U.S. Navy and now a popular tourist destination seven miles east of Puerto Rico, bore the full impact of Hurricane Maria. With the main island reeling from the impact, the tiny island and its 9,000 inhabitants face daunting challenges with widespread damage, cut off from air and sea deliveries.

    Off the grid: With cell and phone service down, I was contacted earlier today via satellite phone by Angie Adams, a longtime resident and a tour operator. She said that there was very little or no government help and the situation is desperate….

    She and others are organizing direct shipments from the states to Vieques’ via Mosquito pier, a former Navy pier. A ship has set out from Florida, she says. The Vieques airport is partially functioning with a the control tower damaged. Same for the main island regional airport of Ceiba (former Roosevelt Roads Naval base) ― also has a clear runway but not fully operational. Some private planes are taking supplies back and forth.

    The island’s electrical grid is severely damaged. In normal times it has just 8 utility workers. She says it is urgent that electrical workers and communications workers come to the island. And she hopes that they can come directly to Vieques, perhaps via military transport.

    Driving to survey the damage, she says that virtually all the trees on the south side of the Island, facing St. Croix, have been stripped bare. Concrete structures (mandated after the catastrophic Hurricane Hugo) have remained largely intact albeit with many shutters blown out. The older wooden structures have been mostly destroyed, she observed today.

    Adams says that the storm hit the south side beach town of Esperanza with winds over 175 mph . It was heavily damaged with the access roads to the east of the town completely washed away, replaced with sand dunes. Other roads were being cleared….

    The islanders understand that the main island is crippled, but wants the world to know that Vieques is in desperate shape….”

    Reply
    • So sad. 😦

      Thank you for the report. Have people at various animal welfare orgs who are pretty worried.

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  September 25, 2017

        You’re welcome. Yes, one more tragedy amidst the multiplicity.

        Some good news with the potential more.

        ‘Puerto Rico’s governor to sign executive order for massive on-the-ground plan to save animals’
        September 25, 2017

        https://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2017/09/puerto-ricos-governor-sign-executive-order-massive-ground-plan-save-animals.html

        “….Three years ago, The HSUS and Humane Society International (HSI) launched our Humane Puerto Rico program, to lift animal welfare on the main island and on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques…..

        …Today, we sent a plane – one we usually commandeer for animal transport – loaded with supplies for people. We know there is great suffering, and we want to deliver some reprieve. Also, once people are able to meet life’s necessities and their personal circumstances are stabilized, they will be in a stronger position to provide care to animals in their lives and in their communities. Indeed, The HSUS cannot do this alone, and we need all hands on deck, led by caring individuals, especially our partners in human and animal welfare. In a disaster response, federal authorities are tasked with the monumental job of addressing critical human concerns, and in this case, where the needs are so great, we are prepared to take their lead.

        Along with our supply warehouse partner in Broward County, we’ll continue to support these relief efforts as we prepare to send key staff to Vieques to assess the condition of the island’s horse population, which, according to anecdotal accounts, has suffered major casualties. We have a Spanish-speaking assessment team on standby, that, when appropriate, will work with our shelter partners and the veterinary community to identify the greatest needs across the island, and we’ll be sending in people and resources that are proportional to the needs. We expect those needs to be great. For instance, yesterday we learned that there are more than 850 horses at a racing track in San Juan who are facing severe challenges as well; we have opened up discussions with The Jockey Club and the United States Equestrian Federation to see if a plan to help the horses can be developed…..”

        Reply
  10. Vic

     /  September 23, 2017

    The average September maximum temperature for the town of Wilcannia in New South Wales is 23.8C. Today it hit 40.0C, breaking the state’s previous September record of 39.6C set in 2004.


    Maximum temperatures expected across Australia on September 23, 2017.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-23/parts-of-australia-to-swelter-through-spring-heat-wave/8977640

    Reply
    • Vic

       /  September 23, 2017

      It ended up getting to 40.5C in Wilcannia today (105F).

      75 bushfires are burning across New South Wales and Queensland.

      https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/23/australias-east-coast-sweats-under-unusual-spring-heat-wave

      It’s only September. There’s no El Nino. There’s not even a post El Nino dip. It just keeps getting hotter.

      Reply
      • Suzanne

         /  September 23, 2017

        And didn’t you all just come off the warmest winter in your history?

        Reply
        • Vic

           /  September 23, 2017

          Yep.

        • Vic

           /  September 23, 2017

          And that was just the weather. The politics were far, far worse.

        • Suzanne

           /  September 23, 2017

          Vic…I am in my 60’s, so have seen a lot…but boy oh boy, I think the world/civilization has gone round the bend. I grew up when most people “believed in science”…and in facts. Now, like some kind of virus…”alternate facts” and “conspiracy theories” have taken hold..and can be seen in our elected officials. Scary times.

        • Vic

           /  September 23, 2017

          Scary times indeed Suzanne. The government here has just succeeded in relaxing our media ownership laws allowing the Murdoch regime to further tighten its grip on our “democracy”. I don’t know where it all ends. Surely it ends somewhere, somehow.

        • Where it goes is an economic crunch for an Australia that’s over-invested in coal as China (Australia’s primary coal export market) rapidly transitions to renewable energy. Murdoch is playing into sinking the Australian economy by suppressing renewable energy. Australia, despite all the political nonsense, however, seems to still be adding renewables — which is very odd considering the present stance of the central government. In other words, it looks like Murdoch and others are failing despite all the political insanity they’ve inflicted upon the country.

        • eleggua

           /  September 23, 2017

          “I think the world/civilization has gone round the bend. ”

          “I don’t know where it all ends. Surely it ends somewhere, somehow.”

          The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats, 1919

          Turning and turning in the widening gyre
          The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
          Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
          Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
          The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
          The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
          The best lack all conviction, while the worst
          Are full of passionate intensity.

          Surely some revelation is at hand;
          Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
          The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
          When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
          Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
          A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
          A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
          Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
          Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
          The darkness drops again; but now I know
          That twenty centuries of stony sleep
          Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
          And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
          Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

        • eleggua

           /  September 23, 2017

          Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelly, 1818

          I met a traveller from an antique land
          Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
          Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,
          Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
          And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
          Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
          Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
          The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

          And on the pedestal these words appear:
          ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
          Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
          Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
          Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
          The lone and level sands stretch far away.

        • eleggua

           /  September 23, 2017

          Ozymandias by Horace Smith, 1818

          In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
          Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
          The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
          “I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
          “The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
          “The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
          Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
          The site of this forgotten Babylon.

          We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
          Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
          Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
          He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
          What powerful but unrecorded race
          Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

      • We actually appear to be heading into a La Nina. SSTs around Australia remain 0.5 to 3 C warmer than normal with the exception of the SW quadrant, which is about average for warmer than normal 30 year climatology (+1.5 C to -1.5 C).

        Reply
    • Thanks for this, Vic.

      If you could please also give us your view on the present state of Australian politics, it would be very enlightening to those here.

      Warmest regards to you and best wishes!

      –R

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  September 25, 2017

        Talked yesterdayt with a couple of folks from the southeast of Australia, one in their 40s and the other over 60. They expressed concern re: the incredible heat of the past couple of years and the current heatwave. They are in favour of regime change in Austraila.

        Reply
        • Brian

           /  September 25, 2017

          “Regime change” was always a terrible excuse. Who decides? Where and when does it end?

        • eleggua

           /  September 26, 2017

          A terrible excuse for what? Who decides what? Where and when does what end? Not clear to me what your saying there.

  11. Abel Adamski

     /  September 23, 2017

    Thanks Robert for the hat tip
    Another one in a continuing vein
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/23/farmer-wants-a-revolution-how-is-this-not-genocide

    Farmer wants a revolution:
    ‘How is this not genocide?’

    Health comes from the ground up, Charles Massy says – yet chemicals used in agriculture are ‘causing millions of deaths’. Susan Chenery meets the writer intent on changing everything about the way we grow, eat and think about food

    Reply
  12. Paul

     /  September 23, 2017

    With regard to mass extinction events, I’m sure denialists will point to the fact that these things have happened in the past and will, in all probability, happen again.

    Reply
    • I haven’t seen any denialist say something smart for some time now. As to it happening before, it’s no reason for us to make it happening again. And b. then they would admit we are in a bad spot.

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 23, 2017

      The easily predictable is not worthy of more than a splinter of our attention.

      Reply
    • The denialists will, as usual, mangle the truth with half truths and outright falsehoods. Why pay attention to something that’s going to just keep putting out bad information? Listening to that stuff too much is a great way to pollute one’s mind.

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  September 25, 2017

        Exactly. We know what they’re going to spew: more garbage.
        Their nonsense belongs in the compost bin.

        Reply
  13. Suzanne

     /  September 23, 2017

    At the Guardian…”Everything is gone..Americans returning to their homes”
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/23/everything-gone-americans-flooded-homes-hurricane-harvey-irma

    The water surged to over 28ft, completely covering our one-storey house, the home that I grew up in. There’s no way to describe the pain I felt when we returned. My mom and I just burst into tears. Everything was gone.

    Climate change played a big part in this. The only time it isn’t 100 degrees round here is winter time. Donald Trump is wrong to dismiss global warming, but there is nothing he could do that would stop me from voting for him again. He’s just trying to put our country back in order, and he cares about families. Look at how he’s helped the people in Texas already.

    Reply
    • Paul

       /  September 23, 2017

      In that case we are truly lost

      Reply
      • This man is lost. We are only lost if we follow him into despair.

        Reply
        • eleggua

           /  September 25, 2017

          “Come, come, whoever you are,
          Wanderer, idolater, worshiper of fire,
          Come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,
          Come, and come yet again.
          Ours is not a caravan of despair.”

          – Rumi

    • And this is how an otherwise good person has been led to contribute to their own ruin. How this person is held captive by a harmful and twisted world-view. Such a view allows for no breath of clean air and only a glimmer or two of light in an otherwise darkened perspective. Such are the fruits of information dominance and misinformation — despair, hopelessness, continuing to follow false leaders.

      Obama did more to help this man than Trump ever will. The fact that he can’t see that is a clear sign of how effective some sources have been at misinforming large sections of America.

      A glimmer of light in an otherwise dark and lonely tunnel — he is at least aware that climate change is real (although he might still dissemble on whether or not it is human-caused).

      Reply
  14. Greetings–Another contribution right on target. EXCELLENT CONTRIBUTION. To bring your readers up to date, I offer some references to documents concerning geologic extinctions, of which there have been many, some apparently world-wide. The causes of these extinctions, which required millions of years to come to fruition, are described and may provide a foundation of understanding that precise determinations of these events are largely beyond present-day knowledge. Please see:
    https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/Geoscientist/Archive/November-2012/Volcanism-impacts-and-mass-extinctions-2
    and
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nph.13247/full

    Reply
    • Thanks for the references, Donald.

      For general reader reference, it appears that the development of the Permian occurred in various phases as a result of the formation of the large igneous province in Siberia. The province spewed out carbon for about a million years with a peak intensity at about the time of the worst of the Permian Extinction. This event occurred over approx 60,000 years or so with the worst subset event developing over a few thousand years. In any case, the human pace is far faster even than this worst in class event.

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

      Reply
  15. wili

     /  September 23, 2017

    (from yesterday)

    heat index now up to 106°F in Minnesota — 24 degrees hotter than Death Valley at the moment

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  September 23, 2017

      Nothing to see here…just move along. Happy Fall!

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  September 23, 2017

        Happy equinox, for what that’s worth. We’ve crossed the line of the seasons.
        We’ve seen much in these past weeks. It’s clear, there’s no ohter way forward but together.
        We’ve crossed the Rubicon.

        Reply
    • redskylite

       /  September 23, 2017

      My father would be 100 years old today, suddenly I realize there is only 83 years to the year 2100, lots of danger lurking ahead not least increased heat effects on health.

      Before retirement, I used to work around the empty quarter in the U.A.E and Saudi and know the perils of surviving in the daytime desert without shade and an a/c containing vehicle.

      The perils are only going to expand areas and we will realize how frail we are.

      “We found that daily mortality increases by 1.8 percent for every degree above the threshold of 28.2 degrees Celsius, while daily hospitalisation – for respiratory and infectious diseases, for example – increases by 4.5 percent for every degree above the threshold of 29 degrees Celsius,” she said.

      That suggests increasingly hot temperatures could leave health systems overwhelmed by surging demand, she added.

      She worries that governments and the public are ill-prepared to deal with rising temperatures because of a general lack of awareness about how heat can impact people’s health.

      Benjamin of the American Public Health Association agrees. “Human beings are terrible at evaluating risk in a pro-active way. We rationalise why not to do things,” he said.”

      http://news.trust.org/item/20170922002155-i2w8p/

      Reply
      • bostonblorp

         /  September 24, 2017

        We are indeed terrible at evaluating risk. Vivid imaginations with which to amuse ourselves but a normalcy bias that trumps even the most dire forecasts from the scientific community.

        Your comment about your father’s age is why I cringe a bit inside when I see a pregnant woman these days. That seemingly distant future when Earth withdraws her welcome mat for humanity is squarely in the lifetime of a child born today.

        Reply
      • People only do things after they’ve already been hurt.

        Reply
        • Well, I haven’t been directly hurt by climate change in a way that I’m generally aware of (subtly, probably yes). I’m doing something. There are a good number of us here. What does that say for this assumption?

          That said, there does appear to be a larger tendency toward procrastination until the last minute. Since climate changes effects lag, the tendency for procrastination is a real trouble-maker.

          However, it appears to me that there are many regions that are being dramatically and negatively impacted and yet they are not responding. Houston and Fort McMurray are prime examples. Short term economic interests are, in these cases, outweighing survival interests that are becoming more and more immediate.

          In these cases, failure to respond more mimics the behavior of addiction and/or even those suffering from harmful forms of exploitation and dominance. The South would not relinquish slaves even when it was apparent that mechanized manufacturing and agriculture were going to render that form of abuse an economic loser. Just like slavery, fossil fuels have become inculcated in behaviors. They have become culturalized. That’s what happens with the resource curse.

    • Wow. Another WTH moment.

      Reply
  16. “…the Siberian flood basalts were thought to have injected magma into peat and coal formations which then injected a very large amount of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans.”

    In other words, we have already seen a mass extinction caused by the burning of fossil fuels?

    Reply
    • John McCormick

       /  September 23, 2017

      Gingerbaker, Dr. Peter Ward, Paleontology professor at UWA and author of “Under a Green Sky” put the estimate of atmospheric CO2 leading up to the first extinction was 1,000 ppm over tens of thousands of years, We are on track to reach the half way point this century.

      Reply
    • Bingo. But the Permian took thousands of years to develop (approx 1 million years after the formation of a large igneous province in Siberia, though the most intense events related to it occurred on smaller time-scales — 60,000 years for the die-off and approximately a few thousand years for the worst of it — and the after-effects lasted for hundreds of thousands of years) — the peak rate of emission was about 6 – 10 times slower than the present human emission. The present issue will begin to occur, at current or projected rates of fossil fuel burning, after just 250 years or so +/- 50 (1850 to 2050-2150). Confident avoidance requires faster draw-down than RCP 2.6 scenarios.

      We have a window, but it’s relatively small and shrinking.

      Reply
  17. Hi Robert, excellent work on this, and every other article. I hope that it is alright, but I have built on your story to add some new context, aiming for a less scientific audience
    .
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/were-heading-permian-future-guy-lane?published=t

    Reply
    • Thanks for this, Guy. Adding to the links list above. Your work, to me, is very much appreciated. Warmest regards.

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 25, 2017

      Guy, that t-shirt looks nifty. Would like to see the entire image and find out where it might be available, please.

      Reply
  18. Greg

     /  September 24, 2017

    Some important numbers ARE going in the right direction:

    Reply
  19. Apneaman

     /  September 24, 2017

    Thanks Robert. I’m a little confused with the dates because, two years ago, a group of biologists published a study claiming, with no doubt, that the 6th mass extinction is already underway.

    Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction

    “Abstract

    These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. ”

    http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/5/e1400253

    Here is an explainer article on the study with quotes from the study authors.

    Humans could be among the victims of sixth ‘mass extinction’, scientists warn

    “The world is embarking on its sixth mass extinction with animals disappearing about 100 times faster than they used to, scientists warn, and humans could be among the first victims of the next extinction event.”

    “The study “shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” co-author and Stanford University professor of biology Paul Ehrlich said.

    And the study, which was published in the journal Science Advances on Friday and described by its authors as “conservative”, said humans were likely to be among the species lost.

    “If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico said.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-20/sixth-mass-extinction-impact-humans-study-says/6560700

    So who is right? The math modellers or the biologists? I wonder if, Daniel H. Rothman, never heard of that 2015 study or what. When I read it I went WOW! The world never even noticed. I would be interested and appreciative to hear your thoughts on this discrepancy Robert and the thoughts of the regulars too.

    Reply
    • wili

       /  September 24, 2017

      I think robert addressed this point a bit further up in the comments thread. But yeah, if the biggest mass extinction event in the history of complex life on earth is a goal in a race, we’ve given ourselves a big headstart beyond the ‘half-way there’ in the title by triggering super high extinction rates, mostly through many other means than GW so far.

      Reply
    • Addressed at the top of this thread:

      No one is saying that rates of extinction are not now higher than they have been in the more recent past. And yes, present multiple impacts are producing a mass extinction type loss even now. The current impacts include but are not limited to: habitat destruction, overhunting, toxic pollution, invasion by alien species and climate change.

      Historically, climate change has been the primary enabler of mass extinction with the highest rates of extinction occurring during hothouse events. Present multi-cause extinction as a signal will tend to be lower than a worst in class hothouse extinction event under BAU if that extinction threshold is crossed this Century.

      In other words, it’s bad now, but if you keep burning fossil fuels it gets much, much worse. And while the present high rates are something we can step back from, we would not have that luxury if we cross certain thresholds like the one presented in this paper.

      Reply
  20. kassy

     /  September 24, 2017

    One is a geology paper and the other is biology. The Rothman paper gives a threshhold for carbon we should not cross.

    Meanwhile on the ground (and in the seas) we see a severe loss of species and fracturing of habitats through our doing (clearing forests for agriculture, overfishing, widespread death related to intensive farming etc) and on top of that you can add the temperature changes driven by our carbon emissions which push species ranges north towards the pole or up the hills and mountains.

    So it is not either/or in this case but they are both true.

    Reply
    • Dave Person

       /  September 24, 2017

      Right,
      What never existed in the past before and during mass extinctions, is the presence of 7.5 billion people. That global stressor is accelerating extinctions and magnifying impacts of even minor changes owing to climate change.

      dave

      Reply
      • Well climate change has produced some pretty major stresses so far. It’s just that we’re still in the early stages at the moment.

        In any case, over focus on overpopulation as a cause has resulted in short-sighted distortions before. So we should address causes more clearly and cautiously and not lean too much on blanket definitions.

        Human overpopulation is a generational issue that can be rationally dealt with. However, if you do not also deal with other issues, you cannot address the larger extinction stresses.

        7.5 billion people living in a different way would not produce the same mass extinction stress we see now. Blaming population as a singular cause removes the issue of how we plan or manage our societies and our use of resources.

        The primary causes of extinction at this time are:

        Climate change
        Habitat Loss
        Toxic substances
        Overhunting
        Invasion by alien species

        Halting fossil fuel burning reduces and/or eliminates the climate change impact. Changes to land management practices, development practices, and reduction of climate change reduces habitat loss. Changes in materials use eliminates or reduces toxic substances. Applying regulations eliminates or reduces overhunting or overfishing. Reducing climate change and altering species transport practices reduces or eliminates invasives.

        7.5 billion or more people could well live on Earth without producing the kind of extinction stress we presently see, in other words. It’s harmful activities, at this time, that are the major present enabler and, yes, if you do get millions or hundreds of millions of people engaged in those harmful activities, it does make things considerably worse.

        Reply
        • Dave Person

           /  September 25, 2017

          Hi Robert,
          What reference do you have for your last statement?

          dave

        • Where to begin a basic education on sustainability science and practices?

          I’ll just start by establishing these very basic understandings:

          1. Sustainability studies are intrinsically linked to individual carbon footprints.
          2. In other words, the impact of carbon emission is so damaging that most sustainability studies focus on it as the primary factor in sustainability or lack thereof.
          3. More in depth sustainability studies include the impacts of toxic substances related to fossil fuel use (petrochemicals). Overall, from the standpoint of sustainability, this is a secondary factor. But one that is still very important. Toxic nuclear material can be lumped into this group. Substitution is the primary solution to this subset of problems.
          4. The third sustainability factor is based on responsible use of natural resources. Overconsumption in the form of over-fishing, over-hunting, and mass deforestation have serious negative impacts. The solution to this particular subset is setting aside conservation lands and waters for forest regrowth and natural ocean habitats — both devoid of fishing and hunting pressure by human beings.
          5. Farming and land use are related to sustainability in that some practices enhance sustainability while others detract from it. The least sustainable farming practices relate to present industrial meat based agriculture. Vertical farming, indoor vertical farming, various forms of permaculture and regenerative farming all enhance sustainability.
          6. Population is only an enabler to lack of sustainability in areas where harmful consumption rates are high or to the extent that base consumption overwhelms resource pools. But when the impact of the worst consumers is 100,000 times that of those who consume the least, as it is today, then the problem is clearly not one of base population alone.

          George Monbiot:

          People who claim that population growth is the big environmental issue are shifting the blame from the rich to the poor.

          It’s no coincidence that most of those who are obsessed with population growth are post-reproductive wealthy white men: it’s about the only environmental issue for which they can’t be blamed. The brilliant earth systems scientist James Lovelock, for example, claimed last month that “those who fail to see that population growth and climate change are two sides of the same coin are either ignorant or hiding from the truth. These two huge environmental problems are inseparable and to discuss one while ignoring the other is irrational.”(1) But it’s Lovelock who is being ignorant and irrational.

          https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/19/not-overpopulation-that-causes-climate-change-but-overconsumption.

          A paper published yesterday in the journal Environment and Urbanization shows that the places where population has been growing fastest are those in which carbon dioxide has been growing most slowly, and vice versa. Between 1980 and 2005, for example, Sub-Saharan Africa produced 18.5% of the world’s population growth and just 2.4% of the growth in CO2. North America turned out 4% of the extra people, but 14% of the extra emissions. Sixty-three per cent of the world’s population growth happened in places with very low emissions(2).

          http://www.monbiot.com/2009/09/29/the-population-myth/

          But it’s not just blanket over-consumption that causes climate change. It’s consumption of fossil fuels:

          From the Union of Concerned Scientists:

          “The primary cause of global warming is human activity, most significantly the burning of fossil fuels to drive cars, generate electricity, and operate our homes and businesses.”

          http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/global_warming_101#.WcpzWGhSzIU

          This is pretty simple logic. And it’s pretty simple to see. Similarly, environmental harm around the world from toxic substances can be linked to the very overconsumption of those products that are produced using toxic substances.

          Subsistence farmers in overpopulated countries in Africa use far less in the way of toxic substances than the companies who produce chemicals for mass use in the U.S. and around the world.

          http://michiganradio.org/post/dow-chemical-co-ranked-second-largest-toxic-waste-producer-nation

          Again, this is not a problem of population but of production and use. And substitution can absolutely reduce the use of toxic substances.

          https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/Substitution_of_hazardous_chemicals

          Ironically, though countries like the U.S. and those in Europe have traditionally produced the most chemicals, increasing regulatory standards in these regions have somewhat reduced toxic impact. That said, the U.S. is still among the worst, but nations with fewer regulations like China, Russia and parts of the Middle East (where large petrochemical facilities also reside) are the most toxic regions.

          http://www.wired.co.uk/article/this-map-reveals-the-most-toxic-countries-in-the-world

          In understanding the problem of sustainability, we should also understand that conservation of materials, energy, land, and ocean resources are intrinsically linked.

          http://www.worldresourcescompany.com/sustainability/conservation.aspx

          Again, we lean more on practices rather than on a base understanding of population in our efforts here.

          Moreover, land and ocean conservation is a key factor in protecting species.

          https://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Protect-Wildlife/Endangered-Species.aspx

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

          So once you start to grasp base causes, you realize that the problem of sustainability is not so much one of population, but one of how populations act, what they consume and whether they produce a helpful or harmful net impact on the environment.

          A recent article on overpopulation from BBC notes that:

          “It is not the number of people on the planet that is the issue – but the number of consumers and the scale and nature of their consumption,” says David Satterthwaite, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London. He quotes Gandhi: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

          This is especially true when greed involves the considerable irresponsible burning of fossil fuels for self-enrichment and the trapping of others into harmful consumptive patterns in order to enhance one’s own wealth (as we see in individuals like the Koch Brothers today).

          An example of a counter-trend that has occurred among the wealthy involve investments in sustainability and renewable energy systems by those like Musk and others. Such an innovation and sustainability focus is more responsible, and though the individuals and corporations leading this particular innovation are not perfect saints, they produce far more in the way of systemic sustainability based benefits than those they compete against.

          The BBC article goes on by saying:

          “Satterthwaite says that most of the growth over the next two decades is predicted to be in urban centres in what are currently low and middle-income countries.
          It is not the number of people on the planet that is the issue – but the number of consumers and the scale and nature of their consumption.

          On the face of it, the global impact of adding several billion people to these urban centres might be surprisingly small. This is because urbanites in low- and middle-income countries have historically consumed little.”

          So the regions to focus on are those that involve high consumption of harmful materials and the worst overall impacts. With a primary focus toward replacing fossil fuel burning with renewables and efficiency.

          The BBC article concludes that:

          Only when wealthier groups are prepared to adopt low-carbon lifestyles, and to permit their governments to support such a … move, will we reduce the pressure on global climate, resource and waste issues.

          http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160311-how-many-people-can-our-planet-really-support

          In other words the primary driver of global unsustainability are linked to fossil fuel use and the various toxic substances that are produced as well as to base overconsumption of certain resources. While population does help to drive overconsumption of certain resources (such as fish), meat based industrial agriculture is the primary driver of a second subset of sustainability stress (which has a lesser impact than that related to fossil fuel burning). All of these drivers are consumption based and can be dealt with by changing consumption, use, and sustainability patterns.

        • eleggua

           /  September 26, 2017

          Wow! That response is a full-on article, Robert. Great stuff.

          Bucky Fuller’s work includes some points re: sustainability of many billions, how we aren’t stretched by the numbers but by the inequality of bad distribution of resources.
          For anyone not familiar with his work, he’s worth checking out for those ideas and many, many other topics.

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

          “Fuller published more than 30 books, coining or popularizing terms such as “Spaceship Earth”, ephemeralization, and synergetic. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, and popularized the widely known geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their structural and mathematical resemblance to geodesic spheres.”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller#Philosophy_and_worldview

          “He was an early environmental activist. He was aware of the Earth’s finite resources, and promoted a principle that he termed “ephemeralization”, which according to futurist and Fuller disciple Stewart Brand, he coined to mean “doing more with less”. Resources and waste from cruder products could be recycled into making more valuable products, increasing the efficiency of the entire process. Fuller also introduced synergetics, a term which he used broadly as a metaphor for communicating experiences using geometric concepts, and more specifically the empirical study of systems in transformation, with an emphasis on total system behavior unpredicted by the behavior of any isolated components. Fuller coined this term long before the term synergy became popular[citation needed].

          Fuller was a pioneer in thinking globally, and he explored principles of energy and material efficiency in the fields of architecture, engineering and design. He cited François de Chardenèdes’ opinion that petroleum, from the standpoint of its replacement cost out of our current energy “budget” (essentially, the net incoming solar flux), had cost nature “over a million dollars” per U.S. gallon (US$300,000 per litre) to produce. From this point of view, its use as a transportation fuel by people commuting to work represents a huge net loss compared to their earnings.[33] An encapsulation quotation of his views might be, “There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance.”

          Fuller was concerned about sustainability and human survival under the existing socio-economic system, yet remained optimistic about humanity’s future. Defining wealth in terms of knowledge, as the “technological ability to protect, nurture, support, and accommodate all growth needs of life,” his analysis of the condition of “Spaceship Earth” caused him to conclude that at a certain time during the 1970s, humanity had attained an unprecedented state. He was convinced that the accumulation of relevant knowledge, combined with the quantities of major recyclable resources that had already been extracted from the earth, had attained a critical level, such that competition for necessities had become unnecessary. Cooperation had become the optimum survival strategy. He declared: “selfishness is unnecessary and hence-forth unrationalizable…. War is obsolete.” He criticized previous utopian schemes as too exclusive, and thought this was a major source of their failure. To work, he thought that a utopia needed to include everyone.”

          https://www.bfi.org/about-fuller

          “Fuller operated as a practical philosopher who demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called “artifacts.” Fuller did not limit himself to one field but worked as a ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientist’ to solve global problems surrounding housing, shelter, transportation, education, energy, ecological destruction, and poverty. Throughout the course of his life Fuller held 28 patents, authored 28 books, received 47 honorary degrees. And while his most well know artifact, the geodesic dome, has been produced over 300,000 times worldwide, Fuller’s true impact on the world today can be found in his continued influence upon generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a more sustainable planet.”

          https://www.britannica.com/biography/R-Buckminster-Fuller

          “Fuller—architect, engineer, inventor, philosopher, author, cartographer, geometrician, futurist, teacher, and poet—established a reputation as one of the most original thinkers of the second half of the 20th century. He conceived of man as a passenger in a cosmic spaceship—a passenger whose only wealth consists in energy and information. Energy has two phases—associative (as atomic and molecule structures) and dissociative (as radiation)—and, according to the first law of thermodynamics, the energy of the universe cannot be decreased. Information, on the other hand, is negatively entropic; as knowledge, technology, “know-how,” it constantly increases. Research engenders research, and each technological advance multiplies the productive wealth of the world community. Consequently, “Spaceship Earth” is a regenerative system whose energy is progressively turned to human advantage and whose wealth increases by geometric increments.”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller#Depression_and_epiphany

          “During the autumn of 1927, Fuller contemplated suicide, so that his family could benefit from a life insurance payment.

          Fuller said that he had experienced a profound incident which would provide direction and purpose for his life. He felt as though he was suspended several feet above the ground enclosed in a white sphere of light. A voice spoke directly to Fuller, and declared:

          From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.

          Fuller stated that this experience led to a profound re-examination of his life. He ultimately chose to embark on “an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”

          ‘Only Integrity is Going to Count’, 1983

          “When humanity is primarily illiterate, it needs leaders to understand and get the information and deal with it. When we are at the point where the majority of humans them-selves are literate, able to get the information, we’re in an entirely new relationship to Universe.

          We are at the point where the integrity of the individual counts and not what the political leadership or the religious leadership says to do.”

        • eleggua

           /  September 26, 2017

          “Well climate change has produced some pretty major stresses so far.”

          Some of the past six weeks worth.

        • eleggua

           /  September 26, 2017

          “There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance.” – Our Bucky Fuller

  21. Vic

     /  September 24, 2017

    A major hail storm in Spain a couple of days ago dumped half a metre of ice in fifteen minutes. So intense it trapped cars in the middle of the streets.

    https://watchers.news/2017/09/23/hailstorm-teruel-spain/

    Reply
  22. kassy

     /  September 24, 2017

    Wow that is one crazy hailstorm.

    Spain: Hail caused total losses in apple and pear in Aragon

    Even though there hasn’t been an assessment from Agroseguro, it’s safe to say that the hailstorm that hit Maluenda, Paracuellos, and Miedes, in the region of Calatayud, on Monday virtually destroyed 100% of the pear and apple harvest.

    According to Francisco Ponce, a member of the Regional Executive of UAGA, some farmers have already reported the loss of their entire apple and pear crops, which also have lost their leaves.

    The weight of the hail also caused damage to the anti-hail nets that protected the trees on some farms. On Tuesday morning, Ponce said, the nets still had remnants of hail.

    The rainfall registered in Calatayud was 45.2 liters per square meter, in Tarazona 21.2 liters per square meter, and in La Almunia de Doña Godina 16.2. Rainfall was also recorded in Sos del Rey Catolico (11.1 l /m2) and in Ejea de los Caballeros 9.4.

    According to the Meteorological Agency, there were early morning rains mainly in the province of Huesca, 42.4 liters per square meter in Seira, 33 in Benasque, 31.4 in Bielsa, 28.8 in Biescas, and 22.4  in Ainsa. In Zaragoza the rainfall left 9.2 liters.

    http://www.freshplaza.com/article/160474/Spain-Hail-caused-total-losses-in-apple-and-pear-in-Aragon

    Reply
  23. Paul

     /  September 24, 2017

    Another consequence of global warming that is sometimes overlooked is the vulnerability of phytoplankton to warming and stratifying oceans. Here’s an article about a recent study about warming oceans affecting oxygen production:

    Failing phytoplankton, failing oxygen: Global warming disaster could suffocate life on planet Earth

    Falling oxygen levels caused by global warming could be a greater threat to the survival of life on planet Earth than flooding, according to researchers from the University of Leicester.

    A study led by Sergei Petrovskii, Professor in Applied Mathematics from the University of Leicester’s Department of Mathematics, has shown that an increase in the water temperature of the world’s oceans of around six degrees Celsius — which some scientists predict could occur as soon as 2100 — could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis.

    Professor Petrovskii explained: “Global warming has been a focus of attention of science and politics for about two decades now. A lot has been said about its expected disastrous consequences; perhaps the most notorious is the global flooding that may result from melting of Antarctic ice if the warming exceeds a few degrees compared to the pre-industrial level. However, it now appears that this is probably not the biggest danger that the warming can cause to the humanity.

    “About two-thirds of the planet’s total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton — and therefore cessation would result in the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on a global scale. This would likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans.”

    The team developed a new model of oxygen production in the ocean that takes into account basic interactions in the plankton community, such as oxygen production in photosynthesis, oxygen consumption because of plankton breathing and zooplankton feeding on phytoplankton.

    While mainstream research often focuses on the CO2 cycle, as carbon dioxide is the agent mainly responsible for global warming, few researchers have explored the effects of global warming on oxygen production.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151201094120.htm

    The increase of anoxic ocean dead zones in recent decades could be a symptom of warming ocean temperatures (along with increased nutrient runoff). The rise of anaerobic/hydrogen sulfide-producing bacteria resulting from oxygen depletion in the world’s oceans has been implicated in the worst of Earth’s mass extinctions.

    Reply
    • So, to be clear, ocean anoxia is a strong enabler of mass extinction. The primary mechanism is not a subsequent loss of oxygen in the atmosphere — just the various long chain biochemistry changes that occur in the ocean and subsequently reflect on the terrestrial environment and atmosphere. Primary production of toxin-producing bacteria in warmer Earth System environments tends to result in mass loss of oxygen-dependent life — first in the oceans and then on land.

      The most healthy Earth state for advanced life appears to be a mixed ocean state. The less healthy stratified ocean state can result in major losses to life support capacity. But the primary killing mechanism appears to be the shift back toward Canfield-like Ocean states during major global anoxic events.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canfield_ocean
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anoxic_event

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  September 25, 2017

        Thanks, Robert, for making that clear. Deeply amidst a local tragedy the past three daze and only found time for the link to your mucho worthwhile articles re: Canfield Ocean.

        Reply
        • Hope you’re OK, Eleggua.

        • eleggua

           /  September 26, 2017

          Thank you, Robert. I’m ok, though gutted. Friend and neighbor was killed early Friday morning. Profound loss for our neighborhood community, felt throughout the city. Will email you with details.

        • Got your email, my friend. I’m very sorry to hear about what’s happened and share your anger at the circumstances — even though I never knew Gus. I hope your efforts bear fruit and that the aggrieved can come together and hold up the memory of one who obviously touched a lot of lives.

        • eleggua

           /  September 26, 2017

          Thank you, Robert, and thanks for being together on this one, too. Talking about him this morn with folks at another grocery; they’ve a memorial posted there. Someone from yet another grocery was shopping there and overheard us talking; they also expressed sorrow, condolences and concern.

          I’m not really angry. Saddened, gutted, mourning, and celebrating his life and the connections in my life and others that he enabled and helped foster. Concerned about justice being found in a good, positive way, via a process that I can only observe and allow to do what it will do.

          Doing my best right now to dissolve that emotion rather than create it. Recalling something Nadine Gordimer, South African novelist/writer, said in the 70s or early 80s regarding dealing with doing away apartheid and justice. Cannot locate it online, so I’ll do my best to paraphrase.
          “Anger is a useful tool but dangerous, and it should be used wisely if at all.”

          Also, Alan Moore, speaking through his character/s, The Parliament of Trees, in Swamp Thing #47:

          https://readingsuperheroespolitically.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/thinking-like-a-swamp-thing-developing-a-plant-politics-and-ethics-part-2/

          Swamp Thing pleads to the Parliament to teach him how to control his power, so that he may save the planet, and they collectively respond (speaking with one voice):

          “Power? Power is not the thing. To be calm within oneself, that is the way of the wood. Power tempts anger, and anger is like wildfire. Avoid it…
          Flesh doubts. Wood knows. If you wish to understand evil, you must understand the bark, the roots, the worms of the earth that is the wisdom of an erl-king.
          Aphid eats leaf. Ladybug eats aphid. Soil absorbs dead ladybug. Plant feeds on soil…is aphid evil? Is Ladybug evil? Is soil evil?
          Where is evil in all the wood?”

          “bear fruit” is a perfect choice of words, Robert. Gus was a fruit bearer, quite literally. Started with a fruit and vegetable stand; died on the way to buy fruit for his shops. Thanks for allowing this OT and thank you so much for our great connection, my friend.

  24. Paul

     /  September 24, 2017

    Arctic sea ice once again shows considerable melting

    https://phys.org/news/2017-09-arctic-sea-ice-considerable.html

    This September, the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to roughly 4.7 million square kilometres, as was determined by researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute, the University of Bremen and Universität Hamburg. Though slightly larger than last year, the minimum sea ice extent 2017 is average for the past ten years and far below the numbers from 1979 to 2006. The Northeast Passage was traversable for ships without the need for icebreakers.

    The sea ice in the Arctic is considered a critical element in climate processes, and a valuable early-warning system for global warming. Accordingly, the September minimum extent is an important indicator of climate change. Despite an especially warm winter, the current extent of sea ice does not represent a new record low; nevertheless, the amount of ice loss is massive. As sea-ice physicist Marcel Nicolaus from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) explains, “This year’s sea ice extent is again on a very low level: the observed September value of the past eleven years has consistently been lower than in any of the previous years.”

    This winter, the Arctic remained unusually warm, and the sea-ice coverage in March was lower than in any March before. “Thanks to the relatively cold summer, the sea ice managed to bounce back somewhat, but this year’s September minimum is by no means a good sign,” stresses Lars Kaleschke from Universität Hamburg’s Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability. “Though the amount of sea ice is of course subject to natural fluctuations, the long-term decline is obvious.” For comparison, the summertime minimums in the 1970s and 1980s were roughly seven million square kilometres.

    The sea-ice covered area is measured with the help of satellites. The high-resolution microwave satellite data are jointly provided by the University of Bremen and Universität Hamburg. They allow to precisely analyse the daily sea-ice extent over the entire Arctic. “That’s particularly important for the shipping industry. This summer, the Northeast Passage along the Russian coast could be used without the need for icebreakers, and many ships also used the Northwest Passage,” says Gunnar Spreen from the University of Bremen’s Institute of Environmental Physics.

    Reply
  25. Paul

     /  September 24, 2017

    The most important number in the world:

    80 Calories/g water ice

    This is the amount of heat energy required to melt 1 gram of solid water ice at 0 degrees Celsius into 1 gram of liquid water at 0 degrees Celsius. Thereafter, it only takes 1 Calorie of heat energy to increase the temperature of that same 1 gram of liquid water by 1 degree Celsius. The implications of this property of water are obvious.

    The Arctic sea ice has been acting as a buffer against increasing temperatures. It has also been acting as a huge white shield reflecting 90% of the sun’s energy back into space. That Arctic sea ice that has been protecting us is starting to fail. Without that sea ice, the ice-free waters of the Arctic Ocean will instead absorb 80-90% of the sun’s energy. It’s a classic example of a tipping point.

    This doesn’t mean that water in the Arctic Ocean are going to skyrocket immediately after all of the sea ice has melted (due to mixing of surface water with cold deeper water), but if you thought that the arctic has been warming rapidly recently, I suspect that you haven’t seen anything yet.

    At one point in Earth’s history, the Arctic Ocean was a warm environment with alligators and other flora and fauna generally associated with the tropics in today’s climate. The Earth had little or no ice on its surface. Instead of today’s diverse environments, the environment of that time was more homogeneous – It was hot pretty much everywhere.

    I’ve often wondered what the environment of the mid-latitudes and the tropics were like during the times the Arctic was ice-free. Certainly, these areas would not be as conducive to human and other warm-blooded mammalian animal life. I’ve read that during these periods, mammalian life generally shrank to improve the body mass to surface area proportion which would help them stay cool. An example of the desperate measures that life will go to in order to survive an extreme environment, which is feasible as long as the change in the environment doesn’t happen too quickly. It doesn’t look like that’s the case in today’s day and age of CO2 levels skyrocketing upward at an unprecedented rate.

    Reply
  26. Kassy

     /  September 25, 2017

    Another good reason to clean up our act:

    Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys

    Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs (VA) St. Louis Health Care System.

    The study found that even low levels of particulate matter may adversely affect the kidneys. And those adverse effects increase as pollution levels increase.

    “The higher the levels of air pollution, the worse it is for the kidneys,” said Al-Aly, who is also the VA’s director of clinical epidemiology in St. Louis. “However, no level is completely safe. Even at relatively low levels, there was a relationship between particulate matter concentrations below the EPA thresholds and kidney disease.”

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170922091624.htm

    Reply
  27. Allen Kemplen

     /  September 25, 2017

    Robert,

    Thank you for your excellent work on this very important topic. I offer the following supplemental information for your consideration:

    Why Consider the Concept of a “Climate Emergency”
    • 63% of all human generated carbon emissions have been produced in the last 25 years.
    o http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/05/history-carbon-dioxide-emissions
    o http://e360.yale.edu/digest/co2_emissions_soared_45_percent_from_1990_to_2010_report_says

    • There is a 40 time lag between when global carbon emissions are produced and impacts are evident in the climate system.
    o https://www.skepticalscience.com/Climate-Change-The-40-Year-Delay-Between-Cause-and-Effect.html

    • The large production of CO2 currently underway on Earth started in the early 1990’s soon after the fall of the Soviet Union, the inclusion of China in the World Trade Organization and the rapid growth of economic globalization.
    o http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/05/history-carbon-dioxide-emissions
    o http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/news_docs/C02%20Mondiaal_%20webdef_19sept.pdf

    • Current CO2 levels as measured in Mauna Loa, HI have passed 400 parts per million and not expected to dip again in the foreseeable future. The last time Earth had these levels was 3.6 million years ago during the Middle Pliocene when they ranged from 380-450. Summer temperatures in the middle Pliocene for the Arctic were around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, about 14 degrees warmer than now.
    o https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ice-free-arctic-in-pliocene-last-time-co2-levels-above-400ppm/

    • According to the latest analysis of past global mass extinctions, a global temperature above 2.6 degrees C pre-industrial constitutes a high probability extinction event.
    o Daniel H. Rothman, “Thresholds of catastrophe in the Earth system”, Science Advances, Research Article, Figure 4, 20 September 2017

    • The world is currently at 1.2 degrees C above pre-industrial conditions and rising.
    o https://e360.yale.edu/digest/2016_hottest_year_on_record_wmo_12_degrees_c

    • Best estimates using the IPCC model reports (assuming continuation of current emissions) project the world will reach 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial conditions in approximately seven years or the year 2024. 2 degrees Centigrade is projected to be reached by the year 2036.
    o http://andrewdking.weebly.com/global-warming-gif-and-methods.html

    • The rapid rise of global temperatures currently underway is impacting the world climate system and causing the climate of the Earth is experience “tipping points” for various environmental regimes. One such “tipping point” was documented in 2014 by Rignot, Mouginot et al where the researchers found that the retreat of ice in the Amundsen sea sector of West Antarctica was unstoppable, with major consequences – it will mean that sea levels will rise one metre (or 3.28 feet) worldwide. This disappearance will also trigger the collapse of the entire West Antarctic ice sheet which results in an additional 3 to 5 metre (or 9.8 to 16.4 feet) rise in sea levels.
    o http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL060140/abstract
    o http://www.climatecodered.org/2017/01/antarctic-tipping-points-for-multi.html

    • The pace of melt for the West Antarctic ice sheet is estimated by the IPCC reports to occur over a thousand years. However, the IPCC reports are consensus based and thus very conservative. There is a high probability the pace of melt could occur over a period of decades depending upon the overall state of global climate temperatures. Prevention of wide spread ice mass loss from the West Antarctica ice sheet requires a return to global climate temperatures that prevailed in the 1970s.
    o http://www.climatecodered.org/2017/01/antarctic-tipping-points-for-multi.html

    • The scientific community is extremely concerned that cryosphere (regions of snow and ice) dynamics are slow to manifest but once triggered “inevitably forces the Earth’s climate system into a new state, one that most scientists believe has not existed for 35-50 million years.
    o http://iccinet.org/thresholds

    • The full impact of carbon emissions produced by globalization will be felt beginning in 2030. 55 million years ago, the historical physical record shows a 5 degree C in global temperatures within a span of 13 years. While such a rapid increase is an anomaly, it does show it is possible. Global warming has happened before in the past two million years but the record shows it usually took about 5,000 years to do so. The Earth is currently experiencing a rate of warming at least 20 times faster than this.
    o https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page3.php

    • The history record also shows that during the Permian-Triassic boundary period which occurred 250 million years ago, the Earth experienced a temperature increase no different to current climate change in terms of speed. The increase in temperature during this event is associated with a mass extinction event during which 90 percent of marine animals and two/thirds of land animal species died out. The release of methane from permafrost and shelf sediment methane hydrate is deemed the source and cause for the dramatic life-changing global warming.
    o https://phys.org/news/2015-11-global-fast-today.html
    o http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871174X16300488

    • Permafrost soils contain enormous amounts of organic carbon. The model results produced for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth or Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4 or AR5) did not include the impacts of melting permafrost. When permafrost processes are included, the northern latitudes shift from a carbon sink to a significant new source of CO2 and CH4. This results in a rapid acceleration of global warming.
    o http://www.pnas.org/content/108/36/14769.full.pdf
    o https://pubarchive.lbl.gov/islandora/object/ir:157158/datastream/PDF/…/citation.pdf
    o “High Risk of Permafrost Thaw” Edward A.G. Schuur, Research Article for the Vulnerability of Permafrost Carbon Research Coordination Network, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    o https://insideclimatenews.org/news/08052017/arctic-permafrost-thawing-alaska-temperatures-co2-emissions
    o https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/12/rapid-rise-methane-emissions-10-years-surprises-scientists

    • The arrival of carbon emissions that began in the early 1990s with economic globalization will cause a significant and abrupt upward shift in climate temperatures as we near the year 2030. This shift is hard-wired into the earth system and cannot be reversed with known technology. This abrupt shift in global climate temperatures will very likely result in accelerated climate feedbacks in the earth system. Our world runs a significant risk of exceeding the 2.6 degree threshold that precipitated past climate derived mass extinction events within two decades.

    Perhaps it is time to alter the language used to discuss what is happening to our planet from “Climate Change” or “Global Warming” to “Climate Emergency”.

    Reply
    • I agree that we are experiencing the beginning of a long emergency as it relates to climate change. We have the opportunity now to considerably reduce the force of that emergency. And we should do everything we can by rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions to remove the worst case scenarios from our present future path.

      However, the primary communication under which the present discussion occurs uses the term climate change. If I want to reach a broader audience, and I do, I use that term. Climate emergency has a narrower audience and the term itself appears to close off a more open discussion.

      Of course, certain communications should probably include the climate emergency moniker. However, I’m not presently engaged in a game of heading dominance, or term dominance when it comes to climate change.

      In general, I think there may well be a shift to usage of climate emergency. But that is likely to be more organic over time. My own use of various terms will be based on messaging needs and present understanding of audience disposition.

      I appreciate your concern. But I think we have a lot more to worry about at this time than simple use of terms.

      Reply
  28. Allen Kemplen

     /  September 25, 2017

    Robert,

    Thank you for your response. Just one point for clarification:

    Rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions to the point of zero in the next year does nothing regarding the carbon emissions already in the climate system “pipeline”. This massive bulge of carbon is working its way through the process. When this bulge starts impacting the earth’s climate system within the next two decades, there will be nothing we can do as civilization itself breaks down.

    This is the reality we must face.

    Standing strong against this terrible menace to our future, requires the same time of mobilization within America, and I daresay the entire world, experienced during World War II.

    Citizens of the Earth must come together now if we are to survive. We need to pull the carbon out of the system. The bulge has to be put on a rapid carbon loss diet. Yes we do indeed need to stop using fossil fuels as soon as possible. But we must recognize the serious threat to our Earth. The planet is severely carbon overloaded now and most of life is destined to perish forever when the environmental impacts of abrupt and rapid climate change occurs. The carbon bulge needs rapid removal and we only have a short period of time to do it.

    We need articulate voices expressing this harsh and grim reality in a thoughtful and cogent way. I believe you are one of those voices.

    Reply
    • Drifting off the article’s central topic here a bit…

      The impacts of 407 ppm CO2 490 ppm CO2e approx are in the range of 2.1 C warming this Century and 4.2 C warming long term. Such a level of warming locked into the present climate system would produce serious and harmful changes to the Earth Environment as it relates to human civilization over decades through centuries.

      It’s worth noting that rapid emissions cuts to zero results in a swifter fall out of methane, and other shorter lived gasses. So the CO2e number drops. But the larger CO2 add would, for the larger part, remain after dropping by around 10-20 ppm CO2 due to more immediate ocean uptake. That said, the heightened level in the range of 390 ppm CO2 and 430 ppm CO2e would still result in long term warming and harmful impacts.

      So yes, we need drawdown on top of present emissions cuts to zero — if we are to prevent seriously harmful outcomes. Human civilization can probably survive this kind of warming. But it would be seriously disrupted due to various bad outcomes and likely would suffer from increased conflict and a number of systemic collapse events. Subsets of civilization may or may not recover from such events depending on planning, resiliency and ability to cooperate to achieve more positive adaptations.

      Warming in this range, however, is not enough to produce a mass extinction on the scale of the Permian or other major mass extinction events and would require substantial carbon feedback from the Earth System beyond what is likely to occur. So we are not presently locking in to a global mass extinction of that kind — which can be avoided by emissions cuts alone. But according to this particular study, emissions cuts need to be far more aggressive than present planned cuts to remove serious risk of setting off such an event.

      Also, drawdown cannot be achieved without first cutting those emissions to zero and fully removing the amazing present carbon addition in the range of 11 billion tons per year. This also cannot be done without a complete transition away from fossil fuel burning.

      The rational potential for atmospheric carbon drawdown is far lower than the present rate of emissions (1 to 2 billion tons per year vs 11 billion tons per year emitted) which is just one of the reasons why an energy transition is the center of gravity for dealing with the present crisis. (This due to the fact that land management and forest additions can only proportionally add to the net carbon sink of the land due to the added factor of decay and re-release of vegetatively sequestered carbon over time).

      I would caution that future communications do not include loose definitions or conflation.

      1. Mass extinction event is not the same term as a…
      2. Civilization collapse pressure event

      Mass extinction would certainly produce civilization collapse pressure. But other events outside of mass extinction also produce civilization collapse pressure such as sea level rise, more extreme weather, and changes to growing seasons and the global disposition of agricultural productive zones. Mass extinction pressure like that which occurred during the Permian would be more extreme than the impacts experienced in the range of 2 to 4 C warming under present ghg forcing.

      Furthermore, collapse pressure increases do not necessarily result in inevitable civilization collapse. Individual collapse events may or may not be followed by recovery — which depends, in part, on their severity and in part, on civilization resiliency. Civilization adaptation response, mitigation, and organized recovery, or lack thereof, can and will also factor in to determining civilization resilience to climate change impacts over time. However, the higher the bar in the form of future warming, the more extreme the collapse pressure and the less likely that civilizations will survive the onslaught.

      That said, I would prefer that you use the term:

      3. Collapse pressure

      Rather than referring to collapse as an absolute variable, which it is not.

      Reply
  29. wili

     /  September 25, 2017

    Sunday morning shows spent less than 60 sec on Puerto Rico, one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in US history

    Reply
  30. Another grim conclusion on ocean plastic pollution. And no reason the think other brains are differently affected than fish brains.
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170925104730.htm

    Brain damage in fish from plastic nanoparticles in water. Sep25, 2017, Lund University

    “Our study is the first to show that nanosized plastic particles can accumulate in fish brains,” says Tommy Cedervall, a chemistry researcher at Lund University.

    The Lund University researchers studied how nanoplastics may be transported through different organisms in the aquatic ecosystem, i.e. via algae and animal plankton to larger fish. Tiny plastic particles in the water are eaten by animal plankton, which in turn are eaten by fish.

    According to Cedervall, the study includes several interesting results on how plastic of different sizes affects aquatic organisms. Most importantly, it provides evidence that nanoplastic particles can indeed cross the blood-brain barrier in fish and thus accumulate inside fish’s brain tissue.

    In addition, the researchers involved in the present study have demonstrated the occurrence of behavioural disorders in fish that are affected by nanoplastics. They eat slower and explore their surroundings less. The researchers believe that these behavioural changes may be linked to brain damage caused by the presence of nanoplastics in the brain.

    Another result of the study is that animal plankton die when exposed to nanosized plastic particles, while larger plastic particles do not affect them. Overall, these different effects of nanoplastics may have an impact on the ecosystem as a whole.

    Reply
  31. More on earthquakes following hurricanes. The article below says a drop in pressure above can trigger volcanoes. Now we have had three significant earthquakes in Mexico following three Cat 5 hurricanes in the Caribbean. Could a similar mechanism also apply to earthquakes? Not much of a stretch to think rock melting might have something to do with fault slippage, though it would would have to be quite rapid, since the earthquakes have come within days of the Cat 5s.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-017-03798-3
    Geophysics. 25 Sep 2017

    As the sea dried, volcanoes awoke
    ‘Unloading’ of Earth’s surface caused a rise in eruptive activity.

    Volcanoes might be more sensitive to pressure from above than thought, say researchers who found that a rapid drop in the level of the Mediterranean Sea millions of years ago in turn set off eruptions nearby.

    Rocks deep within Earth can partially melt when the pressure above them drops. This can happen when the rocks are uplifted by geological forces, or when the weight pressing down on them lessens, as happens when an ice sheet melts or when seas dry up.

    A team led by Pietro Sternai at the University of Geneva in Switzerland studied how sea levels changed when the Strait of Gibraltar that connects the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean temporarily closed around 6 million years ago. The researchers modelled how the subsequent evaporation — during which the sea surface dropped by more than a kilometre — affected the weight pressing down on the rocks below.

    They then catalogued eruptions in the region at the time and found a pulse of extra events towards the end of the drying up period, which they link to the unloading of the surface.

    Reply
    • bostonblorp

       /  September 26, 2017

      There you have it, nothing to worry about. Earth gets hot, Earth sprouts volcanoes to provide shade with their natural cooling mists. Life goes on as per usual.

      Sarcasm aside, we have seen that strong hurricanes do register on seismometers. Harvey “dented” parts of Texas by as much as an inch with the immense water weight. Melting ice causes other land to spring upwards. Fracking is believed to induce lots of mini quakes. I’m no geologist but I imagine these collective perturbations could exacerbate fault lines and the like.

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 26, 2017

      Found several articles pertinent to this topic; will post them at the bottom of the thread.

      Reply
  32. eleggua

     /  September 25, 2017

    8+ weeks left in hurricane season and Puerto Rico is now dreadful exposed to near-future storms without an most-important warning system.

    ‘Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s radar, a critical tool for forecasting’
    September 25, 2017

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/09/25/hurricane-maria-destroyed-puerto-ricos-radar-a-critical-tool-for-forecasting/

    “Hurricane Maria and its 100-plus-mph winds demolished the main weather radar that forecasters use to monitor storms in Puerto Rico. As of yet, there is no known time frame for replacing the radar while more than two months of hurricane season remain.

    The radar, located in the mountains of south central Puerto Rico — about 20 miles from San Juan, scanned the sky in all directions and signaled to forecasters exactly where rain was located, how heavy it was and where it was headed. It could also detect damaging winds. But just before 6 a.m. Sept. 20, it abruptly stopped operating just as the Category 4 behemoth and its violent winds slammed into the island.

    Photos posted to Twitter by the National Weather Service office in San Juan show all that remains of the radar is the tower to which it was connected. The dome, which housed the radar scanner, is gone — completely severed from the mount…..”

    Reply
  33. WRT Robert Scribblers commentary, above, that begins: Drifting off the article’s central topic here a bit…

    This is an excellent frame for the impacts of climate change that includes Civilizational collapse, mass extinction and individual collapse events. Question: are there more waypoints on this list. And is there a rule of thumb for how many degrees C to get there??

    Reply
    • There are quite a few. It just depends on how detailed you want to get in describing the crisis.

      I’d describe present collapse pressure as low to moderate in the global context. We presently experience major events associated with climate change which may cause collapse events for cities, regions, or smaller, more marginal nations. Sea level rise threatens island nations, the lowest lying coastal communities, and the more marginal regions like Bangladesh and coastal Africa. Drought generates higher than typical stress and results in increased risk of crop disruption for at risk regions. This added stress results in a major destabilizing influence for places like the Middle East. Monsoonal to dry season moisture flux is higher than normal. Dry season droughts are more intense, monsoon season floods are generally more intense. The result is increasing disruption. Extreme weather is more intense at the extremes — worse heavy rain events, more Category 5 hurricanes, worse hail storms in the worst thunderstorms, and there is probably a trend of worsening thunderstorms overall. As we’ve seen, more of these storms are city-wrecking and region wrecking affairs.So the overall disruption is higher. Human migration and displacement is on the rise due to all these various issues.

      This is a higher sea state for the global community. Some nations may go under water as a result. And even the major nations experience increased difficulty. But we are still in the earlier, easier phases of global climate change. Get into the 1.5 to 2.5 C range and the collapse pressure will shift to moderate in the global context with the potential for singular catastrophic outlier events on the increase.

      We might describe climate disruption, overall, on a scale of 1-5 like hurricanes. But all disruption levels in this case are pretty bad and out of the context of regular human civilization. We should be clear that the pressure we experience even now are rather out of context. Warming by 2100:

      0.5 to 1.5 C warming (Category 1 worsening weather, rising collapse stress, rising severe damages, first signal for global human migration/displacement)
      1.5 to 2.5 C (Cat 2 higher likelihood of catastrophic impacts, 10-30 percent of nations likely to see some form of collapse, most nations experience moderate to severe disruption, more than 200 million displaced)
      2.5 to 4 C (Cat 3 with some rather widespread catastrophic impacts likely, major mass extinction possible, half of nations likely to see some form of major collapse, all others experience significant stress and disruption, climate change related influences to become a likely significant factor [top 10] in human mortality rates, hundreds of millions displaced)
      4 to 6 C (Cat 4 global civilization collapse a high likelihood, significant likelihood of global hothouse mass extinction over multiple centuries, likely severe risk of individual human mortality due to increasingly hostile environments and habitat/shelter/food loss/disruption, likely emergence of bunkering outpost societies post collapse, more than 2 billion displaced)
      6 C + (Cat 5 global civilization collapse nearly certain with dwindling potential for recovery, worst in class major hothouse mass extinction likely set off, very lethal hothouse environments emerge, longer term human extinction potential in absolute worst case events, bunkering a widespread response among surviving societies in tropical and temperate zones, pretty much everyone is either in a bunker society or moving toward the poles)

      Reply
      • One way in which collapse scenarios become more likely is where the frequency of increasingly large superstorms increases the likelihood of storms affecting infrastructure hubs – ever increasing reliance on just-in-time supply chains, and the lack of ‘redundancy’ in logistics chains and an increasingly networked infrastructure makes these systems fragile and the effects of their failure very widespread (e.g. Houston as oil supplier to eastern US) – if several hubs were storm/quake damaged simultaneously….

        Reply
        • That’s what you’d call a cascading effect from a catastrophic series of related events. If, for example, you get a swarm of category 5 hurricanes hitting the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts, you end up with a major disaster that will produce regional scale collapse pressure with a multi-year and trillion + dollar recovery requirement. If that kind of thing happens again and again, you can see how difficult that would be to manage. We can’t predict those kinds of events. But what we can say is that it becomes possible for similar kinds of catastrophic events to the one described above (albeit possibly too simplified) with warming.

      • Abel Adamski

         /  September 26, 2017

        Let us not forget the poles are the land of the midnight Sun and the Long night, that long night will provide a relatively cold target on the Earth for the hot moist or extremely dry dust laden air from the hotter zones, so not a particularly clement environment for civilization above ground , not forgetting forest fires, did I mention forest fires,
        I suspect bunker cities may be the norm there also, Nepal or other very high altitude plateaus may actually be a better option in what were temperate Zones

        Reply
  34. Andy_in_SD

     /  September 26, 2017

    Big chunk of Pine Glacier broke off again.

    2013, 2015 and now 2017 has such an event occurring. Seems to be retreating.

    https://www.slashgear.com/antarcticas-pine-island-glacier-just-lost-a-100-square-mile-chunk-of-ice-25501558/

    Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  September 26, 2017

      Thanks for the link, the Amunsen Sea Embayment is the weak underbelly of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Thwaites Glacier there is huge, 120km wide, and its flow dumps 500Gt of ice a year, 50 percent more than its equilibrium rate.

      If if back off its stabilizing sill . . .

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 26, 2017

      Here’s another article.

      ‘Antarctica just lost another huge chunk of ice 4X the size of Manhattan — and that could be just the beginning’
      Sep. 25, 2017

      http://www.businessinsider.com/antarctica-continent-pine-island-glacier-loses-ice-chunk-4x-size-manhattan-2017-9

      “…There’s something unusual going on with Pine Island Glacier. It’s melting differently from other parts of Antarctica.

      Instead of breaking apart from the sides, the glacier is forming cracks in its center. These central cracks appear to form under the ice.

      Scientists think this unusual behavior is due to warmer ocean waters. It could also be causing more rifts to form more often.

      If this pattern continues, it could expose ice on Antarctica that will raise sea levels. Scientists aren’t sure if or when this could happen.

      In the meantime, there’s not much they can do except watch the glacier break apart piece by piece.”

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 26, 2017

      “Satellite image taken of the new iceberg on September 24, 2017”

      Reply
  35. Erik Frederiksen

     /  September 26, 2017

    Here is a thought, according to the AAAS, “scientists do not know how much warming is required [where] . . . one or more critical parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes.”
    http://whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts/

    If you look at things like the rate of loss of sea ice, shrinking glaciers and ice sheets, melting permafrost and changes to the northern polar jet stream and deep ocean circulation, it could be argued we are seeing the beginning of such changes now.

    Reply
  36. eleggua

     /  September 26, 2017

    ‘Researchers Have Found Blocks Of Polystyrene In Arctic Ice’
    Sep 25, 2017

    http://canadajournal.net/science/researchers-have-found-blocks-of-polystyrene-in-arctic-ice-58159-2017/

    “Researchers on an expedition led by polar explorer Pen Hadow have discovered plastic pollution lying on remote frozen ice floes in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

    The discovery shows how far plastic pollution has spread, prompting fears that new plastic waste is flowing into the Arctic as the ice melts due to climate change. The thaw is also releasing plastic pollution long trapped in the frozen ice into the Arctic environment…..

    The Arctic Mission team was surprised to discover blocks of polystyrene in areas that are many hundreds of miles from land and were until recently covered by ice all year round. Two large pieces were spotted on the edge of ice floes between 77 and 80*N, in the middle of the international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean, within 1,000 miles of the North Pole…..

    Explorer Pen Hadow said he had never seen blocks of plastic waste before on the Arctic sea ice: “For the 25 years I have been exploring the Arctic I have never seen such large and very visible items of rubbish,” he said. “The blocks of polystyrene were just sitting on top of the ice.”

    Tim Gordon added: “Finding pieces of rubbish like this is a worrying sign that melting ice may be allowing high levels of pollution to drift into these areas. This is potentially very dangerous for the Arctic’s wildlife.”….

    The team are also investigating the impact of man-made noise pollution on Arctic marine life and mammals, which can be particularly sensitive to sound. In a world where the sun doesn’t rise for months on end in winter and is blocked by ice cover at other times of the year, many animals rely on sound, rather than sight, for their daily lives.

    Reply
  37. eleggua

     /  September 26, 2017

    ‘At 2017 minimum, scientists ask: Is Arctic entering the Thin Ice Age?’
    25 September 2017

    https://news.mongabay.com/2017/09/at-2017-minimum-scientists-ask-is-arctic-entering-the-thin-ice-age/

    ” – The decline of Arctic ice didn’t set a record this year, with sea ice extent coming in eigth after record-setting 2012. On September 13, at the summer minimum, sea ice covered 4.64 million square kilometers; that’s 1.25 million square kilometers more than 2012.
    – However, that fact was overshadowed by another: experts say what matters most in the Arctic is the total volume of ice — a combination of thickness and extent. 2017 saw summer volumes among the lowest ever recorded.
    – The Arctic set still another record that concerns scientists: no other 12-month period (September 2016 to August 2017) has had such persistently low sea ice extent.
    – The Arctic ice is therefore showing no signs of recovery, scientists say, and its decline is likely continuing to impact the Earth’s weather in unpredictable and destabilizing ways……..”

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 26, 2017

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 26, 2017

      “The sun reflects over thin sea ice and a few floating icebergs near the Denmark Strait off of eastern Greenland, as seen from NASA’s P-3B aircraft on April 14, 2012 — the record year for Arctic ice melt, so far. ”

      Reply
  38. Kassy

     /  September 26, 2017

    Little bit of good news:

    Brazil revokes decree opening Amazon reserve to mining

    The Brazilian government has revoked a controversial decree that would have opened up a vast reserve in the Amazon to commercial mining.

    The area, covering 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles), straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para.

    It is thought to be rich in gold, iron, manganese and other minerals.

    From the moment President Michel Temer signed the decree in August opening the reserve to commercial mining, it was widely condemned.

    Activists and celebrities voiced concern that the area could be badly compromised.

    One opposition senator, Randolfe Rodrigues of the Sustainability Network party, said at the time that it was the “biggest attack on the Amazon in the last 50 years”.

    Following the criticism, the government revised the decree, prohibiting mining in conservation or indigenous areas.

    But a court later suspended the measure altogether, saying any change to the reserve’s status had to be considered by the Brazilian congress.

    On Monday, the government decided to scrap the decree.

    It said it would reconsider the issue in the future, in a wider debate.

    “Brazil needs to grow and create jobs, attract mining investment, and even tap the economic potential of the region,” said the Mines and Energy Ministry in a statement.

    The BBC’s South America correspondent Katy Watson says this is a victory for environmentalists and a climb-down for the government.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41395025

    Reply
  39. Abel Adamski

     /  September 26, 2017

    One for RS with his background he will appreciate the enormity

    Back to the Climate/hurricane disasters, I don’t remember if it has been posted before but well worth reading.
    As noted the media is focusing on the heroic to be lauded citizen efforts, but ignoring the real heroes who have been quietly preparing for such events even though Congress is demanding they cease considering and planning for the effects of Global Warming.

    https://www.thenation.com/article/this-department-is-the-last-hideout-of-climate-change-believers-in-donald-trumps-government/

    This Department Is the Last Hideout of Climate Change Believers in Donald Trump’s Government
    But can we count on them to speak up?
    Deployed to the Houston area to assist in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, US military forces hadn’t even completed their assignments when they were hurriedly dispatched to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands to face Irma, the fiercest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Florida Governor Rick Scott, who had sent members of the state National Guard to devastated Houston, anxiously recalled them while putting in place emergency measures for his own state. A small flotilla of naval vessels, originally sent to waters off Texas, was similarly redirected to the Caribbean, while specialized combat units drawn from as far afield as Colorado, Illinois, and Rhode Island were rushed to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, members of the California National Guard were being mobilized to fight wildfires raging across that state (as across much of the West) during its hottest summer on record.

    Think of this as the new face of homeland security: containing the damage to America’s seacoasts, forests, and other vulnerable areas caused by extreme weather events made all the more frequent and destructive thanks to climate change. This is a “war” that won’t have a name—not yet, not in the Trump era, but it will be no less real for that. “The firepower of the federal government” was being trained on Harvey, as William Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), put it in a blunt expression of this warlike approach. But don’t expect any of the military officials involved in such efforts to identify climate change as the source of their new strategic orientation, not while Commander in Chief Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office refusing to acknowledge the reality of global warming or its role in heightening the intensity of major storms; not while he continues to stock his administration, top to bottom, with climate-change deniers.

    Until Trump moved into the White House, however, senior military officers in the Pentagon were speaking openly of the threats posed to American security by climate change and how that phenomenon might alter the very nature of their work. Though mum’s the word today, since the early years of this century military officials have regularly focused on and discussed such matters, issuing striking warnings about an impending increase in extreme weather events—hurricanes, incessant rainfalls, protracted heat waves, and droughts—and ways in which that would mean an ever-expanding domestic role for the military in both disaster response and planning for an extreme future.

    That future, of course, is now. Like other well-informed people, senior military officials are perfectly aware that it’s difficult to attribute any given storm, Harvey and Irma included, to human-caused climate change with 100 percent confidence. But they also know that hurricanes draw their fierce energy from the heat of tropical waters, and that global warming is raising the temperatures of those waters. It’s making storms like Harvey and Irma, when they do occur, ever more powerful and destructive. “As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating,” the Department of Defense (DoD) bluntly explained in the Quadrennial Defense Review, a 2014 synopsis of defense policy. This, it added, “may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities”—just the sort of crisis we’ve been witnessing over these last weeks.

    As this statement suggests, any increase in climate-related extreme events striking US territory will inevitably lead to a commensurate rise in American military support for civilian agencies, diverting key assets—troops and equipment—from elsewhere. While the Pentagon can certainly devote substantial capabilities to a small number of short-term emergencies, the multiplication and prolongation of such events, now clearly beginning to occur, will require a substantial commitment of forces, which, in time, will mean a major reorientation of US security policy for the climate-change era. This may not be something the White House is prepared to do today, but it may soon find itself with little choice, especially since it seems so intent on crippling all civilian governmental efforts related to climate change.

    Well worth reading, the article goes on to list and identify the massive resources and co-ordination involved, even to deploying an E-3A Sentry AWAC for coordination and traffic control.

    Yet the public is kept ignorant and praises Trump for his response, when in reality the response is despite Trump and the Republicans

    Reply
  40. Abel Adamski

     /  September 26, 2017

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/26/trump-puerto-rico-crisis-massive-debt

    Hot on the heels of the billowing dispute he single-handedly provoked over African-American sporting figures protesting racial inequality during the national anthem, Trump launched another provocation on Monday night with a belated and lacklustre response to the Puerto Rican disaster. In a series of three tweets he effectively blamed the islanders – all of whom are American citizens – for their own misfortune.

    “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,” he said, without offering any additional federal government assistance for the stricken US territory, which was hit by Hurricane Maria soon after those two states were struck by Harvey and Irma.

    Trump acknowledged that “much of the island was destroyed”, but caustically went on to say that its electrical grid was already “in terrible shape” and that Puerto Rico owed billions of dollars to Wall Street and the banks “which, sadly, must be dealt with”.

    Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  September 26, 2017

      Meanwhile back in the Texas that is doing so well
      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/25/hurricane-harvey-houston-recovery-effort

      Including
      “Several thousand residents in west Houston living near the reservoirs saw their homes inundated, or existing water levels rise and stay high for days, when the US Army Corps of Engineers opened gates to release water into Buffalo Bayou in an attempt to manage the flow and prevent even more widespread flooding.

      “It wasn’t even raining at all and it just kept going up and up,” said Weber, the apartment complex worker.

      Releases are expected to continue for three or four more weeks and the decision is now the subject of legal actions, with an initial hearing scheduled for 8 October.

      “It’s not a case where we’re alleging that they were negligent and we have to prove that they made mistakes, or anything like that,” said Derek Potts, whose law firm has filed a class action lawsuit. “It’s much simpler than that.

      “The underlying principle is the fifth amendment of the United States constitution – that the government cannot take property without just compensation. The cases allege that the government decided to release water which would basically damage or take citizens’ property to save other property. That qualified as what we call a taking.”

      Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  September 26, 2017

      Back to Puerto Rico
      The Trump administration has also refused to waive federal restrictions on foreign ships carrying life-saving supplies to Puerto Rico – a concession it readily made for Texas and Florida in the cases of hurricanes Harvey and Irma respectively.

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 26, 2017

      Reply
      • eleggua

         /  September 26, 2017

        From Russia, with shove.

        ‘Trump’s NFL and Puerto Rico tweets prove his goal is to divide, not unite the country’
        September 26, 2017

        http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/26/politics/trump-nfl-tweets/index.html

        “…Trump’s decision to start this feud with NFL players — and professional athletes more broadly — is a telling window into how he views (and uses) the power of the presidency: To divide, not to unite. To forever focus on scoring political points, to please and placate the political base that helped elect him to the White House. To always, always, always look for where we disagree — and where those disagreements can be exploited for his own gain….

        He seems bent on reminding us on what divides us rather than what unites us….

        Instead of rallying the country behind the 3.4 million American citizens who live in Puerto Rico, Trump has instead sent more than a dozen tweets about the NFL and the alleged lack of patriotism demonstrated by players who kneel or sit during the National Anthem….

        Trump ran as a divider, not a uniter. He won that way — offering safe harbor for people who had long resented politicians who told them they had to accept those who didn’t look like them, sound like them or think like them….

        ….being president bestowed on you the responsibility of always trying to take the high road, always doing the right thing for the country rather than the best thing for your party or yourself.
        Trump has flipped that approach on its head. He does what’s good for him first, then what he believes to be good for the GOP and, finally, what’s good for the country.
        That’s what “modern day presidential” means to Trump. And it’s what is driving divisions in this country to dangerous levels.”

        Reply
        • eleggua

           /  September 26, 2017

          It’s come this far rather than far-fetched.

          ‘California Officials Urged To Take North Korea Nuclear Threat Seriously’
          September 25, 2017

          http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/09/25/north-korea-threat-report-joint-regional-intelligence-center/

          “Officials in Southern California have reportedly told local agencies to take the threat of a nuclear strike from North Korea seriously.

          The Los Angeles-based Joint Regional Intelligence Center issued the report last month, titled “Nuclear Attack Response Considerations.”

          According to a copy obtained by Foreign Policy, the report warns that a nuclear attack in Southern California “would lead to devastating casualties,” along with major damage to infrastructure….”

  41. Meanwhile in Oklahoma Again:
    What is Oilfield Prayer Day?
    *Last year in 2016, Governor Mary Fallin declared October 13th, “Oilfield Prayer Day,” asking the citizens of Oklahoma to “pray for the oil.”…..Sierra Club is organizing a protest!

    Reply
  42. Kassy

     /  September 26, 2017

    Lets all pray for oil to be left where it belongs – in the earth. And lets pray for the oilfields too: “May you be redundant soon. Amen.”

    Reply
  43. wili

     /  September 26, 2017

    Bali’s Agung seems to be about to erupt.

    “Bali volcano eruption could be hours away after unprecedented seismic activity ”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/26/bali-volcano-eruption-seismic-activity-mount-agung

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 27, 2017

      A bit of context re: “unprecedented seismic activity”. There’s not much of a data set; it’s only been documented in recent decades and it’s a relatively active volcano on the very active ‘Ring of Fire’.

      “But for Agung we have no instrumental documentation,” said Syahbana. “The only records that we have is of the phenomena that were observed and reported by people around the volcano prior to the 1963 eruption.””

      Reply
  44. Leland Palmer

     /  September 26, 2017

    Thanks, Robert.

    The sun is hotter now, according to the astrophysicists. Even if this extinction threshold was characteristic in the past, our threshold might be lower now, maybe, I think.

    Don’t know. But we shouldn’t bet the planet on a mathematical analysis, no matter how sophisticated. Doing sophisticated math based on the assumption that the earth system has a characteristic extinction threshold might lead to the GIGO effect – Garbage In equals Garbage Out.

    It’s a very sophisticated analysis based on sparse information – another warning sign, IMO.

    Still, great paper, great analysis. Wonderful list of Carbon Isotope Excursions. But we can’t bet the survival of the earth on a mathematical analysis. The sun is hotter now. This characteristic threshold might be lower now.

    Reply
  45. eleggua

     /  September 26, 2017

    Hurricanes’ water muscles the Earth.

    ‘Geophysicist: Weight of Harvey rains caused Houston to sink’
    September 7, 2017

    https://phys.org/news/2017-09-geophysicist-weight-harvey-houston.html

    “A California geophysicist says the sheer weight of the torrential rains brought by Harvey has caused Houston to sink by 2 centimeters.

    Chris Milliner, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, says water weighs about a ton per cubic meter and the flooding was so widespread that it “flexed Earth’s crust.”

    He told the Houston Chronicle that he used observations from the Nevada Geodetic Laboratory and other statistics to measure the drop.

    Milliner says it will only be temporary. Once the floodwaters recede, there will be an “opposite elastic response of the crust,” similar to jumping on a mattress.

    He refers to the phenomenon as local elastic subsidence and says it’s found in other places that experience significant seasonal changes in water or ice.:

    Reply
  46. eleggua

     /  September 26, 2017

    Text below; images and animations found at the page via link.

    ‘Did Sandy trigger major earthquakes off Vancouver?
    November 15, 2012

    https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2012/11/did-sandy-trigger-major-earthquakes-off-vancouver.html

    The animation below was created by Alex Hutko, a seismologist at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) in Seattle. It shows how seismic stations lit up as hurricane Sandy continued its path.

    The images below are screenshots from the animation, showing how three eathquakes hit the coast off British Columbia in Canada, coinciding with large tremors caused by Sandy. A 7.7 magnitude earthquake (image below) hit the coast off Vancouver on October 28, 2012, at around 2:00 EDT. The USGS later upgraded the earthuake to magnitude 7.8 and gave the time as 3:04 UTC.

    There were more earthquakes than that. At the USGS site, I counted 90 further earthquakes in the area with a magnitude of at least 4 that occurred within days of the first earthquake.

    Paul Beckwith, regular contributor to this blog, gives the following comments on the question whether Sandy was the trigger for major earthquakes off Vancouver.

    “Sandy was a massive storm, packing an enormous amount of energy. According to Jeff Master’s Wunderground blog, she carried the energy equivalent of five Hiroshima sized nuclear bombs.

    As she approached the eastern seaboard of the United States she was detected on the seismic stations in the U.S. As she moved her large size (tropical storm winds within a 900 mile diameter) and extremely low pressure center (940 mb usually indicative of Category 3 or even 4 magnitude hurricanes), she sucked enormous quantities of ocean water upward.

    Clearly, this adds tremendous stresses onto the earths crust and pushes it downward; this was reflected in the seismic stations. The animation of her progress shows the ground stresses across North America between October 14th and November 1st. On her northward jaunt up the eastern coast the seismic strain lit up to a peak and there was a 7.8 magnitude earthquake (Oct 28th, 3:04 UTC) off Vancouver, as shown in the first image.

    As she continued northward and just before her extremely unusual left turn (due to extreme waviness of Rossby wave jet streams leading to continental low and northward tilted blocking high), there was another maximum of red seismic activity and a 6.3 magnitude aftershock (October 28, 18:54 UTC).

    Then she turned left and as she crossed the coastline just south of NYC there was a second large aftershock of 6.2 magnitude (October 30, 2:38 UTC). Again, this aftershock coincided with large seismic activity indicated in red on the east coast.

    Coincidence? I think not. Stress on one side of a continental plate (North American plate in this case) can deflect the plate downward locally and cause it to bow up or down afar, i.e. on the other side of the plate of the west coast). The precise coincidence of the timing for the main quake and the 2 aftershocks with peaks of seismic activity on the eastern coast seems to match too closely to be a mere coincidence, but more study is required.”

    In conclusion, there is a danger that storms and cyclones trigger submarine earthquakes, which can in turn cause shockwaves and landslides over a wide area, destabilizing hydrates and triggering massive releases of methane in the process. As the sea ice disappears, the Arctic Ocean increasingly features open waters which are more prone to cyclones.”

    Posted by Sam Carana

    Reply
  47. eleggua

     /  September 26, 2017

    Ugh.

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 26, 2017

      Excerpts below; full article worthwhile read.

      ‘Hurricane Irma Destroyed All Everglade Snail Kite Nests at Lake Okeechobee
      In total, 44 actives nests were lost—a stunning and tragic blow to the endangered raptor. ‘
      September 22, 2017

      http://www.audubon.org/news/hurricane-irma-destroyed-all-everglade-snail-kite-nests-lake-okeechobee

      “…all 44 active nests belonging to Everglade Snail Kites at Lake Okeechobee were lost due to the storm’s high winds and high rainfall. Lake Okeechobee is Florida’s largest lake and a stronghold for the endangered Everglade Snail Kite, a Snail Kite subspecies that can only be found in America’s Everglades. Post-Irma assessments of the lake indicate that many adults and juveniles in the area survived the storm, but any nests with eggs or flightless chicks were destroyed.

      Such a loss would be a huge blow in any year for the bird, but this year it is especially detrimental. Before Irma, there had only been about 130 Everglade Snail Kite nests—a far cry from last year’s 800-plus nests. About 75 percent of the population did not even attempt to nest this year, which our scientists suggest could be related to an extraordinarily dry spring. That means that nesting in 2017 was harmed by both excessively dry and wet events.

      …With the right conditions and good lake management, next year’s nesting efforts should hopefully improve.”

      Reply
  48. Leland Palmer

     /  September 27, 2017

    The luminosity of the sun is increasing:

    The sun is maybe 2% hotter now than it was during the End Permian. Hansen once claimed that this 2% was equivalent in forcing to 1000 ppm of CO2.

    I didn’t see the author of the original MIT paper taking that into account. I’m really concerned that the conclusion he is coming to about a characteristic threshold for mass extinctions may no longer be valid, with the sun being hotter and brighter now. It is conceivable to me that we might get more mass extinction with less carbon, these days, as opposed to the End Permian and other past mass extinctions.

    I don’t doubt the math is done correctly. What I doubt is that the math matches the physics of our new situation.

    His list of Carbon Isotope Excursions is extensive and interesting:

    Event name Abbreviation Date[Ma]
    Ediacaran-Cambrian Edi 541.00
    Nemakit-Daldynian-Tommotian NDT 524.36
    Cambrian Spice Spice 497.00
    End-Ordovician Ord 445.80
    Silurian Mulde Mul 428.20
    Silurian Lau Lau 423.50
    Frasnian-Famennian FF 372.20
    Tournaisian Tou 351.55
    Mid-Capitanian Cap 262.45
    End-Permian PT 251.94
    Early Triassic Tr 251.22
    Triassic-Jurassic TJ 201.64
    Toarcian Toar 182.60
    Aptian Apt 120.21
    Albian-Cenomanian Al/Cn 100.50
    Mid-Cenomanian mCn 95.90
    Cenomanian-Turonian CT 94.20
    Cretaceous-Paleogene KT 65.50
    Early late Paleocene ELPE 58.90
    Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum PETM 55.50
    Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 ETM2 53.70
    Eocene Hyperthermal H2 H2 53.60
    Eocene Hyperthermal I2 I2 53.20
    Eocene Hyperthermal I1 I1 53.10
    Eocene Thermal Maximum 3 ETM3 52.50
    Eocene-Oligocene boundary Oi1 33.50
    Miocene Climatic Optimum 1 MCO1 16.90
    Miocene Climatic Optimum 2 MCO2 16.40
    Miocene Climatic Optimum 3 MCO3 16.00
    Miocene Climatic Optimum 4 MCO4 15.60
    Last Glacial Maximum–to–Holocene LGMH 0.02

    One thing that concerns me about this list is that these carbon isotope excursion events are becoming closer and closer to one another in time. This could just be the way the list is constructed, because the geological information for events closer to the present is better. Or it could be because these events are becoming easier and easier to trigger. I’ve seen papers that claim that weak astronomical forcing due to orbital perturbation was sufficient to create the series of events following the PETM in the Eocene, for example.

    Halfway to mass extinction? I hope we’re only halfway.

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 27, 2017

      It’s impossible to claim we’re any way, half or quarter or whatever, to mass extinction until we reach mass extinction. Halfway is only half of a full and we’ve no clear idea what or when that might be.
      The important thing, reverse the direction of the course we’re on.

      Reply
      • Leland Palmer

         /  September 27, 2017

        Yes, reverse the course we are on.

        No, these hyperthermal mass extinction events are characteristic events, complete with massive carbon release possibly from the methane hydrates, anoxic oceans, and huge loss of biological diversity. In terms of loss of individual organisms and species, we’re just getting started. But with our fossil fuel use, we might be halfway to a characteristic extinction threshold with regard to carbon addition to the oceans, is what the author is saying.

        My concern is that because the sun is hotter now than it was in the past, we might be closer to that mass extinction threshold than the author of the original paper thinks. We might already be at that threshold, because the sun is hotter and brighter now than it was in the past.

        Being a technological species, we don’t have to wait 100,000 years for the rock weathering cycle to put carbon back underground, though, as apparently happened with past hyperthermal mass extinction events. Using BECCS (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) and in situ mineral carbonation, we can actively put carbon back underground, ourselves. But BECCS is rate limited – we can only put carbon back underground at a limited rate. So, I believe myself that if we start now, we can head off mass extinction, by actively putting carbon back underground using BECCS. But we have to get started, ASAP.

        Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage (BECS): a Sequential Decision Approach to the threat of Abrupt Climate Change

        https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7c9a/edddba4d1a07a0dcdae447856789f054f7a4.pdf

        Reply
        • Kassy

           /  September 27, 2017

          “The sun is maybe 2% hotter now than it was during the End Permian. Hansen once claimed that this 2% was equivalent in forcing to 1000 ppm of CO2.”

          If you (or anyone else) have a link to more information on this equivalence or a link to a text or youtube lecture where Hansen mentions this it would be much appreciated. TIA!

        • Leland Palmer

           /  September 27, 2017

          Hansen has been quoted as saying things like that on pages 231-232 of Storms of My Grandchildren:

          “At earlier times, when atmospheric carbon dioxide was more abundant, the sun was dimmer. For example, 250 million years ago the sun was 2% dimmer than now. A 2% change of solar irradiance is equivalent to doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So if the estimated amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere 250 million years ago was 2000 ppm, it would only take about 1000 ppm of carbon dioxide today to create a climate equally warm, assuming other factors are equal…. In other words, the fact that some scientists have estimated the carbon dioxide was much larger earlier in Earth’s history, perhaps even by a few thousand parts per million, does not mean that we could tolerate that much carbon dioxide now without hitting runaway conditions, because the sun is brighter now.”

          Don’t have access to the full text of the book to confirm that. I saw him make this claim during a video interview about his book, but haven’t been able to find that video.

        • eleggua

           /  September 28, 2017

          That’s the exact text from those pages. If one has the book handy, most relevent pages are 229 through 236.

        • Leland Palmer

           /  September 30, 2017

          It looks like what Hansen was saying was that a 2% change in solar irradiance is equivalent in forcing to a doubling of CO2. The 1000 ppm figure was just an example.

    • I’m going to add this thread on Gavin Schmidt’s page to the general discussion:

      High points:

      Discussion of #RShyperthermals among scientists. Defining hyperthermals. Including lesser events — yes or no? And a vote on whether or not to rescind a scientific paper that apparently inaccurately identified a 13 year PETM temperature spike.

      Reply
      • Leland Palmer

         /  September 29, 2017

        I remember that paper – it claimed that the duration of the first rapid carbon isotope ratio dip of the PETM was 13 years, because of banded strata that the authors interpreted as yearly banding. Other scientists including Dickens disagreed, and now most scientists agree that the 13 year claim was wrong, I think.

        Interesting info on that Twitter thread about the Royal Society hyperthermals meetings. But so far as I can tell we have to wait for the papers to be published to get more complete information on those meetings. It would be nice if they would publish the presentations on YouTube, if the video was recorded. If anyone knows of a way to get information on the papers and presentations quicker than that, please let me know.

        This tidbit is scary: “Appy Sluijs: PETM carbon isotope excursion lags onset of warming by 2-3 kyr. Massive carbon release as feedback to warming.” Wow. Methane hydrate dissociation?CO2 coming back out of the oceans? Bad implications for our future in that, if we don’t have a robust way to put carbon back underground like a worldwide BECCS system, I think. Have we already triggered a massive carbon release two to three thousand years in our future with our current fossil fuel use?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio-energy_with_carbon_capture_and_storage

        Reply
  49. John McCormick

     /  September 27, 2017

    Leland, you said: The luminosity of the sun is increasing:

    We know a bit about solar dimming caused by industrial aerosols of the recent past decades.

    Now that China and other coal-burning nations are shuting down coal power plants, will we lose the dimming effect and actually see temperatures increase more rapidly?

    Reply
    • Leland Palmer

       /  September 27, 2017

      I think so, yes we risk losing the dimming effect from sulfur aerosols.

      The luminosity of the sun is increasing, but only over millions of years. On short time scales, as you know, it’s essentially constant.

      One way to deal with global dimming might be to add sulfur to the fuel for BECCS power plants. Then, as we draw down CO2, we could also ramp down sulfur aerosols. There might be better ways to deal with global dimming, though, involving particulates that don’t cause acid rain.

      The planet itself will help sequester carbon, of course, if we can just stop our fossil fuel use, as you know. So BECCS might not be absolutely necessary, don’t know. But I think all our efforts to slow and stop carbon addition to the atmosphere and oceans work better with BECCS.

      Reply
  1. Half-way to Catastrophe — Global Hothouse Extinction to be Triggered by or Before 2100 Without Rapid Emissions Cuts | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

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