June of 2017 Was Third Hottest on Record for Globe

According to NOAA, June of 2017 was the third hottest such month in the global climate record since temperature tracking began in 1880. For NASA, June was also the third hottest on record with June of 2016 settling in at 1st hottest, and 2015 and 1998 tied as second hottest. Overall, global temperatures were about 0.91 degrees Celsius warmer than late 19th Century averages in the NASA record and about 1.02 degrees Celsius warmer than the same time period in the NOAA record.

(NASA’s land-ocean temperature graphic showed most of the world blanketed in much warmer than normal conditions. Image source: NASA.)

Around the globe, various climate extremes were quite visible as a result of such considerable warmth. Arctic sea ice extent was 6th lowest on record according to NSIDC while Arctic sea ice volume was the lowest ever recorded according to PIOMAS. NSIDC also found that Antarctic sea ice extent was the second lowest on record. Combined, global sea ice area was the lowest ever recorded.

Weather disasters included severe hydrological events likely influenced by increasing atmospheric water vapor content and evaporation rates due to climate change. These comprised Bangladesh’s devastating June floods and a still ongoing African drought spurring worsening hunger and increasing instances of mass migration. Meanwhile, seven maximum temperature records were broken with the highest temperature ever recorded in Asia during June occurring at Ahwaz in Iran on June 29 and an all-time national June heat record set in the United Arab Emirates on June 16th. Notably, no new all-time cold temperature records were set across the globe during June.

If present trends continue, 2017 is now on track to be the second hottest year in the global climate record. This despite a noted lack of El Nino in the Pacific following a very weak La Nina during late 2016 and running into early 2017. Though not as warm as 2016, it appears that 2017 will range about 1.1 C above late 19th Century values in the NASA record (according to analysis by Gavin Schmidt) along the current path.

This is a very warm range that is likely to keep pushing the climate system into gradually more extreme conditions. Atmospheric CO2, which is rapidly rising due to rampant fossil fuel burning, is likely to average around 407 ppm in 2017. As a result, global atmospheric heat forcing is on the rise with the trend likely to continue upward pending a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Meteorologists, climate scientists, risk experts and climate journalists should therefore remain on heightened alert for dangerous trends related to global climate change.

(UPDATED)

Links:

NASA GISS

NOAA’s Center For Environmental Information

NSIDC

The Polar Science Center

Category 6

World Climate Stays in Uncharted Territory as May of 2017 Hits Second Hottest on Record

We’re currently in what should be a relatively considerable temperature trough following a strong 2015-2016 El Nino. But the globe hasn’t really cooled off that much.

In contrast, during the two year period following the 1998 super El Nino, annual global temperature averages subsequently cooled by around 0.2 C to about 0.64 C warmer than 1880s averages as a strong La Nina swept in. This post El Nino cooling provided some respite from harmful global conditions like increasingly prevalent droughts, floods, fires and coral bleaching events set off by the 1998 temperature spike. It did not, however, return the world to anything close to average or normal temperature conditions.

Warming Out of Context

(So far, 2017 temperature averages for the first five months have remained disturbingly close to what should have been an El Nino driven peak in 2016. Temperatures remaining so warm post El Nino are providing little respite from this peak warming. Meanwhile, the longer significant La Nina conditions hold off, the more extreme and out of context the post-2013 period looks from a global weather/climate perspective even relative to the significant warming occurring from the late 1970s through the early 2010s. Note the steep temperature spike following 2013 in the graph above. This should flatten out, step-wise, as La Nina conditions ultimately push against the larger surface warming trend [driven primarily by fossil fuel burning]. We thus await a La Nina stronger than the very weak late 2016 through early 2017 event with bated breath… Image source: NASA.)

During 2015 and 2016, the world was forced to warm much more intensely than during the 1998 event as very high and rising greenhouse gas concentrations (400 ppm CO2 +) met with another strong El Nino and what appeared to be a very widespread ocean surface warming event. Temperatures peaked to a troubling 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages during 2016. An annual peak nearly 0.4 C warmer than the 1998 temperature spike. But unlike the period following the 1998 event, it appears that 2017 will probably only back off by about 0.1 degrees Celsius at most.

This counter-trend cooling delay is cause for some concern because a larger portion of the global surface heat added in during the 2015-2016 El Nino appears to be remaining in the climate system — which is lengthening some of the impacts of the 2015-2016 temperature spike and putting the world more firmly outside of the weather and climate contexts of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

(2017 temperatures aren’t trailing too far behind 2016’s record spike. A trend that is, so far, considerably warmer than 2015, which was the second hottest year on record. Image source: NASA.)

Record heat, drought, rainfall events, unusual storms, coral bleaching, glacial melt, wildfires, sea ice melt and other effects related to extreme global temperature will, therefore, not abate as much as some would have hoped. Furthermore, though current science does not appear to identify a present perturbation in the ENSO cycle (which may produce more El Ninos as the world warms), monitoring of that cycle for warming-related change at this time seems at least somewhat appropriate.

Second Hottest May on Record

According to NASA, May of 2017 was 0.88 degrees Celsius hotter than its 20th Century baseline — or 1.1 C warmer than 1880s averages when the world first began a considerable warming trend clearly attributable to fossil fuel burning and related human carbon emissions. This reading is just 0.05 C shy of the record warmest May of 2016. It’s also slightly warmer than the now third warmest May (0.01 C warmer) of 2014. And all of the top four warmest Mays in the present NASA record have now occurred since 2014.

(NASA’s second hottest May on record brought above normal temperatures to much of the globe. Disturbingly, the most extreme temperature departures above average occurred in the vulnerable Coastal regions of Antarctica. Small regions including parts of the North Pacific, the Northern Polar Region, the extreme South Atlantic, and the Central U.S. experienced below average temperatures. But these outliers were few and far between. Image source: NASA.)

Add May of 2017 into the present 2017 running average and you get a total of 1.19 C warmer than 1880s conditions. This is the second warmest first five months on record following 2016 at a very considerable 1.38 C above 1880s. It is, however, just about 0.01 C behind 2016’s annual average of 1.2 C above late 19th Century global temperatures.

It’s worth noting that most of the temperature spike attributable to the 2015-2016 El Nino occurred beginning in October of 2015 and ending in April of 2016. Somewhat milder months comparable to April and May 2017 averages followed from June through December of 2016 as a very weak La Nina followed. Since about February, Pacific Ocean conditions warmed into an ENSO neutral state where neither El Nino or La Nina dominated. NOAA’s present forecast calls for ENSO neutral conditions to continue as the Equatorial Pacific slowly cools again. So a continuation of present trends could leave 2017 rather close to the 2016 spike.

Forecast Trends

GFS model guidance for June shows somewhat cooler global conditions than in May. If this trend continues we will likely see the month range from 0.7 to 0.82 C above NASA’s baseline. If the GFS summary is accurate and this meta-analysis is correct, then June of 2017 will likely range between 1st and 4th warmest on record. Meanwhile, ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) neutral conditions should tend to keep 2017 as a whole in the range of 1 C to 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages — likely beating out 2015 as the second hottest year on record and keeping the globe in what basically amounts to uncharted climate territory.

(UPDATED)

Links:

NASA GISS

NOAA’s Weekly ENSO Report

NOAA– Atmospheric CO2 Increased by 2.77 Parts Per Million During 2016

According to NOAA, carbon dioxide — a key heat trapping gas — increased its atmospheric concentration by 2.77 parts per million during 2016. This was the third fastest rate of increase in the NOAA record following 2015 at a 3.03 ppm annual increase and 1998 at a 2.93 annual increase.

Earlier trends had indicated that 2016 might be on track to beat 2015 as a new record year (and a month by month comparison for the first 11 months of 2016 pointed toward a record rate of rise). These concerns, thankfully, did not materialize as atmospheric rates of accumulation slowed down during December of 2016 — which helped to push the overall year to year comparison lower (NOAA’s year-on-year rate of growth is based on a December to January comparison). Nonetheless, the high rate of atmospheric increase for 2016 remains a matter of concern.

co2-annual-rate-of-increase

(2015 saw a record annual rate of atmospheric CO2 increase at 3.03 parts per million. 2016’s increase at 2.77 parts per million was the 3rd fastest on record. Overall, the decade of 2011-2016 is presently showing about a 20 percent faster rate of accumulation than the decade of 2000 to 2010. This should moderate somewhat post El Nino. However, Earth System feedbacks threaten to hamper the environment’s ability to take down excess carbon as the world begins to approach 1.5 C warmer than 1880s averages. Image source: NOAA.)

Overall, the average annual rate of increase for the first six years of the decade beginning in 2011 was 2.42 parts per million. This rate is approximately 20 percent faster than during the decade of 2001 to 2010 (analysis based on this NOAA data) at around a 2.05 parts per million annual increase. Prior to the most recent decade, the 2000 to 2010 period showed the fastest rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide accumulation on record.

El Nino, through ocean warming and related land impacts such as increased droughts and wildfires, can reduce the rate of CO2 uptake by the Earth System — thus forcing a higher rate of increase due to the human emission. And the 2015 to 2016 period featured a strong El Nino. All things being equal, we should expect atmospheric rates of increase to moderate somewhat during 2017. Possibly dropping to slightly below 2 ppm in the best case.

atmospheric-co2-increase-the-keeling-curve

(Extremely rapid rates of atmospheric CO2 increase since the mid 20th Century have been driven by ramping rates of fossil fuel burning. Now we are at a point where the Earth System will have more and more difficulty taking in the carbon spewed out by smokestacks and tail pipes. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

However, global carbon emissions from fossil fuels at near record levels will continue to push a very high rate of atmospheric accumulation of this climate change driving heat-trapping gas. And the added insult due to global warming now ranging above 1 C hotter than 1880s for most years will tend to put a cap on how effective the Earth is at taking in the very large excess human emission.

By comparison, rates of CO2 increase during the last hothouse extinction event — the PETM — were about 10 to 20 times slower than they are today. And it took hundreds of years for atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to equal the same 125 parts per million increase we’ve now experienced in the 136 years since 1880. So the insult to the Earth System produced by fossil fuel burning is currently extraordinarily high and the rate of heat trapping gas accumulation is probably unprecedented for at least the last 66 million years.

(CO2 is the primary gas driving global warming. But it is not the only one. Add in methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gasses and you end up with a total forcing that’s equivalent to 490 parts per million CO2. Video source: Climate One.)

NOAA is now showing that global atmospheric CO2 averages are hitting near 402.5 parts per million. This level will likely increase to around 404 to 405 parts per million by the end of 2017. The forcing from this CO2 alone (not including methane and other greenhouse gasses which has pushed CO2 equivalent forcing to around 490 parts per million) is enough to push global temperatures to nearly 2 C warmer than 1880s averages this Century (prediction based on ECS model analysis). Longer term, if atmospheric CO2 concentrations remain so high, overall warming could hit 3 C to as much as 4 C hotter than 1880s values when adding in the long-term impacts of other greenhouse gas emissions (prediction based on a meta-analysis of paleoclimate temperature and atmospheric carbon proxies).

With global temperatures already driven to about 1.2 C hotter than 1880s during 2016, it’s not an understatement to say that a period of more dangerous and harmful climate change — forced upon us by the world’s extremely high rate of carbon emissions — is already upon us. And we can see that in the various severe weather and geophysical events that are currently ranging the globe. The urgency for cutting carbon emissions, therefore, could not be greater.

Links:

NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory

Ten Times Faster Than the PETM

The Keeling Curve

Climate One

Hat tip to Shawn Redmond

Hat tip to Suzanne

(UPDATED)

2016 on Track for Record Rate of Atmospheric CO2 Increase

During 2016, the annual rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide increase will have hit a record 3.2 to 3.55 parts per million (ppm). By 2017, the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere will be roughly equivalent to concentrations last seen during the Middle Miocene climate epoch (404 to 410 ppm average). In other words, atmospheric CO2 is rising at a record rate and we are hitting levels of this heat-trapping gas that have not been seen in about 15 million years.

Record Rates of CO2 Increase

The world is struggling to make the necessary turn toward reducing fossil fuel-based carbon emissions. Global emissions have plateaued at or near new record highs during the past three years. Conflicts over fossil fuel cuts and transitioning to renewable energy embroil numerous countries. Climate change deniers hold significant power in places like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. And facing off against those who would defend the harmful interests of what could well be called the most destructive industry to ever inhabit the planet, are a broad group of environmentalists, scientists, concerned citizens, and renewable energy advocates.

carbon-dioxide-october-2016-global

(Global carbon dioxide is approaching a level not seen since the Middle Miocene period around 15 million years ago when atmospheric concentrations typically averaged above 405 ppm and global temperatures were 3-4 degrees Celsius hotter than 19th-century averages. Record annual rates of CO2 increase in excess of 3 ppm each year for 2015 and 2016 are swiftly propelling us into a climate state that is more similar to this ancient epoch — a shift that is producing increasingly harmful global consequences. Image source: The Copernicus Observatory.)

As the political turmoil ramps up, it appears that the Earth’s oceans and biosphere are straining to draw in the massive volumes of these gasses that we’ve been pumping out. Annual atmospheric CO2 growth rates for 2015 were a record 3.05 ppm. 2016 appears to be on track to beat that high mark, being likely to see a new annual increase of between 3.2 and 3.55 ppm.

Hot Lands and Oceans Tend to Produce a Carbon Feedback

The previous most rapid annual rate of atmospheric CO2 increase was 2.93 ppm during the strong El Niño year of 1998. Back then, high ocean surface temperatures combined with warming-related wildfires and droughts which spanned the globe to reduce the Earth’s capacity to take in carbon. More carbon was squeezed out of hot soils, burning forests, and warming oceans. Less was drawn down. New record rates of atmospheric CO2 increase were breached.

the-keeling-curve-2-years

(Except for a couple of days, all of 2016 saw atmospheric CO2 levels above 400 ppm. Peak values as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in May were 407.7 ppm. By May 2017, atmospheric CO2 levels are likely to hit near 410 ppm — a level not seen in about 15 million years. Image source: The Keeling Curve/Scripps Institution of Oceanography.)

Even during the period of heightened heat stress that occurred in 1998, we did not see a year in which annual rates of CO2 increase exceeded 3 ppm. We have never, until 2015-2016, seen a time when there were two back-to-back years of such rapid rates of increase. Similar but worsening heat stress impacts have likely flagged what at first appeared to be an increased rate of carbon uptake from the biosphere during the late 2000s. Ocean heat content is now dramatically greater than during 1998 and this significant warming is likely having at least a periodic impact on the ocean’s rate of carbon uptake. Wildfires are now far more prolific, generating more atmospheric carbon. Droughts are more widespread and these tend to squeeze carbon from the soil. The Arctic is the warmest it’s been in 115,000 years and, as a result, some new Earth system carbon sources are starting to pop up.

Record High Rates of Fossil Fuel Emissions Hitting a Plateau

In the intervening years since 1998, global carbon emissions from fossil fuels have also jumped dramatically. During 1998, yearly CO2 emissions were in the range of 26 billion tons per year. By 2014-2015, these greenhouse gas releases had soared to around 35.8 billion tons per year. Through this period, average annual rates of CO2 increase continued to climb during the 2000s and 2010s.

global-carbon-project-emissions-2015

(Global carbon emission increases stalled during 2013, 2014, and 2015 according to The Global Carbon Project. But despite this recent pause, atmospheric rates of carbon dioxide increase have continued to ramp up. Due to a number of factors, including atmospheric and ocean inertia as well as temperature and saturation stress to global carbon stores, it is likely that significant reductions in carbon emissions from fossil fuels will be necessary to have a marked impact on annual rates of atmospheric CO2 increase.)

According to NOAA, the 1980s and 1990s saw yearly jumps in CO2 at the rate of about 1.5 ppm each year. By the 2000s, this average rate of increase had leaped to about 2 ppm per year. For the first six years of the 2010s, the average rate will likely be around 2.5 ppm per year.

New Records Provide Urgency For Rapid Emissions Cuts

This rate of increase roughly matches the overall rate of increase in emissions. As yet, there is no major global trend sign in the atmospheric CO2 data showing that carbon uptake from the oceans and the biosphere has been significantly curtailed, at least not to the point that it has shown up in the long term global trend. There are, however, widespread signs of stress to the Earth’s carbon storage system, and two years of 3 ppm-plus increase back-to-back is a warning blip on the climate radar.

In other words, these new record rates of CO2 increase are disturbing. If the annual increases do not fall back into the low 2-ppm per year range in 2017 and 2018, it will be an indication that some of the Earth’s ability to draw down carbon has been significantly hampered. If that is the case, then the urgency to draw down emissions is considerably greater.

Links:

NOAA ESRL

Middle Miocene

The Global Carbon Project

The Copernicus Observatory

The Keeling Curve

Doubling Down on Our Faustian Bargain

Hat tip to SmallblueMike

(Note: This post focuses primarily on CO2 as an indicator. Overall CO2e levels will be covered in a separate exploration.)

July was the Hottest Month Ever Recorded; 2016 Set to Make 1998 Look Cold by Comparison

July 2016 was the warmest July in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. NASA GISS.

2016 — 99 Percent Likely to be the Hottest Year on Record by a Big Margin

In 1998, the world went through a big heat wave. In just one year, global temperatures jumped by about 0.15 degrees Celsius above previous record highs. Riding on the wave of an extraordinarily powerful El Nino, atmospheric CO2 that was then in the range of about 365 parts per million (and CO2e — CO2-equivalent greenhouse gasses — in the range of 415 ppm) pushed global temperatures to around 0.9 C above 1880s averages by year-end.

This extreme heat set off a rash of weather and climate disasters around the world. A global coral bleaching event sparked off. At that time it was only one of a few ever recorded and was seen by scientists as one of the early warning signs of global warming. Droughts, floods, and fires occurred with a then-unprecedented frequency. Some began to wonder if the bad effects of climate change were starting to take hold.

But 1998 was just a mild foretaste of what was to come. In the years that followed, new global temperature records were breached time and time again. 1998 was swiftly surpassed by 2005 which was again beaten out by 2010, then 2014 and finally 2015. Now, 2016 looks like it will end around 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages. It appears that in just three years, the world will have warmed by more than 0.2 C. In the 18-year period since 1998 the world’s long and worsening hot spell will have increased its top range by as much as 0.3 degrees C, or more than 30 percent.

Gavin Schmidt, NASA GISS head, tells this tale far more succinctly, stating:

July data are out, and what do you know, still 99% chance of a new annual record in 2016.

2016 Hottest Year on Record

(Can you pick out 1998 on this graph? Look hard. You might find it… Driven on by record levels of atmospheric greenhouse gasses in the range of 490 ppm CO2e, global temperatures are in the process of spiking to around 1.2 C above 1880s averages in 2016. Climate scientists like Gavin Schmidt indicate that there’s a 99 percent chance that this year will be the hottest ever recorded. Image source: Gavin Schmidt.)

Another way to sum up how much the world has warmed since 1998 is the observation that the coolest months and years going forward are likely to be hotter than 1998 average temperatures. In other words, if we saw 1998 global temperatures now, it would be anomalously cold. The Earth’s natural cycling between La Nina and El Nino is, at this time, highly unlikely to produce a year as cool as 1998.

Hitting a New High Mark for Global Heat

As for 2016, the unbroken tally of record hot months has grown incredibly long. July itself, in NASA’s most recent announcement, has come in at about 1.06 C hotter than 1880s averages (and 0.84 C hotter than NASA’s 20th-century baseline). This makes the month we just went through the hottest month ever recorded in the global climate record by a substantial 0.1 C margin (beating out July of 2011 as the previous record-holder).

GISTEMP Anomaly

(Due to strong land-surface warming during summer in the Northern Hemisphere, July is typically the hottest month of the year. July 2016 was both the hottest July on record and the hottest ever month in the past 136 years of recordkeeping. Image source: NASA.)

At this point, you have to go all the way back to September of 2015 to find a month that isn’t now a new record-holder. And, as you can see in the month-to-month comparison graph above by NASA, many of the recent records have been very strong indeed.

Such heat has brought with it every manner of trouble. From droughts in the Amazon rainforest, to record-low sea ice levels, to worsening droughts, to a global rash of floods and wildfires, to the longest-running coral bleaching event ever recorded, to expanding ocean dead zones and lakes and riverways choked with algae, to tropical viruses like Zika marching northward as anthrax-carrying deer are coughed up out of the thawing permafrost, to the loss and destabilization of glacial ice around the planet, the picture of the world in 2016 is one of a place suffering far greater and wider-ranging climate disruptions than during 1998.

Now, given the considerable difference in impacts over just an 18-year time period and an approximate 0.3 C temperature increase, imagine what another 18 years and another 0.3 C or greater would unleash.

Portrait of the Hottest Month Ever — More Arctic Warming

July was just one part of this big upward jump in global temperatures and related extreme climate conditions. The distribution of that heat showed that climate-change-related polar amplification was still in full swing up north.

Above-average temperatures continued to concentrate near the vulnerable Arctic. NASA shows that temperatures in the region of 75 to 90° North Latitude ranged from around 1.4 to 2.1 C above normal. Such record-warm readings were likely due to loss of sea ice and consequent albedo reductions in the region of the Beaufort Sea and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (see Arctic map here). Peak temperature departures in this zone hit as high as 7.7 C above average for the month — pretty extreme for northern polar July.

Conversely, a small pool of slightly cooler-than-normal readings hovered over the East Siberian Sea. But this small region was far milder, achieving only a peak 2 C departure below 20th-century norms.

GISS Temperature Map July 2016

(The hottest month on record globally shows highest above-average temperatures exactly where we don’t need them — in the Arctic north of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, near the Yamal Peninsula and the Kara Sea, and in the south over West Antarctica. Image source: NASA.)

The broader region from Latitudes 35° S to 75° N saw temperatures ranging between 0.7 and 1.4 C above the NASA 20th-century baseline. This included the Equator at around 0.8 C above average despite the cooling effects of the Eastern Pacific which was starting to tilt toward La Nina conditions.

From 35° S to the pole, temperatures rapidly fall off for July with the region from 75° to 90° S seeing 1 to 1.6 C negative temperature departures. It’s worth noting that this Antarctic region was the only area to experience widespread below-average temperatures on the globe. Even so, West Antarctica stood as a noted warm outlier in this single large cool pool, with temperatures for most of the Antarctic Peninsula and adjacent inland regions hitting 4 C or more above normal.

Outlook — Predicted La Nina is Weak; Northern Polar Amplification is Strong

Cooler surface waters in the Equatorial Pacific are predicted to produce a weak, late La Nina for 2016 and early 2017. This event is not expected to be anywhere near as strong as the significant 2010 to 2012 La Nina. As a result, it will likely have a lesser overall downward effect on global surface temperatures.

GFS global temperature tracking

(GFS global temperature tracking indicates that August is likely to be as warm or slightly warmer than July, which puts this month within striking distance of another consecutive monthly global high temperature record. Image source: Karsten Haustein Climate Reanalysis.)

On the other hand, as August and September roll into October and November, Northern Hemisphere polar amplification is likely to intensify and this will tend to further buffer the downward temperature swing typically produced by La Nina. Therefore, it’s not likely that August to December temperatures will fall outside of the 0.95 to 1.15 C June-July temperature differential from 1880s ranges.

Current GFS model tracking for August (see image above) hints at a likely range between 1.05 and 1.15 C above 1880s values, which means that August is currently on track to challenge previous all-time temperature records for the month and that 2016 is continuing to solidify its extreme heat gains.

Links:

NASA GISS

Gavin Schmidt

Karsten Haustein Climate Reanalysis

BOM ENSO Forecast

NOAA ESRL

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Ridley Jack

Global Heat Leaves 20th Century Temps ‘Far Behind’ — June Another Hottest Month on Record

We’ve left the 20th century far behind. This is a big deal. — Deke Arndt, head of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information

*****

One of the top three strongest El Ninos on record is now little more than a memory. According to NOAA, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Central Equatorial Pacific hit a range more typical to La Nina conditions last week. This cool-pool formation follows a June in which ocean surfaces in this zone had fallen into temperatures below the normal range.

El Nino Gone

(El Nino had faded away by June and turned toward La Nina-level temperatures by late June and early July. Despite this Equatorial Pacific cooling, June of 2016 was still the hottest June on record. Image source: NOAA.)

But despite this natural-variability related cooling of the Equatorial Pacific into below-normal ranges, the globe as a whole continued to warm relative to previous June temperatures. According to NASA, last month was the hottest June in the global climate record.

NASA figures show the month was 0.79 degrees Celsius warmer than the 20th century baseline (1951 to 1980) average, edging out June of 2015 (when El Nino was still ramping up) by just 0.01 degree C to take the dubious position of the new hottest June ever recorded by human instruments. June 2016 was also about 1.01 C hotter than temperatures in the 1880s, at the start of NASA’s global climate record.

January to June — Anomalous Warmth Centers Over Arctic

June marks the 9th consecutive hottest month on record in the NASA data. In other words, on a month-to-month comparison, each month since October of 2015 was the new hottest of those months ever recorded. In addition, the six-month 2016 climate year period of January to June showed an average global temperature of about 1.31 C above 1880s averages — perilously close to the 1.5 degree C global climate threshold.

Record warm Earth

(Arctic heat dominated the first half of 2016 which is likely to end up being the hottest year ever recorded in the global climate record. Image source: Berkeley Earth.)

Distribution of this anomalous heat during this six-month period, despite the Equatorial warming pulse related to El Nino, was focused on the Arctic, as we can see in this Berkeley Earth graphical composite of the NASA temperature series above.

Warmest temperature anomalies for the period appear above the Barents and Greenland Seas boundaries with the Arctic Ocean and approach 12 C for the six-month period. During this period, this region has hosted numerous warm-wind invasions of the Arctic from the south. A second, similar slot of warm south-to-north air progression appears over Alaska.

Record June Warmth Most Apparent at Northern Continental Margins

During June, the Arctic as a whole remained much warmer than average, with the region from latitudes 80° to 90° North seeing a +0.8 C temperature departure in the NASA measure. The highest anomaly regions globally, however, were near the continental margins bordering the Arctic Ocean in the region of latitudes 70° to 75° North. Here temperatures ranged near 2 C above average.

June Zonal Anomalies

(According to NASA’s zonal anomaly measure, the northern continental margins showed the highest temperature anomalies globally. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Some parts of this region were particularly hot. These included the region of Russian Siberia near the Yamal Peninsula, which saw 4-8 C above average temperatures for the month, the Bering Sea and Northeastern Siberian region adjacent which saw 2-8 C above average temperatures, and the Canadian Archipelago which saw 2-4 C above average temperatures for the month.

Odd Warm-Air Slot Runs from Equator to West Antarctic Peninsula

Notable is that visible warm-air slots running from Tropics to Pole appear to remain intact in the Northeastern Pacific and over Central Asia in the Northern Hemisphere during early Summer. Meanwhile, an odd Southern Hemisphere warm-air slot appears to have developed during June in the region of the Southeastern Pacific.

June of 2016 Anomaly Map

(June of 2016 was the hottest June on record. This is what the anomaly map looked like. Image source: NASA GISS.)

This particular Equator-to-Pole heat transfer appears to have run as far south as the West Antarctic Peninsula and assisted in producing a 4-8 C above-average temperature spike there.

As the majority of the world remained hotter than normal during June of 2016, the only noted outlier cool region was Central and Eastern Antarctica which, in spots, saw 4 to 7.1 C below-average temperatures.

2016 is Blowing All Previous Years Away

Overall, as El Nino continues to shift toward neutral or La Nina states, global temperatures should remain lower than during peak periods seen earlier this year. It’s likely that over the coming six months, the very long period of new monthly global record temperatures we’ve seen will eventually be broken by a top-five- or top-10-hottest month.

Blowing heat records away Climate Central

(2016 is on track to blow all previous record hot years out of the water. See related article here.)

However, it appears that global heat has in total taken a big step up. As such, 2016 appears to be set to average near 1.14 to 1.25 C above 1880s levels. That would beat out previous hottest year 2015 by a big margin. To this point, Deke Arndt, head of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, recently noted in The Scientific American:

“It’s important to keep perspective here. Even if we aren’t setting [monthly] records, we are in a neighborhood beyond anything we had seen before early 2015. We’ve left the 20th century far behind. This is a big deal.”

In other words, that’s about a decade’s worth of typical human-forced warming in just one year. If it shapes up that way, it basically blows all previous years out of the water. Pretty nasty to say the least.

Links/Attribution/Statements

NASA GISS

Berkeley Earth

NOAA

NOAA Also Found June 2016 to be the Hottest on Record

Japan’s Meteorological Agency Also Found June 2016 to be the Hottest on Record

First Half of 2016 Blows Away Global Temperature Records

Hat tip to Zack Labe

Hat tip to DT Lange

 

Norway, India and Netherlands May Ban Fossil Fuel Driven Vehicles by 2025-2030

New national policy proposals from the four ruling parties of Norway spurred a flurry of headlines this week as leaders explored the possibility of banning all fossil fuel based vehicle sales by 2025.

The country, which already has a 24 percent national all-electric vehicle sales rate — is pursuing ways to ensure that number grows to 100 percent in very short order. Note that these vehicles are of the all-electric, battery-driven variety and do not include hybrids or plug in hybrids like the Chevy Volt.

Norway’s Push Implies a Big Shift for Fossil Fuel Exporter

Leaders from both parties within Norway were considering the ban which, if enacted, would dramatically reduce Norway’s vehicle fleet carbon emissions. Fully 90 percent of Norway’s electricity is generated by renewable hydro-electric power. And hooking vehicles up to this energy source would push their use and chain of fuel emissions to zero.

Tesla Model S Supercharger

(A Tesla Model S recharges its battery at a solar powered electrical station. A combination that provides a clear path out of a transportation-based hothouse gas emissions trap. Enabled by this technology, a number of countries are considering a complete ban on fossil fuel use for vehicle transport from 2025 through 2030. Image source: Green Car Reports.)

A fossil fuel exporter, about 20 percent of Norway’s GDP comes from the sale of oil to the rest of the world. And this represents a bit of an irony in Norway’s policies. But Norway, for its part, appears to be very serious about transitioning away from fossil fuels and setting an example for the rest of the world. A challenge it will necessarily have to meet by diversifying its economy as global fossil fuel demand falls.

Norway May Be Signalling Global Transition Away From Fossil Fuel Powered Automobiles

Norway’s 5 million populace switching to all electric vehicles wouldn’t put a huge dent in global oil demand. But if other countries start to follow Norway’s lead, then a strong global trend could assert. Already, both the Netherlands and India are exploring similar policies — with the Netherlands looking to enact a 100 percent non fossil fuel vehicle fleet standard by 2025 and India exploring a similar option for 2030.

Increasing electric vehicle capabilities, lower battery prices, and expanding electric vehicle production are now allowing countries like Norway to consider the possibility of fossil-fuel free automobile fleets. By 2017, both Tesla and GM will be offering 200 mile range electric vehicles from a price of under 35,000 US dollars. Sales of these two vehicles alone are expected to top 150,000 in 2017 and with Tesla seeing nearly half a million preorders for the Model 3, production is likely to continue to ramp up.

Following expected trends, it appears that range performance and cost for the battery + electric motor combo will hit parity with fossil fuel driven vehicles by the early 2020s. Other measures of performance such as engine efficiency, noise, horsepower, particulate emissions, carbon emissions, and torque are all already superior in electric vehicles.

Rapid Ramp Toward Catastrophic Climate Change Provides a Sense of Urgency

From the standpoint of climate change, a shift to electric vehicles and away from internal combustion engines provides a number of systemic benefits. The electric engine is 2-3 times as efficient as an internal combustion engine and so it takes less energy power overall.

NOAA global temperature anomalies

(Global temperatures have been nearly 1.5 C hotter than 1880s averages during the first four months of 2016. By end of year, temperatures should fall in a range that is about 1.25 to 1.3 C hotter. A level very close to the dangerous 1.5 C climate threshold and far too close for comfort to the 2 C threshold. If we are to have much hope of avoiding temperature ranges well above these danger zones, the rate of carbon emissions reduction from human civilizations around the globe will have to be extraordinarily swift. Image source: NOAA.)

This increased efficiency alone results in a net, large-scale conservation across the fuel chain. Secondly, electric vehicles have the option of powering their engines using wind, solar, or hydro. And in doing so, vehicle use and fuel based emissions both drop to zero. The only remaining factor of emissions related to electric vehicles are found in the materials used to construct EVs and in the supply chains used to transport vehicles components and finished products. And since transport emissions figure heavily in this aspect, a large-scale shift away from fossil fuel based transport will cut this number down as well.

With many nations considering 100 percent fossil fuel based vehicle bans and with EV production and quality rapidly ramping up, it appears that there’s a possibility that a big chunk of modern transportation could be shifted away from fossil fuels over the next 15 years. And that event couldn’t come sooner — as the effects of catastrophic climate change appear to already be howling at the door.

Links:

Norway Considers Ban of Gas Fueled Vehicles by 2025

Norway May Become First Country to Ban the Use of Gas Powered Cars

Green Car Reports

NOAA

Hat tip to Cate

One Month Above 1.5 C — NASA Data Shows February Crossed Critical Threshold

We had a number of preliminary indicators that February of 2016 was going to be ridiculously hot. And, according to new reports from NASA, those indicators appear to have born out.

In short, we’ve just experienced a month that was more than 1.5 C hotter than 1880s averages. It’s not a yearly average in this dangerous range — but likely the peak reading from a very intense El Nino combining with the growing base forcing of human climate change. That said, it’s a foretaste of what could very easily happen on a 5-15 year timescale in the annual measure if fossil fuel burning and related carbon emissions do not radically ramp downward.

February of 2015 was About 1.57 C Hotter Than 1880s Averages

According to NASA GISS, February of 2016 was the hottest February ever recorded by a long shot with global temperature departures hitting a never-before-seen above average range. Land and ocean temperature averages hit 1.35 C above NASA’s 20th Century baseline (1951-1980). This extraordinarily hot global reading represents a 1.57 C departure from average temperatures in the 1880s. In other words, for one month during February of 2016, global temperatures exceeded the dangerous 1.5 C threshold.

NASA record Warm February

(February of 2016 showed an extreme departure from global average temperatures. Much of the extra heat focused on the Northern Polar region with the High Arctic bearing the brunt of it. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Japan’s Met Agency also showed February temperatures exceeding 1.5 C above 1880s averages. So we only await NOAA’s findings for final confirmation.

Overall, these temperatures were the highest anomaly departure ever recorded in the NASA GISS monitor. The previous highest anomaly reading being January of 2016 at +1.14 C above 20th Century and +1.36 C above 1880s averages. Overall, the three month period of December, January and February hit an amazing +1.20 C above 20th Century averages or +1.42 C above 1880s averages. Overall, this three month departure is +0.51 C above peak three month departures during the 1997-1998 El Nino or a peak-to-peak warming from strong El Nino to strong El Nino at a rate of 0.28 C per decade.

Such high peak to peak increases may imply an acceleration above the baseline rate of warming of 0.15 to 0.2 C per decade since the late 1970s. However, such above baseline rates of warming will need to also bear out in the post strong El Nino record before such a claim can be made with any confidence.

Ridiculous Amount of Heat Over the Northern Polar Region

Looking at the geographical distribution of these extreme, above average, temperatures we find a broad swath of record heat in the range of 4 to 11.5 degrees Celsius hotter than normal covering a huge swath surrounding and including the Arctic. A region stretching from just north and west of the Great Lakes including Northwest Canada, Alaska, the Beaufort and East Siberian Seas, the Chukchi, the Laptev, the Kara, a huge expanse of Europe and Asia stretching from Eastern Europe to Lake Baikal and north to the Arctic Ocean, the Barents, the Greenland Sea, the Northeast tip of Greenland and most of the region of the High Arctic above the 80 degree North Latitude line, all experienced these extremely warm readings.

Still very warm 2 to 4 C above average temperatures surrounded much of this zone even as a broad 2-4 C above average hot spot is apparent over the record El Nino region of the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. Smaller regions experiencing similar 2 to 4 C anomalies include sections of Brazil and Columbia, a region over Southern Africa, Northern Australia and Northern New Zealand.

Overall, very few regions show cooler than normal temperatures — though the cool pool just south and east of Greenland continues to stand out as a feature that is likely related to human-forced climate change.

Feb zonal anomalies NASA

(Zonal anomalies show an extreme polar amplification signature for February of 2016. Image source: NASA GISS.)

The disposition of extreme temperature departures centering over the Northern Polar zone is indicative of a pattern of extreme polar amplification during a strong El Nino year. As such, we can infer that the circumpolar winds did little to keep warm, Equatorial Pacific air isolated to the lower Latitudes and instead had weakened to the point that Equator to Pole heat transfer was facilitated.

The temperature anomaly map at the top implies a warm meridional air flow issuing directly from the Equatorial Pacific and over the Northeast Pacific and Western North America. A second implied meridional wind pattern appears running from the Eastern Equatorial Atlantic over Western Europe and the Barents and Greenland seas. These dual Equator to Pole warm air slots appear to have helped to push High Latitude zonal anomalies in the polar region to very extreme warm temperatures for February with the highest departures approaching 6 degrees Celsius above average for the entire region north of the 80 degree Latitude line.

Arctic Degree Days above Freezing

(We’re going to need a bigger graph to measure the Freezing Degree Day anomaly below average which has now hit near -1,000. An above average warmth that has continued since a spate of record Winter heat during February. It’s an all-time low in a measure that typically doesn’t level off until June. For reference, the less Freezing Degree Days, the closer the Arctic is to thawing. Image source: CIRES1.)

Zonal anomalies remain high above the 45 degree North Line — hitting a steep slope from 2 C to 6 C as we progress northward. An Equatorial peak in the range of 1.3 C above average is also observed near and just south of the Equator. But despite an extreme El Nino, these departures are nowhere near those seen in the upper Latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Pretty much all zones except for the heat sink region in the 60s South Latitude over the Southern Ocean and the far south over Antarctica experienced above average temperatures for the month.

Conditions in Context — Signature of Climate Change in the Anomaly Maps Continues, Global Temperatures to Settle Back into a New High Range

The extreme polar warming, the visible warm air slots facilitating Equator to Pole heat transfer, and the overall very strong global temperature departure for February continue to express the signature of human forced climate change as predicted by many of the global model runs. The extreme Winter heat in the Arctic — while a sign of things to come during this strong El Nino year — is also an early blow to snow and ice in the Arctic for 2016 and 2017. Already, snow totals are at or near record low extent levels. Meanwhile, sea ice volume during February returned to near new record low levels as measured by PIOMAS. As a result, the melt risk to both sea and land ice in the Arctic will likely be quite high over the next two years.

GFS_anomaly_timeseries_global

(GFS temperature anomaly time series shows peak February 2016 global temperatures falling off implying a March global temperature average that will likely be somewhere between January and February values. Perhaps in the range of near 1.4 C above 1880s or 1.2 C above the NASA baseline. Image source: Karsten Hausten using GFS data.)

It is worth noting, though, that February of 2016 will likely be the highest monthly temperature anomaly we see for some time. A record El Nino is fading away from peak intensity and NOAA is now predicting a 50 percent chance of La Nina conditions by Fall. We can expect to see global temperatures now begin to fall off a bit as a record El Nino starts to fade. To this point, 2016 will likely hit a departure range near 1.2 or 1.3 C above 188os values. Post 2016 temperatures will likely hover up to 0.2 to 0.4 cooler than those values during La Nina years, with new global records possible at the onset of El Nino again in the 3-5 year timeframe.

To be very clear, though ENSO sets the short term trend, the long term trend is governed by a human forced accumulation of heat-trapping gasses. And as long as that continues, the heating we’ve experienced will also continue. Finally, since we are now very close to hitting dangerous 1.5 and 2.0 C warming thresholds (possible within 5 years for 1.5 C and 15 years for 2 C in the worst case), we should be very clear that we are just passing the most recent peak in a long progression. The trend, therefore, is up and we have now been thrust into more dangerous times.

Links:

NASA GISS

The Roof is On Fire

Japan’s Met Agency

NOAA El Nino

Karsten Hausten

CIRES1

As a Titanic El Nino Begins to Fade, What Fresh Trouble Will a Record Warm World Bring?

Today the globe is feeling quite a bit of backlash from a human-warmed sea surface and atmosphere. As it ends up, Dr. Kevin Trenberth was right. Deep ocean warming set off by heat-trapping fossil fuel emissions and building up through the first two decades of the 21st Century did re-surge from the depths to haunt us in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In that wrenching global climate system shift to the hot side of natural variability, a titanic El Nino emerged. It was one of the top three strongest such events in the modern record. One that by NOAA’s measure appears to have tied the extreme event of 1998 at its peak intensity.

ONI sea surface temperature anomalies in Nino 3.4

(Sea surface temperature departure from average in the benchmark Nino 3.4 zone shows surface ocean heat anomalies for the 2015-2016 El Nino equaled peak 1997-1998 values. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

Expected Heat, Drought, and Storms Together With a Few Ominous Surprises

This event did push the world into extreme warmth even as predicted related severe weather flared in some of the typical regions. Annual average global temperatures rocketed to about 1.06 C above 1880s baselines during 2015 even as monthly departures hit 1.2 to 1.3 C or more higher than the same benchmark during December and January.

Amidst this great upheaval of global heat, the world also experienced yet one more wave of freak droughts (this time over Northern South America, the Caribbean, large swaths of Africa and Southeast Asia), heat-related mass casualty events, floods, and strongest hurricanes on record. Arctic and global sea ice measures are once again plunging to new record lows. A global coral bleaching event, perhaps the worst such instance ever experienced, was also set in motion.

The predicted patterns and potential worse-case events (such as heatwave mass casualties, coral bleaching, and sea ice loss) were also contrasted by a number of surprises. The first and perhaps most ominous was the failure of El Nino to bust the California drought. Though the West Coast of the US did experience a number of storms, the pattern was more typical of normal Winter moisture for the Northwestern US even as drought continued throughout the Southwest.  Moisture instead tended to split fire-hose fashion — with storms either cycling northward into Alaska, the Aleutians, or the Bering Sea, or south over Southern Mexico or Central America, up across the Gulf and on out into a particularly severe storm zone forming in the North Atlantic.

30 day precipitation anomaly shows southwest drought continuing

(Over the last 30 days the southwest drought re-emerged as a blocking pattern again began to take hold over Western North America and the Eastern Pacific. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

This continued loss of moisture for the US Southwest despite a record El Nino is particularly apparent in the Climate Prediction Center’s most recent precipitation anomaly measure for the last 30 days. Here we find that large parts of Central and Southern California have received just 10 to 50 percent of typical rainfall for this period. Coupled with 1-3 C above average temperatures for the month, this loss of rainfall during what would typically be California’s wettest period has come as a disappointment to many who were hoping a strong El Nino would help break the state out of a crippling drought. Now, the window for late Winter and early Spring rains is starting to close even as the blocking pattern appears to be strongly re-established in both the present weather pattern and in the forecast model runs.

But perhaps the biggest surprise coming from this El Nino year was a set of weather events in the North Atlantic that were likely more related to climate change. There, severe storms hammered a flood-beleaguered UK as a greatly distorted Jet Stream heaved Equatorial heat and moisture northward — rushing it up over a ridiculously warm and apparently backed-up Gulf Stream before slamming it on into a likely Greenland ice melt-outflow related cool pool. There the heat and moisture collided with cold to produce the epic storms that then vented their fury upon the UK.

Warm Arctic Storm

(December 29th saw temperatures rise above freezing at the North Pole — the first time temperatures have warmed so much for this high Arctic region so late in the year. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

During one such event, a daisy chain of heavy-hitting North Atlantic lows hurled high winds, heavy rains and epic surf at the UK even as the meridional flow set up by these powerful beasts shoved above-freezing temperatures all the way to the North Pole during late December. Yet one more unprecedented and unexpected event during a record warm year. One that looks more like a human forced warming which has overcome the traditional influences of El Nino, rather than an El Nino related impact in itself.

As El Nino Fades, Equatorial Heat Tends to Move Pole-ward

Though we may see these two events — the failure of El Nino to provide heavy rains to the US West Coast, and the massive northward pulses of storms, heat and moisture hitting the North Atlantic — as unrelated, the twain patterns appear to be linked to an ongoing polar amplification. Overall, heat within the Arctic has tended to weaken the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream over these two zones. And even during El Nino, when the Jet would have typically strengthened, we have continued to see high amplitude wave patterns forming over these regions.

But as El Nino weakens and the Equator cools, the Jet Stream would tend to slow even more. Such an atmospheric state would tend to further exaggerate already significant Jet Stream wave patterns — transferring still more low-Latitude heat poleward. In addition, the ocean gyres tend to speed up as El Nino fades or transitions to La Nina. The result is an amplified pulse of warmer waters emerging from southern Latitudes and entering the Arctic.

It’s for these combined reasons — tendency to amplify south to north atmospheric heat transfer into the Arctic post El Nino and tendency to flush warmer waters toward Arctic Ocean zones during the same period that it appears we are entering a high risk time for potential new sea ice melts and possible related Greenland land ice melts during 2016 and 2017.

Hot Blobs

(Northeastern Pacific Hot Blob remains at high intensity even as its size is predicted to expand through July. Meanwhile, very warm sea surface temperatures are predicted to remain in place off the Eastern Seaboard. The net effect of these two hot blobs may be to shove the Jet Stream far northward over North America during the summer of 2016 — potentially increasing the risk of widespread and potentially record heat and drought. Predicted very warm sea surfaces in the region of the Barents and Greenland seas — in excess of 3 C above average for a large region — is also cause for concern. This is not only due to risk for sea ice loss through this zone, but also due to its potential to set off blocking pattern and heat dome formation over Eastern Europe and Western Russia. Image source: NOAA/CFS.)

In addition, we are at serious risk of seeing the high amplitude blocks and wave patterns re-establish and persist, especially in the zone over Western North America were a related Northeastern Pacific Hot Blob is expected to restrengthen as El Nino fades. In fact, large regions of the US may fall under record to near record heat and drought this summer due to the combined influences of two very warm ocean zones surrounding her shores. Models now indicate a particular late spring drought risk for the Great Lakes region as well as an extended period of far above average temperatures for pretty much all of the Continental US during summer. Meanwhile, predicted above average spring-time precipitation for the Southwest appears less and less likely to emerge.

Finally, extreme above average sea surface temperatures are predicted to intensify over the Barents and Greenland seas through to end of Summer 2016. This is an area to watch. The added ocean heat would tend to pull the Jet Stream northward over Eastern Europe and Western Russia — generating risk of heatwaves and drought for this region even as Central Asia fell under risk of floods. Long range CFS precipitation and temperature model runs for Europe have not yet picked up this risk. However, given the intensity of heat predicted for Barents sea surfaces and the related tendency of warmth over oceans and in the far north to influence the formation of blocking patterns, heat domes, and high amplitude troughs, it’s worth keeping a weather eye on the situation.

El Nino to Weaken and Then Return; or is a Shift to La Nina Now Under Way?

Related to a polar and ocean warming-enhanced tendency to generate high amplitude Jet Stream waves — as well as associated persistent heatwaves, droughts, and floods — is the heat balance of the Equatorial Pacific. Strong El Ninos, or even a tendency to remain in or near an El Nino state, has historically aided in the breaking of new record global high temperatures when linking up to the greenhouse gas warming trend. Meanwhile, the shift toward La Nina has tended to enhance a range of global heating related issues including record rainfall events and large injections of heat toward the poles in the drop off from El Nino to La Nina.

The cause for increased risk of major precipitation events is due to the fact that El Nino is providing a massive moisture bleed into the atmosphere at times of peak intensity. With the current El Nino topping out near record levels and with global temperatures at above 1 C higher than 1880s averages, global atmospheric moisture levels are hitting new record highs at this time. If global temperatures subsequently drop by around 0.1 to 0.2 C during a transition into La Nina (into a range about 0.9 to 0.8 C hotter than 1880s values) then the atmosphere will be unable to keep a larger portion of that extra moisture in suspension and it will fall out as precipitation — primarily wringing out where the major trough zones tend to set up. We should be very clear here in saying that the drought risk related to a global warming intensification of ridge and heat dome formation is not reduced during such instances — just that the risk of extreme precipitation events is enhanced.

Russian Heatwave Pakistan Floods Jet Stream

(During 2011, as the 2010 El Nino faded into La Nina conditions, a high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream set off record heat, drought and wildfires over Russia even as Pakistan was hit by a month-long deluge that was the worst rainfall event for the region in the last 1,000 years. La Nina’s tendency to wring excess water out of the atmosphere can enhance the risk for such events to occur in a warming climate state. Image source: NASA.)

As for risks to sea ice, we’ve provided some of the explanation above. However, it’s also worth noting that the mobility of heat poleward tends to be enhanced during the periods when El Nino drops off toward La Nina. During these times, Equatorial heat tends to propagate in wave fashion toward the Poles — especially toward the Northern Hemisphere Pole which has already lost its strong Jet Stream protection warding away warm air invasions.

These two factors are major issues when considering whether La Nina or an ENSO Nuetral state will appear post El Nino during 2016. But there is a third — rate of global temperature rise. Though the primary driver of global warming is a massive human fossil fuel emission, the response of the world ocean system can significantly wag the rate of atmospheric temperature increases on a decadal time scale. If the ocean tendency is for La Nina, this would tend to somewhat suppress the overall decadal rate of temperature increase — and we saw this during the 2000s. But if the ocean tendency is to produce El Ninos (in a switch to a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation, as appears to be happening now), then the overall pace of global atmospheric temperature increase would tend to be enhanced.

La Nina Emerges

( IRI/CPC consensus model runs show a drop off to a weak La Nina by late in the year. However, CFS model runs [image below] have shown a tendency to predict a resurgence of El Nino conditions by Fall. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

To this point we find that the official model forecast consensus published by NOAA (IRI/CPC figure above) shows a transition to ENSO neutral states by May, June, and July which then proceeds on to a very weak La Nina by Fall. In such a drop off, we would likely still see record global high temperatures during the period of 2016 (in the range of 1.03 to 1.15 C above 1880s values).

However, the late 2016 and 2017 tendency for temperatures to recede from new record highs would be somewhat enhanced (likely dropping below the 1 C above 1880s mark in 2017 or 2018 before again making a challenge to the 2015-2016 record with the potential formation of a new El Nino in the 3-5 year time-frame of 2019 through 2021). It’s worth noting that this scenario shows an increased risk of a stronger warm air pulse heading toward the Northern Polar zone together with added fuel for extreme precipitation events as global temperatures would tend to drop off more swiftly from late 2015 and early 2016 peaks.

El Nino Continues

(CFSv2 model run — shows El Nino continuing on through the end of 2016. Over recent months, the CFSv2 series has shown a high accuracy. However, NOAA’s current forecast preference is for the IRI model set predictions [previous image above]. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

In contrast, the CFSv2 model forecast from NOAA (above image) shows El Nino only weakening through to July and then re-strengthening in the October-November time-frame. This CFS model scenario would result in higher atmospheric temperatures in 2016 — practically guaranteeing a lock on an unprecedented three back-to-back-to-back record warm years for 2014, 2015, and 2016. But such a scenario — implying that the Pacific Ocean had entered a new period of El Nino tendency — would also tend to keep atmospheric temperatures nearer to the newly established record highs.

Under the CFSv2 scenario, we may expect annual average global temperatures to rise as high as 1.08 to 1.2 C above 1880s values during 2016 (a very extreme departure and one uncomfortably close to the 1.5 C warming mark). These extreme values would, perhaps, recede to around between 0.9 and 1.1 C during 2017 so long as the second El Nino pulse did not remain in place for too long. However, if the bounce back toward El Nino conditions was strong enough in late 2016, there would be an outside chance that the globe may experience not 3, but an absolutely obnoxious 4 back-to-back record warm years.

NASA temperature trend

(During 2015 global annual temperature rocketed to above 1 C hotter than 1880s values. There’s at least an even chance that 2016 will be hotter still. Considering the considerable heating tendency imposed by a fossil fuel-forced warming of the world, how much worse can it get during the 21st Century’s second decade? Image source: NASA GISS.)

Meanwhile, the warm air pulse heading toward the poles may be somewhat muted under this scenario. A statement that should be qualified by the fact that we’ve already seen a substantial amount of El Nino heat heading poleward during the present event. In addition, potentially heavy rainfall events may not receive the added oomph of a decent global temperature drop to wring out more moisture. A statement that requires the further qualification that overall atmospheric moisture loading is enhanced by rising global temperatures — so comparatively less heavy rainfall is a relative term here.

At this time, NOAA favors a transition to La Nina forecast stating:

“A transition to ENSO-neutral is likely during late Northern Hemisphere spring or early summer 2016, with a possible transition to La Nina conditions by fall.”

However, it’s worth re-iterating that the CFSv2 model forecasts have been quite accurate in predicting the path of the current record El Nino to date.

Links:

NOAA/CPC

NASA GISS

Hothouse Mass Casualty Event Strike Eqypt

Southern Hemisphere’s Strongest Storm on Record

Punishing Four Season Storm Grips US

A Monster Arctic Melt Season May Have Already Begun

Deep Ocean Warming is Coming Back to Haunt Us

Warm Arctic Storm to Unfreeze the North Pole

More Signs of Gulf Stream Slowdown as Floods Devastate Cumbria England

Deconstruction of Asia’s Wild Weather

Hat tip to Caroline

 

Monster El Nino Hurls 43+ Foot Waves at US West Coast

For NOAA, it looks like we’re well on the way toward seeing one of the most powerful El Ninos ever recorded. And already, there’s some brutal Fall and Winter weather events starting to emerge as a result. One event, in particular, is today roaring into the US West Coast like a Godzilla-hurled freight train.

It’s just one upshot of a Monster El Nino in a record warm world. A weather and climate event — one likely pumped up by an overall atmospheric warming of 1 C above 1880s levels — that will likely continue to have severe and worsening global impacts over the coming months.

image

(Ocean waves hit insane heights of 43 feet [13.2 meters] today as another powerful storm roars into the US West Coast. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

One of the 3 Strongest El Ninos On Record

NOAA’s September, October, November ONI Index, the key zone for measuring El Nino strength, hit a +2.0 degree Celsius positive anomaly this week. That’s just 0.3 C shy of the most powerful El Nino ever recorded — 1997-1998 which peaked out at +2.3 C in the same monitor. With October, November and December likely to show even hotter overall readings for the Central Equatorial Pacific, it appears that the 2015-2016 El Nino will strike very close to this ONI high mark. Peak weekly sea surface temperature values already exceeded top 1997-1998 temperature levels for NOAA (+2.8 C for 1997-1998 vs + 3.1 C for 2015-2016). So we wait on the ONI three month measure for October, November and December to give broader confirmation.

The other major El Nino monitor — the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Australia — has weekly sea surface temperatures peaking at +2.5 C in the same zone. This is 0.2 C short of peak 1997-1998 values. BOM notes that the current El Nino is near peak and that, according to its own measures, is unlikely to exceed 1997-1998 but will likely hit within the top 3 strongest events. According to BOM:

The 2015–16 El Niño is strong, and likely to rank in the top three events of the past 50 years. Presently, several key indicators fall short of their 1997–98 and 1982–83 values, both in the ocean (e.g. sub-surface temperatures, which have peaked around +8 °C this year, compared to +12 °C in 1997–98), and atmosphere (e.g. SOI, for which monthly values peaked around −20, while 1982–83 had several months at −30).

NOAA sea surface temperature anomalies

(NOAA Equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature [SST] anomaly tracking appears to indicate that the 2015-2016 El Nino may have hit peak during mid November. Though a second peak is possible in December, atmospheric and ocean trends will tend to push for gradual SST cooling over the coming months. Overall, the 2015 to 2016 El Nino is likely to be among the top 3 strongest on record. A climate event that in a world warmed by 1 C above 1880s values has the potential to set off some very extreme weather over the coming months. Image source: NOAA SST Anoms 5N to 5S.)

Based on a reading of these two analysis by expert agencies, we revise our previous statements to come into line with NOAA and BOM forecasting. Though it’s still possible that 2015-2016 may exceed peak 1997-1998 intensity, it is more likely that the current El Nino will fall into the range of the top three most intense such events. This is likely due to the fact that El Nino has probably already peaked and that though some indicators show 2015 as exceeding 1997-1998 in intensity (NOAA weekly SST values), the broader, long-term indicators still rank 1997-1998 as the most intense in the modern record.

Potentially Very Severe Weather on The Way

That’s not to say that related weather events won’t be quite extreme. In some respects, hottest ever atmospheric and ocean temperatures on a global basis provide even more available energy for storms, heavy rainfall, droughts, and wildfires. Globally, the Earth has warmed by between 0.2 and 0.3 C from peak 1997-1998 atmospheric temperature values to those we are likely to experience during 2015 and 2016. That means rates of evaporation and precipitation have increased by about 2 percent overall. In addition, new climate instabilities have tended to arise due to increased rates of glacial melt, polar amplification (especially in the Northern Hemisphere), and related ocean surface warming along with the weakening of some of the major oceanic heat conveying currents.

A top 3 strongest El Nino firing off in this global climate environment is, therefore, not entirely the same creature as a Monster El Nino firing off during the 1980s or even the 1997-1998 El Nino. In particular, the added atmospheric moisture loading, the slowing down of the Gulf Stream off the US East Coast and related back-up of warm water in that region, and the added rates of evaporation due to overall warming of the Earth-Ocean system present potentially more severe drought hazards for regions like Brazil and Australia, potentially more severe extreme storm hazards for the US West Coast as the storm track ramps up, and potentially more severe Winter oceanic and coastal storm hazards for the US East Coast, the North Atlantic and the United Kingdom.

Disaster Officials Worry, Make Calls For Readiness

Federal disaster officials are keenly aware of these risks and have been issuing warnings for regions of the US West Coast since October. NOAA and FEMA bulletins have urged people to keep extra food and water on hand and to prepare for extended periods of sheltering in place during heavy rainfall, landslide, snowfall or coastal flooding events. Statements today continue to urge preparedness for what is likely to be a very extreme Winter weather season. In San Jose Mercury News, FEMA emergency manager Bob Fenton expressed his extreme concern today after a disaster preparedness drill in Sacramento:

“It is critical that citizens take the risk seriously. If you hear a warning to evacuate, act accordingly. People often want to ‘wait and see’ — but, please, don’t wait. Everything can be replaced, but your life can’t.”

The US Southwest and South-Central California are especially vulnerable to severe flooding events during strong El Ninos in the December, January, February timeframe. Such events can deliver powerful rivers of tropical moisture to this region. Called Pineapple Express, these atmospheric rivers can develop along an arc running from the Equator, through Hawaii and then terminating over the US Southwest. The most extreme of these events have the potential to deliver 200, 500, or 1000 year deluges resulting in many feet of rainfall for the Central Valley region. A situation that some researchers have called an Ark-Storm and have linked to the (likely El Nino-related) Great Flood of 1862.

In today’s context, we have one of the top 3 strongest El Ninos firing off in an atmosphere that, due to human forced warming in the range of 1 C, sees an overall 7-8 percent increase in the rate of evaporation (vs 1880s contexts) and precipitation. So any river of moisture that does develop may likewise become further engorged than was previously typical, thus resulting in more severe rain storms and a related heightened flood risk. It’s a risk, that in any case, FEMA disaster managers are taking very seriously.

43 Foot Waves off US West Coast

As officials issued warnings and FEMA managers drilled in Southern California, another powerful storm packing 60-80 mile per hour winds, heavy rains, and 43+ foot waves roared into the US West Coast this week. The 960 mb storm kicked off coastal flood, gale and storm warnings from Northern California through Washington State.

West Coast Storm

(Another powerful storm roars into the US West Coast bringing with it flooding rains, heavy surf, coastal storm surges, and mountain snows. The currently very strong El Nino is likely deliver more severe storms of this kind over the coming months. Image source: NOAA GOES.)

Interior flood warnings were also issued as between 4 and 18 inches of rain fell over the past 3 days with 2-4 inches more expected today. The event had already spurred over 9 landslides even as, according to the Weather Channel, more than two dozen river gauges had topped flood stage across Washington and Oregon. It’s a heavy soaking that began in November and just keeps getting worse with each new storm.

These storms are fueled by a powerful flood of heat and moisture boiling off the Godzilla El Nino in the Pacific. A dynamic that’s generating an extraordinarily powerful Pacific storm tack. This week, models predict another extreme storm — one that is expected to bomb out as a 930 mb monster packing 75 kt winds and 52+ foot waves in the Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska. And given the way El Nino is charging up the atmosphere, these Pacific beasts are bound to keep roaring on in.

 

Links:

Climate Prediction Center — Cold and Warm Episodes by Season

Monster 2015 El Nino May Be Most Intense Ever Seen

Earth Nullschool

Pacific Northwest Storm Parade to Bring Rain, Wind and Snow

NOAA SST Anoms 5N to 5S

Federal Officials Warn Californians to Prepare for Onslaught

NOAA GOES

NOAA Ocean Prediction Center — Pacific

Hat tip to DT Lange

 

 

Monster 2015 El Nino May Be Most Intense Ever Seen

For nearly two years now, we’ve had every indication that Dr. Kevin Trenberth was right. A human-forced warming of the deep and middle ocean was indeed coming back to haunt us. Back during early 2014, signs were that a Monster El Nino was building in the Equatorial Pacific. This slow bleed of added heat to the Earth’s mid-section, in turn, forced global temperatures higher, leading to a record hot year during 2014, what will surely be a record hot year during 2015, and what may well also become a record hot year during 2016.

A primary driver of this record global surface heat was a period of extreme warming throughout the Pacific Ocean. A warming that increasingly centered upon the Equatorial Pacific as a Monster El Nino emerged and grew ever stronger.

The Strongest El Nino on Record

By mid summer, we had early indications that the 2015 event was likely to come in as the 1rst to 3rst strongest on record. Since that time, temperatures within the key NINO 3.4 region gradually built up.

Sea Surface temperature anomalies Nino 3.4

(Sea surface temperature anomalies in the benchmark NINO 3.4 zone hit an extreme high temperature departure of 3.0 degrees Celsius above average in the NOAA monitor this Monday. These temperatures are the hottest ever recorded for this region of the Pacific. An indication that the 2015 El Nino is shaping up to beat out even the 1997-1998 El Nino as the strongest such event ever in the modern meteorological record. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

Two weeks ago, according to NOAA’s weekly El Nino monitor, average temperatures for the zone hit a +2.8 C positive anomaly. This extreme high temperature reading tied the weekly peak recorded by the NOAA measure in the same region during the record 1997-1998 El Nino. It looked like the 2015 El Nino was on track to at least tie the all time most intense El Nino ever recorded in the NOAA measure.

The 2015 El Nino, at that time had rocketed into record range. Any further strengthening and 2015 would be a monster El Nino year to beat out every other. And through the intervening time heat continued to build, spilling out of the ocean surface, pumping out volumes of heat and moisture that would have been considered unimaginable just a year and a half ago.

1997 vs 2015 El Nino

(The 1997 El Nino ramped up and peaked rapidly. In contrast, 2015 gradually built up from a start during 2014 and didn’t hit a rapid ramp until summer and fall of 2015. Currently, sea surface temperatures in the critical Nino 3.4 zone well exceed that of the 1997 event in the NOAA monitor. It is also worth noting that overall heat content throughout the 2015 event has been greater — with higher temperatures so far lasting longer than during the 1997-1998 El Nino. Image source: Jan Null at Golden Gate Weather via Twitter and Weather Underground.)

As a result, NOAA this week marked the hottest sea surface temperatures ever recorded in the NINO 3.4 zone of the Equatorial Pacific. Sea surface temperature anomalies for the region hit an extraordinary 3.0 degrees Celsius above the climatological average. This new reading shatters the old weekly record set for the 1997-1998 El Nino and is yet one more indication that the 2015 El Nino is a monster event without precedent in the global climate record. In other words, we’ve never seen anything like this before.

Early Indications that Heat Continues to Build

Despite the fact that the current El Nino has already shattered weekly temperature records, it appears that warming for the critical NINO 3.4 zone continued to build through November 16 and 17. Daily Sea Surface Temperature monitors, as provided graphically by Earth Nullschool give us a basis for comparison with the NOAA measure. And over the past two months a very rudimentary grid analysis of the data reimaged through Earth Nullschool has shown sea surface temperatures about 0.2 C hotter than the weekly NINO 3.4 averages provided by NOAA.

Yesterday, this analysis provided a reading of 3.4 degrees Celsius above average in the NINO 3.4 zone — roughly corresponding with a NOAA reading in the range of 3.2 C above average. Today, the reading is in the range of 3.3 C hotter than average — corresponding with a NOAA reading near 3.1 C above average.

image

(The Equatorial Pacific Ocean splits open and disgorges a record amount of heat in today’s Earth Nullschool sea surface temperature anomaly graphic. What we are seeing, at this time, is what is shaping up to be the strongest El Nino ever recorded in the climate record. An event that is likely driven, at least in part, by the extraordinary volume of greenhouse gasses human beings have dumped into the Earth climate system. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Overall, the appearance, during recent days, of a band of 4 to 4.5 C above average sea surface temperatures stretching from 120 to 160 West along and near the Equator is yet one more indication that the current record El Nino has continued to intensify. And a broader look at the entire northern Pacific Ocean shows abnormal heat stretching all the way from Equator to Pole. This extra North Pacific heat, especially the hot zone off the West Coast of North America is providing an atmospheric and ocean inertia which pushes El Nino toward further strengthening even as it aids in the maintenance of El Nino conditions overall.

In other words, we may be near the peak of the 2015 El Nino. But the overall ocean picture and trend still points toward the possibility for more strengthening in store. And what this means is that more records are likely to fall over the coming weeks. That El Nino related weather around the world is likely to hit some amazing and potentially very dangerous extremes over the next four months. And that global temperatures are likely to explore new extreme record ranges, as we have already seen during October, over the coming 4-6 months.

Links:

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Deep Ocean Warming is Coming Back to Haunt Us

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths?

El Nino of 2015 Hits All Time Record Strength For A One-Week Period

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Monitor

Earth Nullschool

Hat tip to Todaysguestis

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Global temperature anomalies September of 2015

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

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

NASA Shows September of 2015 was Second Hottest on Record

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

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

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

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

Land Ocean Temp Map September of 2015

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

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

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

NASA zonal anomalies

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

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

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

Winter Weather for 2015 May Feature Some Unexpected Twists

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

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

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

Links:

Japan’s Meteorological Agency

NASA GISS

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

World Ocean Heartbeat Fading?

Living in a World at 480 CO2e

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

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

****

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

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

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

Sea surface height anomalies

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

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

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

Strong Westerly Wind Burst Lends More Energy to El Nino

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

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

image

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

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

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

Not Normal Winter Weather on the Way

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

New Global Temperature Records For 2015 Likely a Lock

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

Links:

Earth Observatory: El Nino Strengthening

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

Earth Nullschool

Godzilla El Nino vs the Hot Blob

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

Climate Change’s Hot Blob Still Blankets Northeastern Pacific

Halfway to 2 C

Nasty Signs North Atlantic Overturning Circulation is Weakening

New Study — Risk of Significant Methane Release From East Siberian Arctic Shelf Still Growing

Large plumes of methane bubbling up from the Arctic Ocean sea-bed, saturating the water column, venting into the air, adding significantly more heat forcing to an already dangerous, fossil fuel-based, accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s a nightmare scenario. One in which human-forced warming, already at 1 C above 1880s levels, is further amplified through the feedback release of ancient carbon stored over the past 8 million years of Northern Hemisphere glaciation. And a recent study by the now famous Semiletov and Shakhova team provides still more reason for appropriate concern that such an event may be in the works.

ESAS methane release organic carbon store

(Shakhova and Semiletov’s new study produces an increasingly clear picture of a destabilizing organic carbon store beneath thawing permafrost in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf region. The above images show organic carbon concentration [left frame] and rate of release of methane in grams per square meter per day over observed regions. Image source: The Royal Society.)

*  *  *  *  *  *

By now, many of us are familiar with the controversy over the potential risks of significant-to-catastrophic methane release due to human-forced warming of the ArcticAn increasing number of observational specialists are pointing toward a risk that rapid human warming will set off the release of still more carbon in the Arctic. For some, this release is expected to be gradual. Others believe there’s enough risk of a rapid release to warrant an equally rapid emergency response.

But regardless of where you stand on the issue, new research coming to light from some of the Arctic’s top observational scientists more clearly describes what appears to be an increasingly dangerous situation.

Disintegrating Permafrost Cap in ESAS

At issue is the fact that, at the end of the last ice age, a great store of permafrost carbon was submerged as the Arctic Ocean rose. A low lying region containing about 500 billion tons of carbon as methane became inundated by the shallow sea that is the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). The waters of this sea remained cold — below the freezing point of non-salt water in its lower reaches for most of the year. But, in some places, warmth invaded, and it is thought that small portions of the permafrost cap deteriorated.

In the near shore zones and in geologically active zones, methane conduits called taliks developed. And from these expanding taliks an increasing amount of methane bubbled to the surface.

Submerged Thermokarst Lake

(Ivashkina Lagoon was once a thermokarst lake. It has since been flooded by the Laptev Sea. For much of the time of inundation, the fresh water lake surface remained frozen. It is now thawing and releasing its organic carbon store as methane. Image source: The Royal Society.)

However, for the most part, the permafrost cap over the methane stores remained in tact — waiting to be rejuvenated by a new ice age. That is, until human industry belched billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, removing the possibility of a new ice age and forcing the world ocean and connecting Arctic Ocean to begin to warm in excess of peak Holocene temperatures. This warming, twice as fast in the Arctic as in the rest of the world, added still more heat pressure to the permafrost cap locking methane within the ESAS sea floor.

Now, more and more permafrost beneath the shallow ESAS waters is starting to thaw. And this, much more rapid than normal thaw is resulting in an increasing risk that methane stores beneath the permafrost cap will destabilize.

Shallow Waters, Geothermal Hot Spots, Taliks

Recent observational records by Dr. Natalia Shakhova and Dr. Igor Semiletov have found what they hypothesize to be an expanding array of methane vents in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf sea bed. According to their recent research, the vents appear to be growing more robust — bubbling up greater volumes of methane from a more vigorous and inter-connected network of channel beneath the thawing sea floor.

Atmospheric Methane September 6 2015

(Ever since 2005, atmospheric methane levels have again been on the rise. Much of this increase may be due to human emissions. However, an overburden of atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide in the Arctic zone hints that destabilizing carbon stores may also be adding substantial volumes of greenhouse gasses to the world’s airs. Image source: NOAA OSPO.)

Currently, according to Shakhova and Semiletov, methane emissions are most vigorous in the near-shore region of the ESAS and in the offshore slope region. Shakhova and Semiletov believe that near shore emissions are increasingly active due to rapid warming occurring there. Not only are the regional waters impacted by a rapidly warming Siberian land mass. They also see the flux of hotter waters from rivers issuing from the continent. As a result, the near shore region is most vulnerable to permafrost thaw and destabilization. In the slope zone, however, geological features are more active. These features provide a natural heat for the formation of taliks. And though most of this region was once frozen to the point that even geological activity did not result in methane venting, the now warming permafrost cap is generating weaker regions that natural geological heat can exploit to greater and greater degrees.

Sea Ice Melt, Storms, Heighten Methane Emissions

Ever since the mid 2000s Shakhova and Semiletov have observed what appears to be a generally heightened methane emission coming from the ESAS. Estimates for total release rates have doubled and then doubled again. By 2013, the scientists were estimating that 17 million tons of methane was venting from the ESAS sea surface each year.

The increased rate of methane release is not only due to permafrost thaw on the sea floor. It is also due to an increase in large polynyas in the ESAS during winter time as well as an overall increase in the area of open water that can be impacted by storms. An ice locked ESAS keeps more of its methane in the water column and gives the methane a longer period to be absorbed by the water or consumed by microbes. But as the ice recedes, more of the methane is able to break the surface and reach the airs above. In addition, ice free seas are more susceptible to the action of storms. Storms increase wave heights, increase the rate of breaking waves, and reduces ocean surface stratification. As a result methane moves more rapidly through the upper level water column and encounters a larger surface area from which to transfer from water to air.

An ice free ESAS is not only warmer, generating more destabilization forcing to the permafrost cap which locks in methane, it is also more and more devoid of the surface ice cap which acts as a secondary barrier to methane to air transfer.

Shakhova, Semiletov Recommend Adding ESAS Methane Release to Global Climate Models

Shakhova and Semiletov’s findings continue to compel them to issue warnings over the prospect of continuing increases in methane emissions from the ESAS and nearby seas. They conclude:

The observed range in CH4 emissions associated with different degrees of subsea permafrost disintegration implies substantial and potent emission enhancement in the ESAS as the process of subsea permafrost thawing progresses with time. While it is still unclear how quickly CH4 flux rates will change, the current process of Arctic warming and associated sea ice loss will accelerate this process. The potential for the release of substantial amounts of CH4 from the ESAS region has important implications not only for atmospheric CH4 concentrations but also, given CH4‘s potency as a greenhouse gas, for the global climate. Because the ESAS contains the largest and arguably most vulnerable stores of subsea CH4, inclusion of the ESAS source in global climate models should be considered a high priority.

Links:

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf: Further Assessment of Permafrost Related Fluxes and the Role of Sea Ice

Double the Rate of Methane Release From the Arctic Sea Floor

NOAA OSPO

Concern Over Arctic Methane Release

Threat of Permafrost Destabilization is ‘Real and Imminent’

 

El Nino Crosses Monstrous Event Threshold

What’s the worst sin of all? If you agree with the Greek playwrights it would have to be hubris — or pride so terrible that it results in blindness. For the fossil fuel industry and its sock puppets — like Anthony Watts and Bob Tisdale — hubris probably best describes their response to anything climate change related.

Hollow Laughter at Climate Monsters

A year and a half ago, these fossil fuel industry supported purveyors of climate change denial quackery derided this blog for reporting on the risk of a potential Monster El Nino emerging in 2014 and 2015. They claimed the researchers and experts here knew nothing about El Nino. They used the fact that I sometimes write fiction as a kind of flimsy ad-hominem support to this blatantly false claim. Lacking any creativity or freedom of expression, they continued to rattle off their authoritarian, scripted, boiled-down, Heartland-produced talking points.

Kelvin Wave Monster El Nino Emerging

(The warm Kelvin Wave that never really went away. Strong Westerlies during 2014 and 2015 shoved extremely warm Pacific Ocean waters eastward where they eventually backed up to the surface, setting off a series of record and near record ocean temperature events. Image source: NOAA.)

The misrepresentations they developed were as contrived as they were tortured — Pacific Ocean heat content was normal, they said. The underlying heat imbalance was not capable of resulting in a monster El Nino event, they claimed. Global warming didn’t exist to the point that it could have any impact on El Nino, they asserted. It was all just one more scam in their endless bid to de-inform the public and pretend the climate change elephant in the room doesn’t exist at all. Just one more fossil fuel industry cover-up at the tail of a nearly endless list.

They did this even as they continued to ignore and attack the relevant science and its scientific luminaries — both standard and climate change related. And so blinded, they laughed and laughed like fools drunk on their own special interest inspired logical fallacies as the potential for a monster event grew.

More than anything else, it’s a cautionary tale. If you listen to Bob Tisdale or Watts (a man who uses his last name to throw derision at our understanding of Earth’s Energy imbalance), more than likely you’re going to end up being surprised by what’s coming down the pipe. So better not to buy into their nonsense and end up as blind to future risks as they are, or worse, contribute to those risks by failing to support a rapid reduction of fossil fuel burning.

Hitting 5 C Positive Anomaly

In July of 2015, as we initially warned may happen, sea surface temperature anomalies hit above 5 C in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. Though the first Kelvin waves failed to achieve this mark, the ocean and atmospheric heat imbalances remained and wave after warm wave just kept shoving more heat into the El Nino firing zone.

El Nino Starting to Look Monstrous

(On July 10, 2015, something that Anthony Watts and Bob Tisdale believed wouldn’t happen happened — sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific hit a +5.1 C positive anomaly. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

These waves were fed by an endless series of Westerlies in the Western Pacific pushing the hot surface waters down and eastward. Firing off throughout 2014 and 2015, some of these MJO related westerlies were so strong as to have hit record marks. A monstrous El Nino was fighting to break out and there wasn’t any kind of oceanic or atmospheric inertia that appeared to be able to hold it back.

Subsurface heat was skyrocketing. And by Spring of this year upper ocean heat anomalies had hit and were maintaining a range between 1.4 and 1.8 C above average. By August, a westerly wind burst that continued for more than 40 days running had shoved the upper ocean anomalies into the range of nearly 2 C above average.

The massive heat pulses hit the surface and then steadily rippled westward. The spiking temperature anomalies were so strong as to set off a record longest period for +1 C above ‘average’ temperatures for all El Nino zones. A period that finally ended with this week’s NOAA El Nino report as values again dipped to 0.9 C positive anomaly in the Nino 4 zone.

Central Pacific Heat Rockets into Monster El Nino Range

But in the critical Nino 3.4 zone, temperatures continued their steady climb. As of this week, readings had hit a +1.9 C anomaly in that benchmark. In other words, the current El Nino just rocketed past the 1.8 C monster event threshold without so much as a blink.

It’s a very high reading for August when we’re still supposed to be building toward an El Nino predicted to peak in October or November. A reading that is already in the range of a monster event in the weekly monitor. A reading that, even if it were to simply maintain, would mark one of the most intense El Ninos on record.

NINO zones SSTA

(Nino 3.4 hits Monster event threshold in the NOAA monitor as of this week’s most recent update. Image source: NOAA.)

But the heat build into Nino 3.4 appears to be steadily ramping up. The warm Kelvin wave and powerful upper ocean heat anomalies continue along their path of rebound to mid ocean. An upper ocean heat pulse as strong as it’s ever been throughout 2014 and 2015. All of it on a rendezvous with the Central Pacific over the next 4-12 weeks.

Heat Pulse Ahead of Most Models

The jump to 1.9 C thresholds this week came as a bit of a surprise as the corrected consensus models NOAA uses point toward only 1.5 C to 1.7 C departures for August steadily warming to around 1.9 to 2.1 C above average readings by October and November. Such predictions are still enough to put the 2014-2015 El Nino in the range of top 3 events on record. But the jump to 1.9 C follows more along the pathways predicted by the UKMO to ECMWF ensembles — whose guidance shows mid ocean warming hitting 2.2 to even 3 C above average readings. Temperatures hitting such high marks in the Equatorial Pacific would exceed the maximum values seen during even the record 1997-1998 event.

image

(It’s getting very warm in the Central Equatorial Pacific. Sea surface temperature anomalies, which this map tracks, are at 3 C hotter than average in many regions of the Nino 3.4 zone ranging from 180 to 120 East Longitude. A level of heat that’s well ahead of some of the more conservative model guidance. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Overall, it looks as though the most likely 3 month average for the 2014 to 2015 event is in the range of +1.6 to +2.5 C putting the current El Nino tracking in the strong-to-monstrous range that we’ve been highlighting as a possibility for the past year and a half.

Conditions in Context

In the context of human-caused climate change such a powerful El Nino occurring during 2015 means that global average temperatures are likely to continue to hit new record high marks. The heat bleed off the Pacific Ocean is, for lack of a better word, massive. And not just in the Equatorial regions. The vast majority of the North Pacific features above average temperatures. The hot blob in the Northeastern Pacific remains firmly entrenched and a related south to north heat transport over Alaska and into the Pacific side of the Arctic remains firmly in place.

With these conditions so dug in, there is rising risk that the heat plume coming off a near record El Nino may be headed north. This could have severe implications for an already terrible set of polar amplification related conditions in the Arctic. Such a powerful heat plume would also reinforce storminess along a broad band from the south and eastern US and on across the North Atlantic where a climate change related cool pool (associated with Gulf Stream slowdown, AMOC weakening, and Greenland melt) is already in the process of intensifying the storm track. The result is a potential teleconnection between El Nino and a number of already well established climate change related patterns.

Climate Change Denial vs Active Event Tracking Aimed at Informing the Public

As for the fossil fuel industry funded deniers — I’m sure they’ll have a number of derisive things to say about this science-based analysis. For though I’m not a scientist (I’m an emerging threats expert), I do read the science (over 1,000 reports and papers so far on climate change alone). I listen to what scientists have to say rather than constantly attacking and attempting to undermine their positions. And to help me, I have scores of other experts and laypersons who often post their own fantastic analysis and reports in the comments section here. So what you find here is an honest effort by concerned people to keep track of a growing climate crisis and what you have over at Watts and Tisdale is, conversely, an active industry-based cover-up.

Since jump, those fossil fuel industry serfs have been attacking the pillars of climate science and the great scientists who’ve advanced our understanding of human caused climate change. Luminaries like Hansen, Mann, Schmidt, Francis, Trenberth, Wadhams, Shakhova, and Archer. They’ve attacked even the conservative reports of the IPCC. And they’ve attacked the people here — in some way thinking that we quail at the over-used term ‘alarmist.’

But we need not worry about them. Their endless quibbling represents little more than a constantly running and vicious commercial for the fossil fuel industry. Just as slanted, inaccurate, manipulative, and special interest focused. And as with any other annoying commercial the best thing to do is to simply hit the off button. We have far more important things to do than to overly concern ourselves with such shallow corporate mercenaries. We have threats to identify, policies to support, and lives to save. Them we’ll leave to their foundering and increasingly amoral corporate masters.

Links:

Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths

NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Earth Nullschool

Record MJO During Spring of 2015

(Please support public, non-special interest based science like the fantastic work done by NOAA and without which this report would not have been possible.)

Possible Strongest El Nino on Record Gets Another Kick From Upper Ocean Heat

For the month of July, El Nino crossed solidly into strong event thresholds. Temperatures in the key indicator Nino 3.4 region have continued to rise overall, hitting 1.5 degrees Celsius above average during the first week of the month, then hitting +1.7 and +1.6 C during the second and third weeks. Model consensus continues to show the heat building — hitting around +2.1 C in the average by October, November and December.

el-nino-noaa-photo-july-2015

(A NOAA comparison shows the 1997-1998 El Nino at peak heat during November of 1997 [left frame]. The right frame image shows the 2014-2016 El Nino during its mid July ramp-up. Note the hot blob of water off the US West Coast in the July 2015 image. Heat in this region tends to drive an atmospheric feedback that continues to push more warm water into the Eastern and Central Equatorial Pacific. Note that, due to this and other factors, the 2014-2016 will likely also hit a peak intensity during October or November. An intensity that could exceed the monster 1997-1998 El Nino event. Image source: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory.)

So much warming in this region of the Pacific would be enough to make the 2014-2016 El Nino nearly as strong as the 1997-1998 event. But, ominously, a few of our more trusted models show temperatures peaking out at around +3 C for the Nino 3.4 zone. A level that would exceed all previous thresholds for El Nino strength. It’s the kind of heat pulse that would re-write the record books for strong El Ninos. The kind that would enable global surface air temperatures — under the constant and building pressure of an excessive human greenhouse gas emission — to hit new and troubling record highs over the coming months.

For such a record event to happen, there needs to be a powerful plug of heat just beneath the ocean surface. It needs to back up into the Central Pacific and it needs to be intense enough to deliver the kind of heat energy predicted. And all indications are that the available heat energy for this potentially record event on the way.

A Massive Plug of Upper Ocean Heat

Back in March one of the strongest westerly wind outbreaks ever to occur in the Western Pacific sent a powerful wave of heat rippling out beneath the broadest section of equatorial ocean water in the world. Hot water, driven to near record temperatures by a human-forced warming of the atmosphere and ocean system spread out just below the surface and began to up-well — contacting the airs just off the West Coast of South America.

image

(Upper ocean heat is again ramping above the 1.8 C positive anomaly mark for the Equatorial Pacific. A sign that more surface warming is likely on the way. Image source: NOAA CPC.)

At that time, the NOAA measure of heat accumulated in the upper 400 meters of the Equatorial Pacific, showed temperatures had rocketed to 1.8 degrees Celsius above average for the entire basin. Since then, a series of west wind outbreaks have continued to pile abnormally warm water into the upper ocean environment — keeping temperatures in the range of 1.1 to 1.8 C above average.

Now, due to a very long duration westerly wind outbreak that began during late June and has extended for more than a month, upper ocean heat content is again on the rise. As of last week, it had rocketed again to 1.8 degrees Celsius above average for the basin. And signs indicated there was at least a moderate potential for continued strengthening of this heat pulse. Observational data and GFS model runs show a continuing westerly wind flow over the Western Pacific. Winds circling around two lows parallel to one another and straddling the Equator near 170 East are predicted to increase to near 25 to 35 mph over the next few days. It’s the most recent surge in this very long duration westerly wind outbreak. One that will likely only continue to drive more heat into the upper ocean environment.

Kelvin Wave

(A strong Kelvin Wave is now backing more and more heat into the Nino 3.4 zone. In watching the progress of upper ocean heat in this visualization, we could be witnessing the final stages of an event that will go down in the record books. Image source: NOAA CPC)

Already, we can see the strong, warm Kelvin Wave — which has been a persistent feature since mid March — becoming reinvigorated. The Kelvin Wave is now rebounding away from coastal South America even as its warm water zones expand. Its hottest waters are heading more toward mid Ocean. A trend that, if forecast models prove correct, will deliver serious heat to the middle Pacific sea surface region this Fall.

It’s a massive delivery of heat that we can now watch in slow motion. One that could now be in the process of delivering one of the strongest, if not the strongest El Nino in the history of record keeping for this ocean warming event.

Links:

NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory

NOAA CPC

NOAA’s Weekly El Nino Report

Strong Westerlies Push El Nino Toward Extreme Event

For the past two weeks, winds have been blowing in an anomalous west-to-east pattern across the Western Pacific. It’s the third such pattern since El Nino conditions began to become more prevalent during March of this year. And forecast model response to the most recent westerly wind burst is an overall shift toward predicting a record event. Models are starting to settle on at least a strong El Nino come fall (1.5 degree Celsius anomaly or greater for Nino 3.4) with many ensembles predicting something even more intense than the super El Nino of 1998.

This third, El Nino heightening, westerly wind burst (WWB) coincided with a strong, wet variation of the Madden Julian Oscillation pumping up thunderstorm activity throughout the region. Last week, a consistent 20-35 mph westerly wind pattern had become very well established. Over the past four days, multiple cyclones became embedded within the pattern, which now stretches over 3,000 miles in length, pushing locally stronger winds and reinforcing the already significant wind field.

By today four cyclonic systems, including Typhoon Chan-Hom, had further heightened westerly wind intensity:

image

(The current strong westerly wind burst is looking more and more like the extreme event of early March of this year. It’s the third such event — one that is increasing the likelihood that the 2015 El Nino will be one more for the record books. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

It’s a pattern that in today’s map looks very similar to the record event which occurred this Spring. And it’s the third significant WWB to initiate since March of this year.

WWBs push warm surface water in the Western Pacific downward and across the ocean (read more about how WWBs affect El Nino severity here). These warm water pulses traverse thousands of miles, finally resurfacing in the Eastern Pacific off South America. The resultant warming of surface waters there and through the mid ocean region tends to set in place ocean temperature and atmospheric patterns that reinforce El Nino — driving more westerly winds and still more warm water displacement eastward.

Three westerly wind bursts firing off since March of 2015 have pushed increasingly strong El Nino conditions. A warming of the Equatorial Pacific that, in combination with a massive and rapidly growing greenhouse gas overburden from human fossil fuel burning, is forcing  global temperature readings to hit new record high after new record high.

Nino 3.4 CSV2

(CFSv2 Model runs are pointing toward a very powerful anomaly come Fall. Image source: Climate Prediction Center.)

This third strong westerly wind burst appears to have again pushed model forecasts into very extreme ranges for Fall of this year. NOAA’s CFSv2 ensembles now predicts a peak sea surface temperature anomaly in the range of 2.5 degrees Celsius above average to 3.1 degrees Celsius above average. An El Nino of this strength would be significantly stronger than the monster event of 1998. One that would occur in a global context that includes an approximate 45 parts per million CO2e worth of heat trapping gas accumulation since that time. One that is now in the range of 1 C warming above 1880s averages (or 1/4th the difference between now and the last ice age, but on the side of hot).

Since we are now well past the spring predictability barrier, these new model runs have a higher potential accuracy. That said, we are still four months out and a number of additional factors would have to come into play to lock in such a powerful event. However, the trend is still for a strong to extraordinarily powerful El Nino. And since such an event is occurring in a record warm atmosphere and ocean environment (due to human-caused climate change), the continued potential for related additional anomalous weather events (drought, flood, wildfires, extreme tropical cyclones in the Pacific, etc) is also high enough to remain a serious concern.

Links:

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Earth Nullschool

Strong Influence of Westerly Wind Bursts on El Nino Diversity

Third Warm Kelvin Wave to Raise Extreme El Nino by Fall?

More fuel for El Nino’s fire and a record hot 2015 on the way…

Last week, a set of climate models predicted the emergence of a large and moderately strong westerly wind burst running against the trades associated with an eastward propagating cloudy and rainy phase of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). And, over the past few days a moderate strength, but very wide-ranging, westerly wind pattern appeared.

image

(A strengthening westerly wind burst over the Western Equatorial Pacific could produce a third warm Kelvin Wave and further heighten an El Nino that already has a potential to be very intense come Fall. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Today, 20 to 35 mile per hour westerly winds are prevalent along a 2,500 mile stretch of ocean running from just east of the Philippines, across an equatorial zone just north of New Guinea, and on eastward for hundreds more miles in the direction of the Date Line. The winds are associated with numerous low pressure systems developing both north and south of the Equator — their cyclonic wind patterns joining in a daisy chain like feature to drive a large synoptic westerly wind back-burst (WWB).

Over the next few days, winds within the zone are predicted to strengthen to near gale force intensity. But it’s the size of the zone that may have the greatest impact.

Strong, long-fetch westerlies in this region of the world have a tendency to push warm surface waters, now topping off at 31 degrees Celsius (and 1-2 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average), downward and eastward. This heat pump action generates what, in meteorological parlance, are known as warm Kelvin Waves. And warm Kelvin Waves are high energy fuel for strengthening El Ninos.

Two Warm Kelvin Waves

(Warm water propagation through the upper 300 meters of the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific serves as oceanic fuel for El Nino events. In the above graph by NOAA, not one but two warm Kelvin Waves are indicated — one peaking during April and May, and a second ongoing now. Will a significant westerly wind burst, now lighting off in the Western Pacific, generate a third warm Kelvin Wave by August? Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

During mid-March, the Strongest Madden Julian Oscillation on record drove an extreme westerly wind burst (WWB) and produced a very strong Kelvin Wave. This Kelvin Wave ensured the progression to El Nino during 2015, an El Nino event that would have probably reached moderate strength by summer on the force of this single Kelvin Wave’s heating alone. An El Nino ensuring, when combined with the greenhouse gas heat forcing produced by humans, that 2015 would march into the record books as yet one more hottest year in the global climate record.

By early May, a second, albeit somewhat weaker, WWB generated another warm Kelvin Wave, heightening the potential for strong El Nino yet again. This time El Nino model forecasts picked up the doubled Kelvin Wave signal and began to produce some rather extreme predictions for El Nino come Fall. Late spring is an uncertain time for El Nino models due to an ocean tendency to cool down by September. So the impact of strong Kelvin Waves during spring can be somewhat muted. However, as June arrived, the model consensus for a strong El Nino emerging by Fall had solidified, if not along a range quite so extreme as some of the May numbers indicated.

Meanwhile, in the Central Pacific, anomalous warm sea surface temperatures were continuing to build. By mid-May, Central Pacific sea surface temperatures exceeded the moderate El Nino threshold of 1 C above average. By Monday, June 22, NOAA’s weekly El Nino statement had indicated that the Central Pacific region had warmed to a 1.4 degree Celsius positive anomaly. A level just 0.1 C short of strong El Nino intensity.

Adding a third significant Westerly Wind Burst on top of an already warming Equatorial Pacific throws yet one more variable into the dynamic El Nino forecast. A variable that could heighten the already strong potential for a major El Nino event late this Summer through to Fall. And one that could further heighten extreme global record hot temperatures during 2015. For the late June WWB is likely to produce an extraordinary third Warm Kelvin Wave, giving the currently strengthening El Nino yet one more shove toward increasingly extreme conditions.

Links:

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (Please support public, non-special interest based, science like the quality research and data provided to us daily by NOAA.)

NOAA’s weekly El Nino statement

Strongest Madden Julian Oscillation On Record

Madden-Julian Oscillation

Earth Nullschool

 

NOAA Shows El Nino Yet to Have Full Impact on Global Temperatures — More Severe Warming During 2015 Likely in Store

2014 was the hottest year in the global climate record. It was a year when El Nino failed to get off the ground. And it was a year when CO2 levels were at or near 400 parts per million for most of the period.

Each of these points should be a matter of concern, especially as we confront a yet hotter year during 2015 in the face of a ramping El Nino and continually rising greenhouse gas concentrations from fossil fuel burning. Conditions that will likely continue to push record global heat toward ever more disturbing thresholds.

First Five Months of 2015 Hottest on Record; El Nino is Still Ramping Up

The most recent NOAA global analysis report and related updates highlight this potential and growing risk. First, NOAA data shows that the initial five months of 2015 were the hottest on record by a substantial margin. Hitting 0.85 C above the 20th Century average, this global heatwave beat out the previous hottest such period during 2010 by a substantial +0.09 C margin.

NOAA land and ocean temp anomalies

(NOAA shows extreme high temperature departures for the first five months of 2015. Image source: NOAA’s Global Analysis.)

These temperatures, basically 1.05 degrees Celsius above 1880s values in the NOAA measure, represent an extreme departure beyond norms over the past few thousands years and almost certainly exceed maximum Holocene values — putting the current age of human fossil fuel based warming in a context similar to the Eemian of 150,000 years ago. A context that is all the more dangerous and troubling due to a massive greenhouse gas overburden not seen in at least 3 million years and a very rapid ramping of overall global temperatures. A pace of warming and greenhouse gas accumulation possibly never seen in all the Earth’s deep history.

Of particular interest to the 2015 climate situation, however, is the fact that though 2010 was also an El Nino year and though 2015 has already hit significant positive temperature departures during its first five months, 2010 had already seen most of the El Nino heat build it was likely to experience by May. The Equatorial Pacific, during May of 2010 was starting a multi-month cool-down into La Nina. By contrast, 2015 is still ramping up to an El Nino event that, in some measures, is already stronger than the El Nino experienced during 2010. As a result, we are likely to see greater high temperature departures due to a ramping heat bleed coming off the Pacific as the months of 2015 continue to progress.

To this point NOAA notes:

The first five months of 2015 were the warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces, at 0.85°C (1.53°F) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.09°C (0.16°F). Consequently, 2010 was the last year with El Niño conditions; however El Niño was ending at this point in 2010, while it appears to be maturing at the same point in 2015.

NOAA’s ONI Adjustment Hints that Impact of Human Greenhouse Gas Emissions Was Greater, El Nino Less

Another issue is that NOAA also recently adjusted its Ocean Nino Index (ONI) downward for late 2014 and early 2015. ONI measures the intensity of El Nino by taking account of sea surface temperatures in the Central Pacific. What this means is that the slow start to the current El Nino was even slower and weaker than initially indicated. As a result, according to NOAA, El Nino’s variability-based influence of the record global temperatures experienced during 2014 and early 2015 was consequently less and the human greenhouse gas forcing’s impact was consequently more.

To this point it is important to emphasize that 2014 was not technically an El Nino year, yet new record high temperatures were experienced during that time. This is notable in that it implies the human heat forcing through greenhouse gas emissions is playing an ever greater role — crowding out the old signals and fluxes inherent to base natural global temperature variability.

Outside extreme weather events that are an upshot of this mangled variability have abounded during the first five months of 2015. During May, the State of Alaska experienced a massive temperature departure of 7 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Heat that has helped to set off a spate of extreme wildfires that now risk hazardous air quality for numerous Alaskan cities.

Bill Hurricane over Land

(Bill taking on the features of an organized cyclone over a water-logged Central US in yesterday’s MODIS shot. As of Thursday, some sections of Oklahoma has received a staggering 3 feet of rainfall in just six weeks. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

The added heat appears to have also complicated normal El Nino variability by more greatly enhancing rainfall over affected regions than is typical. The Central US, in particular, has felt the brunt of this impact. During May, massive rainfall events brought flooding to Texas and Oklahoma. Sections of Oklahoma, as of yesterday, had experienced an unprecedented 3 feet of rain in just six weeks. A typical summer El Nino would somewhat enhance rainfall in this region. But not to the degree that we are seeing now. So the global warming-based amplification of the hydrological cycle is also likely in play. In this case, we see global warming and El Nino acting in concert to increase the likelihood of very extreme weather.

Though NOAA reports its data in a responsible, matter of fact, manner, it is important to consider the unprecedented nature of that information. What we are seeing is record warm years that occur increasingly outside the influence of El Nino, the ability of moderate El Nino heat flux to generate significant record global high temperature departures, and a tendency of strong El Nino periods to push global heating toward terrific ranges. These are all indications of an Earth System that is ranging ever more out of a context that the human beings and the creatures of this world are adapted to live in. Indications that we are rapidly moving toward a dangerous and extinction event producing Hothouse Climate. In this very rapid initial warming the likelihood of dangerous weather — heatwaves, fires, heavy rainfall events, intense storms — is thus increased. In addition, the push toward dangerous geophysical changes such as more rapid glacial melt and associated sea level rise becomes that much more intense and imminent.

Media Fails to Responsibly Report Warnings from Scientists, Religious Leaders

The NOAA report is a signal of a condition of increasing climate crisis that should be reported widely and with all due urgency. By contrast, the tendency of global media (especially the individually-owned megamedia monopolies such as NewsCorp) to downplay, to sweep such reports under the rug, to attack such reports outright, or to only portray them in the most narrow of contexts is therefore vastly and unforgivably irresponsible (shout out to noted exceptions like The Guardian or underground and peripheral sources like RealClimate, WeatherUnderground, The Independent, The Arctic Sea Ice Blog, Dot.Earth and ThinkProgress).

The global scientific community and major religious leaders like the Pope (see the Pope’s loud and clear urging for global climate action here) are well aware of the situation and the calls for action from these responsible, moral leaders are growing louder and more urgent. The failure of media to appropriately relay that call and to generate action on the part of the public can only be seen, at this point, as an aspect of a dangerous allegiance to destructive and amoral businesses (fossil fuel industry), to individual interests who have a financial stake in a larger failure to respond to this crisis, and to political ideologies that are so filled with hubris as to be blind to an obvious and ramping existential crisis. Media, in this case, has thus become complicit in a failure to appropriately act, enhancing the intensity of the crisis, reducing the effectiveness of the response, and worsening the harm and increasing loss of life and livelihood to follow. A continuation of this failure would constitute nothing less than complicity in climate change denial and related harms. History, should history remain in tact following a failure to fully respond, will judge such a failure in the harshest possible terms.

Links:

NOAA’s Global Temperature Analysis (Support Public, Non-Special Interest Based Science)

NOAA ONI Index

LANCE MODIS

The Pope’s Call for Climate Action

Hat Tip to Tom Cobbler

Hot Pacific Ocean Runs Bloody — Blob Now Features Record Red Tide

Red Tide. It’s what happens when massive algae blooms cover vast regions of ocean.

The biological density of the blooms is so great that they can paint the waters affected a shade of brown or red. A bloody color indicative of clouds of dangerous microbes just beneath the surface. And today, a massive Red Tide — perhaps the largest ever recorded — now stretches from California to Alaska along a vast stretch of the North American West Coast already reeling under the ongoing and dangerous impact of a massive ocean heating event that researchers have called ‘The Blob.’

Red Tide

(A Red Tide can paint the ocean in bloody shades as seen in the image above. It’s also bad news for many marine species — first due to production of deadly biotoxins and second due to its ability to rob ocean waters of oxygen as the bloom dies off and decays. Image source: Wind’s Sustainability Blog.)

A Red Tide has numerous impacts to both marine life and human industry. Microbes within the tide produce biotoxins that are deadly to marine species. Domoic acid, PSP and DSP are all toxins that have been identified during the current Red Tide event. The toxins primarily affect fish and marine mammals — risking mass fish and dolphin, sea lion, seal, otter, and whale deaths during widespread blooms. The toxins concentrate as they move up the food chain, making them most dangerous to top predators. Primary effects of the most lethal toxins are convulsions and paralysis. Other toxins cause nausea, cramps and diarrhea.

Human beings are also at risk and for this reason crab and shellfish fisheries all up and down the US West Coast are being closed. Impacts are so widespread marine ecologists like Vera Trainer, manager of the Marine Microbes and Toxins Programs at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, are calling the event unpredented:

“The fact that we’re seeing multiple toxins at the same time, we’re seeing high levels of domoic acid, and we’re seeing a coastwide bloom — those are indications that this is unprecedented.”

Global Warming, Hot Blob — Prime Suspects

Scientists currently suspect extreme Northeastern Pacific Ocean heat led to the sudden appearance of Red Tide this week — a combination of warm and nutrient rich waters are well known to be the key ingredients for Red Tide formation. Ingredients that are increasingly prevalent due to human fossil fuel burning. Ingredients that are increasingly evident in the Northeastern Pacific. In short the burning of fossil fuels both warms the atmosphere and ocean even as it seeds the surface water with nitrogen. The warm water is a preferred environment for the microbes that form the Red Tide and the nitrogen — both as a constant rain from the sky due to fossil fuel emission and as effluent from streams due to farm runoff — essentially fertilizes the bloom.

It is for these reasons that many scientists suspect the hot Blob of water in the Northeastern Pacific has played a role in the formation of the current unprecedented Red Tide.

image

(The Northeastern Pacific hot Blob now features a dangerous Red Tide — perhaps the largest and most toxin laden Red Tide ever seen. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Warming the world ocean through human carbon emissions is thus a very dangerous consequence. Now, more and more regions are featuring hot zones that are increasingly deadly to sea life. This region of the Northeast Pacific in particular has seen a number of instances of mass ocean creature death due to impacts associated with warming waters. The recent Red Tide being the last of a long chain including a mass starfish die-off, fish kills, bird kills, and marine mammal deaths and disruption — including a winter and spring emergence of crowds of starving sea lion pups along California beaches.

Next Step — Anoxia, Possible Hydrogen Sulfide Issue

This particular Red Tide is still in its early stages. It could last for weeks. But as it reaches its last days, the mass production of microbial life will rob the ocean surface of the nutrients necessary to sustain it. As this happens, the microbes will experience a sudden die-off. The mass of dead microbes will then sink and decay. This decay will further rob already de-oxygenated waters, particularly off Washington and Seattle, of still more oxygen. So the final act of this particular Red Tide will be to make a bad ocean water oxygen situation in many of the affected regions even worse (in the worst case potentially setting some zones up for an ugly deep water hydrogen sulfide production).

Links:

Toxic Algae Bloom May be the Largest Ever

Huge Bloom of Toxic Algae Hits US West Coast

NOAA (Please Support!)

Sea Lion Sickness

Awakening the Horrors of the Ancient Hothouse — Hydrogen Sulfide in the World’s Warming Oceans

Starving Sea Lion Pups and Liquified Starfish How Human Warming is Turning The Eastern Pacific Into a Death Trap for Marine Species

Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego

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