Arctic Death Spiral Continues: Sea Ice Volume Hits Record Low for Second Straight Year

The Polar Science Center at the University of Washington has updated its calculations of Arctic sea ice volume.  As usual, Neven has the best graphs of the PSC’s data at his Arctic Sea Ice Blog, a must-read for cryosphere-junkies.


The PSC recently improved their PIOMAS model, which combines the best observational data with their own analysis.  They are publishing their findings in the Journal of Geophysical Research, “Uncertainty in Modeled Arctic Sea Ice Volume”:

… the 2010 September ice volume anomaly did in fact exceed the previous 2007 minimum by a large enough margin to establish a statistically significant new record.

And now that 2010 record is broken — and the melt season isn’t over yet.

Indeed, it is going to be a close race to see if we break the record for sea-ice extent, a two-dimensional metric that the media and others focus on because that data is reported every day by many different sources.  If you’re interested in that trend, the National Snow and Ice Data Center released its latest analysis yesterday, “Arctic sea ice near record lows” [see figure below].

Those who know polar ice the best know the “death spiral” continues.  Far from seeing the Arctic recovering since 2007, as some claimed, the volume of sea ice dropped by another one third in 3 years, according to the PSC!

In November, Rear Admiral David Titley, the Oceanographer of the Navy, testified that “the volume of ice as of last September has never been lower … in the last several thousand years.” Titley, who is also the Director of Navy’s Task Force Climate Change, said he has told the Chief of Naval Operations that “we expect to see four weeks of basically ice free conditions in the mid to late 2030s.”

Here’s another way to look at the death spiral, via Wipneus:


This “shows a little bit more clearly that the current number actually is right on the projected exponential downward trend (although the minimum probably hasn’t been reached yet),” notes Neven.

Whether the trend will actually turn out to be exponential or not remains to be seen.  While human emissions drive the long-term trend — and thinning ice and warming waters ensure “recovery” of the sea ice ain’t gonna happen — ice loss year to year is driven by the Arctic summer weather.  That weather was always hard to predict and more so now, since it is likely affected by the sharp loss of sea ice in ways we are only beginning to understand.

I have focused on sea ice volume for the past 5 years, since I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski of the Oceanography Department at the Naval Postgraduate School in a 2006 American Meteorological Society seminar.  He reported that models suggest the Arctic lost one third of its ice volume from 1997 to 2002. He then made an alarming forecast:

If this trend persists for another 10 years-and it has through 2005-we could be ice free in the summer.”

And that was in 2006, so he was talking about the possibility of being ice free in 2016 — before the big drop in sea ice area in 2007.

Looking at volume and thickness helped me avoid the mistake that so many others made in thinking that the sea ice “recovered” after the 2007 minimum in sea ice extent.  The scientific literature and actual observations continued to vindicate Maslowski’s projection (see New study supports finding that “the amount of [multi-year] sea ice in the northern hemisphere was the lowest on record in 2009″).  See also, NSIDC Director Serreze (9/10): Arctic is “continuing down in a death spiral. Every bit of evidence we have says the ice is thinning.”

Maslowski’s basic prediction for many years now has been for “a (virtually) ice-free fall by 2016 (+/- 3 yrs),” though he is in the process of creating a more sophisticated model that he expects “will improve prediction of sea ice melt,” as he explained to me recently.

Long-time readers may remember that Maslowski’s work on ice volume is one of the main reasons I entered into my big $1000 bet with James Annan, William Connolley, and Brian Schmidt (see “Another big climate bet — Of Ice and Men“).  That bet was for a 90% drop in sea ice extent in the summer minimum in any year through 2020 vs. the 1979-2000 average summer minimum using NSIDC data.

So for me to win, the sea extent minimum must drop well below 1 million square kilometers sometime in the next 9 years.  I still think is a reasonable bet, but this year Maslowski told me a better bet would be for an 80% drop, since he thinks some sea ice above Greenland and Eastern Canada may survive into the 2020s.  But if I lose the bet by several hundred thousand square kilometers that won’t change the fact that the Arctic as it has been for apparently a million years will be all but gone, and those who said we were in a death spiral will be proved correct.

Why is this not a purely academic matter?  A 2008 study led by David Lawrence of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) concluded (see “Tundra 4: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss“):

We find that simulated western Arctic land warming trends during rapid sea ice loss are 3.5 times greater than secular 21st century climate-change trends. The accelerated warming signal penetrates up to 1500 km inland”¦.

In other words, if it continues, the recent trend in sea ice loss may triple overall Arctic warming, causing large emissions in carbon dioxide and methane from the tundra this century (for a review of recent literature on the tundra, see “Science stunner: Vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores destabilizing and venting“).  Indeed, Lawrence himself said, “Our study suggests that, if sea-ice continues to contract rapidly over the next several years, Arctic land warming and permafrost thaw are likely to accelerate.”

NCAR said of the 2008 study:

The decade during which a rapid sea-ice loss event occurs could see autumn temperatures warm by as much as 5 degrees C (9 degrees F) along the Arctic coasts of Russia, Alaska, and Canada.

In short, it is going to get hot up North before it gets even hotter:

The time to act was a long time ago, but now is far, far better than later, just to give the next generation some chance.

Related Post:

The thaw and release of carbon currently frozen in permafrost will increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations and amplify surface warming to initiate a positive permafrost carbon feedback (PCF) on climate…. [Our] estimate may be low because it does not account for amplified surface warming due to the PCF itself….  We predict that the PCF will change the arctic from a carbon sink to a source after the mid-2020s and is strong enough to cancel 42-88% of the total global land sink. The thaw and decay of permafrost carbon is irreversible and accounting for the PCF will require larger reductions in fossil fuel emissions to reach a target atmospheric CO2 concentration.

Figure:  Carbon emission (in billions of tons of carbon a year) from thawing permafrost.











52 Responses to Arctic Death Spiral Continues: Sea Ice Volume Hits Record Low for Second Straight Year

  1. steve says:

    More permafrost work, published online by PNAS 3 weeks ago

  2. Joe Romm says:

    Yes. I’ll cover it, but it’s pretty similar to the NSIDC study at the end of this post.

  3. Colorado Bob says:

    Greenpeace has recreated a massive copper copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ to draw attention to the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice. Summer measurements are due out this month. Scientists fear a record low.

    A Greenpeace stunt in the Arctic has recreated one of da Vinci’s most famous drawings using long stretches of copper in a bid to draw attention to this month’s upcoming measurements of the state of Arctic ice cover.,,15370328,00.html

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    OT –
    President Barack Obama called Texas Governor Rick Perry today and told him the federal government will assist state and local emergency officials dealing with wildfires sweeping the state, the White House said.
    In June, the state of Texas cut the Texas Forest service budget by 1/3.

  5. Mark Shapiro says:

    Joe –

    1) I think your bet is safe (time will tell).

    2) The 2nd and 3rd graphs above are cut off on the right on my browser (Safari 5.1) by the right hand side bar.

    3) Great, comprehensive post on a crucial topic. But what is the current estimate of the role of soot (from China, etc) lowering albedo of the ice and snow in the northern hemisphere and accelerating ice loss? Though that same soot blocks sunlight and thus slows warming . . .

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    In the spring, when the first big wave of fires came. School children at Post , Texas collected pennies to support the vol. fire dept. there. Their equipment was failing because it was being tested so much.

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Texas pleads for help as fires sear state
    The state forest service is spending about $1.5 million a day to fight the blazes, officials say. Budget cuts and lax preventive measures are contributing factors……… The Texas Forest Service has been spending about $1.5 million a day on fighting the fires this week, agency spokesman Gary Lacox said. That does not include spending by local fire districts and volunteer fire departments.,0,4418663.story

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    Ken Gold, a battalion chief from Denton, said residents in a subdivision burned by the Bastrop fire east of Austin had left homes blanketed in six-inch piles of pine needles as dry as matchsticks.

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    Lake Travis Fire Rescue Chief Jim Linardos, a Redondo Beach native who worked for years in the North Lake Tahoe area, said Central Texas faced some of the same wildfire risks as California, but lacked the fire-prevention efforts and resources that help California firefighters immediately tackle blazes.

    He wanted to add two engines to his five fire stations west of Austin this year, but instead was dealt a 12% budget cut.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Encana, which secures water for its service companies at its Barnett shale and East Texas operations, has been putting up more cash and striking longer-term deals to mitigate the risk.

    But the firm has been able to make do without too much disturbance during the drought, spokesman Alan Boras said.

    “There has been an increase in water cost but it has not been problematic,” Boras said.

    Still, where there is competition for water supply, tensions are sure to mount. This local newspaper story pits industry against industry – ranchers concerned about the scarcity of water against oil and gas companies that need it to get wells producing natural gas.

    It’s a situation worth monitoring.

  11. Joe Romm says:

    1) Hope so. Probably 50-50.

    2) Fixed, thx.

    3) Black carbon has a substantial impact in the Arctic, up to half (but they are not the same as sulfate aerosols)

  12. Paul magnus says:

    One get a scary feeling that when temps get up to around 2c+ that we are going to have global firestorms stretching over vast swaths of the hemisphere in summer.

    The future looks bleak…

  13. Sasparilla says:

    Its sad to think this is essentially a done deal – nothing we do (CO2 emisions wise) is going to have a chance to stop it.

    Just as with last year both Northwest and Northeast passages have been open for some time (with the Northeast one open for quite a while).

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    An Interesting Fact

    San Angelo and Lubbock, Texas both recorded their single hottest month on record in June. Then in July those records in turn were broken. And then, in August, their July records were broken! In other words, in over 100 years of records for both cities, their three hottest-single-months were respectively, August, July, and June 2011. I do not believe this has occurred at any American weather station in recorded history.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    Each of these months was nearly 3F degrees above the old records.

    Someone call Alley and tell him about this.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    This is an “observed event” , it’s in the record. The plots on the these 2 cities will be off the charts.
    Plot the “Hottest Summers” using 3-colors for each month.

    I predict it has a hockey stick shape.

  17. Paul magnus says:

    He’ll and high water has truly arrived….

  18. B.E. says:

    Yeah, and most of us have never given any thought to what it would be like to live through a famine. It is looking more and more like we will find out.

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    An EPA Free Pot of Tea –
    The floods, and an off the chart snow pack, took out 6 of Omaha, Neb. water treatment pumps. Since June everyone down river has been drinking at least 5 million gallons a day of Omaha’s raw sewage.

    Let us brew tea from this water.

  20. B.E. says:

    The LA Times and Scrips Inst. have articles on the HIPPO research flights. It doesn’t look good.

  21. According to LATimes story, Perry only cut the budget for volunteer fire fighters in Texas by 75% this year.

    What a commie wimp…leaving a budget busting 25% of the former taxpayer largess to fund equipment for citizens volunteering their time to try to save their communities from burning down.

    Now some leftie “big government” lovers in Texas are actually calling on the federal taxpayers to give them money! Whining about it even.

    Perry needs to get off the campaign trail and get back to Texas and stop this caterwalling for Obamabucks and do his miracle thing again. Time to cut it and shut it.

  22. Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice blog = awesome. One of the most empowering things about the web is when experts share their knowledge and wisdom with the general public. Jefferson would have been proud of this trend in America.

  23. Pangolin says:

    Only Texas would cut the firefighting budget in the middle of a drought.

    This reminds me of Gov. Bobby Jindal (R., LA) making snide comments about federal funds for volcano research a short time before a volcano blew and shut down airline flights in Alaska. It turned out that funding also covered flood monitoring on rivers and streams.

    It must be a conservative knack.

  24. Pangolin says:

    On the main topic is there any hope that the northward march of forest in Canada and Siberia will balance the carbon loss from the permafrost?

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Loss of the Arctic summer sea ice seems to be the precipitating factor for the ‘great unraveling’. The consequences in release of frozen methane are, if realised, pretty much an unstoppable calamity. The complexity of natural systems seems to make them not so much resilient, but liable to accelerating collapse. It would be a tremendous relief to discover some negative feedback that will dampen the process, but that seems wishful thinking. Of course we can try to simply deny these wretched facts out of existence-that seems a popular option.

  26. perceptiventity says:

    Not with the tundra fires

    and besides trees are casyting long deep shadows dicreasing the albido.

    “Trees planted in boreal forests warmed the planet even more than mid-latitude trees, due to their changes to albedo: Earlier work has shown that trees in the Arctic tundra, for example, are helping to warm that region and melt snow cover there because they are so dark. The melting further reduces the region’s albedo by getting rid of snow’s reflecting white surface.”

    “The end result could be a “big Arctic carbon bomb” going off, explains Andy Bunn of Bellingham’s Western Washington University. The release of the roughly 200 petagrams (or 200 trillion kilograms) of carbon stored in the top meter of Arctic tundra would greatly undermine any global climate change mitigation effort, Bunn warns. ”

  27. John McCormick says:

    Pangolin, that is beyond even speculation. The lead time for establishing a mature forest in vergin territory is measured in centuries. The once cleared farmland of northern Virginia is now mainly forested with houses and roads spread throughout. But, that land offered an ideal for return of the once verdant forests of pre-colonial time.

    We don’t have a century to try to offset methane and CO2 release from the Siberian tundra. Scientists are already measuring increasing release of methane in the Arctic. The end game is upon us, now.

    John McCormick

  28. John McCormick says:

    For what it is worth, the following are projected highs for Barrow, Alaska:

    9/8 thru 9/17
    9/8 40°F
    9/9 42°
    9/10 45°
    9/11 49°
    9/12 49°
    9/13 42°
    9/14 41°
    9/15 40°
    9/16 40°
    9/17 39°

    Exxon and Shell see this as good news.

  29. Lou Grinzo says:

    In terms of influencing mainstream views of our situation, the tipping point is not an ice-free Arctic, but one that’s nearly ice free. The ice doesn’t melt evenly around its perimeter — the most likely pattern in a few (gulp!) years will be for the geographic North Pole to be open water (everything north of 88 degrees, for example), with a sizable chunk of ice still clinging to the north coast of Greenland.

    That will get a lot of attention, but the mainstream news will blow the story. They’ll say, “Golly! We’ve never seen THIS before! It’s global warming! But on the bright side, this opens up cheaper shipping lanes and new places to drill for oil and natural gas. Here’s some footage of President Bachmann and Vice President Paul water skiing over the North Pole…”

  30. adelady says:

    We now have a new record for lowest sea ice area as well. 2.917 thousand sq km.

    Give the ice another week of current conditions and we could easily have a new lowest ever record for sea ice extent. A complete matching set.

    Not very joyful. Not at all blissful.

  31. Lionel A says:

    M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F

    Which was a most interesting and worrying article, as is this one.

    One of the questions is as to why M.I.T. still tolerates somebody with Lindzen’s persistent distortions about climate sensitivity, given that MIT itself thinks the science shows otherwise?

    Academic dissonance perhaps?

    Sure, Richard Siegmund Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is it so hard to remove somebody from such a position?

    And another thing, whilst tracking away from this page via various links I landed here:

    September Sea Ice Outlook: June Report at something called SEARCH – Study of Environmental Arctic Change, which carries a bar chart of contributors estimated Arctic sea ice extent. Why is a contribution from WUWT considered worth including?

  32. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    With Russian scientists recently projecting the melting of one third of Russia’s permafrost within the next few decades, the above graph of Permafrost Carbon Flux seems problematic – to the point of being highly misleading.

    – Its chosen metric is TsC, rather than TsCO2e, thus failing to inform the reader of the threat it depicts.

    – It shows a detailed noisy curve when there is no remotely credible means of quantifying the noise of that curve decades hence.

    – It lacks the warming effect even of its own CO2e release, thus understating the rate of melting.

    – It lacks the influence of the ongoing forest wildfire and predicted methyl clathrates feedbacks, thus futher understating the rate of melting.

    – It shows a rate of annual emission giving a total of only around 180GTC over 200 years, which, IIRC, is only about one eighth of the permafrost carbon stock.

    So can anyone explain what is going on here ?
    Has someone been told that it wouldn’t do to scare the public, and so has generated (or sketched) an arbitrary noisy curve that shows some token carbon emission but avoids incorporating any carbon feedback effects – and thus fails to describe anything like the real scale of predictable emission of GTsCO2/year ?

    If that is the case, what was the rationale for a highly reputable body like NSIDC doing so ?



  33. Michael T says:

    NOAA’s State of the Climate Report for August and the summer is now available:


    •The average U.S. temperature in August was 75.7 degrees F (24.3 degrees C), which is 3.0 degrees F (1.6 degrees C) above the long-term (1901-2000) average, resulting in the second warmest August on record. Precipitation averaged across the nation was 2.31 inches (58.7 mm). This was 0.29 inch (7.3 mm) below the long-term average, with large variability between regions.

    •The excessive heat which dominated June and July across the southern tier of the country continued into August. Six states — Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas— had their warmest August on record. Five other states had a top ten warm August — Florida (3rd warmest), Georgia (4th), Utah (5th), Wyoming (8th), and South Carolina (9th). The Southwest and South climate regions also had their warmest August on record.

    Here is the temperature record for Texas June-August (Summer). Summer 2011 was the warmest on record for Texas:

  34. Ric Merritt says:

    Watt an outrage! You must be looking at the data through left-wing glasses. Anyone can see from Neven’s graph at the top of the post that Arctic sea ice volume loss stopped in 1981, with a tremendous recovery following up through 1986. The negligible losses since then are due to urban heat from Murmansk.

  35. Mike#22 says:

    No mention here at all that it is snowing at the pole right now, despite all the urban heat pollution:

  36. perceptiventity says:

    Seconded. What would the close to real warming signal from melting Arctic be ?

    The only hope is to avoid Venus Syndrome in the centuries to come

  37. bill waterhouse says:

    The arctic ice seems to changing states somewhat abruptly in a way that suggests it is hitting mini-tipping points where the character of the icepack changes physically, so that it is difficult to model or fit a curve to the data.  The ice volume data at the beginning of this post shows a pretty regular decline from 1979 to 2006, but then volume jumps down in 2007 and drops off a cliff in 2010.  Similarly, the ice are data in this post –

    shows a pretty regular decline from 1979 to 1997, but then a jump down to new lows in 1998 to 2006, and then another big jump down from 2007 to present.


    Bill Waterhouse

  38. perceptiventity says:

    Scientists were surprised to find strong evidence that ocean surfaces laid bare by melting ice are emitting methane at a “significant” rate likely to have “global impact,” Wofsy said.

    “It confirms a concern that’s been raised about the removal of ice from the arctic.” Wofsy said. “It does look to be significant, and that’s a new result there.”

    The process by which the open ocean surface is emitting methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, is uncertain, Wofsy said, adding that it likely is not from frozen masses of methane known to be in deep oceans, nor from methane being exhaled from newly thawed tundra.

    Where does it come from then ?

  39. Lewis, there is a reason why the CO2 released isn’t added to the general CO2 level. The carbon can come out as either CO2 or as methane (far worse for overheating globally). No one has modeled the proportions, which depend on how well oxygen circulates back into cracks in the permafrost.

  40. The big methane releases north of Siberia are from continental shelf which is drowned frozen river delta.

    Warmer Arctic waters will help to thaw it but sea level rise also increases the hydrostatic pressure on the continental shelf, triggering landslides in some places. Some of the buried permafrost is light enough to float, and so “the ice that burns” pops up to the ocean surface.

  41. atcook27 says:

    G’day, can someone please explain to me why this isn’t the end game. After this years minima it looks as though the arctic will be ice free in summer within 5 years . Am I missing something or will the massive amounts of extra energy absorbed by the biosphere due to the difference in albedo between ice cover and open ocean dwarf any effect of warming due to CO2 in the atmosphere. The most sobering fact is nothing we do to limit CO2 will change this result. I personally see this as the final nail. PLEASE tell me that I’m wrong!

  42. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Perceptiventity and William C. –
    thanks for your responses.

    I’m not a scientist with the skills and resources to assemble a credible curve of permafrost CO2e emissions for the coming decades, but I think that we have some pointers that are worth considering.

    The issue of the ratio of CO2 to CH4 outputs from permafrost melt is the primary concern, before considering acceleration effects by the several active mega-feedbacks. Suffice to say that if just 1% of the carbon is emitted as methane and the rest as CO2, the 20-year CO2e value of the output is doubled.
    (99 TsCO2 x 1) + (1 TCH4 x 100) = 199 TsCO2e

    Images of permafrost melt in Siberia (posted in 2010?) may resolve the difficulty over modelling the amount of oxygen penetration (governing CO2 production) in that they showed vast areas of new swamp with myriad open pools being the successor terrain to permafrost. Those pools were bubbling out methane & CO2 in easily measurable proportions. Under those conditions little or no atmospheric oxygen will be penetrating the permafrost below the water table.
    – Surely somone has done those measurements ?

    Here in Wales the land I farm has areas of ‘blanket bog’ not merely on level ground, but also on mountain slopes of up to 34 degrees. Thus where warming melts permafrost the water table may well maintain its exclusion of oxygen even on very sloping ground, as the sphagnum, sedges and other tundra flora gain longer growing seasons.

    The frozen peat we call permafrost does contain a small and well-recorded fraction of oxygen, but it will allow only a minor fraction of the outgassing of carbon in the form of CO2, with the rest mostly as CH4.

    Using the NSICD ’round’ number averaging 1GTC/yr output from permafrost, a conservative notional CO2e calculation follows:

    0.1 GTC x 3.667(CO2) = 0.367 GTCO2
    0.9 GTC x 100 (CH4) = 90.0 GTCO2e

    The sum of 90.37 GTCO2e per year from permafrost melt is of course merely a notional figure. It is only an average projection for this century, and it also excludes the impact of the interactive feedbacks generating far higher melt rates. Even so, it represents around three times present annual anthro-CO2 output.

    The ongoing acceleration of the permafrost melt feedback is one of several reasons why the rapid ending of anthro-GHG outputs seems to me necessary but patently insufficient to resolve our climate predicament.



  43. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You wonder why MIT tolerates Lindzen and I am dumbfounded that the University of Adelaide tolerates Ian Plimer with his pre-Enlightenment agit-prop and his relentless vilification of climate scientists as frauds and/or idiots.

  44. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    atcook –
    G’day – yes, you are wrong, but not about the deficient outcome of the necessary ending of anthro-GHG outputs –

    Given that we’ve got ~40yrs of warming “in the pipeline” from the timelagged impact of past emissions,
    and the predictable loss of the cooling “sulphate parasol” as we end sulphate emissions by ending fossil fuel usage,
    ending anthro GHG outputs, though necessary, is patently insufficient to put the accelerating interactive feedbacks back to sleep.

    Where you are, thankfully, wrong, is in assuming that there’s nothing else we can do.

    A global program of airborne Carbon Recovery is the first requirement, sequestering carbon in the form of charcoal as a soil enhancer to also raise farm yields. Hansen is on record as projecting an eventual recovery of up to 8.0ppmv CO2 per year by this means.

    Getting to that rate of recovery will take many years, and decades more after that to restore the 280ppmv pre-industrial atmosphere and put the feedbacks to sleep.

    In the interim, we will either directly control the global warming that drives the feedbacks, or watch them run amok. That control is via Albido Restoration, with the most promising technique I’ve heard of being “cloud brightening” by the lofting of sea spray to distribute minute crystals of sea salt.

    Of these two requisite forms of geo-engineering, the former is being trialled around the world under the title ‘Biochar’, but the latter is only slowly getting off the drawing board for practical research and trials, and its net utility is still unproven. We currently lack even the essential UN supervision agency to ensure that appropriate techniques are applied, and are applied for the right reasons.

    Widespread opposition to these vital options may in some quarters reflect a lack of appreciation of just how serious is our predicament. Welcome to the club of recognizing that just cutting emissions just doesn’t cut it for the climate problem.



  45. atcook27 says:

    Thanks Lewis, but I think that you’ve missed my point. I’m not suggesting for a second that we should not turn around CO2 emissions. All I’m saying is isn’t the irreversible decline in arctic summer sea ice going to introduce an amount of energy into the system so large as to dwarf the green house effect. If we have reached the stage where we need to rely on unteasted geoengineering then we are in a heap of trouble. I have a two year old son and I am disparing over this realisation.

  46. atcook27 says:

    I’ll put it another way.

    Is CO2 in the atmosphere still the problem or has it just created a problem that will leave it for dead? I put it to you that increasing the albedo of the arctic in summer is the only thing that will reduce global temperatures. Reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmoshpere will just stop the ice from melting again.

  47. Chris ODell says:

    On a related note, there is now more direct observational evidence of methane emissions from the Arctic ocean. Some scary stuff:

    By the way, HIPPO is an amazing project. You can check it out here:

  48. perceptiventity says:

    Shrewd analysis. Many thanks for an effort Lewis Cleverdon.
    And even if not 0.9 of carbon is released as methane but only half, just how many brand new metropolias of carbon negative skyscrapers or continents of biochar would USA and China and India and Russia need to produce to offset these new emissions ! The rest of the world will be under Denmark’s protectorate by 2100 obviously. No need to worry about Amazon drought and fires feedbacks.
    Let us even imagine that by 2100 the world’s cement and steel industry is carbon neutral or slightly negative.
    How on this lonely earth do we mitigate so much new CO2 equivalent. The feedback warming from additional water vapor will not wait for our energy politics as well as lagged parasol effect.
    And all that starts to warm the Siberian Shelf waters with methane clathrate deposits…
    . Is it not a given certainty today, as we speak/type, if we are plain and justly realistic ?
    There is no brave benign eco-future to slowly adapt to on the other side of Hubbert’s slope, I mean.
    Or am I just dooming?

  49. perceptiventity says:

    Thank you William H.Calvin for clarification

    I missed the DEEP ocean part. Sorry but I am in denial that East Siberian Continental Shelf could be releasing anything “significant” and that might “surprise” scientists.
    I still plan to have a family so I’d rather stick with the idea that it will only start to happen after my grandchildren are on a generous pension from global well/warfare state.
    Here is a most recent 2007 paper to prove you wrong.

    “…On the timescale of the coming century, it appears that most
    of the hydrate reservoir will be insulated from anthropogenic
    climate change. The exceptions are hydrate in permafrost
    soils, especially those coastal areas, and in shallow ocean
    where methane gas is focused by subsurface migration.
    The most likely response of these deposits to anthropogenic
    climate change is an increased background rate
    of chronic methane release,rather than an abrupt release .”

    Ah, whatever. I might still have some time to have fun, come to USA, become a congressman and sue you scientists for all this unpatriotic realism.

  50. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Doug –
    we are indeed in a heap of trouble. The necessary ending of anthro GHG outputs won’t halt the ongoing acceleration of the feedbacks – and as you rightly observe, the loss of arctic ice cover will allow highly disruptive additional heat into the biosphere; under BAU eventual cryosphere decline and albido loss would certainly have the potential to dwarf the warming from direct anthropogenic GHGs.

    Thus we are unavoidably dependent on additional measures alongside GHG outputs’ termination, including currently untested temporary Albedo Restoration.

    Restoring albedo over the arctic certainly appeals – given the three mega-feedbacks that warming is accelerating there – but I’m not a climate scientist able to advise on whether that would pose least risk to critical weather systems such as the Asian Monsoon. It might be that shading the source or the route of the Gulf Stream, that carries immense volumes of heat to the Arctic Ocean, would be preferable – either for ‘weather-risk’ avoidance or for efficacy in arctic cooling. A third option would be to address both arctic cloud cover and the Gulf Stream – an over & under approach. A major research effort is urgently needed on these considerations.

    With regard to the stress of these realizations in the context of ones family, having just become a grandfather, I know how you feel. But, I’d encourage you to reject any sense of despair – we simply can’t afford its disabling effects. Instead, we’d do better to channel that stress into real anger, and choose with care just where and how that anger will be expressed to best effect.

    In terms of necessary stress relief, I can recommend a way of life that includes both splitting wood with an axe, and making biochar – for demonstrating both better garden yields and carbon recovery. Small beer it may be, but it’s satisfying and very necessary.



  51. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Yes – you’re dooming. We ain’t defeated yet, not by a long chalk.

    There’s a remarkable potential for a U-turn in global co-operation under a new democratic US president. Social, economic and environmental constituencies are for once converging in profound discontent with what the incumbent offers for the next term.

    This is a real chance for change, and while it’s not the only chance, it offers the earliest and thus easiest change of course.



  52. Raul Marchand says:

    I must be missing the part where smart people see
    that the strength of their storm shelters will need to be
    Very secure.
    Looking at the flux chart, it might be about 2016 that
    Either one has or one is out of time to make such a
    Predesigned and comfortable structure. But one that is impenetrable to theft. But there are smart people out there good luck