Thursday, December 29, 2016

Global CO2: October 2016 Hits a Record Monthly High and All-Time Increase

Global CO2 hits new record monthly high during October, 2016 and record year to year and ten year monthly increases.

Monthly Global CO2 Change

On December 5, NOAA/ESRL released the global monthly CO2 average for October, 2016. It set a new record high for the month of 402.31 ppm. Compared to 2015's 398.60 ppm, the one year change was an increase of 3.71 ppm. This reading may adjust for some months into 2017, but not enough to make it a less sobering sign that human and natural impacts on CO2 levels continue to push us toward climate changes that increase the possibility of cascading feedbacks.

The 3.71 ppm increase is the highest monthly jump over the same month in the prior year for any monthly comparison in the NOAA/ESRL observations. It beat out August-October, 1998, June to August, 2013, and every month of 2016 which each had a year to year increase over 3 ppm.

Source: Ed Dlugokencky and Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL ( NOAA/ESRL GMD,

The monthly CO2 trend since January 1980, portrays the increasing rise through the years, passing 340 ppm in May, 1980, 360 ppm in January 1995, piercing 380 ppm in April, 2005, and smashing through 400 ppm in March, 2015.

What is troubling is that this trend of 20 ppm markers is coming with slowly increasing frequency. There are also troubling hints, that acceleration of the CO2 increase may be occurring in the natural system in addition to human emissions. We may not know how much natural emission rates may be increasing for several months into 2017, until the recent El Nino impacts on the carbon cycle subside.

One way to illustrate these accelerating monthly increases is to compare, not only the monthly increase to the prior year, but also over the five year and ten year periods. In other words, the CO2 increase between October, 2016 to the same month in 2011 and then 2006. The following graphic illustrates those changes.

The bottom (blue) line is the monthly change in CO2 ppm from the prior year. The middle (red) line is the change of any month compared to the same month five years earlier. The top (green) line is the monthly CO2 compared to ten years before.

The year to year monthly change reflects peaks that have often occurred as a delayed response to El Nino conditions, however that may be changing in a worrying way. However, that is a topic for another post.   

The five year monthly change reveals a more apparent accelerating growth in atmospheric CO2. In September and October, 2002 we experienced the first two months with a five year increase of more than 10 ppm. from May, 2005 to April, 2008 we experienced 32 of 35 months with changes of more than 10 ppm over the same months five years before. 

Commencing with February, 2013 we have not experienced a month with less than 10 ppm change from five years before. In fact, we witnessed the first months above an 11 ppm change during July to September, 2014. We returned to changes of more than 11 ppm in December, 2015, and have not dropped below since. What is more troubling is that beginning in March, 2016, we have experienced more than a 12 ppm change over the same month 5 years before.

The ten year change started with a high, 15.94 ppm change in January, 1990 compared to January, 1980. That would remain the highest 10 year change until it was tied in December 2001, and broken in March, 2002 when we exceeded 16 ppm for the first time. Increases in the ten year change rate came in quick succession passing 17 ppm in September, 2002, 18 ppm in May, 2003, and 19 ppm in January, 2006.

The first ten year increase above 20 ppm occurred in September, 2007. Since October, 2012, we have not gone below a 20 ppm change compared to ten years before. We are now experiencing another acceleration, passing through 21 ppm change for the first time in December, 2015 and smashing through 22 ppm in August, 2016.

In summary, we have hit the highest one year global CO2 change in October, 2016, of 3.71 ppm. We hit the highest five year change of 12.83 ppm in August, 2016, and stand at the highest ten year change of 22.47 ppm in October, 2016.

Tracking Annual Change

NOAA/ESRL summarizes global CO2 change as annual growth rates. It uses a methodology that compares the December/January average to that of the prior year. That is depicted in the first column in the following table. Additionally, another methodology that could be used is to average the monthly change for all months in a given year. This does depict the annual change differently but captures the average of growth rate changes within a particular year.

Here is the table for comparison, and then a chart.

Year ESRL CO2 Yr Avg of Chg
1959 0.96
1960 0.71
1961 0.78
1962 0.56
1963 0.57
1964 0.49
1965 1.10
1966 1.10
1967 0.61
1968 0.99
1969 1.32
1970 1.13
1971 0.73
1972 1.47
1973 1.46
1974 0.68
1975 1.23
1976 0.97
1977 1.92
1978 1.29
1979 2.14
1980 1.71
1981 1.15 1.19
1982 1.00 0.77
1983 1.84 1.67
1984 1.24 1.55
1985 1.63 1.47
1986 1.03 1.42
1987 2.69 1.74
1988 2.25 2.53
1989 1.38 1.64
1990 1.18 1.18
1991 0.73 1.33
1992 0.70 0.70
1993 1.22 0.72
1994 1.68 1.49
1995 1.95 1.82
1996 1.07 1.77
1997 1.98 1.12
1998 2.81 2.65
1999 1.34 2.08
2000 1.25 1.18
2001 1.83 1.60
2002 2.38 2.01
2003 2.28 2.54
2004 1.56 1.82
2005 2.43 2.03
2006 1.77 2.12
2007 2.09 1.74
2008 1.78 2.10
2009 1.62 1.51
2010 2.44 2.28
2011 1.69 1.88
2012 2.35 2.01
2013 2.47 2.74
2014 1.99 1.93
2015 2.98 2.29
E 2016 3.63 3.49

In the chart above, the blue line represents the NOAA/ESRL annual change. While the media initially portrayed 2015 as the first year above a 3 ppm annual change, in the end, that was not the case, with the final growth rate of 2.98 ppm.

In 2016, tearing through an annual growth rate of 3 ppm will not even be in question. What is troubling is how large a jump we will experience.

Using the NOAA/ESRL methdology of two months averaged compared to the prior year, on a September/October basis we will see an estimated 3.63 ppm annual growth rate. Using the annual average of increases approach, it is estimated to be 3.49 ppm. In reality, these numbers are conservative, since November, 2016 through January, 2017 will have higher concentrations given the annual cycle. 

Given that impact, the NOAA/ESRL annual growth rate has a good probability of being above 3.7 ppm for 2016. We will know for sure in a few months.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Arctic Seabed Methane Release, Summer 2016: "Significantly Increased Since 2014"

On October 4, 2016, the Siberian Times reported that the 40 day expedition by Igor Semiletov and scientists from the 'Academic M.A. Lavrentyev' expedition in the Laptev Sea were finding significantly increased methane release from the ocean floor and into the atmosphere.

The ship used had seen similar service in 2014 and earlier to observe ESAS and Laptev seabed methane release. 
research vessel 'Academic M.A. Lavrentyev'
Source: Siberian Times

In 2011, Semelitov was quoted as saying, "'We found more than 100 (methane) fountains, some more than a kilometre across. These are methane fields on a scale not seen before. The emissions went directly into the atmosphere..."

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

These methane "mega flares" previously detected were found again during July, 2014 on the SWERUS-C3 expedition which captured images of whole streams of methane bubbling to the surface, as depicted in this image.


On that expedition, the Russian professor reported 500 abnormal fields of methane emissions from the Laptev and East Siberian seabeds.
According to the Siberian Times, Semelitov revised these prior findings upward during September-October, 2016, "'The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014,' he said. 'These observations may indicate that the rate of degradation of underwater permafrost has increased."

The detailed findings of the expedition were presented at an international conference in Tomsk on 21 to 24 November, 2016, however they have not been shared with the public.

Arctic Heatwaves Storms and Sea Ice Impacts, Dec 14-28, 2016

The last two weeks witnessed exceptional events in the Arctic, with warming, storms, and sea ice decline damaging the sea ice pack. The change in sea ice extent on the Atlantic side of the Arctic was stunning for this time of the season.

On December 21st, the NSIDC reported a sea ice extent decline of 148,000 km2. Sea ice extent continues to set record lows with the possibility that we end the year at the lowest recorded for that date.
Source: Jaxa

However this process of temporary heatwaves and storm induced compaction and perhaps, given the wave action, some ice melt, only helps reaffirm how weak this ice pack is compared to past decades. 

To illustrate, we will track the Arctic changes prior to the storm and warmth till December 28, 2016. However, first here is an Arctic map to assist with location finding.


What follows mostly comes from the EOSDIS World View Sea Ice Concentration Layer interspersed with other charts by date to illustrate the drop, the heatwave and then the fast expansion of extent and concentration changes since the strongest storm passed on the 23rd.

December 1, 2016

Beginning with December 1, 2016, below, we observe the Franz Joseph Islands nearly surrounded by sea ice as the pack continues to expand. Areas of the Kara Sea remain ice free due to ocean warmth slowing refreeze.

To illustrate that sea surface temperature anomaly slowing refreeze here is the NOAA EMC SSTA for December 1st:


December 14, 2016

The image below for the 14th reveals the sea ice extent and concentration just before a series of storms and wind change that reversed the winter expansion on the Atlantic side. The concentration anomaly in the Central Arctic Basin remains though somewhat diminished.

December 22, 2016

The imagery for the 22nd reveals the impact of the winter storm, wave action, and strong winds impacting the sea ice. The pact around Franz Joseph Land has been shredded, and north of Svalbard concentration has dropped.

The wind and temperature impacts for the 22nd are apparent in the earthnullschool imagery. The low passing west of Svalbard pulled the warmer air flowing from the south into the Central Arctic Basin, and that combined with the winds exceeding 50 mph swirled over the pack from northern Russia.


December 23, 2016

The strong low pulled the mid-latitude air over the Pole, with temperature anomalies that were 20-30 C above normal, a couple of brief hours hovering at 32 F.

 Source: Climate Reanalyzer

December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve revealed the furthest retreat of the sea ice edge and obliteration of ice around Franz Joseph Land, with the additional weakening of the sea ice inside the pack appearing as yellow areas with about 75% ice. The storm, wind and wave impacts were ending, and with that, refreeze would begin rapidly.

December 28, 2016

During the last four days, much of the extent lost has been recovered - but with thinner ice that will continue to suffer the effects of wind, warmth and waves. Concentration in the Central Arctic is still ragged, with a pack on the move through the Fram Strait being impacted by current and future wind and storm. First, here the EOSDIS sea ice concentration for the 28th.


Here is the Magic Seaweed forecast for waves and storm impacts for today as of 1800 hours, Areas in yellow and orange represent wave heights over 20 feet.


Warmth still streams north along with this storm, here is a more local view first, then the "conveyor belt" of air flows that keep pummeling the Arctic over the next several days with moisture and warmth from the mid-latitudes. Areas in green and yellows are above freezing. Blue and fucia/purple are below freezing.

Source: EarthNullSchool

Finally, here is the wave forecast for January 1, 2017, which conveys that what we have witnessed as warm stormy conditions impacting Arctic sea ice will likely continue into January. The light blue and aqua still represent wave heights of 10-18 feet.

Thus, we begin 2017 with a weakened pack, that continues to be a shadow of its former strength. This state is reinforced by the recent AGU Norwegian Young Sea Ice (N-ICE2015) project presentation.

As Mats Granskog, a sea-ice researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø and chief scientist of the Norwegian Young Sea Ice (N-ICE2015) project, presented at the AGU conference, there were...

“Lot’s of surprises. We saw a new Arctic where the ice is much thinner, only three to four feet thick and this ice functions much differently than it did five to ten years ago when the ice was much thicker.”

“We were also surprised that there was so much snow on the ice. Way more than we expected from earlier work."

“We observed the first northern most under sea ice phytoplankton bloom very early in the season when the ice was still snow covered. It was only this new Arctic ice, very mobile ice, that allowed this to happen."

"So we can say that this thinner and younger ice today works very differently than the ice we knew. It moves much faster. It breaks up more easily. It is way more vulnerable to storms and winds."

“The so called Arctic Amplification, the rapid warming of the Arctic, is in part caused by a reduction in the Arctic sea ice, seen in the last decade. And this has already impacted the patterns of weather and climate on the planet.”

"It is disturbing that the accelerated warming in the Arctic actually feeds more warming in the Arctic, and can even result in more drastic changes. And these drastic changes in the Arctic sea kind of calls into the question the knowledge that we have today about Arctic sea ice.”

Source: Youtube AGU

To visualize his description, here is a glimpse of the current ice conditions, note the leads through the Central Arctic basin.

Finally a closeup glimpse of the Nares Strait, and fracturing through the older sea ice in the Canadian Arctic.

Source: Environment Canada