The big money in Australia is in coal mining and the Coalition Government of Australia is committed to preserving it at all costs even though they have signed the UN COP21 agreement to reduce emissions. They have abolished the carbon tax, reduced the climate change activity of their climate scientists and reduced activity in renewable energy as part of this plan and can not see the link between burning coal and the record breaking temperatures in Australia.
There is always debate about how sensitive the planet is to small changes or is it robust enough to resist the damage that people are doing and continue to deliver an unchanged environment.
One indicator might be the slight increase in inclination that is caused every 125,000 years by Jupiter, which starts the onset of a warm periods where the temperature will rise 5 C.
In the Earth's natural state the temperature is 5 C cooler than today and there would be ice two kilometers thick over North America, down to New York and over Russia with thick ice down to Germany and Scotland.
This change is caused by an increase of inclination of just 2.4 degrees. Sufficient to change the climate completely.
Recent analysis has revealed that the Southern Ocean has increased its speed by 30% in recent years and this will serious consequences for us all.
It means that the climate models will be underestimating the rate of melting to the ice in Antarctica and the strength of the wind in places like New Zealand will have a higher proportion of strong Westerlies.
This year in particular New Zealand has had a succession of strong westerly winds which has brought flooding to the west coast but also drought to the populated areas in the east.
The technical reasons for the drought are dealt with here. http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/drought.html
The report on the original research is here.
When discussing an ice free Arctic we dont need to be too particular about the minimum amount and one million square kilometres would be considered so low that it might just be ice free.
The effect on the weather in the populated regions just South of the Arctic region can be devastating. North America, UK and Europe, Russia and China can all have extreme weather with floods, freezing winters or drought which can put a huge strain on the economies and the lives of the people.
The loss of Arctic ice is the fastest reaction to climate change. There is no waiting for half a century for the ice to melt and sea levels to rise. This is almost instantaneous.
For those people who have not caught up with the fact that both Poles are losing ice very quickly here is a graphic of the Antarctic ice loss. After years of increases we have had a massive loss of ice. The huge reversal in trend has caught everyone out and is extremely worrying especialy as big ice shelves have massive cracke in them and the glaciers behind them are speeding thier way to the sea.
We should get a second acceleration in sea level rise in a few short years and there is no way of reversing the trend.
When we have an extreme storm people want to know whether it was caused by climate change. The answer is that all events carry an element of climate change because the atmosphere is warmer and holds more moisture but it can only be expressed as a probability not a black and white yes or no.
Here is a NOAA graphic of the calculations of the result of climate change and what would happen without it.
For the full article click here.
For some months the warm water of the Gulf stream has been pooling off the North East American coast around Maine, possibly held back by the cold water off the South East coast of Greenland. (The remnents of which can be seen in blue).
This warm water (in yellow) seems to have started to stream across the Atlantic towards Europe. The green marker records a temperature anomally 3.5C above normal for the region.
There also appears to be a huge weather system, which covers the whole central Atlantic, drawing cold air from Baffin Bay between Newfoundland and Greenland and mixing it with warm air drawn from the warmer latitudes of the Atlantic.
This extreme mixing of high sea surface temperatures and warm and cold winds in the same system could lead to a massive storm. Its early days yet but worth watching.
The unusual warmth in the Arctic is causing some big problems, some of which are long term and some are short term. In the short term there is a lack of ice coverage of the ocean which means the dark ocean absorbs even more of the suns heat. The lack of long term thick ice will make for a very fast melt next summer increasing the heat absorbtion. This is better explained by Prof James Renwick in Hot Topic.
The higher temperatures in the Arctic reduce the temperature differential with the lower latittudes and this upsets the jet stream bringing the posibility of extreme weather in the lower, heavily populated, latittudes. Jennifer Francis has a good video on this.
With satellite information now available to us all, ametures like myself can look at current information and see conditions anywhere in the world. These are of course snap shots of information and real interpretation needs years of research and long term records. Nevertheless looking at the ocean surface temperature in the Labtov sea shows that the temperatue is only -0.9C and it needs -1.8C for the salty ocean to freeze. At the begining of December when the region is in almost total darkness it should be much colder and sea ice freezing very quickly. The Arctic is 10% lower in ice volume.
Will this increase the methane clatherate release from the sea bed? Or will it reduce the thermohaline circulation?.
The Arctic's temperature is way above normal for the time of year. The water is much warmer after the summer ice loss and there is a flood of warm air coming up from the South.
The unusually high temperatures reduce the temperature differential between the Arctic and lower latitudes and mean that the jet stream starts to slow down and meander bringing unusual weather to populated areas.
This is probably the fastest way that climate change will affect people in the heavily populated regions. Waiting for crops to fail when the temperature rises 2 C will take another thirty years and waiting for the ice to melt and raise sea levels is a slow business but this is quick. Reduce Arctic ice cover, temperature rises and straight away the jet stream moves course.
It can bring excessive rain and floods or it can bring dry weather becoming drought, but in either case it is quick, it is regional and it is very unpleasant and expensive.
These are the only things that governments understand about dealing with climate change.
The IPCC have projections for the amount of ice that will be lost due to melting depending on the amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere. This worrying research by NASA using the GRACE satellite shows that we are currently losing more ice than has been projected in our two largest ice sheets.
Ice on land does not melt as fast as that in the sea and the worry is that the glaciers which terminate in the sea are melting from the underside even faster. At this stage this underside melting does not add to sea level rise, but these ice shelves hold back the massive inland glaciers from slipping into the sea with catastrophic consequences to sea level rise.
There are reports regarding the sensitivity of the world’s climate and how it can change rapidly and without warning. A tipping point which we might be watching now.
This year the ice in the started out at record low levels, it did not match the minimum of 2012, and then it went all wrong in the regrowth of the ice. It is not refreezing into the areas that it should do and we are moving into new, frightening territory. If the ice does not form, the jet stream becomes unstable and Europe and America can have extremely unusual weather.
Just in case we in the Southern hemisphere think we are safe, the winter sea ice has stopped increasing as it had been and we now have a record low.
I suggest that you watch Paul Beckwith explain the science and the implications. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOo1TmaZi2U
Over the last several years the Gulf stream has been slowing and the North Atlantic RAPID array of buoys has been monitoring the results. Satellite images show how warm water is blocked by the 'Cold Blob' just South of Greenland and is pooling on the coast of the USA of the Cost around Cape Cod.
The position indicated by the green circle on the map has a temperature which is almost C above normal.
There are current reports of the Lobsters in Maine moving North at 43 miles a decade and it begs the question about the Cod which used to be prolific on the Newfoundland Banks.
Was the cause of their disappearance due to over fishing as we were led to believe, or was it due to a change in water temperature which lead them to abandon their traditional location and move to cooler waters?
A fascinating piece of research by Beth Fox of Waikato University and Tammo Reichgelta and William J. D'Andrea of the Columbia University, USA has been able to analyse soft tissue from 23 million years ago and discover more about CO2 levels of the Oligocene/Miocene period.
On Radio NZ Nine to Noon Kathryn Ryan,
The problem with obtaining knowledge of this type from 23 million years ago is that most samples are rock and obtaining soft tissue from that period, which can be dated accurately, is a real challenge. Beth Fox had the idea (and knew the place in New Zealand) of a cone shaped volcano caldera where there was no input from rivers to contaminate the scene and where the debris that fell to the bottom of the cone was preserved close to its natural state, over millions of years.
The research involved drilling a 180 metre core sample in the bottom of the volcano caldera and this revealed a perfect, layered record, going back more than 23 million years and examination of the contents revealed leaves that were perfectly preserved and could be analysed for the CO2 levels of that period.
What they revealed was that changes in the stomatal cells and carbon isotope ratios in the leaves indicated a major increase in the levels of CO2, rising from about 500 parts per million (ppm) to between 750 and 1550 ppm over a span of less than 10,000 years.
“What surprised us was how such large CO2 fluctuations happened over geologically, relatively short time scales,” says Dr Fox.
“We found that atmospheric CO2 levels began to rapidly increase around the same time as the ice-sheet began to decline, and more importantly, even when the CO2 levels dropped back to previous levels, the ice kept on melting. Once the process of destabilisation of the ice-sheet was kick-started, it could keep going by itself.”
The ice goes from about 125% of the present day Antarctic ice sheet to about 50% of the present day Antarctic ice sheet over that period of time. It’s a massive loss of ice, but the carbon dioxide levels do not stay high for the whole time, they actually go down and the ice appears to be able to keep on melting by itself presumably after it has been kick started by that carbon dioxide increase.”
This important research gives us an insight into what happens to the planet as the CO2 levels rise and will help to identify a point when the climate will reach a tipping point and change from one stage to another. By implication the tipping point would move us from the climate we have today to one with higher temperatures and much higher sea levels due to the melting of the ice caps. Having tipped the climate to a new state it did not recover even when CO2 levels returned to the original levels again.
The cause of the increase in CO2 is not known but it could be a comet impact, indicated by spherule layers at the Oligocene Miocene boundary or volcanos (La Garita Caldera of Colorado), or possibly both.
Another surprise was the relatively quick reduction in the levels of CO2 which possibly could have been the result of the opening up of the Drake passage between South America and West Antarctica which allowed the Southern Ocean to circulate and absorb or consume CO2 from the atmosphere.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about the timeline but Beth Fox and colleagues have added some important parts to the jigsaw and with a really neat piece of research.
We all understand that Greenland is melting and the Arctic sea ice is also disappearing rapidly but some areas are so high and so cold that they do not normally melt. Satellites have now identified two new areas of melting that have been discovered because they are making lakes of meltwater that are visible from space and they are in new regions.
One region is in East Antarctica which had previously been thought to be too cold to melt. West Antarctica is melting and the sea ice is melting from underneath due to warmer sea water but this is a new area to be seen melting.
The second surprise was on the high plateau of Mongolia which is so cold that the region is called the third pole. This region, which in its entirety would include the Himalayas, has thousands of glaciers and the summer melt provides water for some of the biggest in the world and supplies water for about 1.2 billion people in Asia and India all the way from Pakistan to China. The danger is that the ice will melt away and in the end their will not be enough water to supply the rivers in the summer leaving millions of people and whole nations short of water.
When Tesla announced its model 3 and took orders for 400,000 cars it had a devastating effect on the traditional car manufacturers who can now see that they have been far too complacent. Their symbiotic relationship with the oil companies has gone on far too long and they now realise their mistake and are scrambling to catch up.
Up to now electric cars have been more expensive and considered by the traditional petrol head manufactures a bit of a joke but this is because nobody before Tesla had used a volume production line for manufacturing to get costs down. However, when you consider a few facts you can see the depth of their mistake.
A petrol car has 2000 parts a whereas an electric car has 10% of that. A petrol car already has two electric power units, a starter motor and an alternator, and there is an annual world production of around 150 million of each so electric car motors can be very cheap in volume production.
Batteries prices are on a steep downward curve and this is with existing technology. Many research laboratories around the world are announcing breakthroughs in new materials and performance so we can expect many more improvements with an increase in research investment.
There will be leapfrogging downward plunge in car and van prices which will eliminate oil powered cars in much the same way that mobile phones and digital cameras devastated the tradition manufacturers and it could all happen in ten years.
When you include driverless car technology and solar energy providing very cheap energy, the transport industry as we know it is due for some massive changes and nothing will be the same again.
We may reach our CO2 emission reduction targets with a market driven initiative that will cut our oil consumption and save us money at the same time and no government intervention.
Occasional blog posts on topical news items concerning the climate. Please click the RSS feed to receive updates.