This is Sam's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Sam's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Recent Activity
John, Remember as well - if we could somehow magically cease all global warming gas emissions overnight, that the negative feedback from sulfates and aerosols would quickly be removed leaving the warming from CO2 and methane. Combined, these drive us over the edge. How do we ever manage to back down from that? Sam
Toggle Commented Apr 12, 2018 on PIOMAS April 2018 at Arctic Sea Ice
Robert, Effects such as those you describe are I think likely to occur. The problem remains that we have very little understanding of the system behavior when it diverts very far from our recent historical range. As a direct result, the models we have, excellent as they are, have serious limitations in predicting the behavior as we move farther from the norm we have known. Up to know, we have been repeatedly surprised by feedbacks no one considered. The vast majority of those have served to make things worse, not better. We can hope for feedbacks that slow the transition from 3) to 4). Relying on that hope is I believe extremely dangerous. We are already seeing massive changes in the atmosphere, as you have so effectively and patiently reported on. Thank you for that frightening as it is, it is essential information for us all. Thank you too to the incredible scientists and researchers both professional and amateur that have worked so hard in the several dozen fields needed to make sense of it all. Especially thank you to Neven for his tireless work, and for creating and maintaining the Arctic Sea Ice Blog and forum. The consequences we face have become ever more apparent to everyone working in this field, with serious impacts to all of our psyches. Some of the more immediate and terrifying aspects coming fast upon us include the immense changes in the jet streams and oceans, and the consequential changes to precipitation and temperature, and the impacts of those on availability of water (drought and deluge), fire, crop failure, species migration, pollination, biome health (disease and collapse) and more. These are already wreaking havoc. I can foresee no possibility of these not getting worse ever more rapidly, leading to more population migrations (exodus from drought zones), and resulting conflicts. Syria is one such impact. Areas in Africa and South Asia appear to be close or worse. Well, that is depressing enough. But there is so much more. The question remains, what will it take for humanity to globally understand the threat and to react to try to respond in a truly meaningful way? Back to the ice and the current condition. It seems quite apparent from this most recent update and even more recent data that we are headed for a new record low Arctic ice maximum, a vastly softer and warmer arctic at the start of the melt season, and a vastly more disturbed atmosphere shepherding ever more warmth into the arctic. It also seems inevitable that this year we will see a record low minimum ice area and volume. The vagueries of random processes are such that we cannot guarantee this to be true, and we will all have to wait to see. Whatever this years results, the trend year on year is clear. The ice is going - rapidly. And we will soon enter step 3), the era of an at least partially ice free Arctic.
Toggle Commented Feb 23, 2018 on PIOMAS February 2018 at Arctic Sea Ice
Susan and Robert, It has been plainly evident since about 2000 or perhaps the mid-90s that the impacts of warming gases would lead to the arctic melt which in turn would ultimately lead to the loss of all ice in the arctic and subarctic. The failure of the cold pole (the loss of the ice) inevitably leads to the failure of the heat engine that drives climate. Greenland with its immensely thick ice sheet is of course a special case. It inevitably will be the last of the northern ice to melt. That logical sequence then presents us with several interesting time periods. 1) the Holocene 2) the period of rapid global warming up to the first ice free arctic summer 3) the period from then to the first/last ice in the Arctic Ocean in winter 4) the period of Greenland ice melt with no arctic ice 5) the rapid transition following the loss of the Greenland ice 6) stabilization in a post Holocene period with no heat engine in the northern hemisphere, even as the heat engine continues in the Southern Hemisphere driven by the Antarctic ice 7) possibly the long slow transition from full Antarctic ice to no Antarctic ice 8) possibly the full ice free Earth I doubt that we will push the Earths systems hard enough to reach 7, let alone 8. However, the release of the methane and carbon from the northern tundra combined with large clathrate seabed releases, particularly from the Arctic might push things over the edge. The timeframes are so long though, that I suspect that the human perturbation of the system isn't enough to overcome the orbital parameters that have put the Earth in the mixed ice quasi-steady state of the last 3-10 million years. Whatever the case, we will all be long dead before then. It is the end of 2) that we have to concern ourselves with now, 3) which we will soon enter, and 4) that we must be mindful of as it will be here along about 2035-2050. 4) will be devastating far beyond even 2) and 3). Most of us will have passed on before then. Young folks alive today will get to feel the brunt of that provided they survive the chaotic era getting there. The bigger problem is that as the weather and climate destabilizes in 2) and 3) things will get weird and rugged. We are getting our first minor tastes of that already. It is about to get really exciting. That terrible weirdness probably begins in earnest in about 5 years as we shift from 2) to 3). Stepping forward to 6), the post Greenland ice era, we at least have some ideas what the climate results might be like. That era will likely look a lot like 35 million years ago with an equable climate. The arctic will be heavily cloud covered, at least in the winter, and very warm. The storm systems from the equator will be much bigger. And the atmospheric circulation will be entirely different. The rain bands humanity knew, grew up with, and developed agriculture and civilization with will be gone. A new stability will arrive, though it will look little like what we know today or experienced historically. The impacts on whole biomes (including humans) will be catastrophic (from our perspective). However, the devastation of whole ecosystems will create new niches for evolution to explode into. The downsides are obvious in some aspects and not in others. The unexpected may include huge oceanic dead zones, the proliferation of purple Cyanobacteria, falling Oxygen levels (perhaps as low as 14%) combined with rising sulfur levels (H2S and SO2) making it hard for life on land everywhere and in the oceans. As little as we understand about that regime (and hence we cannot model it as we have no models), we know even less about the transitional regimes in 2), 3) and 4). 2) starts as we are now with chaos beginning in the atmospheric circulation. 3) is worse until it stabilizes somewhat in 4). 4) will be decidedly strange with a lopsided cold pole. For however long it takes Greenland to melt some variation on things we know about weather may persist, with huge oceanic changes occurring throughout. Agriculture at least may remain possible, though distributed in very different ways from what we know now. The unfortunate thing is that we now appear entirely unable to avoid 2) and 3). The most unfortunate thing is that those will likely be enough to trigger the release of the tundra and clathrate carbon stored rendering any human response meaningless, other than for changing our trajectory somewhat and adjusting/delaying the timing for when these transitions occur, and perhaps how severe they are And if the tundra and clathrate releases do occur, I can see no way that the Greenland ice doesn't completely melt over the next several centuries. With methane fizzing out of the arctic, and bursting out of the Yama region, massive tundra fires and tundra collapse occurring across Siberia and Alaska, I cannot see those releases not occurring. It is likely even that we're we to cease all carbon emissions magically overnight, that the residual warming from the loss of the sulfate aerosols and particulates alone are enough to push us over the edge with no additional carbon emissions. Far from having time to wind down our emissions, it appears likely that we have run out the clock. If there is any possibility of avoiding this, it is now. And even with everyone cooperating and doing everything possible, success at avoiding 4) or even 5) appears highly unlikely. Sam
Toggle Commented Feb 20, 2018 on PIOMAS February 2018 at Arctic Sea Ice
Wayne, This is a part of the thing I have been commenting about here for quite a while now. My deep concern is that as the volume of ice declines in the arctic, that that starts a chain reaction, the result of which is quite horrible, and that clearly we should all want to bend every effort to avoid. As the ice melts, the driving force of the atmospheric heat engine first declines, then fails. As the engine declines in power, the system becomes unstable. And as Francis and so many others now have noted, the jet streams weaken and destabilize. As that happens and as Francis has noted, the rate of oscillation slows and dramatically deepens. Hot air moves far north. Cold air moves far south. Once the arctic ice is gone, Greenland remains as the driving force for the normal circulation. However, it is very much off center from the north pole. The result both pegs the circulation and stabilizes it to a degree, and destabilizes it by making it highly eccentric. That doesn't much help the oceanic systems. They fail first as the falling cold waters of the arctic melt fail. With that the global oceanic circulation fails. And the oceans dramatically alter over short time periods. Once Greenland melts, nothing remains to drive the northern half of the global atmospheric heat engine. Once that happens, the three cell atmospheric system that has driven the weather for the entirety of primate existence - fails. Rains no longer fall where they once did. The whole system changes. And with that, everything we know is thrown out the window. Our models fail. Our history fails. Everything fails. The Earth begins the rapid conversion first to the odd semi stable system with Greenland as our only cold pole and driver, and then to an equable climate. It seems inevitable that all human systems then fail. Billions of humans die in short order. We should all want to avoid that future at all costs. We seem not to want to do anything to avoid that future. And so now it seems we near the beginning of one of the last chapters of the story of man. The countdown has begun to the last of the summer ice, then the last of the arctic ice, and then to the last of the Greenland ice. Can Antarctica hold as refuge to protect some remnants in the southern hemisphere. Even that now seems doubtful. If so, the last chapter will close beginning a radically different new era on an ice free Earth. Sam
Toggle Commented Jan 22, 2018 on PIOMAS January 2018 at Arctic Sea Ice
Susan, I have been watching those (both the linear high pressure zones, and the interacting lows) and been fascinated by them. I have wondered too how they will interact with the Arctic ice and the thickness of the ice - the topic of this thread. I have been loathe to comment on it here or in the ASIF, as it doesn't seem to directly relate, though as you note it no doubt does. You can get an idea what this all looks like from this speculative projection from windy.,2017-09-25-12,43.771,-42.188,3 And with that, I will leave it, as this seems to be off topic. Sam
Toggle Commented Sep 16, 2017 on PIOMAS September 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
Complex dynamic systems are just what those words say - complex and dynamic. Various indicators of what the system is doing are useful. And these will exhibit variation that we can assess as uncertainty. The actual uncertainty in the system is in the chaos of natural systems, and the dynamics of the system. Those are too complex to sort out, so we are left using surrogates. Worse than that, we can never actually know all of the details of the real system. As a result, our models, no matter how detailed, refined and complex, will always be emulations. All that being what it is, when we look a the variability in the system as it progresses, we have to expect that in any given period that the system is going to wobble about. Generally this will be within expected bounds. Sometimes it won't be. That might indicate that we have missed something about how the system works, or about any transition it may be going through (e.g. eye wall replacement in hurricanes are a decent parallel). Still, the general trend beyond the variability will continue. It is all too easy to get sucked into short term oscillations in the system and jump to the conclusion that they indicate something about the system when in reality, we are looking in too tight of a time scale for the natural level of variability in the system. All the same, it is still a good thing to consider whether such variations are actually indications that we have missed something important and to then go looking for what those may be. Whether we find something, or find nothing, the exercise is useful. I would offer one other thing to consider. We seem to have a very large increase in atmospheric vorticity near the equator. This may be real, or not. It may be part of the variation, or an indication of some organizing principle that we have all missed. My suspicion is that we can learn a good deal about what is or what may be happening by looking at other systems as they go to the low end of driving forces. Some examples of these are: Streams: which meander more and more as the slope gradient driving their flow declines, and that also become more tortuous and variable as the load of fine solids increase. Viscous fluids in pipes or troughs that develop odd behaviors before they stabilize into laminar flow. Undoubtedly there is some tradeoff occurring between the strong driving force of thermodynamics in the temperature difference from the pole to the equator, and the coriolis and drag effects among many others. There may be cusps in the system were the result may be chaotic transition between competing states. Just some things to consider. Sam
Toggle Commented Sep 8, 2017 on PIOMAS September 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
Sam Thank you for taking on this important work. Thank you too for sharing. I cannot even imagine how you will go about modeling slump and collapse in this sort of system. The complexities are huge. I don't want to take your time away from this work, so I am not looking for detailed answers, though I do have a couple of questions. What do think are the key dominant parameters to model this? Might this apply farther south in Siberia for tundra collapse there as well, or are other parameters likely to come into play? Sam
Clarification: the PETM transition is a very different kind of transition. It applies to how rapidly the state of the world changed with with CO2 and methane changes. The ice models have similar timing for their transition.
Toggle Commented Aug 5, 2017 on PIOMAS July 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
Bill, I had not seen that paper yet. Thank you for pointing it out. It is terrifying in its implications. However, it suggests things we really need to be aware of. And it applies directly to ice volume. Caveat: the paper details and contrasts what the models suggest. And, the models are just that models, not the reality they are modeling. That they all show the same behavior suggests that we seriously need to pay attention. They can however mislead us. Most importantly, they may under represent the rate of change because of the large number of missing feedback mechanisms (clathrate collapse ...) and missing unknowns (cloud formation in winter ...). Still, what they show is a roughly 30-35 year transition from a seasonally ice free Arctic summer to a perennially ice free Arctic! Yikes! And this comports well with recent studies of the PETM transition. We now appear to be within five years of the first ice tree Arctic summer (<1 million km^2). This then suggest that we are within 35-40 years of a perennially ice free Arctic (so about 2048-2057). Personally, I am of an age such that I may live to see that. And I find that personally terrifying. With the added feedbacks and unknowns, it may occur sooner than this. My larger concern is that as we approach this transition, that the dynamics of the oceanic circulation and of the atmospheric circulations are likely (will undoubtedly) change in dramatic ways, ways that our models are not likely to be good at predicting. These changes may (likely will) have major impacts first on ice thickness and volume, then next on temperatures and precipitation patterns and seasonality all over the northern hemisphere. This has immense implications for crop production, drinking water, power production, drought, deluge, pestilence, war, and other feedbacks. What this all points out is how critical it is that we never allow conditions to reach the point that we see an ice free Arctic summer. Yet, that is already baked in. We cannot stop that. So now what do we do? What can we do? Sam
Toggle Commented Aug 5, 2017 on PIOMAS July 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
Wade, The arctic is already in full meltdown headed for catastrophic melt. That much is clear for anyone to see looking at the data. We do not need more CO2 for that. Yet we will have much more released before we are done. The complete loss of the artic ice and disruption of both the atmospheric and the oceanic circulation is a done deal. And we haven't yet even begun to see the biospheres response added to what we have done. Sam
Toggle Commented Aug 5, 2017 on PIOMAS July 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
On Worldview, almost all parts of the Northwest Passage shattered today. That has to end up with significant impacts to all of the usual measures in the near future (area, extent, volume). Sam
Toggle Commented Jul 18, 2017 on PIOMAS July 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
zebra, The whole fields of systems engineering, systems analysis, control systems engineering, complex dynamic modeling and many more are all about understanding the complex web of interactions involved in real world dynamic situations. Far from simplifying down to a single variable affecting a single output, the real world involves extraordinarily complex dynamics with feedbacks of all sorts. These range from immediate simple linear feedbacks to highly complex, dynamic and chaotic feedbacks with all sorts of spatial and temporal factors including varying ranges of temporal delay. Figuring out how those work and being able to predict them and utilize them is what these fields are all about. Said differently, in the relatively simple world of psychological analysis of how people think and handle problems there is a simple (and not entirely correct) model of people belonging to two classes; 1) linear thinkers, and 2) gestalt thinkers. Linear thinkers do precisely as you describe. The entire world is simple linear immediate effects with direct deterministic cause and effect every time. Gestalt (whole world) thinkers on the other hand process the dynamics of feedbacks and the complex web of interactions fairly well. Neither is right or wrong. Neither is better or worse. Both have their place. Linear thinkers dominate in fields like accounting. Gestalt thinkers dominate in fields like engineering. Each is better at doing some things than the other. For example: a person who thinks in gestalt is generally good a complex dynamic interaction systems design. Linear think would fail in that endeavor. A linear thinker 0n the other hand can go for weeks processing the counting of objects, tallying numbers, correlating their direct relationships etc... A gestalt thinker would likely go nuts and make errors trying to do the same. Trying to impose linear models on a complex dynamic and often chaotic (in the mathematical sense) world is pure fallacy. the world is no such thing. Sam
Toggle Commented Mar 4, 2017 on PIOMAS February 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
This looks looks like a 'straight forward' chemical engineering problem. Unfortunately, there are many aspects to the problem that are less well understood than desirable. E.g. mixing with depth, temperature, pH, etc... Looks are often deceptive. You can think of this as akin to a standard problem assigned in chemical engineering classes - producing a five compartment model of blood and kidney function. That problem is easy by comparison. Blood in the tissues, blood in circulation, blood in the brain, blood in the lungs, blood in the liver, and blood in the kidneys are easily defined. So too are the interactions among these with mass transfers from one to another, and with fairly well defined parameters for various inputs from the air across the lung surface, through ingestion and out through excretion and urine. This problem by comparison is vastly more complex. The tendency is to treat it as a computational fluid dynamics problem with the oceans broken into gridded layers by depth, latitude and longitude, and the same for the atmosphere. That can work if the problem is setup sufficiently well with the necessary concentrations and interactions. However, the grid spacing with depth and across the surface has to be sufficiently fine to adequately capture the dynamics. And the time slices have to be defined based on the grid spacing so as not to result in absurdities in the calculations. Then too there is the little problem of dynamic instability in the fluid flows that may necessitate even finer grid spacing and lead to greater uncertainties. Non-dimensional analysis and tests can go a long way toward warning when certain condition boundaries are approached or crossed, or when the behavior is likely to change in fundamental ways. It doesn't take too long in pursuing this to realize that to do the problem well requires computational power greater than the entire computational power of all human devices taken together a century from now. So what do? -> simplify. That risks missing major issues, but allows for computationally doable problem development and answers in reasonable time. And this is precisely what has been done. But that begs the question of how well we understand the details of the systems and how well we have captured the interactions. The next easier step is to do even courser correlative analysis and treat the problem as a summation of other problems (akin to what you all are discussing here). Then with those sufficiently defined, a course assemblage model can be developed that can be run on light duty computers (laptops even). This is of course at the expense of rigor. The World 3 model from the club of Rome is an example of this. These do allow for a better understanding of the whoop and wow of the system. They might give us some idea about the stiffness of the problem and the likelihood that we will get kicked int he collective rears by that. Stiff equations by the way, are equations in complex dynamical system that resist movement for long periods, then suddenly respond catastrophically. These tend to be driven by partial differential equations with tanking functions where some input accumulates until it overcomes some often undefined resistance, or result in a state transit in the system. The equations sometimes reveal this from simple analysis. Sometimes they don't. The simple cases can often then can be thought of in terms of Rene Thom's Theorie' de la Catastrophe. In visual terms, the equation space is a multidimensional folded sheet. Movement across the sheet can encounter sudden transitions to other parts of the sheet. Reversal does not then reverse the transition. (Think hysteresis). I applaud your efforts to think through these dynamics. It is useful. I do encourage caution though in believing at any point that you have (any of us) captured all of the important or controlling aspects. Sam
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2017 on Global warming 2016: Arctic spin at Arctic Sea Ice
Along these same lines... As the recent El Nino years developed, a pool of very warm ocean water dominated in the northeastern pacific. It was tied to the ridiculously resilient ridge. The question of which of these drove the other, or wether some other factor drove the creation of either or both remained unresolved. The general belief in the research community was that the RRR caused the warm ocean. As the El Nino faded and near La Nina conditions developed, a long band of abnormally cool water developed from the central north pacific to the northeast pacific ocean. This cold water allowed and possibly encouraged storms to flow from the Pacific into the Pacific Northwestern US. This is the opposite of what happened with the El Nino conditions. Then the storms were shunted north into Alaska and Canada and far south to Baja California. The northern branch distorted (or was distorted by, or jointly ...) the polar and continental jet streams. This in turn led to serious incursions of cold from the arctic down through the eastern US and extreme drought in California. As the El Nino is fading, the cooling of the northeastern pacific seems to be going with it. My question for all of you is this - How is this or how has this impacted oceanic flows into or out of the Arctic on the western side? And, how is this impacting the arctic conditions and flows? I suspect it has either had a large effect, or its large effect has been involved in driving events in the northern and northeastern pacific, with wide ranging ecosystem impacts in addition to the weather and climate impacts. As an added note, I have watched this region since the early 1990s. In the early 1990s, when El Nino's developed, a band of cold water developed in this area and in its twin in the southern hemisphere. When that shifted to La Nina, the equatorial Pacific went cold, and these two bands went warm. The oscillated in opposition to the equatorial temperature oscillation. In the mid to late 1990s, this all changed. The northern band shifted to match the equatorial band (warm and warm, cold and cold). The southern band stayed as it was. The northern part of this pattern seems to be intensifying in that seeming correlation of warm to warm and cold to cold. I don't know that that has any meaning at all. These may be unlinked events and separate oscillations. It is still curious none the less. Sam
NeilT, Said more simply ... the system is buffered. It is akin to charging up a battery or putting air pressure into a tank. We've gotten to the point we've gotten, and there is no easy road back. Worse than this though, along the way we've triggered and we will now inexorably trigger the system to release immense stores of carbon that were sequestered long ago by the natural systems. In time the system will rebalance and achieve a new equilibrium. That may or may not involve putting the carbon back into storage. Whether it does or not depends upon the equilibrium the system achieves. And the timeframes unfortunately are not ones most people can think in. In the long history of the earth, the quasi stable equilibrium states have seldom looked like the one primates grew up in. Usually it has involved one of two boundary states, either hothouse earth or ice house earth. The most likely new equilibrium is the hothouse earth state. But, if we are incredibly fortunate and we collectively act immediately with all hands to the tiller, we might just barely be able to hang onto a quasi stable state near what we had. That is now highly unlikely. It is even more unlikely that we will act together, act immediately, or act strongly enough. What this means for the ice is melting, lots and lots of melting. That then changes the dynamics of the system and at some point the natural carbon stores begin their release. When that release rate approaches human caused release rates we exceed our own ability even with everyone acting together to reverse the process. At that point what we humans do will cease to matter. Th system will do what it will do. All we can do then is to try to slow the transition to allow for some limited degree of adaptation and response. Sam
Toggle Commented Jan 11, 2017 on Global warming 2016: Arctic spin at Arctic Sea Ice
jdallen, I agree with most of your points. However consider please that nature already uses every trick it has to exploit every ecological niche to the maximum that it can. Finding some organism to do better than that is I am afraid a lost cause. I agree that we have crossed many thresholds, points of no return to our current state (at least no return in biologically relevant time periods to humans). I also agree that we need to bend every effort to turn the corner on fuel burning as fast and as hard as we can physically accomplish such. Unfortunately, most of humanity has no reasonable ability to play any role in that. They exist in a day to day struggle to survive and feed themselves. Their near term future welfare is directly dependent on having children to provide for themselves, and in the process the problem becomes worse. Unless and until they can get the breathing room to change that dynamic there is no answer to that problem save for ecological overrun, starvation, and collapse. Alternately, they can flee to someplace else as we are already seeing happen from Africa and the Middle East into Europe. The floor on problems that creates and the reactions that result are sadly all too predictable in broad terms, if not in specifics. Worse, many of our brethren fundamentally do not believe, do not want to believe and cannot allow themselves to believe that this is a real and immediate threat. Instead, they see this as yet another assault on themselves, their beliefs, their culture, their values, their wants, dreams and desires. As a result, they not only are not on board with attacking the problem, they are actively pulling in the opposite direction. They are deeply trapped in the religion of growth and set beliefs that deny as even possible the very things that will destroy our societies and humanity. Unless and until that changes, there is not only no hope and no possibility of hope, their is the antithesis of hope, there is certainty that it will get worse faster and faster and faster. And like the least able defend themselves, those of us with more resources are trapped too on a path to ruin that leads to ecological collapse and destruction on a scale seldom seen on earth. For us there won't even be the option of fleeing to some other ecoregion. We live in the final bastion. But here too we have a problem. A deep part of our many cultures down through history has used fear to drive and motivate. In particular, many (most) religions rely on end times catastrophes as part of their mythos. We collectively discount any assertions of impending disaster. We've heard it all before and nothing has ever come of the warnings. Most people simply cannot reason at the technological levels required to understand how this time is fundamentally different from those and that the danger we face is very real and imminent. They must rely instead on what others tell them. And here too we are trapped, as the easy rhetorical arguments of the lack of a problem are desirable and easy while the deep technical arguments on the other side argue for austerity and pain. People cannot easily see that the later is the vastly better option, and that the former is nothing but a salesman's slick speech to lure in the suckers, an illusory dream. Not long ago (a decade or two) a new phrase was coined - extinction level event - to describe the risks from asteroid impacts. The certainty (not risk -> we passed 'risk' a long while ago) is on that scale. This is a slow onset ELE. Before the bulk of people understand that it is already too late to avoid the worst aspects of the ELE, it's impacts are upon us and our potential choices become more limited with each passing moment. About all that I believe we can do at this point is to mitigate the trajectory, to try to save some parts of the biosphere and perhaps ourselves. But even that requires massive concerted effort. I don't see how we can possibly get there. I wish to be utterly and completely wrong about this. As to the ice. I'm afraid that we will not be able in anyway to slow the change before the ice goes completely. It matters little whether that happens immediately or in a decade, or in three decades. The momentum we have built into the system will carry us through to complete loss of the arctic ice before we can do much of anything to even put a dent in our trajectory. I suspect that the same is true for the Greenland sheet. That should take 1 to 3 centuries to melt. I suspect it will completely melt far faster than we even imagine is possible. For a time, Greenland will likely be our temporary salvation for climate. But that will come with its own problems as a highly asymmetrical weather pattern develops with the cold pole situated far from the north pole severely distorting the polar stream and the jet stream. And again - I stridently wish to be wrong in my evaluation. Sam
You all seem to only see negatives or risks in geoengineering. Just think how rich all the lawyers will get on all sides of the debacle. And think about all the military spending to grab resources and the pride we'll all have in our brave troops sacrificed doing so. /snark mode off/
Jai, I would love to believe that " will be a powerful activating event that will polarize society into mobilizing. Working together to end the fossil fuel era using techniques and economic models that have not been embraced since the beginning of World War II." etc. and "We will be back to 300 PPMv CO2 by 2075." I don't believe even for a moment that either of these can occur. The first will in all probability be ruled out by ignorant self interest that will deny reality right to the last. The second will in all probability be ruled out for the same reason. These require massive sacrifice on everyone's part and a move away from our current societal systems that price everything. That's just not going to happen. Like Vidaloo and others, I believe that this disruption event is likely to happen. What I am less convinced about is the timing. It seems likely that the change to ice free conditions will be the point of transition, that the warming of the Arctic thereafter will be much more rapid and will lead to the destabilization. This is classic high school science. Ice in a glass of water greatly stabilizes the temperature of the water. Adding heat to the glass quickly translates into melting ice with little temperature change. But once the ice is gone - hang on to your hat. Sam
Toggle Commented Dec 20, 2016 on PIOMAS December 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Correction... 2.25 trillion not quadrillion. 2.25 x 10^12
Wipneus, Thank you for clarifying. And - wow!! The plot bottoms out at what appears to be -8.15 sigma. As a measure of this as part of the normal distribution the chances of this occurring are over 2 quadrillion (American measures) to 1. (1 in 2.25 times 10 to the 15th power). We are in a new system now. Even at -5 sigma we are at 1 in 1.75 million. Personally I have never seen 8 sigma in a data set before. Sam
Jim, Actually, I am not quibbling with how the grey band values were calculated. I presume that was done correctly and well. As you note though, inherently there are challenges to the validity of doing that at all (apples and oranges). Still the calculation was done and the grey bar used. What I was commenting is that I don't personally know if this used the +/- 1 or +/- 2 sigma values. From appearances it is the +/- 2 sigma band. Looking only at the Arctic plot with its +/- 2 sigma band we are easily at 5 sigma on the low side. And that is extraordinary. Sam
Hans, I don't know the basis of the grey bars shown in the plot. If the grey band (barely visible) is the +/- 2 sigma error band for earlier times, then the current trend line appears to be about 3 sigma below the -2 sigma level, so 5 sigma in total. If the grey band is the +/- 1 sigma band, then the trend line appears to be about 2.5 sigma below the mean for earlier times. Either way, that is huge. At 5 sigma, well it is shall we say - significant. Which ever it is, the Arctic ice numbers are well outside the band and bode ill for the start of 2017s ice year. But then too, as the climate has shifted it has also become more erratic in any given year we can and should expect surprises in any direction. Last year early in the season I couldn't see any way that we would end up with as much ice as we did. At the same time, the quality of the ice was dramatically different and worse than in any prior year. It was immensely fractured and dispersed. As a result, the metrics that we all rely on to point us toward what to expect in the future all became highly suspect. The fundamental foundations of the definitions of ice edge and area became highly weird and uncertain. Almost uniformly they indicted more ice than our eyes showed us was present. The early definitions intentionally erred toward conservatism (in this usage - overestimating the amount of ice). But the relative potential error that introduced was small as the edges were small compared to the massive size of the ice sheet. Last year that became decidedly untrue. The edges were everywhere. The ice was shattered and dispersed. As a result, the mean tendency for the values of area and extent became misleading and highly uncertain. The error introduced by the definitions became very important, though generally unnoted and generally unevaluated. Even now we have the same problem, though it is largely concealed by the relatively thin first year ice that has formed at much higher temperatures than usual for winter in the Arctic. With these and other metrics and values having their own problems then being input into the ice volume models, those as well are more questionable. One measure of that is the very large differences between the various models about the thickness of the ice from place to place across the Arctic. The distributions often look quite dissimilar. Personally I have given up trying to estimate what the extent, area and volume metrics and model results may say. I am confident that they are each over estimates, though I have no confidence in assessing how far off they may be from whatever the real values are. Even that is subjective depending on definitions (just as the metrics are subjective based on definitions). About the only things I am confident in are the general trends to less and less ice, to the acceleration of those trends, and to the inevitability that those trends will reach zero in the relatively near future. I tend to think more in the decade to century or millennial time scales than the annual to five year scales. Looked at in this longer scales, the decline is quite abrupt and will cross zero almost immediately. Once that happens, all bets are off. We then enter a new regime where we have more guesses than knowledge. The potential consequences of some of the potential paths we then take are in a word terrifying. But collectively we seem unwilling to consider any of those, as they are too terrifying to consider. And so we blunder forward. Worse even than that, a large part of our global population with vested interests in the answer being different than what we see coming simply rejects that and works instead to destroy the messengers warning of impending disasters. What they miss of course is that ignoring the warnings or opposing the messages (and messengers) about what is cmiing does nothing to change the reality. Reality ultimately prevails. Reality is funny that way. Sam
Lord Soth and Wayne, Though the conditions during a hothouse earth period may sound benign, they are dramatically different than what humans are now adapted to. With a slow transition, we might well even adapt. What we have become is as far from a slow transition as is immaginable. It is in fact one of the most rapid non-asteroidal impact transitions in all of earth's history. And it is the transition that is likely to do us in. We are now in one of the six greatest extinction events in all of earth's long history. The transition is far from benign. For example: Hypoxia, Global Warming, and Terrestrial Late Permian Extinctions Raymond B. Huey*, Peter D. Ward + Author Affiliations ↵* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Science 15 Apr 2005: Vol. 308, Issue 5720, pp. 398-401 DOI: 10.1126/science.1108019 Elisee, An ice free earth (or even an earth with one pole ice free) operates under wholly different rules than the world we are accustomed to. The so-called equable climate world where this is true has long been a conundrum. T is only in the past decade that the pieces have come together about how the equable climate world works. It has long been known that during an equable climate period that their is little temperature difference from equator to pole just how that could be was unclear. What we now understand (as I and many others have noted here) is that during such times that the atmospheric circulation breaks down from the current three cell circulation into a single cell circulation with heavy cloud cover over the pole throughout the winter. The oceans do not boil. They circulate differently carrying heat to the pole. This has been reported here many times already. You must have missed those many discussions. Sam
Toggle Commented Dec 11, 2016 on PIOMAS December 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Elisee, What you seem to miss is what happens in the transition between these states, just how fast the transitions are, how poorly adapted most species are to the broad change required to survive the transition, and just how severely we have degraded the whole of the earth's ecosystems. Most species cannot adapt fast enough to survive the transition to hothouse earth, or even the lesser transition that we have assuredly triggered. Species most often adapt to a narrow range of conditions for economy reasons (energy economy, genetic and molecular economy, ... not financial economy - obviously). Most species are also highly dependent on other species in an intricate web of codependency. Obvious examples like the dodo are easy to understand. Less obvious ones like the timing of plants blooming and pollinators emerging are only slightly less hard to see. But even these simple examples are beyond the knowledge or awareness of the majority of humans. The earth will survive and thrive for the next three quarters of a billion years. That does not mean that the species we know (possibly ourselves included) will. During past transitions, oxygen levels have fallen to below 14% and stayed there for over million years. That is ample for many species. It isn't sufficient for most large mammals to remain conscious and to do all the things needed for survival. It is equivalent to living at 5-6 kilometers elevation. Three distinct populations of humans carry adaptations to such thin air (Ethiopian, Himalayan and Andean). The vast majority of people do not carry these adaptations. Some yaks, alpaca, vicuña, etc also are adapted and might survive, provided there is sufficient food. Small mammals too will have a chance. Most large mammals won't. And a similar story plays out in the oceans. Add to thus the declining pH of our blood in homeostasis with atmospheric CO2, and general health declines as well. We as a species are adapted to a narrow range of CO2. As CO2 rises our blood pH falls. As pH falls our general health declines. And again a different but similar problem plays out in the oceans as the pH moves below the range that will support formation or maintence of shells. And the shell fish perish - severely impacting all of the species that depend on them. In the hothouse earth with O2 levels potentially rising to 30% in a denser thicker atmosphere, forest fires can start and rage on, all while drenching downpours occur. Three foot spiders and six foot sea going scorpions become possible and have occurred in the past. It is a world wholly unlike the world we know.
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2016 on PIOMAS December 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Neven, and all, I had thought we here had collectively gotten past the point of confusing desires with reality. I have never had that option. My comments are not meant to nor are they apocalyptic by desire or design. They are simply observations on the real world and where we are. My experience of this world is that the only way we stand any chance of benefiting our future is by realistically coming to grips with where we are, where we are headed, and the bounds of what we can do to adjust that path. Then knowing those things, buckling down to do the hard work to make the future better match what we wish within the bounds of what is physically possible. I have been stunned frankly in the past decade to come to the unwelcome realization that the vast majority of humanity does not do this. Instead, people most generally start by deciding what they want, then select data and information to bolster their own views and desires (irrespective of any test against reality, against sufficiency, adequacy or anything else). Next, they tend then associate with those who affirm their desires and views and who reject other views. That's all well and good so long as it isn't in direct contradiction to physical reality and the limits it imposes. I wish most fervently to be wrong, to have erred in assessing where we are and where we are headed. I see little potential for error large enough to significantly change the conclusions. It is fundamentally clear that human emissions of carbon gases are radically changing our climate. It is clear these are directly tied to the numbers of us and the "living standard" we demand. It is clear that our numbers are growing exponentially and are now far beyond sustainable levels. We are now rapidly degrading all of the earth's supporting systems. And we continue to grow exponentially. It is also clear from the trends on Arctic ice area, extent and volume that within the next decade that we will have a substantially ice free Arctic for at least one month each year. It is also clear that ice melt will continue and likely worsen thereafter. It is clear that sometime by about the mid 2030s that the Arctic will be ice free year round save for Greenland. With that change, the fundamental driving force for atmospheric circulation in the northern hemisphere will break down. We are already seeing the beginnings of that now. With Greenland as the only cold source we will have at best a severely weakened and highly unbalanced driver for our current three cell atmospheric circulation. Weather patterns will at the very least shift dramatically and non uniformly. Simultaneously, the great oceanic conveyor will lose its northern driving force as the diving current fails with the loss of ice to melt. This too will lead to dramatic changes in the oceanic circulations, productivity, and impacts on weather, as well as further warming of the Arctic, clathrate breakdown and consequent methane release, tundra collapse and more. There is little to nothing we can meaningfully do about that now. But the only chance we have of doing anything about these things comes about by first understanding the brutal condition we have placed ourselves in. With CO2eq now over 500 ppm, our room to maneuver is extremely limited. We are currently releasing an ever increasing amount of warming gases to the tune of an additional 3.5+ ppm CO2eq each year (and rising each year). Things only get worse from here. But again, we can only have any possible chance of changing this trajectory if we first come to grips with where we are and with what is actually required to accomplish a significant change. Not recognizing that or coming to grips with it leaves us failing to do what is required. It frankly doesn't matter how we feel about it, or what we desire if we fail in these things. As to your question about why I raise this here? Where else is there to raise it? If this group of people cannot deal with this, there is no other forum or group apparent in the world that can. And if it is indeed the case that this group cannot come to grips with this, then we are good and truly done. As to the comments that we will not become Venus or Mars, or that the earth is 'stable'. In time, the earth will become Venus like. That too is inevitable. Fortunately, we have about 750 million years before the suns rising heat emissions push us inside the inner edge of the Goldilocks zone. It is highly unlikely that anything man could now do could trip us over that edge. But that doesn't mean that we cannot create or force conditions that we as a species cannot survive. We are proving quite capable of that. In its long geologic history, the earth has most often alternated between two quasi stable states - hothouse and icehouse earth. Seldom has the earth stayed in an intermediate state. And even when it has, the orbital and other oscillations have typically been so large and chaotic that agriculture would not be possible. It is only in this quasi stable midground with ice covering both poles that we have had this relatively stable period that allowed us to develop the food supplies needed to support civilization. Sam
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2016 on PIOMAS December 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice