Saturday, May 31, 2014

How many deaths could result from failure to act on climate change?

A recent OECD study concludes that outdoor air pollution is killing more than 3.5 million people a year globally. The OECD estimates that people in its 34 Member countries would be willing to pay USD 1.7 trillion to avoid deaths caused by air pollution. Road transport is likely responsible for about half.

A 2012 report by DARA calculated that 5 million people were dying each year from climate change and carbon economies, mostly from indoor smoke and (outdoor) air pollution.

Back in 2012, a Reuters report calculated that this could add up to a total number of 100 million deaths over the coming two decades. This suggests, however, that failure to act on climate change will not cause even more deaths due to other causes.

Indeed, failure to act on climate change could result in many more deaths due to other causes, in particular food shortages. As temperatures rise, ever more extreme weather events can be expected, such as flooding, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, and subsequent crop loss, famine, disease, heat-stroke, etc.

So, while currently most deaths are caused by indoor smoke and outdoor air pollution, in case of a failure to act on climate change the number of deaths can be expected to rise most rapidly among people hit by famine, fresh water shortages, as well as wars over food, water, etc.

How high could figures rise? Below is an update of an image from the earlier post Arctic Methane Impact with a scale in both Celsius and Fahrenheit added on the right, illustrating the danger that temperature will rise to intolerable levels if little or no action is taken on climate change. The inset shows projected global number of annual climate-related deaths for these two scenarios, i.e. no action and little action, and also shows a third scenario of comprehensive and effective action that would instead bring temperature rise under control.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
For further details on a comprehensive and effective climate plan, see the ClimatePlan blog.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Large Falls in Arctic Sea Ice Thickness over May 2014

Comparing ice thickness (in meters) on May 2, 2014 (left) and May 30, 2014 (right, forecast run May 25, 2014)
Arctic sea ice has shown large falls in thickness in many areas over the course of May 2014, as shown on above image. The animation below also compares the situation between May 2, 2014, and May 30, 2014 (as forecast by Naval Research Laboratory on May 23, 2014). Ice thickness is in meters.


Thickness is an important indicator of the vulnerability of the ice. If only looking at sea ice extent, one might (wrongly) conclude that sea ice retreat was only minor and that everything looked fine. By contrast, when looking at thickness, it becomes evident that large falls have occurred over the course of May 2014.

Falls at the edges of the sea ice can be expected at this time of the year, but the large fall closer to the center is frightening. On the one hand, it appears to reflect cyclonic weather and subsequent drift of the ice. On the other hand, it also indicates how vulnerable the sea ice has become. Last year, a large area showed up at the center of the sea ice where the ice became very thin, as discussed in July 2013 in the post Open Water at North Pole and again in the September 2013 post North Hole.

The appearance of huge weak areas at the center of the sea ice adds to its vulnerability and increases the prospect of total sea ice collapse, in case of one or more large cyclones hitting the Arctic Ocean later this year. To highlight the dangerous situation, the main image from a post earlier this month is again added below.


Adding to the concerns are huge sea surface temperature anomalies, as illustrated by the image below, showing anomalies at May 23, 2014, and created by Harold Hensel with ClimateReanalyzer and Google Earth.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
The image below shows sea surface anomalies on May 26, 2014, with an overlay of land temperatures, as created by Harold Hensel and edited by Sam Carana.


The image shows sea surface temperatures on the Northern Hemisphere that are 1.44 degrees Celsius warmer than the baselline temperature, despite large areas with cold water partly resulting from the huge amounts of meltwater flowing down along the edges of Greenland into the North Atlantic Ocean. The graph below shows Northern Hemisphere and Global sea surface temperature anomalies over May 2014.

By comparison, current (May 27, 2014) surface temperature anomalies of 0.64°C globally and 0.84°C for the NH. The image below shows annual temperature anomalies (land and ocean data).



Meanwhile, the development of this year's 'north hole' at the center of the sea ice appears to persist, as illustrated by the image below.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The real budgetary emergency and the myth of "burnable carbon"

by David Spratt


How fast and how profoundly we act to stop climate change caused by human actions, and work to return to a safe climate, is perhaps the greatest challenge our species has ever faced, but are we facing up to what really needs to be done?

We have to come to terms with two key facts: practically speaking, there is no longer a "carbon budget" for burning fossil fuels while still achieving a two-degree Celsius (2°C) future; and the 2°C cap is now known to be dangerously too high.

No Carbon Budget Left - David Spratt from Breakthrough  -  "We have no carbon budget left
for burning of fossils fuels - emergency action is now the only viable path"  - 
David Spratt

For the last two decades, climate policy-making has focused on 2°C of global warming impacts as being manageable, and a target achievable by binding international treaties and incremental, non-disruptive, adjustments to economic incentives and regulations (1).

But former UK government advisor Professor Sir Robert Watson says the idea of a 2°C target "is largely out of the window”, International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol calls it "a nice Utopia", and international negotiations chief Christiana Figueres says we need "a miracle". This is because, in their opinions, emissions will not be reduced sufficiently to keep to the necessary "carbon budget" (2).

The carbon budget has come to public prominence in recent years, including in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report in 2013, as being the difference between the total allowable greenhouse gas emissions for 2°C of warming, and the amount already emitted or spent. The budget varies according to the likelihood of overshooting the target: the higher the risk, the bigger the budget. In the IPCC report, no carbon budget is given for less than a one-in-three chance of failure.

At that one-in-three risk of failure, the IPCC says the total budget is 790 GtC (gigatons, or one billion tons, of carbon), less emissions to 2011 of 515 GtC, leaving a budget of 275 GtC in 2011, or ~245 GtC in 2014 (3).

What is less well understood is that if the risk is low, there is no carbon budget left (4).

Breakthrough National  Climate Restoration
Forum 21-22 June,  Melbourne
Climate change with its non-linear events, tipping points and irreversible events – such as mass extinctions, destruction of ecosystems, the loss of large ice sheets and the triggering of large-scale releases of greenhouse gases from carbon stores such as permafrost and methane clathrates – contains many possibilities for catastrophic failure.

Ian Dunlop, a former senior risk manager and oil and coal industry executive, says the management of catastrophic risk has to be very different from current processes. As serious, irreversible outcomes are likely, this demands very low probabilities of failure: management of catastrophic risk "must centre around contingency planning for high-impact and what were regarded as low-probability events, which unfortunately are now becoming more probable… Major, high-risk industrial operations, such as offshore oil exploration, provide a model, with detailed contingency planning and sequential barriers being put in place to prevent worst-case outcomes" (5).

If a risk-averse (pro-safety) approach is applied – say, of less than 10% probability of exceeding the 2°C target – to carbon budgeting, there is simply no budget available, because it has already been used up. A study from The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research shows that "the combination of a 2°C warming target with high probability of success is now unreachable" using the current suite of policy measures, because the budget has expired (6).

This is illustrated in Figure 1 where, as we move to the right (greater probability of meeting target) along the blue line which is the 2°C carbon budget, we reach a point around 90% probability (blue circle) where the total budget intersects with what we have already emitted.



As well, on-going greenhouse emissions associated with food production and deforestation are often conveniently pushed to one side in discussing carbon budgets. UK scientists have shown that if some reasonably optimistic assumptions are made about deforestation and food-related emissions for the rest of the century, then most emission reduction scenarios are incompatible with holding warming to +2ºC, even with a high 50% probability of exceeding the target. In other words, food and deforestation has taken up the remaining budget, leaving no space for fossil fuel emissions (7).

In addition, the carbon budget analysis makes optimistic and risky assumptions about the stability of Arctic, and of polar and other carbon stores such as permafrost. As one example, the modelling discussed in the IPCC report projects an area of summer Arctic sea-ice cover in the year 2100 higher that actually exists at the moment, yet there is a great deal more warming and sea-ice loss to come this century! In fact, many Arctic specialists think the Arctic will be sea-ice free in summer within the next decade, with consequences for global warming that the carbon budget calculations have significantly underestimated. (8)

Australian Climate Council member Prof. Will Steffen says the IPCC carbon budget may "be rather generous". The IPCC report says the modelling used does not include explicit representation of permafrost soil carbon decomposition in response to future warming, and does not consider slow feedbacks associated associated with vegetation changes and ice sheets. Recent research suggests these events could happen well below 2°C of warming, so they should be taken into account, but they are not.

Accounting for the possible release of methane from melting permafrost and ocean sediment implies a substantially lower budget (9). This reinforces the need to take a pro-safety, risk-averse approach to the carbon budget, especially since some research suggests that Arctic permafrost may be vulnerable at less than 2°C or warming (10).

For all these reasons – that is, prudent catastrophic risk management, accounting for food production and deforestation emissions, and for Arctic sea ice and carbon store instability – the idea of "burnable carbon" – that is, how much more coal, gas and oil we can burn and still keep under 2°C – is a dangerous illusion, based on unrealistic, high-risk, assumptions.

A second consideration is that 2°C of warming is not a safe target. Instead, it's the boundary between dangerous and very dangerous (11), and 1°C higher than experienced during the whole period of human civilisation (12), illustrated in Figure 2. The last time greenhouse gas levels were as high as they are today, modern humans did not exist (13), so we are conducting an experiment for which we have no direct observable evidence from our own history, and for which we do not know the full result.



However, we do understand that many major ecosystems will be lost, a 2°C sea-level rise will eventually be measured in the tens of metres (14), and much of human civilisation and large, productive river delta systems will be swamped. There is now evidence to suggest that the current conditions affecting the West Antarctic ice sheet are sufficient to drive between 1.2 and 4 metres of sea rise (15), and evidence that Greenland will contribute more quickly (16), and they are just two contributors to rising sea levels.

It is now clear that the incremental-adjustment 2°C strategy has run out of time, if for no other reason than the "budget" for burning more fossil fuels is now zero, yet the global economy is still deeply committed to their continuing widespread use.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Art of Climate Change

by Dorsi Lynn Diaz

Help be a part of the solution! The Art of Climate Change on Kickstarter - an interactive social media & art show/exhibit this summer.

Climate change is HERE and climate change is happening NOW. It is not a figment of your imagination and the weather outside indeed is "frightening."

As I write this, the UK is getting battered by unprecedented storms and in California where I live, we are facing the possibility of a MEGA drought. As a long-time artist, writer and educator, I have been sounding the alarm bell for years. The question loomed large for me: How are we, as a collective society, going to tackle a huge problem?

That was when I had a light-bulb moment.

The idea came to me last year when I realized we need to have a multi-modal approach to addressing climate change. A hands-on, interactive dialogue with great visuals. In order to tackle the problem we needed to look at all the different aspects of climate change. And thus, the "The Art of Climate Change" was born - and the idea for a project: an art show and exhibit. But not your typical art show!

This show would be interactive and get people thinking about SOLUTIONS to climate change, challenge them to think out of the box, and most importantly, educate them about the how and wheres of climate change plus why places like the Arctic matter. This show could travel to cities and communities all over, and be a blue-print for teaching people about climate change and engage their own local artists, inventors and community in learning about "the problem."



But first I needed a venue to do the first show, and that would be one of the biggest hurdles. I connected with a local gallery, pitched the idea to them and they were impressed. In fact, they really liked my idea because it was "different" because it talked about solutions, not just doom and gloom. So now that I've been approved by their Board of Directors, I've got my venue and the show has taken on a life it its own.

The Art of Climate Change has its venue! Whoooppee!! The show is on the datebook - and it will be in run from June 19 - July 27, 2014 at The Sun Gallery in Hayward, Ca. (located in the Silicon Valley area)

I need help and support however to pull this off. This is a huge endeavor and the show has many different facets to it. I have many costs involved: Marketing, advertising, sign production, printing for the science graphics, some travel, equipment rentals (laptops and TV screens), art supplies, website hosting and building and other production costs... and this is why I am asking for your help. Not only will there be "art" on the walls but there will also be a series of artwork by children on endangered species that I have been teaching for the last several months.

The sections of the exhibit have been broken down into the following areas:

1. A section where we talk about "The Problem". This is where we talk turkey and explain the problem and take a good look at it.

2. There will be a section of the exhibit dedicated to extreme weather photos and art. Like they say, a picture can tell a thousand words, right?

3. Next we need to talk about "The Arctic and why it matters". Those record cold snaps happening in the US? Those are one of the strongest symptoms of our melting Arctic. That's due to our now meandering jet stream.

4. The Methane Monster. Yes there are monsters and this is probably one of the biggest ones we need to be worried about. Remember the dinosaur extinction? Well, scientists say that methane was their undoing. And we certainly don't want to go the way of the dinosaurs, right? So yes, we need to talk about the elephant in the room - that pesky methane monster. Which, by the way, is being released in some pretty scary amounts right now from underneath that warming Arctic water. No, it's not good. Not good at all.

5. A section just for THE CHILDREN and EDUCATION. This is the biggest reason I am doing this project. I want to be part of the solution to securing their future. One of the big parts of this project is teaching the kids. Right now I am doing a series of projects with them on endangered animal species. The way I look at it is if we can "teach the children we can touch the world." Their artwork will be prominently displayed in the art/show exhibit. So far they have done done art of endangered Polar Bear cubs, the Monarch Butterfly, Bees, Barn Owls and the Maui Dolphin.

6. A section with a "CALL TO ACTION"....this is where attendees are encouraged to engage with the problem so they can BE PART of the solution...which btw is the next big part of the art show/exhibit....

7. SOLUTIONS. This is where I have things planned that are definitely out of the box. Like inventions to slow down climate change by friends of mine that happen to be very creative too.

So that is my Kickstarter project in a very big nutshell. The really exciting thing though is how this blooming project has just sort of "vacuumed people" up...all kinds of people...from all around the world! Here are some of them that are going to be part of my project:
  • Climate Change Professor Paul Beckwith from the University of Ottawa, who will do a live Skype Q & A session with us. Attendees can sit down face to face with a leading climate change educator and ask questions about climate change from inside the show.
  • A life size mural of a Polar Bear with an Arctic scene, painted in the show/exhibit hall by muralist Lisa Hamblett-Montagnese.
  • Photographer Rose Gold will make the day even more special for kids by taking photos of them with the Polar bear.
  • A display of children and families climate change (endangered species) artwork from students of the Sun Gallery, A Joyful Noise Learning Center, Green Forest Art Studio, The Community Church of Hayward and Young Rembrandt's of the East Bay
  • A live viewing of Andy Lee Robinsons video on a flat screen TV which will be available for viewing all during the exhibits 5 1/2 weeks. Andy's video shows the decline of the Arctic ice accompanied by a musical composition by Andy called "Ice Dreams"
  • A graphic of "The Arctic Death Spiral" by Andy Lee Robinson, to be displayed in the Arctic section of the show.
  • A full size poster by Sam Carana (who set up the Arctic Methane Emergency Group on FB and edits the Arctic-News blog) on the effects of runaway climate change, designed by Sam and displayed in the Arctic section.
  • Original cartoons by Sam Carana, also an adviser on this project, displayed in the Methane section of the show.
  • Quotes with ideas by Harold Hensel, contributor to the Arctic-news blog and advisor on this project.
  • A full size poster of a tunnel invention as a possible solution to our warming waters by Patrick McNulty. Posted in Solutions.
  • A display of alternative fuel named "Bio-Fuel" with information by inventor Jay Toups. Posted in Solutions.
  • A live aquaponics display by Michael and Natalie Elola of Lucky Garden Hydroponics on how to grow vegetables and fruit indoors without using soil. Posted in Solutions.
  • A full size Polar bear costume mascot to be used for outreach. Designed and sewn by Nancy Martinez
  • A call for art by The Sun Gallery for extreme weather photos, climate change art and recycled and re-purposed art
  • A display of childrens books about climate change. Joe Santiago's books will also be featured. Displayed under Education.
  • The original video for the project will be displayed on a flat-screen video at the show for 5 1/2 weeks. Video editing and production by Mead Rose at Web Design by Mead.
  • Artistically designed Climate change confections by pastry chef Cori Diaz for the Artists reception
  • A local rock/punk band that sings songs about climate change. They will sing at the Artists reception.
  • Educational tables set up by the City of Hayward with information about the cities climate change plan along with other entities like the EPA, Water Conservation Board, EBMUD and Waste Management.
  • Deagon B. Williams, friend and adviser on this project.
  • Advertising help with the project by Trish McDermott of Avatar Tech Pubs.
Endangered Animal Art series taught by Dorsi Diaz


he Arctic "Death" Spiral in The Art of Climate Change
Costs for The Art of Climate Change
The many people people contributing their talents to The Art of Climate Change
The main reason I am doing the show is for them
Sam Carana's contribution to the show - a very telling graphic
The types of climate change disasters we need to talk about

This is what we need to be talking about.
Risks and challenges

I have been working on this project already for over 4 months, successfully pulling people together to either create art for the exhibit, or to contribute educational material. The biggest obstacle for the show was of course the venue but I have the venue for the art show/exhibit set in stone from June 19 - July 27 of this year. A solid foundation has been made, the main thing I need help with now is the financial expenses that the show will cost me - like the rental of equipment to do the live Skyping session with Professor Paul Beckwith, and the special art projects I plan to do within our community. I also have plans to do more community outreach to reach more local public agencies and I plan to have more events centered around the show (how much I can do will be determined by how much funding I get)

How will I deal with any special surprises or costs that I might not have possibly factored in? I will do what I always did in business, I will work with the issue and either adjust or downsize that particular part, - possibly even bartering for services, or ask for donations to help with a particular cost.

What unique challenges might I have after the project is funded? Well I don't foresee any emergencies but if there are any, I have a network of people that will help and advise me through any major problems. The only thing I see is that I may not be able to accommodate all the art that may come in, but that's a good problem to have! Better to have more than not enough - and director Liesa Lietzke and Jacqueline Cooper at The Sun Gallery where the show is will be able to help walk me through any major hiccups if there are any.

Questions?

Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask questions at Kickstarter to the project creator.

Donate

To donate to this project, go to Kickstarter.

Friday, May 16, 2014

More extreme weather can be expected



The heaviest rains and floods in 120 years have hit Serbia and Bosnia this week, Reuters and Deutsche Welle report.

The animation below shows the Jet Stream's impact on the weather. Cold temperatures have descended from the Arctic to Serbia and Bosnia in Europe and all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico in North America, while Alaska, California, and America's East Coast are hit by warm temperatures. In California, 'unprecedented' wildfires and fierce winds lead to 'firenadoes', reports CNN.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Outlook for sea ice remains bleak



In April 2014, Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum volume. It was the second lowest on record, according to calculations by the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) at the Polar Science Center. The ice volume in March 2014 also was the second lowest on record, as discussed in an earlier post. The fall in volume over the years is illustrated in the graph below, by Wipneus.
Another way of depicting the continuing fall in sea ice volume is the Arctic Death Spiral below, by Andy Lee Robinson.

The graph below, from the Danish Metereological Institute, shows mean temperatures that have been much higher than they used to be at higher latitudes. Mean 2 m temperatures for the region north of the 80th northern parallel as a function of the day of year are shown (red line), against the 1958 - 2002 mean (green line).


High levels of methane over the Arctic will have contributed to these high temperatures. Furthermore, the Jet Stream is changing as the difference in temperature between the Arctic and the equator decreases, causing more extreme weather events such as heatwaves and storms that could speed up the demise of snow and ice cover in the Arctic.

The graph below, by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, shows that Arctic sea ice extent was 12,469,546 km² on May 8, 2014.

In addition, an El Niño event could cause even more ferocious heatwaves and storms to hit the Arctic. The image below, from IRI at Columbia University, shows that the chance of an El Niño event developing in the course of 2014 is close to 80%.


The outlook for the sea ice remains bleak and the possibility that a total collapse could occur in September calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the climate plan blog.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Will the Anthropocene last for only 100 years?

On November 9, 2013, methane levels as high as 2662 ppb (parts per billion) were recorded, as indicated by the red dot on the image below.

This image, from an earlier post, gives an idea of the height of this level compared to historic methane levels, and how fast levels of methane (CH4) have been rising compared to levels of two other greenhouse gases, i.e. carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O).

CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have now risen to levels well above the 400 parts per million (ppm), as illustrated by the graph below, from keelingcurve.ucsd.edu. This 400 ppm is 143% the pre-industrial peak level of 280 ppm.

Paleorecords show that greenhouse gases levels go up and down in lockstep with temperatures in history. The image below shows that carbon dioxide levels back in history typically moved between approximately 180 ppm and 280 ppm, a difference of 100 ppm. Since 1950, CO2 levels have risen by roughly the same difference.


In a fascinating lecture, Dr Jan Zalasiewicz suggests that the Anthropocene started around 1950, when levels of greenhouse gases started to rise exponentially, in line with the rise of fossil fuel use, as also illustrated by the image below.


The image below, from an earlier post, shows that temperatures typically moved up and down by roughly 10 degrees Celsius between a glacial and interglacial phase of the ice ages, suggesting that a 100 ppm rise of carbon dioxide and 300 ppb rise of methane go hand in hand with a 10°C temperature rise.

Many eminent scientists have warned that the high current carbon dioxide levels have already locked us in for a future temperature rise of several degrees Celsius, a rise that is yet to fully manifest itself and that is only held off by the temporary masking effect of sulfur dioxide that is emitted when burning fuel (especially coal) and by the (decreasing) capacity of oceans, ice sheets and glaciers to act as a buffer for heat. Once the masking effect of sulfur dioxide ends and the Arctic sea ice collapses, a huge sudden rise in temperature can be expected, hitting vulnerable pools (see image below) which would accelerate the temperature rise even more and could cause temperatures to rise by another 10°C within decades.


The scenario of such a huge rise in temperature becomes a distinct possibility when considering the combined warming impact of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor and albedo changes, and the vulnerability of some of the terrestrial and marine carbon pools. Also note that, while the above Unesco image gives an estimate of 104 or 10,000 Gt C for ocean methane hydrates, several studies give even higher estimates, as illustrated by the image below, from Pinero et al.


The amount of carbon stored in hydrates globally was in 1992 estimated to be 10,000 Gt (USGS), while a later source gives a figure of 63,400 Gt C for the Klauda & Sandler (2005) estimate of marine hydrates. A warming Gulf Stream is causing methane eruptions off the North American coast. Furthermore, methane appears to be erupting from hydrates on Antarctica, on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and on Greenland. In just one part of the Arctic Ocean alone, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), up to 1700 Gt of methane is contained in sediments in the form of methane hydrates and free gas. A sudden release of just 3% of this amount could add over 50 Gt of methane to the atmosphere, i.e. some seven times what is in the atmosphere now, and experts consider such an amount to be ready for release at any time.

Importantly, methane levels have risen even more strongly than carbon dioxide levels. As the image at the top of this post shows, the current methane level is 250% its pre-industrial peak level, i.e. 1100 ppb above the pre-industrial peak level of 700 ppb. Historically, methane has only moved by some 300 ppb between a glacial and interglacial phase of the ice ages. IPCC/NOAA figures suggest that global mean methane levels have been rising by 5 or 6 ppb annually over recent years and there are some worrying indications that the rise of methane levels might accelerate even further.

To obtain mean methane abundance, measurements are typically taken at an altitude of 586 mb, as methane typically shows up most prominently at this altitude. Indeed, mean methane levels were highest at this altitude in April 2013, at just under 1800 ppb. Looking at mean global methane levels in April 2014 at this altitude, one could at first glance conclude that the situation had not changed much, and that 2014 methane levels had merely risen by a few ppb, in line with IPCC data. So, at first glance one might conclude that there may appear to be only a minimal rise (if any at all) in global mean methane levels when taking measurements at lower altitudes.

The image below illustrates this. What should be added is that the analysis used only selected altitudes and only used part of all data. So, further analysis may be necessary to verify these findings.



Importantly, closer examination of above graph shows that the situation is dramatically different when looking at the rise in methane levels at higher altitudes. A huge rise in mean methane levels appears to have taken place, to the extent that the highest mean level is now reached at 469 mb. Overall, the average rise in methane across the altitudes that are highlighted in the image is no less than 16 ppb.

The table below shows the altitude equivalents in mb (millibar) and feet.
56925 feet44689 feet36850 feet30569 feet25543 feet19819 feet14383 feet8367 feet1916 feet
74 mb147 mb218 mb293 mb367 mb469 mb586 mb742 mb945 mb

As the image below illustrates, this rise appears to go hand in hand with much higher peak readings, especially at higher altitudes. It appears that the additional methane originates from the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and has over the past few months moved closer to the equator, which is what typically occurs as methane rises in altitude.


Peak readings in above image are averages over April. On specific days, peak readings could be much higher, e.g. on April 28, 2014, methane levels were recorded as high as 2551 ppb at 469 mb.

As said, there appears to be a 16 ppb rise when comparing global mean methane levels between April 2013 and April 2014. Indeed, the culprit appears to be the rapid rise of methane emissions from hydrates that has been documented by this blog and that I estimated to amount to 99 Tg annually, as illustrated by the image below, from an earlier post.


So, it appears that the rise of methane in the atmosphere is accelerating. What can we expect? As temperatures can be expected to continue to rise and as feedbacks start to kick in, this may well constitute a non-linear trend. The image below shows a polynomial trend that is contained in IPCC AR5 data from 1955 to 2011, so they didn't include this recent steep rise. Nonetheless, the polynomial trendline points at methane reaching mean global levels higher than 3000 ppb by the year 2030. If methane starts to erupt in large quantities from clathrates underneath the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, this may well be where we are heading.
So, how high could temperatures rise? Worryingly, a non-linear trend is also contained in the temperature data that NASA has gathered over the years, as described in an earlier post. A polynomial trendline points at global temperature anomalies of 5°C by 2060. Even worse, a polynomial trend for the Arctic shows temperature anomalies of 4°C by 2020, 7°C by 2030 and 11°C by 2040, threatening to cause major feedbacks to kick in, including albedo changes and methane releases that will trigger runaway global warming that looks set to eventually catch up with accelerated warming in the Arctic and result in global temperature anomalies of 20°C+ by 2050.


Without action, it appears that the Antropocene will lead to extinction of the very human beings after which the era is named, with the Anthropocene only running from 1950 to 2050, a mere 100 years and much too short to constitute an era. In that case a better name would be the Sixth Extiction Event, as also illustrated by the image below, from an earlier post.


In conclusion, it's high time that we start acting as genuinely wise modern human beings and commit to comprehensive and effective action as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.