NSIDC director: “The volume of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month.”

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"NSIDC director: “The volume of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month.”"

Serreze: “I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It’s not going to recover.”

We are proud of being the first sailing vessel, together with “Peter 1st”, that ever has sailed through both the Northeast and Northwest Passage in one short Arctic summer.”

This amazing Arctic melt season is finally coming to an end.  We just about equaled 2008 for the second lowest sea ice extent and area.  But volume matters more — and here it looks like we’re setting the record.

We’ve seen that National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) scientists have tracked a sharp drop in oldest, thickest Arctic sea ice.  So it’s no surprise that the Polar Science Center‘s PIOMAS model for mid-September shows a record low volume for the month and hence the year and hence “any time in recent geologic history”:

PIOMAS 9-10

Daily Sea Ice volume anomalies for each day are computed relative to the 1979 to 2009 average for that day. The trend for the 1979- present period is shown in blue. Shaded areas show one and two standard deviations from the trend.

This graph shows more than a 1000 km^3 drop in ice volume over the record low last year of 5,800 km^3 (67% below its 1979 maximum).  I did check with PSC about their confidence level in this relative decline.

They said that they don’t have credible numbers for the uncertainty of the model estimates, so it is possible that this volume drop is within the model error.  For them, “The more important point in my view is that 2010 continues a long-term trend of declining sea ice volume.”

Volume NS

NSIDC director Mark Serreze was more direct in an email interview: “The volume of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month.”

He was confirming the accuracy of a terrific IPS story, “Arctic Ice in Death Spiral,” by (long-time CP commenter) Stephen Leahy.  Serreze explained to Leahy:

“I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It’s not going to recover,” he said.

There can be no recovery because tremendous amounts of extra heat are added every summer to the region as more than 2.5 million square kilometres of the Arctic Ocean have been opened up to the heat of the 24-hour summer sun. A warmer Arctic Ocean not only takes much longer to re-freeze, it emits huge volumes of additional heat energy into the atmosphere, disrupting the weather patterns of the northern hemisphere, scientists have now confirmed.

You can see the 5-day moving average for the sea ice extent that NSIDC tracks has continued to decline through yesterday September 21 to nearly 4.5 million square kilometers — far below for predictions of both the disinformers and the experts:

http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_stddev_timeseries.png

What are the implications?

I’ve reported on the voyage of Thorleif Thorleifsson, captain of the “Northern Passage,” who, with explorer B¸rge Ousland, has been making a “daring attempt to sail through both the Northeast and Northwest passages during one and the same season” (see Captain’s log from the Chukchi Sea: “The water temperature is 7.5 degrees. If we weren’t sailing, it would be a great temperature for a swim!”).  Now he and B¸rge report on “Completing the passage“:

Expedition Report, 06.07 CEST:
Today, on the 21st of September, we enter Lancaster Sound and reach the 74th parallel, considered by most as the exit (or entrance) to the Northwest Passage. We are proud of being the first sailing vessel, together with “Peter 1st”, that ever has sailed through both the Northeast and Northwest Passage in one short Arctic summer. We congratulate “Peter 1st” with their achievements through the ice….

Our expedition is one of the most environmentally friendly of its kind ever undertaken. We have used sail more than 90 percent of the time; only in between thick drift ice and in and out of harbours have we had some modest help from our small outboard motor.

For the captain and crew of the “Northern Passage” this is not merely a question of a sports achievement – to complete both passages – Thorleif and B¸rge both have a strong environmental commitment, and are particularly concerned with the ongoing climate changes.

It is, unfortunately, the dramatic changes in Arctic sea ice conditions in recent years that have made this trip possible. On the time of Roald Amundsen it took five to six years to complete the same distance, due to the extremely difficult and demanding ice conditions. Now we have proven that it is possible to make the voyage in a 31-foot fibreglass sailing boat, equipped with a 10 horsepower outboard motor for emergencies. This shows how dramatic and how fast these changes are happening. The changes that we are witnessing will influence climate on a global scale, in addition to the whole range of animal life in the Arctic – especially seals and polar bears, whose lives are dependent on the sea ice.

It is our hope that our voyage will be seen as a strong, visible symbol of the scale and the speed of these changes.

That’s one of the local impacts.  Leahy talks to leading scientists, who spell out the broader consequences of our inaction:

There is growing evidence of widespread impacts from a warmer Arctic, agreed Serreze. “Trapping all that additional heat has to have impacts and those will grow in the future,” he said.

One local impact underway is a rapid warming of the coastal regions of the Arctic, where average temperatures are now three to five degrees C warmer than they were 30 years ago. If the global average temperature increases from the present 0.8 C to two degrees C, as seems likely, the entire Arctic region will warm at least four to six degrees and possibly eight degrees due to a series of processes and feedbacks called Arctic amplification.

A similar feverish rise in our body temperatures would put us in hospital if it didn’t kill us outright.

“I hate to say it but I think we are committed to a four- to six-degree [Celsius] warmer Arctic,” Serreze said.

If the Arctic becomes six degrees warmer, then half of the world’s permafrost will likely thaw, probably to a depth of a few metres, releasing most of the carbon and methane accumulated there over thousands of years, said Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and a world expert on permafrost.

Methane is a global warming gas approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

That would be catastrophic for human civilisation, experts agree. The permafrost region spans 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe and contains at least twice as much carbon as is currently present in the atmosphere – 1,672 gigatonnes of carbon, according a paper published in Nature in 2009. That’s three times more carbon than all of the worlds’ forests contain.

“Permafrost thawing has been observed consistently across the entire region since the 1980s,” Romanovsky said in an interview.

A Canadian study in 2009 documented that the southernmost permafrost limit had retreated 130 kilometres over the past 50 years in Quebec’s James Bay region. At the northern edge, for the first time in a decade, the heat from the Arctic Ocean pushed far inland this summer, Romanovsky said.

There are no good estimates of how much CO2 and methane is being released by the thawing permafrost or by the undersea permafrost that acts as a cap over unknown quantities of methane hydrates (a type of frozen methane) along the Arctic Ocean shelf, he said.

“Methane is always there anywhere you drill through the permafrost,” Romanovsky noted.

Last spring , Romanovsky’s colleagues reported that an estimated eight million tonnes of methane emissions are bubbling to the surface from the shallow East Siberian Arctic shelf every year in what were the first-ever measurements taken there. If just one percent of the Arctic undersea methane reaches the atmosphere, it could quadruple the amount of methane currently in the atmosphere.

Abrupt releases of large amounts of CO2 and methane are certainly possible on a scale of decades, he said. The present relatively slow thaw of the permafrost could rapidly accelerate in a few decades, releasing huge amounts of global warming gases.

Another permafrost expert, Ted Schuur of the University of Florida, has come to the same conclusion. “In a matter of decades we could lose much of the permafrost,” Shuur told IPS.

Those losses are more likely to come rapidly and upfront, he says. In other words, much of the permafrost thaw would happen at the beginning of a massive 50-year meltdown because of rapid feedbacks.

Emissions of CO2 and methane from thawing permafrost are not yet factored into the global climate models and it will be several years before this can be done reasonably well, Shuur said.

“Current mitigation targets are only based on anthropogenic (human) emissions,” he explained.

Present pledges by governments to reduce emissions will still result in a global average temperature increase of 3.5 to 3.9 C by 2100, according to the latest analysis. That would result in an Arctic that’s 10 to 16 degrees C warmer, releasing most of the permafrost carbon and methane and unknown quantities of methane hydrates.

Can’t really argue with that:

If this happens, it doesn’t mean modern human civilization is necessarily doomed to multiple catastrophic climate impacts, but it certainly means that humankind’s effort to reduce emissions and avoid 10°F warming, which I expect will become a desperate global effort sometime in the 2020s, will become increasingly harder, taking up more and more of our resources and know-how.

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40 Responses to NSIDC director: “The volume of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month.”

  1. TomThumb says:

    A month ago Goggard on WUWT performed an extensive “analysis” and after this exhaustive work he concluded that it was going to be a short melt season this year…

    Who would have thunk, it you can’t stop global warming by putting your head in the sand, crossing your fingers and trying to wish it away

  2. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Goddard remind me of this Monty Python sketch… (room 12A, Cleese’s character)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y

  3. catman306 says:

    The absurdity that forms the humor in the old saying ‘he’s such a good salesman he could sell refrigerators to an eskimo’ has been replaced with the reality that he’ll be selling lots of refrigerators because every Eskimo household will need one.

    If we stopped burning fossil fuel today, not one more ton, how long would it take for the Earth to start cooling again and stop the melting of the permafrost and the potential for the release of methane? How much CO2 warming would be left in the system, or put another way, how much warmer before the earth’s average temperature peaks?

  4. Robert says:

    Realistically, even if all CO2 emissions stopped today atmospheric CO2 levels would not suddenly decline and the PIOMAS sea ice volume trend would not go into reverse, so we will see an ice-free arctic and massive permafrost melting come what may.

    I for one am trying to get my 23 year old daughter to take an interest in climate change and whether it’s that sensible to have kids…

  5. Larry Oliver says:

    My only concern about displaying this data is that the usual suspects will raise a flag because there is modeling involved…

    Those of us who are not swayed by conclusion bias can see the role of the models, and how it is validated. But others will proclaim to their echo chamber that this data is somehow “contaminated”.

    Brace yourselves :)

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CORPUS CHRISTI TX
    530 PM CDT WED SEP 22 2010

    …SEPTEMBER AND YEAR OF 2010 ONE OF THE WETTEST ON RECORD…
    OCTOBER 1 TO SEPTEMBER 30TH RAINFALL (WATER YEAR)

    1. 52.61 2010 (OCTOBER 1, 2009 TO CURRENT)
    2. 49.21 1889
    3. 46.70 1992
    4. 45.47 1961

    http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=CRP&product=PNS&issuedby=CRP&version=1&format=CI&glossary=1

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Brownsville Texas –

    Rainfall Text Table

    BROWNSVILLE 10.26 ” COCORAHS THRU 900 AM 9/22

    http://www.srh.weather.gov/bro/?n=2010event_midseptemberrains

  8. caerbannog says:

    Here’s an article that in sane times you would have expected to see in a publication like Time or Newsweek: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/208775?RS_show_page=0

    It’s really pathetic when you have to turn to the so-called “alternative/hippie” press to get any decent climate-science news.

  9. Steve Bloom says:

    Now the two boats probably will have to stay where they are for a while since there’s a big nasty hurricane spinning in Baffin Bay. Technically Igor’s an extra-tropical cyclone now, but it still carries a huge amount of warmth. This is a Pliocene-style storm of the type predicted by Kerry Emanuel.

  10. “On a regional basis, today’s report says that warming is expected to be greatest over land and at most northern latitudes, with parts of Russia and Canada most greatly affected. This is expected to reduce snow cover and cause the melting of permafrost in the northern hemisphere. Arctic and Antarctic sea ice is projected to shrink, and by 2100, the Arctic Ocean is expected to be nearly ice-free in late summer. ”
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/26979

    What a difference 3 years make.

    “We are insulting the environmont faster than we can understand it” Stephen Schneider
    http://growthisnotsustainable.blogspot.com/2010/07/way-back-in-1979.html

  11. Sasparilla says:

    #3 (catman306) to answer your question:

    “If we stopped burning fossil fuel today, not one more ton, how long would it take for the Earth to start cooling again and stop the melting of the permafrost and the potential for the release of methane? How much CO2 warming would be left in the system, or put another way, how much warmer before the earth’s average temperature peaks?”

    The depressing answer is that the estimates are between 30 – 40 years (depending on who you talk to) of increasing temperatures with just the CO2 that is in the system until equilibrium is achieved in temps. The reason for this is that the oceans act as enormous drag on achieving that temperature equilibrium.

    The other depressing thing is that the temperature would then stay there (it wouldn’t peak and go down) since the CO2 levels wouldn’t naturally decrease by large amounts very quickly.

    Since a immediate CO2 stoppage is impossible, the best we could probably be looking at would be 50+ years if we went full out to eliminate CO2 emissions at a war time pacing….of course we’re not even trying at this point.

  12. Edward says:

    The first graph looks rather linear. Is that because the melting timescale is longer then the temperature fluctuations?

    I am new to this blog. Do you have a post making suggestions about points to raise with politicians?

  13. Artful Dodger says:

    Hi Joe. When will we see CryoSat-2 data for Sea Ice Volume?

    Methane from permafrost is even more dangerous than indicated by the “20x greater Greenhouse effect than CO2″ because most of the effects are front loaded.

    Methane has a half-life in the atmosphere of around 12 years as it degrades into CO2 and Water. So over 100 years it is about 20x worse than CO2, but over those first 12 years, it’s more like 80x more potent than the same amount of CO2. This means a big ‘burb’ of methane will have huge effects on Arctic temperatures in the first decade, much more than is commonly known.

  14. Gary says:

    “When you believe in things you don’t
    understand, you suffer…”

    STEVIE WONDER
    “Superstition”

  15. Hot Tropics says:

    Dynamic Volume Loss and Sea Level Rise

    Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice volume loss and, the rate of loss, are more important because it reflects what is happening in the adjacent icebound land masses of Greenland and Antarctica.

    If these two water bound giants are losing volume nearly as fast as what is seen to that of the sea ice , then a ginormous volume of water is being deposited in the sea, which will soon be seen as faster sea level rise. Yes, once again a hockey stick, geometric or exponential graph (like the PIOMAS model – inverted hockey stick or exponential graph).

    Looking at this dynamic volume loss and a probable exponential sea level rise, figures of
    50 centimetres by 2050 and 2 Metres by 2100 are looking very possible, as seen in Vermeer – http://www.pnas.org/content/106/51/21527

  16. Jim Eaton says:

    As Steve Bloom pointed out, what was Hurricane Ivan smacked Newfoundland pretty hard, and now all that warmth, rain, and wind is barreling into the Arctic:

    “Igor, which has been a large hurricane and over the weekend pounded Bermuda on its northwards path, was packing winds of 80 mph as it sprinted northeast at 46 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

    “It said the passing storm produced hurricane-force wind gusts over parts of Newfoundland.

    “The center added that forecast models showed Igor gradually weakening as it follows a curving path that will take it northwestwards over open water between Greenland to the north and Newfoundland and Labrador.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68E1T820100921

  17. Douglas says:

    There was a long piece on the arctic on BBC World News radio tonight (a show my local public radio station runs). It was all about the jostling for arctic resources/boundaries between Russia, Canada, and the U.S. In the whole piece, global warming was only mentioned once, in passing, by an interviewee. There was 0 reflection on the sad irony of drilling for oil in an area that is seeing the biggest climate impacts so far.

    The BBC really is on a downhill slide.

  18. Sime says:

    Tom #1 Rob #2

    Guys I take it we mean the immortal, and amazing Mr S. Goddard winner of the coveted Pseudo Science Triple Clown, he of…

    “The idea of an ice-free Arctic seems implausible to me without a dramatic change in climate.”
    -S. Goddard 09/06/2010

    …fame, surpassed only (unless of course you know better) by the amazing AxelD who’s brain simply imploded resulting in the most awesome of quotes…

    “Please stop resorting to the “evidence”. It’s now completely irrelevant.”
    -AxelD

  19. JeandeBegles says:

    Could someone explain me how to understand the first PIOMASS graph (anomalies) showing a clear recovery during 2010 and so being in contradiction to the statement of lowest volume ever recorded?
    (in france; we are a bir slow and we need to be well lectured, but on the other hand we have got good wines)

  20. FredT34 says:

    I couldn’t find any estimate about how many megatons of CO2 were released by the fires in Russia this summer (let’s say one million hectares). Who can provide this estimate?

    Joe, nobody seems to know when Cryosat will deliver its first real data – and when scientists will release their first studies. Can your contacts provide some information about this? Which Agency is supposed to publish the future Arctic Volume figure, how often?

    And, how can we push now for Cryosat-3 (Cryosat-2 will live for 4 years, and it takes 4 years to decide and build a new sat)?

  21. FredT34 says:

    JeandeBègles : this issue was discussed on Neven’s blog, in http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2010/09/sie-update-31-when-all-is-over-and-done.html : for instance,

    Note that the drop in PIOMAS volume (actual, not anomaly) from mid July to mid Sept for the “average” year is around 6 million km3. So this year had more volume melt before July than usual (putting it mildly) and less after. The anomaly could regress 2 million km3 towards the mean while actual volume was still decreasing (i.e. by 4 million km3 if I’m using the right time period, which I think I roughly am.) [Greg Wellman]

    Remember that it’s an anomaly graph – so the anomaly was “less worse” in August and September.

    (vive le pinard, de l’Hérault et du Bordelais ! – but vines badly suffer from heat these days…)

  22. Sime says:

    On July 26th 2010 Tamio predicted that the 2010 minimum of arctic sea ice extent as measured by JAXA would be 4.78 million km^2

    Prediction found here…
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/summer-ice/

    On September 22nd 2010 Tamio posted the results of his prediction…
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/i-got-lucky/#more-3036

  23. Leif says:

    “Ocean cold snap paused global warming in the 70s.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68L3ZF20100922

    No explanation for the cold out flow but clearly evidence that we do not understand all we know about what is happing in the big picture. That is no excuse to be optimistic that things will all work out fine however. It does show that global systems are capable of dramatic and unexpected shifts. Hang on to your hats. The amount of energy that humanity has added to the climatic system is phenomenal. Think of winding a giant rubber band tighter and tighter…

    Tick-tock, Tick-tock…

    Sustainability is a human right!

  24. Lewis C says:

    Sasparilla at 11 and catman at 3,

    as Joe wrote:
    “Abrupt releases of large amounts of CO2 and methane are certainly possible on a scale of decades, he said. The present relatively slow thaw of the permafrost could rapidly accelerate in a few decades, releasing huge amounts of global warming gases.

    Another permafrost expert, Ted Schuur of the University of Florida, has come to the same conclusion. “In a matter of decades we could lose much of the permafrost,” Shuur told IPS.

    Those losses are more likely to come rapidly and upfront, he says. In other words, much of the permafrost thaw would happen at the beginning of a massive 50-year meltdown because of rapid feedbacks.”
    _________________________________________

    In light of the permafrost and seabed-clathrate feedbacks’ acceleration, there is sadly no credible prospect of planetary temperature peaking and eventually cooling as a result of even a crash program of global GHG emissions termination. During the 30 to 40 years of timelagged warming continuing, those and other feedbacks would be continuing to accelerate, putting out rising volumes of GHGs.

    To put those volumes in context, if just 1.0% of permafrost carbon were released per year, 16.7GTC, it would be double the present ~8.2GTC of anthro emissions. If just 10% of that, 1.67GTC, were emitted as methane, the net potency would roughly equal: 15.0 + (1.67 x 25) = 58.4 GTC-equivalent, or around seven times the present anthro carbon emissions.

    And that is just a 1%/yr output from just one of the feedbacks. What forest wildfire, cryosphere loss, seabed clathrates, etc, would be contributing by that point is an open question.

    Given that we face the loss of coolant aerosols with the control of fossil fuel use, and we also face the decline of the carbon sinks with intensifying droughts and marine acidification & warming, the prospect of the sinks recovering sufficient GHGs (after we stop adding to the problem) to prevent the feedbacks taking off is effectively zero.

    In sum, it seems we are long past the point where ending our emissions would resolve the problem of global warming. In the absence of additional commensurate action, we are evidently committed to the runaway greenhouse effect. It is thus essential that carbon sequestration is achieved on a massive scale – with a gigahectare of new native forestry, optimized for biochar and co-product fuels, being the most replicable option globally. Given that this will take at least 20 years to be established, and will then need several decades to take effect on airborne CO2 stocks, it is a necessary but not sufficiently swift option to control the feedbacks.

    Which is why I persist in pointing out that we have no choice but to research and deploy the most controllable of albido restoration technologies to control global temperature in the interim, and thereby to decelerate the feedbacks just as soon as humanly possible.

    I look forward to the environment movement as a whole getting its collective head out of the sand and around this very unwelcome reality. Until we do so, we are not actually facing up to the scale of the problem, and thus can have no chance of successfully resolving it.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  25. Sasparilla says:

    You are very correct Lewis (#24), thank you.

    In my response to #3 Catman I should have added that those estimates of warming after CO2 emissions elimination did not include any feedbacks / tipping points and are “white tower” estimates. Since we will obviously be blundering into the feedbacks (and other natural processes) in the coming decades, things will probably actually be much worse – that was if we just stopped CO2 emissions (impossible) or were actually rapidly reducing our CO2 emissions on global scale (neither of which we are doing at this point).

    Lewis, I like your idea on the wide-scale albedo change (I’m guessing roofs would be big targets initially) in the short term – that’s definitely something we could do and do relatively quickly with economic benefits for the structure’s cooling costs. I know the DOE is pushing this some, it would be great to see this kicked into high gear since it makes a difference immediately.

  26. Thanks Joe for profiling my story, it was one of the most depressing and therefore difficult pieces I’ve had to write lately, which saying something since I’ve been documenting the collapse of our natural systems for over a decade. In fact I told my wife “I can’t do this any more” when I finished it.

    The human factor in environmental journalism is that not only is the work mostly depressing – editors don’t want to hear about it either. If they can think of a reason to say no, they do. Luckily IPS is different. It’s a leading news wire service with a mandate to cover the global environment but it is a non-profit living hand to mouth on donations from countries. Sadly they’ve had to cut my story quota this year due to budget cuts. That’s why I am experimenting with Community Supported Journalism – see my website for more.

  27. Anu says:

    JeandeBegles says:
    September 23, 2010 at 5:49 am
    Could someone explain me how to understand the first PIOMASS graph (anomalies) showing a clear recovery during 2010 and so being in contradiction to the statement of lowest volume ever recorded?

    The key to the PIOMAS Volume Anomaly graph is the associated Daily Averaged Volume graph:
    http://psc.apl.washington.edu/ArcticSeaiceVolume/images/PIOMAS_daily_mean.png

    That big drop in Anomaly for 2010 is dated 2010-06-18 (although it dropped a bit more, then went up, for the next PIOMAS update, the 2010-07-17 graph).

    If you download the Volume Anomaly and Daily Averaged graphs and examine them in detail (zoom in, count boxes, etc) you find that for mid June, the Daily Averaged Arctic Sea Ice Volume for the 1979 to 2009 period is 25.34 * 1000 km^3.
    The anomaly (difference from this Average) is -10.62 * 1000 km^3, so the actual volume for 6/18/10 is 14.72 * 1000 km^3.

    That “clear recovery” is just the anomaly getting smaller. By 2010-09-15, PIOMAS shows an anomaly of only -9.5 * 1000 km^3. But the Average for mid September is 13.41 * 1000 km^3, so the volume for this date is 3.91 * 1000 km^3.

    Clearly the anomaly recovery did not lead to the volume getting larger.

    2010’s 3,910 km^3 is lower than 2009’s 5,780 km^3 (last year had a mid September anomaly of -7.63), the previous record low.

    When the mid September anomaly reaches -13 in the next few years, the summer Arctic will be essentially sea ice free.

  28. Michael says:

    The global sea ice area anomaly is about to hit a new record low, in part due to a very unseasonably early melt in the Antarctic, which now has the largest negative anomaly since late 2006, as if the whole freeze-up/melt season was advanced by a few months.

  29. Lewis C says:

    Sasparilla at 25 –

    I think I should have added an explanation of the urgency of applying geoengineering both as carbon recovery and as albido restoration –

    Specifically, with the oceans taking the vast majority of incoming solar radiation, they are building a heat store of great longevity. Once we have engineered a control of planetary insolation, for a considerable period that heat will be both released into the atmosphere – driving both climate destabilization and the feedbacks’ progress – and also will continue to be directly applied to seabed methyl clathrates, advancing the date of their collapse.

    It is thus critical to halt the influx of solar heat to the oceans as swiftly as possible if this final option, albido restoration, is to be effective alongside carbon recovery and emissions termination in resolving the problem of global warming. –

    I fear that there are those in the Whitehouse who justify the inherited Bush policy of a ‘brinkmanship of inaction’ with China with the delusion that geoengineering will control the problem however late it is applied. Holdren et al should be stamping down hard on that fallacy – the window of opportunity for effective geo-engineering is declining by the year.

    regards,

    Lewis

  30. David Ferrell says:

    Lewis at #24 writes:

    “…In sum, it seems we are long past the point where ending our emissions would resolve the problem of global warming. In the absence of additional commensurate action, we are evidently committed to the runaway greenhouse effect. It is thus essential that carbon sequestration is achieved on a massive scale – with a gigahectare of new native forestry, optimized for biochar and co-product fuels, being the most replicable option globally. Given that this will take at least 20 years to be established, and will then need several decades to take effect on airborne CO2 stocks, it is a necessary but not sufficiently swift option to control the feedbacks.”

    Great ideas. Carbon sequestration via biochar and massive planting of forests is just about essential, I believe. The time window for it is narrow, though, because the rapid progress of global warming is stressing and killing trees worldwide due to intensifying heat waves, drought, wildfires, and storms as well as insect infestations and atmospheric pollutants. We’re close to the point where forests we plant will be as likely as not to be destroyed by climatic and weather extremes before the trees mature. Then any carbon sequestered simply goes back into the atmosphere.

    Once the carbon-cycle feedbacks kick in, the chances of the climate eventually stabilizing at the point where the planet is 100% ice-free are substantial. According to Hansen, the likelihood of a runaway greenhouse developing is smaller, requiring centuries of warming in conjunction with CO2 beyond 1000 ppm and massive methane releases. Methane is also a tropospheric O3 precursor. The combination of substantial CH4 and O3 is particularly lethal for an earthlike planet because these gases trap heat in a portion of the spectrum where CO2 and H2O vapor don’t; the effect is to close the narrow clear-sky IR spectral “window” to space through which terrestrial radiation normally escapes unimpeded. That could very well fry the planet….
    ________________________________________________

    ….By the way, back in early September or thereabouts I submitted for posting a two-part answer to your comment #32 at the blog entry, “New Mexico GOP Candidates Deny Global Warming Reality.” You had asked for information about Colin Powell’s position on global warming, pursuant to your proposal on how Powell might be able to help break the public-policy logjam on CO2 emissions reductions by the U.S. However, for some reason my answer didn’t pass moderation and wasn’t actually posted, perhaps because JR didn’t think the idea under discussion was workable or possibly because the information I quoted from certain news sources raised copyright issues (although my quotes seemed to be within the limits of the fair-use exception). Over the years Powell has been a vigorous supporter of action to combat global warming, and I thought your idea was a good one. The more I looked into the history, the better the idea looked.

    Now on second thought, I think the explanation for why my answer didn’t post may be much simpler: the comments section could have officially closed while the webpage was open on my browser—in other words, the page I was viewing was no longer the current page but wouldn’t have shown this unless I had pressed F5 or clicked “refresh.”

    In any case, I have always found your comments insightful and paid close attention to them, and I especially appreciated your response to a couple of my own recent posts on the issue of adaptation-vs.-mitigation.

    Cheers – David

  31. ALeaJactaEst says:

    any comments on the state of Antarctic ice??

    Anyone…..

    [JR: Skeptical Science has some good stuff.]

  32. Neven says:

    Joe, in the past 3 months I’ve monitored the Arctic sea ice very closely to be able to write about it on my blog, and I have to say that your reporting on this subject has been impeccable. Always accurate and to the point. My compliments.

    [JR: Thanks. It is a big story, I think. Certainly future generations will see it that way and wondered how we missed all the signs….]

  33. Lewis C says:

    David – many thanks for your kind response –
    and also for your very interesting news of Colin Powell –

    I wonder what form his contributions on the issue have taken thus far, and how best he might choose to use his unique CV to good effect. Whether the target is ending Obama’s retention of the policy of a brinkmanship of inaction (which precludes his leadership on the climate issue and on carbon pricing domestically) or whether it is to help end the deniers’ hijack of the GOP, I think he could, if he chose, initiate significant change.

    Any news you get of him I’d be very glad to hear.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  34. Leif says:

    Geo-engineering thought… Would it be possible to develop a white low density dye that was benign to sea life that could be spread upon the seas. I know that a very little bit is some of the current dyes can go a long way. Perhaps enough solar radiation could pass to allow algae to thrive. Perhaps wave length specific.

  35. Baz says:

    Haven’t any of you commenting seen this?:
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/people/wwang/cfs_fcst/images3/glbT2mSea.gif
    Not only will Arctic ice recover, it’s going to bounce back to levels of a few years ago! Some people are setting themselves up for a real fall with their comments, especially Mark Serreze.

    The PDO is changing to re-chill the Arctic, and with a cold AMO as well, the Arctic will see ‘normal’ again. However, this will mean the Antarctic will lose ice, so I guess you’ll all be forgetting the Arctic and worrying about the Antarctic instead.

    Could Mark Serreze tell me at what point he’ll admit that he got it wrong?

    [JR: Seriously. You do realize your link shows nothing germane to this post or your claim.]

  36. Michael says:

    Baz,

    If you have followed that model’s forecasts at all in recent years, you would know that it grossly exaggerates the peak strength and duration, especially after the winter season, of El Ninos and La Ninas (thus why they have added a PDF corrected version, albeit only for the ENSO/SST graphs). And it is a very poor forecast for areas outside of the Pacific, even one month out; the grey areas show no forecast skill, and just look at what it forecast for the U.S this past summer; although it did underestimate the strength of La Nina, it was too cold just about everywhere else.

  37. Windsong says:

    (For #11 and 3): Jan, 2009– Obama takes office, announces Great Intentions for Environment.
    Then NOAA releases new study showing… “changes in surface temperature, rainfall, & sea level are largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after CO2 emissions are completely stopped”. It’s author, Susan Soloman: “no one is going to refreeze the arctic for us, or restore PH of the oceans & given the momentum of GW we’re likely to cross many more thresholds even if we’re convert to solar power and bikes this afternoon. (Which, it must be said, we’re not doing). The scientists didn’t merely underestimate how fast the Arctic would melt, they over estimated how fast our hearts would melt… CO2 emissions have risen far above the bleakest scenarios considered by the IPCC reports.”

  38. Windsong says:

    Aren’t plankton needed to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere in order for the oceans to act as “sinks” for CO2?

    I’ve read that plankton are down 40% and that oceans are close to saturation (and after saturation, the oceans will become a “source” of CO2, at which time it’s “game over”).

    If this is true– that plankton are down that much and oceans are near saturation– and it’s also true that “more warming is in the pipeline”, then how the heck are we supposed to stop this thing? Is it possible?

    Even with zero emissions, the climate and planet is still going into overdrive because all the warming in the pipeline. So basically, we’re done?

    In “Storms of my Grandchildren”, Jim Hansen said that once coastal cities are inundated, the resulting economic hardships would be so humungous there will be no money left for alternative energy. I always thought everyone would pull together and stop GW once coasts were wiped out.

  39. Peter M says:

    It is amazing how little a bought media and Government in this country hide and obstruct the truth.

    The peculiar melting pattern this year in the arctic is setting up perhaps this decade almost total ice loss. That ocean will absorb that direct sunlight- and then what?

    Is their madness in America? Do the powers may be know what we are now facing and whats ahead? Its going to be a wild ride ahead- and for many its going to be the end of their long summer of a stable climate and life for themselves and their families.

  40. MapleLeaf says:

    Michael @36,

    I agree about the CFS products lacking much skill outside the tropics. I prefer the IRI products:

    http://iri.columbia.edu/climate/forecast/net_asmt/

    Baz’s claim about the AMO headingbeing in its cold phase is incorrect. The last time it was higher than it was in August 2010 (+0.575), was back in 1937. The AMO flipped into its positive phase around 1995, and it is a 50-70 year cycle (sorry, you probably know all this). It is noisy, but if the cycle continues as expected it should (largely) remain in this positive phase until 2050 or so.

    Baz is correct that the PDO is currently in its cool phase (which actually means a very warm central northern Pacific surrounded by an arc over cooler than normal SSTs). That is not entirely surprising given that a pretty significant La Nina event is currently on the go in the equatorial Pacific.

    I’m afraid it will take nothing short of a miracle to turn this long-term downward trend in Arctic sea ice into a long-term upward trend. IMHO, the Arctic sea ice has passed its tipping point.