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Nov. 25th, 2016

Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level

Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report. “[These developments] also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”

Climate tipping points occur when a natural system, such as the polar ice cap, undergoes sudden or overwhelming change that has a profound effect on surrounding ecosystems, often irreversible.

In the Arctic, the tipping points identified in the new report, published on Friday, include: growth in vegetation on tundra, which replaces reflective snow and ice with darker vegetation, thus absorbing more heat; higher releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the tundra as it warms; shifts in snow distribution that warm the ocean, resulting in altered climate patterns as far away as Asia, where the monsoon could be effected; and the collapse of some key Arctic fisheries, with knock-on effects on ocean ecosystems around the globe.

The research, compiled by 11 organizations including the Arctic Council and six universities, comes at a critical time, not only because of the current Arctic temperature rises but in political terms.

Aides to the US president-elect, Donald Trump, this week unveiled plans to remove the budget for climate change science currently used by NASA and other US federal agencies for projects such as examining Arctic changes.

“That would be a huge mistake,” said Carson, noting that much more research needs to be done on polar tipping points before we can understand the true dangers, let alone hope to tackle them. “It would be like ripping out the airplane’s cockpit instruments while you are in mid-flight.”

He added: “These are very serious problems, very serious changes are happening, but they are still poorly understood. We need more research to understand them. A lot of the major science is done by the US.”

Scientists have speculated for some years that so-called feedback mechanisms – by which the warming of one area or type of landscape has knock-on effects for whole ecosystems – could suddenly take hold and change the dynamics of Arctic ice melting from a relatively slow to a fast-moving phenomenon with unpredictable and potentially irreversible consequences for global warming. For instance, when sea ice shrinks it leaves areas of dark ocean that absorb more heat than the reflective ice, which in turn causes further shrinkage, and so on in a spiral.

The Arctic ice cap helps to cool sea and air temperatures, by reflecting much of the sun’s radiation back into space, and acting as a global cooler when winds and ocean currents swirl over and under it. It has long been known to play a key part of the global climate system, but the difficulty and expense of close monitoring have meant that scientists have only in recent years been able to make detailed assessments.

The report, billed as the first comprehensive study of ecosystems and societies in the region, found: “The potential effects of Arctic regime shifts [or tipping points] on the rest of the world are substantial.


'Extraordinarily hot' Arctic temperatures alarm scientists

The Arctic is experiencing extraordinarily hot sea surface and air temperatures, which are stopping ice forming and could lead to record lows of sea ice at the north pole next year, according to scientists.

Danish and US researchers monitoring satellites and Arctic weather stations are surprised and alarmed by air temperatures peaking at what they say is an unheard-of 20C higher than normal for the time of year. In addition, sea temperatures averaging nearly 4C higher than usual in October and November.

This is unprecedented for November,” said research professor Jennifer Francis of Rutgers university.

Temperatures have been a few degrees [b]above[/b] freezing when -25C should be expected, according to Francis. “These temperatures are literally off the charts for where they should be at this time of year. It is pretty shocking. The Arctic has been breaking records all year. It is exciting but also scary,” she said.

Francis said the near-record low sea ice extent this summer had led to a warmer than usual autumn. That in turn had reduced the temperature difference between the Arctic and mid-latitudes.

“This helped make the jet stream wavier and allowed more heat and moisture to be driven into Arctic latitudes and perpetuate the warmth. It’s a vicious circle,” she added.

This week it has been at the lowest extent ever recorded for late November. According to the US government’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre, (NSIDC), around 2m square kilometres less ice has formed since September than average.

Rasmus Tonboe, a sea ice remote sensing expert at the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen, said: “Sea surface temperatures in the Kara and Barents seas are much warmer than usual. That makes it very difficult for sea ice to freeze.

“What we are seeing is both surprising and alarming. This is faster than the models. It is alarming because it has consequences.”

The speed at which this is happening surprises me. In the Arctic the trend has been clear for years, but the speed at which it is happening is faster than anyone thought,” said Strove. "This is all headed in the same direction and picking up speed.”


Nov. 3rd, 2016

The End of Winter

"So in a matter of 1 to 2 years, there's a very large change out over the ocean, and as a I said, the only thing we can think of that happens that fast is a change in the sea ice extent ..."

Abrupt Climate Change

From Wipneus:

Guess which line is 2016. The second max peak around November is nearly completely gone. Total Terra Incognito.

From Tealight

Currently 2016 is around 2.8 million km2 below the previous record low.

The Arctic Ice growth has nearly stopped. We are approaching an extent 2 million km2 less than the next lowest for this date. This is unprecedented.

Combined polar ice is at a record low.

We are looking at a Blue Ocean event in 2017 as the Arctic becomes virtually ice free.

We have crossed a tipping point.

Oct. 31st, 2016

Holloween Heat Wave

Daily high and high min temperature records for the U.S. were broken at an alarming rate over the past week, producing a Halloween heatwave.

Over the past week alone, nearly 300 daytime high marks were broken. But the measure of record-high minimum temperatures — a key indicator of human-forced warming — is off the charts with 639 total records smashed over the past seven days.

Even more noteworthy than the degree of warmth is the lack of widespread autumn chill. For example, Minneapolis has yet to dip below 36°F as of Friday, October 28. That doesn’t look likely to happen before at least next weekend (November 5 – 6). In records going back to 1873, the latest Minneapolis has ever gone before seeing its first 35°F of the autumn is November 1, way back in 1931. The city’s latest first freeze was on Nov. 7, 1900.

In the Arctic, the ocean has been loaded up with a ridiculous amount of heat. This heat is preventing the ocean from refreezing, creating various regional barriers to ice formation as the waters ventilate this excess heat into the atmosphere. As a result, Arctic sea-ice extent record lows continue to deepen.

Yesterday, those temperatures exceeded the 6-C-above-normal mark. And later this week, temperatures for the region could approach 6.3 to 6.5 C above average.

These are the average departure ranges for the entire area above the Arctic Circle. Localities within that broader region are hitting as much as 20 C (36 Fahrenheit) or more above average on an almost daily basis, bringing temperatures more typical of the Arctic during late summer than in the middle of fall.

In Barrow, Alaska, Jonathan Erdman reports that Saturday saw the proverbial mercury hit 41 F. This temperature, at about 26 degrees above average, smashed the previous daily high and pushed the latest day Barrow has ever seen a reading above 40 F fully one week forward.

The combination of significant sea ice losses in the north and second-lowest sea ice extents in the south has resulted in a global sea-ice measure that is well below anything seen in the past for this time of year. It is also one of the largest global negative sea-ice departures seen for any part of the record for any time of year — even when compared to the extreme period of Arctic sea ice loss during September of 2012.

Combined Global Sea Ice Departure Chart

In addition to producing heatwaves, new temperature records, and ever more extreme sea ice melt, the odd Halloween warmth appears to also be generating flashes of surface melt over parts of northeastern Greenland. There, over the past few days, temperatures have exceeded the freezing point as warm winds have blown in from the heating Greenland Strait.

This heat has been enough to trip NSIDC’s Greenland melt indicators for the region of the Zachariæ Isstrøm glacier. These indicators, over the past couple of days, have shown relatively extensive melt in this sector of Greenland.

Typically isolated by sea ice from warm ocean breezes, northeast Greenland does not usually see such long-lasting periods of surface melt. This is especially true for late October as melt during this time for any portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet is practically unheard of.


Oct. 6th, 2016

Arctic methane gas emission 'significantly increased since 2014' - major new research

New expedition in Laptev Sea suggests increase in the rate of underwater permafrost degradation.

'The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014,' Semiletov said. 'These observations may indicate that the rate of degradation of underwater permafrost has increased.'

Five years ago Semiletov reported:

'We found more than 100 fountains, some more than a kilometre across....These are methane fields on a scale not seen before. The emissions went directly into the atmosphere... Earlier we found torch or fountain-like structures like this...

This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing. Over a relatively small area, we found more than 100, but over a wider area, there should be thousands of them.'

'We have reason to believe that such emissions may change the climate. This is due to the fact that the reserves of methane under the submarine permafrost exceed the methane content in the atmosphere is many thousands of times.

'If 3-4% from underwater go into the atmosphere within 10 years, the methane concentration therein (in the atmosphere) will increase by tens to hundreds of times, and this can lead to rapid climate warming."

The new expedition was organised by the Laboratory of Arctic Research in Pacific Oceanology Institute of the Far Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences in cooperation with Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU), the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, and was  funded by the Russian Government and the Russian Science Foundation.


Jul. 23rd, 2016

Now the proof: permafrost 'bubbles' are leaking methane 200 times above the norm

The swelling pockets in the permafrost - revealed this week by The Siberian Times - are leaking 'alarming' levels of ecologically dangerous gases, according to scientists who have observed this 'unique' phenomenon. Some 15 pockets have been found on the Arctic island, around one metre in diameter.

Measurements taken by researchers on expeditions to the island found that after removing grass and soil from the 'bubbling' ground, the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration released was 20 times above the norm, while the methane(CH4) level was 200 times higher.

One account said: 'As we took off a layer of grass and soil, a fountain of gas erupted.'

A scientist, not named in video footage, warned it was a 'serious reason to be concerned if gas bubbles appear in the permafrost zone', suggesting there could be 'unpredictable' consequences.

Another scientist Alexander Sokolov has revealed he first witnessed the phenomenon last summer during an expedition to the remote island.

'We didn't know about these bubbles before the expedition,' said Sokolov who is deputy head of ecological R&D station of the Institute of Ecology of Plants and Animals, in Labytnangi, Tyumen region, Ural Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences

'Our colleagues gave us a gas analyser worth 7 million roubles ($10,850). This device measures the concentration of the two greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide and methane. Gases are typically measured in parts per million or ppm.

'The gas analyser showed that one of these gases was dozens of times higher and another was hundreds of times higher than normal.'

'I can't say if this summer has been the warmest over the past few years but simply because I'm not following it.

'Yet it is likely that that 10 days of extraordinary heat could have started some mechanisms, (and the) higher level of permafrost could have thawed and released a huge amount of gases. Geologists suppose that there might be some gas leaking from the underground but it's unlikely. There is solid permafrost under the bubbles.'

Alexander Sokolov's view is that the gas release if from thawing ground immediately below the surface to a depth of around one metre. He is concerned about the consequences of the gas release.

Scientists have warned at the potential catastrophic impact of global warming leading to the release into the atmosphere of harmful gases in the Arctic hitherto frozen in the ground or under the sea.

A possibility is that the trembling tundra on Belyy Island is this process in action.

"It is evident even to amateurs that this is a very serious alarm."

Further south, on the Yamal and Taimyr peninsulas, scientists are actively observing a number of craters that have suddenly formed in the permafrost.


Relic gas hydrates in permafrost above stability zone

Isolated gas and gas hydrates in the permafrost are serious geological danger in the process of oil and gas field development in Arctic. The particular hazard is the large gas accumulations confined to the sand and loamy sand horizons in the permafrost at depths down to 200 meters. Such gas accumulations are found in a number of Yamal gas fields and South-Tambey gas field among them. There are some indirect signs that they may be relic gas hydrates formed earlier in specific hydrate accumulation conditions. Up now they might have been preserved in the permafrost due to the effect of gas hydrate self-preservation at temperatures below zero. These gas hydrates lying above the modern gas hydrate stability zone are in a metastable state and very sensitive to various anthropogenic influences.

The aim of mathematical simulation was to understand the dynamic of the permafrost thickness and of the zone of gas hydrates stability (GHSZ) in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. The simulation allow to present the evolution of the permafrost during which the zone of gas hydrates stability started from the earth's surface being located within permafrost. As the permafrost has never fully thawed, near surface horizons may still contain relic gas hydrates to this day.

The experiments consisted of two stages. The first part was the artificial saturation of field samples by methane hydrate. At the second stage we studied processes of self-preservation of pore gas hydrate in the frozen samples under nonequilibrium conditions close to the reservoir conditions such as temperatures-5...-6 0C and pressure of 0,6-1,3 MPa. These experiments highlignt the high stability of the pore gas hydrates in the frozen samples at the given nonequilibrium conditions. In general we can make a conclusion that the existence of relic gas hydrates on the territory of the South-Tambey gas field at depths of less than 200 m in the permafrost is possible.


Apr. 29th, 2016

The Planetary Crisis is Upon Us

Vast amounts of methane lie frozen in the Arctic. It's not news that the Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly, and that it will likely be gone for short periods during the summers starting as early as next year. Losing that ice means releasing larger amounts of previously trapped methane into the atmosphere.

Additionally, lying along the Arctic's subsea continental margins and beneath Arctic permafrost are methane hydrates, often described as methane gas surrounded by ice. In March 2010, a report in Science indicated that these cumulatively contain the equivalent of 1,000 to 10,000 gigatons of carbon.

Natalia Shakhova is a research associate professor of the University Alaska Fairbanks, International Arctic Research Center, where she focuses on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). Shakhova believes we should be concerned about her group's findings from the ESAS, specifically, because that area differs significantly from methane emissions happening elsewhere around the world.

The ESAS is the largest shelf in the world, encompassing more than 2 million square kilometers, or 8 percent of the world's continental shelf. Shakhova believes it holds an area-weighted contribution to the global hydrate inventory of "at least 10 to 15 percent."

"These emissions are prone to be non-gradual (massive, abrupt) for a variety of reasons," she told Truthout. "The main reason is that the nature of major processes associated with methane releases from subsea permafrost is non-gradual."

This means that methane releases from decaying frozen hydrates could result in emission rates that "could change in order of magnitude in a matter of minutes," and that there would be nothing "smooth, gradual or controlled" about it; we could be looking at non-linear releases of methane in amounts that are difficult to fathom.

She explained that the transition from the methane being frozen in the permafrost, either on land or in the shallow northern shores of the East Siberian Arctic, "is not gradual. When it comes to phase transition, it appears to be a relatively short, jump-like transformation from one state of the process to another state. The difference between the two states is like the difference between a closed valve and an open valve. This kind of a release is like the unsealing of an over-pressurized pipeline."

These immediate methane releases in the ESAS could be triggered at any moment by seismic or tectonic events, the subsiding of sediments caused by hydrate decay or sediment sliding due to permafrost degradation and thaw. The ESAS is particularly prone to these immediate shifts because it is three times shallower than the mean depth of the continental shelf of the world ocean.

"This means that probability of dissolved methane to escape from the water column to the atmosphere is from three to 10 times greater than anywhere in the world's oceans," Shakhova said. "In the ESAS, methane is predominantly transported as bubbles. Methane bubbles rise to the surface at a speed from 10 to 40 cm s-1; this means that it only takes minutes for methane to reach the water surface and escape to the atmosphere."

Even the relatively staid Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned of such a scenario: "The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out. Positive feedback from warming may cause the release of carbon or methane from the terrestrial biosphere and oceans."

Ira Leifer, an atmospheric and marine scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of several Arctic methane studies, told Truthout that the scientific community has learned that methane emissions from the Arctic are already larger than previously thought, and said, "The warming trend in the Arctic is clear."

The dangers of methane-related warning are staggering, according to Leifer.

"The amount of methane trapped in submerged permafrost is vast, and if even a small fraction reaches the atmosphere on the time scale of a few decades, it would lead to a dramatic increase in warming on a global scale," he warned. "Furthermore, it could lead to a positive feedback where warming oceans release more methane which warms the Arctic more and leads to more methane release. Worse, the warming only slowly percolates to lower latitudes - and therefore it contributes to the enhanced Arctic warming."

Like Shakhova, Leifer also expressed concern about the ESAS.

"The potential is there for hydrate emissions to increase with warming oceans due to increased dissociation," he warned. He also confirmed that his recent studies of methane emissions in the Arctic even found the gas hundreds of miles from the coast. This means that the methane cannot be coming from land sources; Leifer has concluded that his recent studies "confirm a local marine source."

Meaning, the subsea hydrates are already releasing their methane very far from shore.

Paul Beckwith, a climatology and meteorology professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada, is an engineer and physicist who researches abrupt climate change in both the present day and in the paleoclimatology records of the deep past.

"It is my view that our climate system is in early stages of abrupt climate change that, unchecked, will lead to a temperature rise of 5 to 6 degrees Celsius within a decade or two," Beckwith told me. "Obviously, such a large change in the climate system will have unprecedented effects on the health and well-being of every plant and animal on our planet."

Beckwith notes that the increasing methane releases in the Arctic and the massive impact they will have on the planetary weather system mean "there will be continuing disruption and fracturing of our weather and climate systems."

He went on to issue a stark warning. "Further acceleration of these processes is very likely to lead to an 'abrupt climate change' system reorganization from a cold, snowy, ice-covered Arctic Ocean to a 'blue Arctic Ocean' regime," he said. "The final state could have a global temperature average being 5 or 6 degrees Celsius warmer and the transition to this state could occur in one to two decades, as has occurred many times in the past as recorded in paleorecords."

The advent of the "blue Arctic Ocean" Beckwith warns us of is only a matter of time, and will most likely happen before 2020
, considering that exponential decline in Arctic summer sea ice volume has already been determined by the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System data and models, which have been corroborated with recent CryoSat measurements, as well as modeling by the Naval Graduate School Regional Climate Models.

Beckwith warns that losing the Arctic sea ice will create a state that "will represent a very different planet, with a much higher global average temperature, in which snow and ice in the northern hemisphere becomes very rare or even vanishes year round."

"What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic," Beckwith explained. "The rapidly warming Arctic relative to the rest of the planet (five to eight times global average temperature rise) is decreasing the temperature gradient between the Arctic and the equator."

This decreased gradient is disrupting the jet stream, leading to further warming in the Arctic, forming a runaway feedback loop, which in turn is causing the release of more methane in the Arctic.

"As the methane concentrations increase in the Arctic from the large warming rates there in both the atmosphere and ocean, the jet streams will be greatly disrupted even more than now," Beckwith said. "Physics dictates that this will continue to increase the frequency, severity and duration of extreme weather events like torrential rains leading to widespread flooding in some regions and droughts in other regions. Needless to say, this causes enormous economic losses and poses a severe and grave threat to our global food supply. Thus, the Arctic can be considered the Achilles heel in our climate system."

British scientist John Nissen, chairman of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, suggests that if the summer sea ice loss passes "the point of no return" and "catastrophic Arctic methane feedbacks" kick in, we'll be in an "instant planetary emergency."


Feb. 25th, 2016

Arctic heat wave; sea ice at record February low

It’s an upside down weather pattern at the top of the world.

A rare February Arctic heat wave has boosted temperatures to as high as 20 to 30 degrees warmer than average in the north polar regions.

The rare Arctic warmth is already causing a decline in Arctic sea ice coverage, at a time of the year when ice cover is historically still increasing toward peak coverage in March. In an eye opening development, current Arctic sea ice coverage is at record lows for February and is tracking well below the previous record year of 2012.

The unprecedented low Arctic sea ice cover has opened the eyes of many climate watchers around the planet.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Forecast System model forecasts continued warmth in the Arctic into early March.

Temperature anomalies March 1 are forecast to remain as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit above average over parts of the Arctic Ocean.

The persistent Arctic heat wave may push Arctic sea ice levels to even more unprecedented lows in the coming weeks.


Feb. 19th, 2016

Arctic ozone could hit all-time low this spring

Scientists who study the earth’s atmosphere have noticed a significant decrease in ozone levels over the Arctic recently and, with the sun’s return in spring, they predict that ozone hole will get a lot bigger.

“At certain altitudes, we’ve already seen about 25 per cent of the ozone being destroyed. That’s the amount we’re sure of,” said Gloria Manney, an expert in stratospheric dynamics and transport at Northwest Research Associates in New Mexico.

“The big question is: what happens next? Because since these reactions depend on sunlight, as you can imagine, as we go into the spring, toward the equinox… these reactions will get much more rapid.”

Scientists are predicting ozone destruction over the Arctic this spring will exceed the highest recorded depletion, which took place in 2011. That year, 80 per cent of the ozone over the Arctic was destroyed.

The science behind this phenomenon is interesting, albeit complicated, and we can expect it to happen more frequently as the earth’s climate warms, said Manney. Here’s why.

There is a fixed amount of heat radiating from the sun. As greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, collect in the earth’s atmosphere, these gases trap more heat closer to the earth, warming the climate. But as a result of that entrapment, less heat leaks out into the atmosphere’s higher altitudes in the stratosphere.

And so the stratosphere is getting colder. When that happens, water vapour and nitric acid condense more frequently at high altitudes to form what are called polar stratospheric clouds — beautifully colourful, but foreboding in nature.

When a harmless form of chlorine gas, which is naturally present in the stratosphere, comes into contact with those unusual clouds, the chlorine is transformed into its “active” form. And chlorine, in its active form, destroys ozone.

Scientists who study stratospheric meteorology, such as Manney, have noted the stratosphere is colder than normal and has been that way since mid-December.

Satellite-based Instruments which measure gases in the stratosphere have also shown that the amount of “inert” or harmless chlorine in the stratosphere is diminishing while active or harmful chlorine is fast increasing.

The final ingredient in this equation is sunlight, Manney said. Sunlight is what causes active chlorine to destroy ozone and right now, there’s little sunlight in the Arctic.

But the polar vortex — that large mass of low pressure and cold air that contains this chemical soup and naturally swirls around the poles — is unusually large in the Arctic this year. Parts of it have expanded down into southern regions where there is sunlight in winter.

In fact, even with the limited amount of sunlight penetrating the polar vortex this year, there is already more ozone depletion than at this time during the record-breaking year of 2011.

And so scientists predict most of the ozone over the Arctic could be destroyed this spring.


The formation of Type II PSCs may be linked to tropospheric methane concentrations because oxidation of methane in the troposphere is a significant source of stratospheric water vapor (Lelieveld et al., 1993). Methane oxidizes to water vapor in the troposphere, and current observations suggest that approximately 10% of that water vapor diffuses to the stratosphere (Lelieveld et al., 1993).

Increased tropospheric methane concentrations may have led to greater amounts of stratospheric water vapor, creating greater areal extents of PSCs, and/or higher emissitivity values of the clouds during the Eocene.

The PSC mechanism is a very appealing explanation for high latitude warming in a greenhouse world for several reasons.

First, PSCs produce a greater magnitude of high latitude warming than any other climate forcing factor tested to date. Second, the warming is concentrated at high latitudes, and tropical temperatures are not affected. Third the warming is preferential in the winter season, corresponding more closely to proxy records of high latitude Eocene temperature (se .g., Zachose t al., 1994; Greenwood and Wing, 1995). Fourth, the mechanism of PSC warming is clearly defined, unlike other hypotheses for high-latitude warming (e.g., poleward oceanic heat transport (Sloan et al, 1995)). Lastly, a positive feedback mechanism amplifies the warming, through the connection between tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling. As the troposphere warms in a greenhouse world, the corresponding increased cooling of the stratosphere could lead to larger areas with temperatures below ~ -190 K, leading to more extensive PSCs (Shine, 1988; Austin et al., 1992). This feedback makes PSCs an even more plausible explanation for high latitude warming during times of warm climate and high greenhouse gas concentrations, such as the middle Cretaceous (e .g., Huber et al., 1995), provided that atmospheric methane exists in sufficient concentrations.

The methane source for the PSCs originally was hypothesized to have been the greater area of wetlands that existed in the ancient greenhouse world (Sloan et al., 1992). Recent work has suggested that the release of methane clathrates to the atmosphere could provide another source of methane at times (Dickens et al., 1997; Bralower et al., 1997). Latest Paleocene marine and isotopic records suggest that an extreme warm "event" occurred, lasting less than 500,000 years and concentrated at high latitudes (Bralower et al., 1997).
Dickens et al. (1997) and Bralower et al. (1997) have suggested that the catastrophic release of methane clathrates could explain the latest Paleocene warming, via tropospheric greenhouse effects.

Not only would the clathrate-released methane have provided more of a source for PSCs, but a pulse of methane also might have increased either the residence time (Lelieveld et al., 1993; Lelieveld and Crutzen, 1992) and/or the amount of methane that diffused to the stratosphere to create PSCs. If so, extensive PSCs might have been an important climate modifier during such methanogenic "events".

Therefore we conclude that PSCs may have been an important climatic forcing factor during past warm climates, and that considering only the tropospheric effects of methane upon climate in paleoclimate studies omits significant mechanisms for potential modification of surface temperatures.


Jan. 26th, 2016

Artic Warmth Anomaly map 1/26/16

Jan. 25th, 2016

Above Freezing Temperatures in the Arctic for the Second Time this Winter

The anchor of these dervishes of Equator-to-Pole heat transfer is the very Winter Storm Jonas that just crippled the Eastern US with record snowfall amounts and storm surges that have beaten some of the highest seas seen during Superstorm Sandy. A second, hurricane force low in the range of 950 mb is predicted to set up between Iceland and Greenland. But the tip of this spear of record atmospheric heat pointed directly at the Arctic is a third, but somewhat milder 990 mb, storm.

And it is this northern low that will draw a leading edge of record warmth into the Arctic. An anomalous, ocean-originating heat front that will spread its pall of air warm enough to melt sea ice during Winter north of Svalbard tomorrow. A swath of near and above-freezing temperatures spreading inexorably Pole-ward. Reinforced by the supporting lows and the synoptic wave of warmth in train, this storm is predicted to drive near or slightly above freezing temperatures into the region of 90 North Latitude by late Tuesday or early Wednesday. An event that would be unprecedented, at least in modern meteorological reckoning. One that may well be unprecedented for the whole of the Holocene.

To put such extraordinary temperatures into context, this predicted record polar warmth is in the range of 55 degrees (F) above normal for January. And for such a typically frigid region, these temperatures are more usual for June, July, or August. Or, to make another comparison, for Gaithersburg, Maryland it would be like seeing readings above 94 degrees (F) for the same Winter day. A summer heatwave in the midst of what should be a season of cold. That’s what’s predicted for a region that will not see a single ray of sunlight until April.


Oct. 17th, 2015

Warming Waters May Be Releasing Giant Plumes of Methane Off the U.S. West Coast

Scientists have detected a disproportionate number of methane bubble plumes off the Washington and Oregon coast. The warming Pacific ocean may be triggering the release of this powerful greenhouse gas, which has remained frozen beneath the seafloor for thousands of years.

The new study, which has been accepted for publication in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, details over 160 bubble plumes observed over the past 10 years. An inordinate number of these plumes were observed at a critical depth where frozen methane “ice”, or hydrate, decomposes on account of warmer ocean temperatures. Lead researcher H. Paul Johnson from the University of Washington says these plumes are probably not coming from the seafloor sediments, but rather from decomposing frozen methane.

The downstream effects of this leaking methane aren’t entirely clear, though historically, methane has contributed to sudden and dramatic swings in the Earth’s climate. Once in the Earth’s atmosphere, methane acts as a powerful greenhouse gas. On a related note, warming-related methane emissions have also been detected in Arctic permafrost and off the Atlantic coast.

“Current environmental changes in Washington and Oregon are already impacting local biology and fisheries, and these changes would be amplified by the further release of methane,” noted Johnson in an AGU statement.

The melting methane could also destabilize the seafloor slopes.

Results of the new study show that methane gas is leaking from all depths along the Washington and Oregon coast, but the plumes are more abundant at the critical depth of 500 meters (0.3 miles), where the decomposition of frozen methane occurs.


Oct. 1st, 2015

Scientists monitor location where new Siberian blowhole may form 'at any moment'

A new expedition to one of the mysterious Siberian giant holes found in recent years has concluded that it is a warning sign of a deadly threat to northern regions as the climate warms.

Scientists from the Trofimuk Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics say the process by which a series of craters formed was caused by the melting of gas hydrates and the emission of methane.

Dr Igor Yeltsov, deputy director of the Trofimuk Institute, said in Novosibirsk after a visit to the most famous of the newly-formed craters:

'In the last decades, temperatures have climbed and caused the release of gas hydrates. Now we face serious changes of temperature all over the Earth. Part of this large scale process, only the tip of the iceberg, we call global warming. It leads to the fact that gas hydrates lose their solid condition. One of the examples of this process is the Yamal crater.'

The volume of methane during transition from a solid to a gaseous state increases about 150 times.

A pingo-like-structure believed to be poised to explode 'at any moment' is now being constantly monitored by a Russian space satellite in an attempt to catch the moment when the eruption occurs. It was spotted not far from the crater designated B-1. 'We will not say the exact location, because journalists or scientists could try and go there, and it is very dangerous. Preliminary estimates show it to be bigger that the one we believe to have preceded B-1.'

Feb. 25th, 2015

Number of Methane Blowouts in Arctic Permafrost Rises Dramatically

Siberia’s blowholes are exploding in numbers: Up to 20 have now been located, raising new fears that the warming permafrost is releasing its deadly methane reserves.

Observation from space has revealed the dramatic mushrooming of the holes, believed to be caused by methane gas eruptions in melting permafrost due to climate change, scientists revealed today.

The craters recorded so far have been identified as blowholes instead of sinkholes by the raised mound of debris which surrounds them.

Expeditions to the bottom of several craters late last year appeared to support speculation that they may have been caused by pockets of defrosted methane gas erupting though the softening surface. Deep lakes of methane-infused “slurry” were found beneath.

Jan. 30th, 2015

Methane Release Press Briefing at COP 20

Third press briefing of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group(AMEG) held on Dec. 6, 2014 at the 20th annual Conference of the Parties (COP 20) for the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Lima, Peru.


On here there is footage of the Arctic Ocean surface 'boiling' with plumes of releasing methane.

Jan. 29th, 2015

California Snowpack Far Worse than Anticipated

California’s second snow survey this winter found the Sierra Nevada snowpack is far below normal after a dry, unusually warm January.

The survey on Thursday found a snowpack water equivalent of just 2.3 inches in the scant snowpack near Echo Summit, about 90 miles east of Sacramento.

It amounted to just 12 percent of the long-term average for this time of year at the snow course.

The snowpack supplies about a third of the water needed by state residents, agriculture and industry.

The latest survey makes it likely that the drought will run through a fourth consecutive year.

Aug. 7th, 2014

Hydrate Dissociation Linked to Siberian Craters

Glaciologists from the sub-Arctic research and study unit in Tyumen say that permafrost temperatures are rising steadily in the region of the Bovanenkovskoye gas field on the Yamal Peninsula in the Russian Arctic, near where the first hole was discovered. Forty years ago it was on average about eight degrees below zero, but now in certain areas it is only minus three.

“Perhaps this is precisely why the process of releasing methane from crystalline ice traps started in the depths of the northern tundra,” wrote Ranks in an article published by the Slon.ru website.

Scholars noted that pieces of earth were scattered near the crater and at a distance of 328-394 feet, which indicates that rather than collapsing, rock was in fact ejected. Moreover, traces of charring, scorching, or any other evidence indicating a thermal explosion have not been found, so the possibility of a meteorite can be ruled out. Scientists believe that the frozen earth was smashed outwards by powerful pressure from below.


Aug. 6th, 2014

Confirmed: Siberian Crater Caused by Hydrate Blowout

By now, you’ve heard of the crater on the Yamal Peninsula. It’s the one that suddenly appeared, yawning nearly 60 metres in diameter.

There’s now a substantiated theory about what created the crater. And the news isn’t good.

Geochemist Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute explained: “Gas pressure increased until it was high enough to push away the overlaying layers in a powerful ejection, forming the crater.”

According to a recent Nature article, “air near the bottom of the crater contained unusually high concentrations of methane - up to 9.6 per cent - in tests conducted at the site on 16 July, says Andrei Plekhanov, an archaeologist at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia. Plekhanov, who led an expedition to the crater, says that air normally contains just 0.000179 per cent methane.”

The scientist said the methane release may be related to Yamal’s unusually hot summers in 2012 and 2013, which were warmer by an average of 5 degrees Celsius.

Scientists contend the thawing of such terrain, rife with centuries of carbon, would release incredible amounts of methane gas and affect global temperatures.


Aug. 5th, 2014

Vast Methane Plumes from Arctic Continental Slope

In a region that is already warming faster than any other on Earth, scientists now say we may have more to fear than just thawing permafrost and melting sea ice in the Arctic.

Just a week into their research along the Siberian coast, scientists from Sweden’s Stockholm University have discovered that the seabed of the Arctic Ocean is releasing significant amounts of methane, the potent greenhouse gas considered one of the main drivers of climate change.

By analyzing water samples, scientists working with the Arctic Ocean climate research program SWERUS-C3 say they found “vast methane plumes” escaping from the seafloor at depths between 500 and 150 metres.

In several places, the methane bubbles even rose to the surface.

“This was somewhat of a surprise,” wrote chief scientist Örjan Gustafsson with the SWERUS-C3 program in a July release.

He speculates that the leaking methane from the seafloor of the continental slope may stem from collapsing “methane hydrates” or clusters of methane trapped in frozen water due to low temperatures and high pressure.

And that could have something to do with a swath of warm Atlantic water moving through the Arctic Ocean.

As the water mass continues to move eastward, warming as its moves, it could be leading to the destabilization of those methane hydrates, Gustafsson said.

Regardless of what’s causing the release of methane from the seabed, climate scientists agree the most troubling aspect of the discovery is the methane bubbles that are making it to the ocean’s surface.

“If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f’d,” Copenhagen-based climatologist Jason Box tweeted Aug. 1.


And this is from the continental slope, The ESAS is far shallower with an average depth of 50 meters. Nearly all of what's released there reaches the atmosphere.

Still 5 1/2 years til 2020. Imagine the wonders we will see over that time. We are witnessing the end of the world, for us anyway.

End of the World Nears

WHAT do three enormous craters in the Siberian wastelands have to do with a terrified American climate scientist? Methane. And that’s something to scare us all.

The end of the world could be starting right now — in a frozen Siberian wasteland known as Yamal. It translates as “The End of the Land”.

Russian researchers have returned from their investigation of the first find and taken water and soil samples to help resolve how the hole was formed.

But scientists already have a pretty good idea.

Explosive vents of vast quantities of methane gas.

Dr Box highlights signs of alarmingly huge spikes of methane being released into the atmosphere above Siberia.

It’s what that means which has him alarmed.

He’s not mincing his words.

He’s issued a no-holds barred call to action.

“This is an all hands on deck moment,” he writes. “We’re in the age of consequences.”

Siberia has a single ground-based climate observing station, at a place called Tiksi.

But the numbers coming out of the remote research post are startling — and they’re backed up by similar stations in Alaska and Canada.

“I can tell you (these are) really high end,” Dr Box writes.

It’s the erratic, but enormous, spikes in methane readings coming from Tiksi — which Dr Box ominously calls “dragon breaths” — that may be tied to the enormous blow holes now appearing in Siberia’s desolate landscape.

But the methane left trapped under the Arctic permafrost is a ticking time bomb — set to send the world into a mass extinction and set the climate clock back by millennia.

“We have been too long on a trajectory pointed at an unmanageable climate calamity; runaway climate heating,” Dr Box writes.


A methane eruption is like blowing the cork on a champagne bottle, and does not involve explosions.

One litre of fully saturated methane clathrate solid contains about 120 grams of methane (or around 169 litres of methane gas at 0°C and 1 atm).

Therefore when it dissociates you have 169 times the volume gas under extreme pressure. And it literally blows it's cork.

The fact that residents reported one of the holes formed at the end of September last year, lends credence to it being a hydrate blowout. We have here physical evidence of methane hydrate dissociation due to climate change.

We'll be seeing more of these, no doubt, as temperatures continue to warm in the arctic.

Share the End - Carly Simon

Here come the priests, each one wailing and bemoaning
Lordy, they got their heads bowed down
Here come the madmen, they're too excited for atoning:
"Burn the mosque," they're shouting, "Burn it down!"

Save me a place, surrounded with friendly faces
All of us have gathered here to share the end
To watch the world go up in flames

Please, Lord we're not ready
Give us a day
Give us an hour

Here come the kings, let's dispense with their apologizing
Just bring on the acrobats and clowns
Here comes the rumble, hang on for universal dying
Please ignore the baying of the hounds

Save me a place, surrounded with friendly faces
All of us have gathered here to share the end
To watch the world go up in flames

Please, Lord we're not ready
Give us some time to work things out
Please, Lord we're not ready
Give us a day
Give us an hour
Please, Lord we're not ready
Give us some time to work things out
Please, Lord we're not ready
Give us a day
Give us an hour

Aug. 4th, 2014

Last Hours


Scientists Warn of Potential Human Extinction

Consider this timeline:

* Late 2007:The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)announces that the planet will see a one degree Celsius temperature increase due to climate change by 2100.

* Late 2008:The Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research predicts a 2C increase by 2100.

* Mid-2009:The U.N. Environment Programme predicts a 3.5C increase by 2100. Such an increase would remove habitat for human beings on this planet, as nearly all the plankton in the oceans would be destroyed, and associated temperature swings would kill off many land plants. Humans have never lived on a planet at 3.5C above baseline.

* October 2009:The Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research releases an updated prediction, suggesting a 4C temperature increase by 2060.

* November 2009:The Global Carbon Project, which monitors the global carbon cycle, and the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a climate science report, predict 6C and 7C temperature increases, respectively, by 2100.

* December 2010:The U.N. Environment Programme predicts up to a 5C increase by 2050.

* 2012: The conservative International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook report for that year states that we are on track to reach a 2C increase by 2017.

* November 2013:The International Energy Agency predicts a 3.5C increase by 2035.

Even the relatively staid IPCC has warned of such a scenario: “The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out. Positive feedback from warming may cause the release of carbon or methane from the terrestrial biosphere and oceans.”

In the last two centuries, the amount of methane in the atmosphere has increased from 0.7 parts per million to 1.7 parts per million. The introduction of methane in such quantities into the atmosphere may, some climate scientists fear, make increases in the global temperature of four to six degrees Celsius inevitable.

And keep in mind that the various major assessments of future global temperatures seldom assume the worst about possible self-reinforcing climate feedback loops like the methane one.

Here’s the question: Could some version of extinction or near-extinction overcome humanity, thanks to climate change — and possibly incredibly fast? Similar things have happened in the past. Fifty-five million years ago, a five degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures seems to have occurred in just 13 years, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Atmospheric and marine scientist Ira Leifer is particularly concerned about the changing rainfall patterns a recently leaked IPCC draft report suggested for our future: “When I look at what the models predicted for a 4C world, I see very little rain over vast swaths of populations. If Spain becomes like Algeria, where do all the Spaniards get the water to survive? We have parts of the world which have high populations which have high rainfall and crops that exist there, and when that rainfall and those crops go away and the country starts looking more like some of North Africa, what keeps the people alive?”

The IPCC report suggests that we can expect a generalized shifting of global rain patterns further north, robbing areas that now get plentiful rain of future water supplies. History shows us that when food supplies collapse, wars begin, while famine and disease spread. All of these things, scientists now fear, could happen on an unprecedented scale, especially given the interconnected nature of the global economy.

“Some scientists are indicating we should make plans to adapt to a 4C world,” Leifer comments. “While prudent, one wonders what portion of the living population now could adapt to such a world, and my view is that it’s just a few thousand people [seeking refuge] in the Arctic or Antarctica.”

“All the evidence points to a locked-in 3.5 to 5 degree C global temperature rise above the 1850 ‘norm’ by mid-century, possibly much sooner. This guarantees a positive feedback, already underway, leading to 4.5 to 6 or more degrees above ‘norm’ and that is a level lethal to life. This is partly due to the fact that humans have to eat and plants can’t adapt fast enough to make that possible for the seven to nine billion of us — so we’ll die.”


Impermanence of Place

"For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."
- Gen. George C. Patton

This quote, when I first saw the movie, struck to the core of my being. It now applies to Mankind.

Former Secretary of State James Baker once said, "Someone asked me what was the most important thing I had learned since being in Washington. I replied that it was the fact that temporal power is fleeting." Baker went on to observe that once driving through the White House gates he saw a man walking alone on Pennsylvania Avenue and recognized him as having been Secretary of State in a previous administration. "There he was alone - no reporters, no security, no adoring public, no trappings of power. Just one solitary man alone with his thoughts. And that mental picture continually serves to remind me of the impermanence of power and the impermanence of place."

Jun. 17th, 2014

Why we cannot be objective in the Middle East

Picture in your mind a terrorist. Was he wearing a Keffiyeh and carrying an AK-47 or Russian RPG? Even for those of us who intellectually know better, the association is imbedded.

Did anyone picture the blond haired, blue eyed guy who hunted down and killed 85 children at an island summer camp in Norway? Probably not.

This type of media imprinting is subtle and invasive. We are visually oriented and visual association is the most powerful. Western media has indoctrinated us all, even those of us who know better. All through visual association.

Now picture a Sunni. Now a Shiite. Were they both the same image? Was that image the same as the first you were asked to imagine? If asked to picture a Muslim, would it be the same image? For some it is.

Visual association is our most primitive form of learning. To a very young child, if it has 4 legs, of a given size, and furry, it's a dog or cat. Even if it's a skunk.

It is only with further cognitive discrimination do we learn the subtle differences. Differences that can make a big difference. Especially if it's a skunk.

But through Modern media, this cognitive discrimination, for the most part, is lacking. Everything is packaged in images and sound bytes. So we end up with false associations.

In this case, for many, all Muslims, or all Arabs, are skunks. Even though most are actually cats or dogs.

Apr. 7th, 2014

OH 'Shield' Depleted Over West Pacific Allowing Methane to Enter Stratosphere

Recent research results show that an atmospheric hole over the tropical West Pacific is reinforcing ozone depletion in the polar regions and could have a significant influence on the climate of the Earth.

An international team of researchers headed by Potsdam scientist Dr. Markus Rex from the German Alfred Wegener Institute has discovered a previously unknown atmospheric phenomenon over the South Seas. Over the tropical West Pacific there is a natural, invisible hole extending over several thousand kilometres in a layer that prevents transport of most of the natural and manmade substances into the stratosphere by virtue of its chemical composition. Like in a giant elevator, many chemical compounds emitted at the ground pass thus unfiltered through this so-called "detergent layer" of the atmosphere. Scientists call it the "OH shield". The newly discovered phenomenon over the South Seas boosts ozone depletion in the polar regions and could have a significant influence on the future climate of the Earth – also because of rising air pollution in South East Asia.

At first Dr. Markus Rex suspected a series of flawed measurements. In October 2009 the atmospheric physicist from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) was on board the German research vessel "Sonne" to measure trace substances in the atmosphere in the tropical West Pacific. Tried and tested a thousand times over, the ozone probes he sent up into the tropical sky with a research balloon every 400 kilometres reported – nothing. Or to be more accurate: almost nothing. The ozone concentrations in his measurements remained nearly constantly below the detection limit of approx. 10 ppbv* in the entire vertical range from the surface of the Earth to an altitude of around 15 kilometres. Normally ozone concentrations in this part of the atmosphere are three to ten times higher.

Although low values at an altitude of around 15 kilometres were known from earlier measurements in the peripheral area of the tropical West Pacific, the complete absence of ozone at all heights was surprising. However, after a short period of doubt and various tests of the instruments it dawned on the worldwide recognised ozone specialist that he might be onto a phenomenon yet unknown to science. A few research years later and after the involvement of other colleagues came confirmation: Markus Rex and his team on board the "Sonne" had tracked down a giant natural hole over the tropical South Seas, situated in a special layer of the lower atmosphere known as the "OH shield". The research results on the newly discovered OH minimum will be published soon in the journal "Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics", with the Institute of Environmental Physics of the University of Bremen and other international research institutions as partners.

"Even though the sky appears to be an extensively uniform space for most people, it is composed of chemically and physically very different layers," Markus Rex explains the complex makeup of the atmosphere. The air layers near the ground contain hundreds or even thousands of chemical compounds. This is why winter and spring, mountains and sea, city and forests all have a distinct smell. The great majority of these substances are broken down into water-soluble compounds in the lower kilometres of the atmosphere and are subsequently washed out by rain. Since these processes require the presence of a certain chemical substance, the so called hydroxyl (=OH) radical, this part of the atmosphere is called the "OH shield". It acts like a huge atmospheric washing machine in which OH is the detergent.

The OH shield is part of the troposphere, as the lower part of the atmosphere is called. "Only a few, extremely long-lived compounds manage to make their way through the OH shield," says Rex, "then they also get through the tropopause and enter the stratosphere." Tropopause refers to the boundary layer between the troposphere and the next atmospheric layer above it, the stratosphere. Particularly substances that enter the stratosphere unfold a global impact. The reason for this is that once they have reached the stratosphere, their degradation products remain up there for many years and spread over the entire globe.

Extremely long-lived chemical compounds find their way to the stratosphere, even where the OH shield is intact. These include methane, nitrous oxide ("laughing gas"), halons, methyl bromide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are notorious as "ozone killers" because they play a major role in ozone depletion in the polar regions.

"We have to realise," reminds the Potsdam atmospheric physicist, "that chemical compounds which enter the stratosphere always have a global impact." Thanks to the OH hole that the researchers discovered over the tropical Pacific, greater amounts of brominated hydrocarbons can reach the stratosphere than in other parts of the world. Although their ascent takes place over the tropical West Pacific, these compounds amplify ozone depletion in the polar regions. Since scientists identified this phenomenon and took it into account in the modelling of stratospheric ozone depletion, their models have corresponded excellently with the actually measured data.


Reduced or depleted hydroxyls extends the half life of methane. Methane in the stratosphere degrades, releasing water vapor to the stratosphere which acts like a blanket to reflect IR radiation back to the surface and creates polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) that deplete ozone.

This is far worse news than reflected in the article. We are seeing the first signs of OH depletion in the atmosphere.

Mar. 17th, 2014

Wild Rover

A Nation Once Again

Metallica - Whiskey In The Jar (Dublin Ireland, 2006)

The Holy Ground

The Merry Ploughboy

All For Me Grog

Finnegan's Wake

Dicey Riley

Feb. 2nd, 2014

California Reservoir System Depleted - No Releases this Year

Amid severe drought conditions, California officials announced Friday they won't send any water from the state's vast reservoir system to local agencies beginning this spring, an unprecedented move that affects drinking water supplies for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland.

The announcement marks the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project that such an action has been taken, but it does not mean that every farm field will turn to dust and every city tap will run dry.

The 29 agencies that draw from the state's water-delivery system have other sources, although those also have been hard-hit by the drought.

"This is the most serious drought we've faced in modern times," said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board. "We need to conserve what little we have to use later in the year, or even in future years."

For perspective, California would have to experience heavy rain and snowfall every other day from now until May to get the state back to its average annual precipitation totals, according to the Department of Water Resources.

"The challenge is that in last drought we drew down groundwater resources and never allowed them to recover," said Heather Cooley, water program co-director for the Pacific Institute, a water policy think tank in Oakland. "We're seeing long term, ongoing declining groundwater levels, and that's a major problem."


Jan. 30th, 2014

Snowpack that provides 1/3 of California's water only 12% of normal

California's Department of Water Resources on Thursday said the state's snowpack was at 12 percent of normal for this time of winter.

It was more bad news for the drought-stricken state facing more dry forecasts, little mountain snow and dwindling reservoirs.

The northern and central Sierra snowpack provides about a third of California's water supply.

State climatologist Michael Anderson says only 1.53 inches of rain was recorded from October through December, the lowest aggregate total in records dating back to 1895.


Paleoclimatologist says decadal droughts 'the norm' for California - last 150 yrs 'unusually wet'

As 2013 came to a close, the media dutifully reported that the year had been the driest in California since records began to be kept in the 1840s. UC Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram didn't think the news stories captured the seriousness of the situation.

"This could potentially be the driest water year in 500 years," says Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary science and geography.

Ingram has an especially long-term perspective. As a paleoclimatologist—a scientist who studies changes in climate by teasing data out of rocks, sediments, shells, microfossils, trees and other sources—she's accustomed to looking back over eons. And according to the width of old tree rings (which can record the coming and going of wet or waterless stretches), California hasn't been so parched since 1580.

The state is facing its third drought year in a row, and Ingram wouldn't be surprised if that dry stretch continues.

Q: California is in its third dry year in a row. How long could that continue?

A: If you go back thousands of years, you see that droughts can go on for years if not decades, and there were some dry periods that lasted over a century, like during the Medieval period and the middle Holocene. The 20th century was unusually mild here, in the sense that the droughts weren't as severe as in the past. It was a wetter century, and a lot of our development has been based on that.

The late 1930s to the early 1950s were when a lot of our dams and aqueducts were built, and those were wetter decades. I think there's an assumption that we'll go back to that, and that's not necessarily the case. We might be heading into a drier period now. It's hard for us to predict, but that's a possibility, especially with global warming. When the climate's warmer, it tends to be drier in the West. The storms tend to hit further into the Pacific Northwest, like they are this year, and we don't experience as many storms in the winter season.

You mentioned global warming. Is what we're seeing consistent with the predictions that have been made about how climate change could affect California?

Yes. We've already started having a decreased snow pack and increased wild fire frequency. And we've been warming, and it's gotten drier. With Pacific Decadal Oscillation [the ever-changing temperature of surface water in the North Pacific Ocean], every 20 or 30 years we go in and out of these positive and negative shifts that affect precipitation and temperature. But now we're entering a period where it looks like we're getting drier even though it doesn't necessarily correspond to that cycle. It looks like a trend. It's warming and drying, and that's definitely a big concern for Western states.

If you look at the archaeological record, you see that the Native American population in the West expanded in the wet years that preceded those long droughts in the Medieval period. Then during the droughts, they were pretty much wiped out. There was the so-called Anasazi collapse in the Southwest about 800 years ago. In some ways, I see that as an analogy to us today. We've had this wetter 150 years and we've expanded. Now we're using up all the available water, yet our population is still growing.

We're vulnerable just like they were, but on an even larger scale.


Dec. 25th, 2013

Merry Christmas to All from the Post Peak Oil Historian

Oct. 21st, 2013

Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum

Here, we report on a sequence of rhythmic sedimentary couplets comprising the Paleocene/ Eocene Marlboro Clay (Salisbury Embayment). These couplets have corresponding δ18O cycles that imply a climatic origin. Seasonal insolation is the only regular climate cycle that can plausibly account for δ18O amplitudes and layer counts. High-resolution stable isotope records show 3.5‰ δ13C decrease over 13 couplets defining the CIE onset, which requires a large, instantaneous release of 13C-depleted carbon. During the CIE, a clear δ13C gradient developed on the shelf with the largest excursions in shallowest waters...


Warming the Fuel for the Fire: thermal dissociation of methane hydrate during the PETM

Dramatic warming and upheaval of the carbon system at the end of the Paleocene Epoch have been linked to massive dissociation of sedimentary methane hydrate. We present new highresolution stable isotope records based on analyses of single planktonic and benthic foraminiferal shells from Ocean Drilling Program Site 690 (Weddell Sea, Southern Ocean), demonstrating that the initial carbon isotope excursion was geologically instantaneous and was preceded by a brief period of gradual surface water warming. Both of these findings support the thermal dissociation of methane hydrate as the cause of the PETM carbon isotope excursion. Furthermore, the data reveal that the methane-derived carbon was slowly mixed from the surface ocean downward, suggesting that a significant fraction of the initial dissociated hydrate methane reached the atmosphere prior to oxidation.

The stratigraphic progression of single-specimen stable isotope changes, with the decrease in surface water δ18O values preceding the decrease in δ13C values, enables us to rule out several possible explanations of PETM carbon input. The onset of the CIE would have preceded the decrease in δ18O values if the PETM had resulted from erosion-induced hydrate dissociation (e.g., Katz et al., 2001) or from a carbonaceous impactor (e.g., Kent et al., 2001). Explosive volcanism (e.g., Bralower et al., 1997) would have resulted in an increase or no change in δ18O values at a high-latitude site. Thus, the only plausible mechanism to consider is the thermal dissociation of methane hydrates. The occurrence of specimens of surface-dwelling foraminifera that record transitional δ18O values and pre-CIE δ13C values (Level 1, Figure 3) suggests a ~2°C warming of surface waters prior to the onset of the CIE.

The top-down progression of the onset of the CIE suggests that a significant proportion of the methane from dissociated hydrates was rapidly transferred to the atmosphere and surface ocean. In order for calcifying organisms to record a methane-derived δ13C anomaly, the isotopically light methane must first be oxidized into CO2 and incorporated into the HCO3 - pool from which calcification occurs. Because the pattern of CIE propagation proceeded downward from surface waters, oxidation of methane must have taken place within the atmosphere/surface ocean. Had the initial release of methane been more gradual (enabling oxidation within the deep ocean), Site 690 planktonic foraminifera would have recorded transitional δ13C values at the onset of the event, and benthic individuals would have recorded the excursion prior to the planktonics.

We note that the top-down progression in carbon input observed at the PETM is strikingly similar to the recent changes in the atmospheric and surface ocean carbon reservoirs in response to release of anthropogenic CO2.

We propose the following scenario to explain the stratigraphic sequence of events in the new stable isotope data. Gradual warming occurred first in surface waters, then in waters at thermocline and intermediate depths. Subduction or downwelling of warmer intermediate waters in the region of water mass formation led to thermal dissociation of methane hydrates at a location with a significant sedimentary hydrate content. Methane gas from the dissociated hydrates reached the atmosphere prior to widespread oxidation.


Oct. 20th, 2013

Atmospheric carbon injection linked to end-Triassic mass extinction

The magnitude and rate of this carbon-cycle disruption can be explained by the injection of at least ~12 × 10(3) gigatons of isotopically depleted carbon as methane into the atmosphere. Concurrent vegetation changes reflect strong warming and an enhanced hydrological cycle. Hence, end-Triassic events are robustly linked to methane-derived massive carbon release and associated climate change.


Oct. 1st, 2013

Methane 'deliberately left out' of IPCC projections - UN Pachauri say's time about to run out on man

There are some possibilities that are deliberately left out of the IPCC projections, because we simply don’t have enough data yet to model them. Jason Box, a visiting scholar at the Byrd Polar Research Center told me in an email interview that: “The scary elephant in the closet is terrestrial and oceanic methane release triggered by warming.” The IPCC projections don’t include the possibility — some scientists say likelihood — that huge quantities of methane will be released from thawing permafrost and undersea methane hydrate reserves. Box said that the threshhold “when humans lose control of potential management of the problem, may be sooner than expected.”

The head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, speaks for the scientific consensus when he says that time is fast running out to avoid the catastrophic collapse of the natural systems on which human life depends. What he recently told a group of climate scientist could be the most chilling headline of all for the U.N. report:

"We have five minutes before midnight."


World won't cool without geoengineering, warns report

Global warming is irreversible without massive geoengineering of the atmosphere's chemistry. This stark warning comes from the draft summary of the latest climate assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

According to one of its lead authors, and the latest draft seen by New Scientist, the report will say: "CO2-induced warming is projected to remain approximately constant for many centuries following a complete cessation of emission. A large fraction of climate change is thus irreversible on a human timescale, except if net anthropogenic CO2 emissions were strongly negative over a sustained period."

In other words, even if all the world ran on carbon-free energy and deforestation ceased, the only way of lowering temperatures would be to devise a scheme for sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.


The big surprise comes in the final paragraph, with a mention of geoengineering. In the scientific world, a final paragraph is often the place to put caveats and suggestions for further research. In the political world, a final paragraph is a coda, a big finish, the place for a triumphant, standing-ovation-inducing summary. The IPCC tries to straddle both worlds. The addition of the word "geoengineering" to the most important report on climate change for six years counts as a big surprise.

There are many reasons to be worried about geoengineering. The idea is old. Countless inventions have been proposed as a technological fix to climate change, but scientists have only recently taken it seriously. Their previous reticence was largely due to a concern that talking about easy solutions would wobble the consensus on the need for a cut in emissions that had been painstakingly built over decades. Geoengineering was taboo – too seductive, too dangerous and too uncertain. It is now moving towards the mainstream of climate science. As the number of geoengineering studies published shoots up, it is now acceptable to discuss it in polite scientific company.

There is an argument that the taboo has already been broken and that, like sex education, it therefore has to be discussed. Those of us interested in geoengineering were expecting it to appear in one or two of the main reports when they are published in the coming months. To bring it up front is to give it premature legitimacy.

The description of geoengineering provided in the summary document is suitably critical. The report points to troubles with both carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere and solar radiation management (SRM) – reflecting a bit of sunlight back into space. In the case of CDR, the sheer scale of the clean-up makes it grotesquely expensive and difficult, and SRM would likely have unintended, unpredictable and disastrous effects on regional weather, among many other troubles (see this pdf for more). But the paragraph still states that: "Modelling indicates that SRM methods, if realizable, have the potential to substantially offset a global temperature rise." This science is still very young. Climate science historian James Fleming describes such studies as "geo-scientific speculation". To include mention of geoengineering, and its supporting "evidence" in a statement of scientific consensus, no matter how layered with caveats, is extraordinary.


‘Atmospheric River’ Smashes Records in Pacific Northwest

A barrage of unusually intense early-autumn storm systems swept across the Pacific Northwest this weekend, bringing hurricane-force winds and dumping enough rain to smash all-time monthly rainfall records from Seattle to Portland.

The rainfall was the product of a long, snake-like plume of moisture that stretched from near Hawaii to the gulf of Alaska, and it aimed squarely at the Pacific Northwest. These moisture plumes are sometimes called “atmospheric rivers,” which are responsible for some of the most damaging flooding events along the U.S. West Coast, particularly in California.

Lees Camp, Ore. recorded 11.10 inches of rain from Sept. 27-30, and Tillamook, along the north Oregon coast, received 6.84 inches.

A weather station on Mount St. Helens recorded 15.30 inches of rain during the same period.

Astoria, Ore., had received 10.51 inches of rain as of Monday morning, nearly 2 inches more than its previous mark set in September, 1906. Its normal monthly rainfall is just 2.14 inches.

A NOAA website on atmospheric rivers contains this fascinating statistic that illustrates just how much moisture can be transported by winds in the mid-to-upper atmosphere: “A strong atmospheric river transports an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to 7.5-15 times the average flow of liquid water at the mouth of the Mississippi River.”


See http://cid-yama.livejournal.com/381578.html for further information on atmospheric river storms.

Jun. 6th, 2013

Arctic Methane: Why The Sea Ice Matters

Jun. 4th, 2013

The Good of Government

Government provides roads and sewers, forcasts the weather, provides disaster relief. Government is how we have fire depts and EMS, police and rescue. Governments provide legal recourse through the courts. Government lights our streets, provides navigational signals, and a million other things we use in our everyday lives.

Govenment is how we provide for our collective needs. The government is us taking care of ourselves. Of the people, by the people, for the people.

We fight to keep it that way.

From FDR's speech:
It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor - these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age - other people's money - these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

They have failed to eliminate or fully take control of our government. Regulation still binds them. The will of the people still has sway. The government is filled with many who defend her and the people from this encroachment. The battle continues.

Their mercenaries try to break your will. Try to covince you the battle is lost. Try to convince you that it is the government that is your enemy. The government is THEIR enemy.

The government remains in the hands of the people. The government is the battleground and the prize they seek to take from the people. The government is the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The government is us and our dreams. And we shall fight to protect it to our dying breath.

Jun. 3rd, 2013

A Rendezvous With Destiny

To understand the root cause of where the American People find themselves today one must look no further than FDR's speech which sums up the history of power in America.

FDR Speech before the 1936 Democratic National Convention

June 27, 1936

The age of machinery, of railroads; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution - all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.

For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital - all undreamed of by the Fathers - the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small-businessmen and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor - these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age - other people's money - these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.

Throughout the nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

An old English judge once said: "Necessitous men are not free men." Liberty requires opportunity to make a living - a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor - other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.

Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.

The brave and clear platform adopted by this convention, to which I heartily subscribe, sets forth that government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster.

But the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them.


The growth of oligarchy in America happened throughout the 20th Century and is a matter of historical fact.

Progressivism is the movement that arose to fight back, and it's thread extends back all the way to the end of the 19th century. That movement is not dead and is represented in Congress by the Progressive Caucus. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the leading spokesperson for the Progressive movement.

Feb. 14th, 2013

Atmospheric River Storms

USGS scietists are quietly conducting seminars with local California governments about coming Atmospheric River Storms. One such series of storms in 1861-1862 devestated California, turning the entire central valley into a 30 ft deep inland sea.

Picture the Lake Tahoe basin in a deluge of rain. Weeks of downpouring and melting snowpacks. Landslides render highways and roads impassable. No lights, no water, no heat, no food.

Businesses shut down. The local economy is devastated. And little outside help is on the way, considering outside responders are overwhelmed with storm damage in surrounding areas.

A deluge of this magnitude is inevitable in Lake Tahoe's future, but it doesn't have to turn catastrophic — so long as preventative steps are taken now, two U.S. Geological Survey scientists said during a presentation last Thursday at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

Such storms will likely come from atmospheric rivers, gargantuan bands of warm water vapor that form over the Pacific Ocean and move eastward, some of which hold enough water to fill the Mississippi River 10 times over, said Dale Cox, a regional hazards coordinator for the federal agency. Satellite imagery shows them to be at least 1,200 miles long and 250 miles wide.

“Atmospheric rivers are particularly vicious storms,” added Michael Dettinger, a USGS research scientist. “They lift up mountain ranges more easily than other storms, cool, condense out, then boom — lots of rain.”

“You will probably be seeing more atmospheric rivers with climate change,” Cox said. “What you can expect from climate change in the west is expanded periods of drought, higher temperatures, sea level rise and more frequent and ferocious storms.”

An ARkStorm — a hypothetical term developed by USGS that's short for an AR (atmospheric river) 1000 (k) storm — is an extreme scenario featuring continual downpour of two to eight inches of rain a day for extended periods in California.

The last catastrophic series of rain storms hit California in 1861-62, causing extensive flooding across the state, devastating the economy. According to various historical accounts, newly elected California Gov. Leland Stanford had to be taken to his inauguration in a rowboat.

Cox said current AR 1000 scenario models (Disaster preparedness drills) are scaled back from the 1861-62 storms.

“If people see a possible catastrophic event as being too large, they think it is not believable and they don't prepare for it,” he said.

Dettinger said he and Cox came to Tahoe last Thursday and presented at TERC “to discuss who from the area we should connect with so that such an effort was of maximum utility for emergency responders, planners and the community at large.”


Geologic evidence shows that truly massive floods, caused by rainfall alone, have occurred in California every 100 to 200 years. Such floods are likely caused by atmospheric rivers: narrow bands of water vapor about a mile above the ocean that extend for thousands of kilometers.

The atmospheric river storms featured in a January 2013 article in Scientific American that I co-wrote with Michael Dettinger, The Coming Megafloods, are responsible for most of the largest historical floods in many western states. The only megaflood to strike the American West in recent history occurred during the winter of 1861-62. California bore the brunt of the damage. This disaster turned enormous regions of the state into inland seas for months, and took thousands of human lives. The costs were devastating: one quarter of California’s economy was destroyed, forcing the state into bankruptcy.

A January 15, 1862, report from the Nelson Point Correspondence described the scene: “On Friday last, we were visited by the most destructive and devastating flood that has ever been the lot of ‘white’ men to see in this part of the country. Feather River reached the height of 9 feet more than was ever known by the ‘oldest inhabitant,’ carrying away bridges, camps, stores, saloon, restaurant, and much real-estate.” Drowning deaths occurred every day on the Feather, Yuba and American rivers. In one tragic account, an entire settlement of Chinese miners was drowned by floods on the Yuba River.

This enormous pulse of water from the rain flowed down the slopes and across the landscape, overwhelming streams and rivers, creating a huge inland sea in California’s enormous Central Valley—a region at least 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Water covered farmlands and towns, drowning people, horses and cattle, and washing away houses, buildings, barns, fences and bridges. The water reached depths up to 30 feet, completely submerging telegraph poles that had just been installed between San Francisco and New York, causing transportation and communications to completely break down over much of the state for a month. William Brewer wrote a series of letters to his brother on the east coast describing the surreal scenes of tragedy that he witnessed during his travels in the region that winter and spring. In a description dated January 31, 1862, Brewer wrote:

Thousands of farms are entirely under water—cattle starving and drowning. All the roads in the middle of the state are impassable; so all mails are cut off. The telegraph also does not work clear through. In the Sacramento Valley for some distance the tops of the poles are under water. The entire valley was a lake extending from the mountains on one side to the coast range hills on the other. Steamers ran back over the ranches fourteen miles from the river, carrying stock, etc, to the hills. Nearly every house and farm over this immense region is gone. America has never before seen such desolation by flood as this has been, and seldom has the Old World seen the like.


But what's not such a good thing is that every once in a while these atmospheric rivers, which are like a fire hose that kind of snakes around, it becomes stationary and it just blasts California with what we call a megaflood. These events have happened historically. In fact, there was a huge megaflood in 1861-1862, 43 days of rain that flooded the entire Central Valley in California. It killed thousands of people. The concern is that it's due to happen again.

Here's the connection with climate change: more water vapor in the atmosphere (about 4 percent increase) may make these storms a little more frequent. We're due for another one. The concern is this could happen in the near future in California.

They are sort of rivers in the atmosphere. The jet stream is the river of air in the atmosphere, we use that analogy, that guides storms. The jet stream focuses these moisture plumes so it really is sort of an atmospheric river. These are the things that occasionally spray California with these heavy rainfalls. The concern here with this sort of nightmare scenario, what they call California's other big one, is that one of these will happen again and there's historical precedent that it's happened in the past.

In fact one of the big megastorms we had a couple of winters ago was a remnant of one of these atmospheric rivers. The climate change component is that the severity and the frequency of these could increase. If one of these occurred today, they're talking about six million people in the path in California. Remember in that 1861-1862 event, Sacramento was under 10 feet of water. The whole Central Valley turned into an inland lake that was something like 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. So this kind of an event, when it occurs, could make Sandy or Katrina look like a walk in the park.

If you took all the water vapor that's being conducted along these atmospheric rivers and condensed it into liquid water, it would be the same as essentially seven to 15 Mississippis worth of water. Whether you believe in climate change or not, we know from sediments on the ground that in California and frankly up and down the west coast that there are storms out there that happened in the past. They're natural occurrences, they happen about every couple hundred years and we frankly should expect them to happen again.

We've talked about the documented increase in excessive rainfall events in the Midwest and Northeast. This is another angle on that. Yes, they've been naturally occurring events in the past, but the infrastructure of California has changed completely since the last time one of these events occurred. Climate change does make the extremes more extreme. It does produce more of these extreme rainfall events and if something on this scale happens in the state of California, the economic catastrophe we're talking about, maybe 25 percent of all buildings damaged.

The advent of satellites since the '60s and '70s has really opened a whole new world of research and really opened our eyes to be able to see these things. So you can actually see these plumes as they move throughout the Pacific and make their way into the west coast of the United States. That technology has increased greatly in the last 20 or 30 years.


Feb. 1st, 2013

Permian-Triassic Extinction took only 20,000 years Rate of CO2 rise in Atmosphere less than today

The end-Permian extinction occurred 252.2 million years ago, decimating 90 percent of marine and terrestrial species, from snails and small crustaceans to early forms of lizards and amphibians. “The Great Dying,” as it’s now known, was the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history, and is probably the closest life has come to being completely extinguished.

An MIT-led team of researchers has now established that the end-Permian extinction was extremely rapid, triggering massive die-outs both in the oceans and on land in less than 20,000 years — the blink of an eye in geologic time. The researchers also found that this time period coincides with a massive buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which likely triggered the simultaneous collapse of species in the oceans and on land.

With further calculations, the group found that the average rate at which carbon dioxide entered the atmosphere during the end-Permian extinction was slightly below today’s rate of carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere due to fossil fuel emissions. Over tens of thousands of years, increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide during the Permian period likely triggered severe global warming, accelerating species extinctions.

The researchers also discovered evidence of simultaneous and widespread wildfires that may have added to end-Permian global warming, triggering what they deem “catastrophic” soil erosion and making environments extremely arid and inhospitable.

The group collected clay samples from ash beds both above and below rock layers from the PTB. In the lab, they separated out zircon, a robust mineral that can survive intense geological processes. Zircon contains trace amounts of uranium, which can be used to date the rocks in which it is found. Bowring and his colleagues analyzed 300 of the “best-looking” grains of zircon, and found the rocks above and below the mass-extinction period spanned only a 20,000-year phase.

The group also analyzed carbon-isotope data from rocks in southern China and found that within the same period, the oceans and atmosphere experienced a large influx of carbon dioxide. Dan Rothman, a professor of geophysics in EAPS, calculated the average rate at which carbon dioxide entered the oceans and atmosphere at the time, finding it to be somewhat less than today’s influx due to fossil fuel emissions.


Dec. 12th, 2012

Climate-changing methane 'rapidly destabilizing' off East Coast, study finds

A changing Gulf Stream off the East Coast has destabilized frozen methane deposits trapped under nearly 4,000 square miles of seafloor, scientists reported Wednesday. And since methane is even more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas, the researchers said, any large-scale release could have significant climate impacts.

Temperature changes in the Gulf Stream are "rapidly destabilizing methane hydrate along a broad swathe of the North American margin," the experts said in a study published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

The team worries that other areas around the globe might be seeing a similar destabilization.

"It is unlikely that the western North Atlantic margin is the only area experiencing changing ocean currents," they noted. "Our estimate ... may therefore represent only a fraction of the methane hydrate currently destabilizing globally."

The wider destabilization evidence, co-author Ben Phrampus told NBC News, includes data from the Arctic and Alaska's northern slope in the Beaufort Sea.


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