Saturday, July 21, 2018

A World of Fire and Smoke - A July 20 2018 Snapshot

Over the past few weeks US news has covered fires in the West; in California, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico and Arizona They have burned millions of acres of forests, grassland, grazing land and most sadly, wheat crops ready for harvest in Oregon. Some fires are still burning and threaten homes, towns and livelihoods. 

Nevada fires:
Oregon fires:

Here is a snapshot of US and Canadian fires and smoke from the NOAA EOSDIS Worldview for July 20th. A click on the image or a visit to NOAA EOSDIS Worldview reveals the US and Canadian fires as red dots in the VIIRS imagery. 


Here are a couple of closer views:

The Western US
Source: NOAA EOSDIS Worldview, July 20, 2018

Eastern Canada
Source: NOAA EOSDIS Worldview, July 20, 2018

But how does this compare to the rest of the world?

The media has reported on fires in Sweden and Finland over the last few days, with as many as 60 forest fires burning in Sweden and dozens in Finland. What has not been reported are the Russian fires burning in the Kola Peninsula and Western Russia, many well above the Arctic Circle.


Scandinavian and Kola Peninsula Russian fires:
Source: NOAA EOSDIS Worldview, July 20, 2018

So what else is not being reported? 


Fires are burning in Indonesia and Australia, with the Indonesian fires potentially signalling a return of deforestation for more palm oil plantations. These fires cause smoke and haze to cover Malaysia and cause significant health hazards. Australia's fires may relate to drought conditions in its north.

Source: NOAA EOSDIS Worldview, July 20, 2018


Amazon rainforest and savannah fires are are creating ongoing loss of habitat and biodiversity as agricultural interests destroy significant swathes of rainforest and open savannah areas. Fires in eastern Brazil, and the loss of forest in these areas is bringing the country closer to a tipping point in which forest loss leads to irreversible change in its climate.

As a recent Vox article reported, "But in a dramatic turnaround, tree cover loss doubled there (Brazil) from 2015 to 2017. As the World Resource Institute’s Frances Seymour writes, this is “in part due to unprecedented forest fires in the Amazon ... [and] to a relaxation of law enforcement efforts in the midst of the country’s ongoing political turmoil and fiscal crisis.”

"According to Carlos Nobre, a Brazilian scientist and expert on climate change, we’ve already deforested about 18 percent of the Amazon. Reaching 20 to 25 percent deforestation would cause the “system to flip to non-forest ecosystems in eastern, southern and central Amazonia,” he wrote with Thomas Lovejoy in a recent paper in Science Advances."
“We are very close to 20 percent,” he said Wednesday at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum. “We need to stop completely Amazonian deforestation. We do not want the Amazon to become a global cattle ranch.”
In most tropical regions, demand for soy, beef, palm oil, and other commodities — as well as fires — is driving the bulk of deforestation. In Brazil, which lost 11 million acres of forest cover in 2017, the main use for cleared land is cattle pasture."

The brown areas in eastern Brazil represent areas undergoing long term drought and change in temperature, that are shifting the climate as deforestation occurs. The SPEI Global Drought Index 48 month base displays the tragic truth.

Source: SPEI Global Drought Monitor

Central Africa:

Almost nothing is reported on African forest and savanna fire impact in the Western media. Much of the African forest fire activity is related to agricultural production. As Global Forest Watch reported, "Tree cover loss in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reached a record high in 2017, increasing 6 percent from 2016.  Agriculture, artisanal logging and charcoal production drove the tree cover loss, with nearly 70 percent of it occurring in agricultural areas known as the rural complex." 


However, like Brazil, if the global community does not work with central Africa, especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to slow charcoal fire use and deforestation, the world may lose another major carbon sink to becoming a carbon source.

Source: NOAA EOSDIS Worldview, July 20, 2018

Central Russia and Siberia

Massive and pervasive forest, peat and permafrost fires have burned in central and Siberian Russia since April. After initial reporting in April and May, the media in Russia went silent and Western media is not focused on the story, except when plumes of smoke cross the Arctic into Canada and then New England. 

Source: NOAA EOSDIS Worldview, July 20 2018

While the global community talks about deforestation in the tropics, deforestation by Russia deliberately not fighting these fires needs to be considered. However, it is so dry that it is almost impossible to do so on this large scale. 

The SPEI Global Drought Monitor makes this dilemma apparent. Some portions of central and Siberian Russia have experienced comparative high heat and deep drought for the last four years. as part of a decline that began in 2010.


While these torched areas may grow back, in some areas it will take a century or more for full restoration. In some cases because of the scale of what is destroyed, the forest may not return. But megatons of soot, ash and carbon monoxide are being released by these fires at high concentrations. Carbon monoxide concentrations in some areas are above 4800 ppbv.

Source: Earth Nullschool

These fires and resulting emissions are making it more challenging for the world to make progress in meeting a future 1.5 or 2C goal set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Global CH4 Up 10.2 ppb in April 2018

On July 5th, NOAA ESRL released the preliminary April 2018 global mean CH4 concentration. This month's concentration reached 1858 ppb, which is 10.2 ppb above April, 2017. It is also the second consecutive month with increases above 10 ppb, since June, 2016. 

What is troublingly different is that June 2016's increase was still associated with the 2015-2016 El Nino. The March and April 2018 increases are not. Whether these remain as double digit increases will become clear over the next several months as additional site samples are submitted and tested. If they do, what is significant is that this increase of global methane emissions will be most likely be primarily from anthropogenic sources.

The April 2018 global mean concentration is 13 percent higher than April, 1984. We also are potentially observing an ongoing acceleration of CH4 increase in the atmosphere.

The five and ten year trends of CH4 mean concentration change reveal this global  acceleration. The April 2018 mean of 1858 ppb is 45.2 ppb above the same month in 2013. This is the second highest five year change, and is the 12th consecutive month of a five year change in concentration above 40 ppb.

The CH4 mean concentration change since April 2008 is 71.5 ppb. This is the third month in a row of a decadal concentration change above 70 ppb. Again, it is troubling that the only other time we have experienced a ten year change above 70 ppb was in response to the 2015-2016 strong El Nino. This time there is no El Nino affecting this methane increase.

With increases in global natural gas production, increasing fire emissions, and permafrost warming in the Arctic, it is quite likely that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future.

Source: NOAA ESRL: 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Global CO2 hits 408.96 ppm in April 2018

On July 5, NOAA ESRL published the preliminary April, 2018 global CO2 results. The world reached 408.96 ppm, up 2.63 ppm over April, 2017. 

This continues the monthly increases above 2 ppm for the fifth month, without a boost often associated with an El Nino. It continues the slow acceleration of atmospheric CO2 concentration buildup.

While April 2017 to 2018 increase was 2.63 ppm, the five and ten year change in CO2 makes the accelerating trends more apparent. 

The 2018 concentration was 12.44 ppm above April 2013, and was the 26th month with an approximate 12 ppm increase. 

The change between 2018 and April 2008, was in increase of 22.67 ppm, supporting the slowly accelerating rate of increase of CO2 concentration. It is the 21st consecutive month with a 10 year change above 22 ppm.

It is likely that April will be the peak global CO2 concentration for this year. However if  trends hold, we are on track to exceed 410 ppm globally between February to April, 2019. That will be the first time in human history the planet will experience a 10 ppm change on CO2 concentration in 48 months - or perhaps less. 

This trend that takes us toward future climate disaster that we want to avoid. 

A continued increase of 10 ppm every 48 months places us on track to double preindustrial CO2 (280 ppm) by 2080. Further increases in emissions may put us on the path of adding 10 ppm every 36 months, which potentially shortens the time to doubling (560 ppm) into the 2060's.

Global CO2 Future Estimates 10 ppm Increases
Year 60 month Year 48 month Year 36 month
2015 400 2015 400 2015 400
2020 410 2019 410 2018 410
2025 420 2023 420 2021 420
2030 430 2027 430 2024 430
2035 440 2031 440 2027 440
2040 450 2035 450 2030 450
2045 460 2039 460 2033 460
2050 470 2043 470 2036 470
2055 480 2047 480 2039 480
2060 490 2051 490 2042 490
2065 500 2055 500 2045 500
2070 510 2059 510 2048 510
2075 520 2063 520 2051 520
2080 530 2067 530 2054 530
2085 540 2071 540 2057 540
2090 550 2075 550 2060 550
2095 560 2079 560 2063 560
2100 570 2083 570 2066 570
2105 580 2087 580 2069 580
2110 590 2091 590 2072 590
2115 600 2095 600 2075 600

The world being left to future generations will not be with world we live in today. As Christine LaGarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, stated in Riyadh in October, 2017, "If we do not do anything about climate change now, in fifty years’ time we will be toasted, roasted and grilled.” 

Source: Christine LaGarde,  “Future Investment Initiative,” Day 1, The Big Shift: What New Frameworks are Needed to Understand the Future? Panel Discussion, (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: October 24, 2017),

Friday, July 6, 2018

Super Typhoon Maria: Category 1 to 5 in 24 hours

On July 2, Super Typhoon Maria formed as a tropical depression at 2040 hours. Barely eight hours later, on July 3, 0410 hours Maria became a tropical storm near Guam. For the next 28 hours, Maria slowly strengthened as a tropical storm.

On July 5, 0840, it was like an explosion occurred, for in the space of 30 minutes, Maria spiked from a 53 knot tropical storm to a 72 knot typhoon, equal in strength to a category one hurricane.

Maria only remained at a category one equivalent hurricane strength for nine hours, when her pressure dropped and she blew through a category two to a category three equivalent hurricane in 2 hours, from July 5 1740 to 1950. Typhoon Maria only remained at a category three strength for five hours, when at July 6, 0040 hours, she became a super typhoon with 115 knot sustained winds.

Maria was not done strengthening. She accelerated to 135 knot sustained winds, a category 5 super typhoon by July 6, 0840 hours, in just eight hours. 

So from July 5, 0910 a category 1 to July 6, 0910 a category 5!


Tropical Cyclone Scales:

Super Typhoon Maria Intensification:

Super Typhoon commentary and updates:

Sunday, July 1, 2018

March 2018 Global Mean CH4 up 11.2 ppb over March 2017

NOAA ESRL released its preliminary global mean CH4 on June 5 2018, with an initial reading of 1859.1 ppb. This mean was 11.2 ppb over March 2017. 
This continues the increase in global methane that has been observed globally by NOAA ESRL since 1983. It is almost a 13.4% increase in global mean methane since March, 1984.

This month's 11.2 ppb increase over March 2017, represents the highest rate of increase since December 2015, and if the results remain above a 10 ppb increase in the coming months, as more samples are collected, it will be the first month with an increase above 10 ppb since July 2016.

However, it is the longer trends that demonstrate the accelerating rate of increase of CH4 concentration in the atmosphere.

Since March 2013, global mean CH4 has increased by 46.1 ppb, the highest rate of increase since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the most since May, 1993. It is also the eleventh month of five year comparison increases over 40 ppb, last experienced in 1992-1993.

The ten year increase, since March, 2008 is 73.6 ppb. This is the highest 10 year change since March, 1999. It is obvious from the data and graphic, that methane continues to increase in concentration and reflects increasing global emissions.

Recent research has attributed the methane increases primarily to growth in livestock production and changes in rainfall in the tropics. However, according to the USDA global markets report, there has not been a major increase in livestock (cattle or swine) production since 2014. We have seen significant increases in CH4 concentration during that time.

USDA World Markets
Cattle Production
Total Cattle Beginning Stocks Total Cattle Production
2014     1,008,403         292,235
2015       979,636         288,195
2016       988,487         288,286
2017       995,342         293,224
2018 Oct     1,004,067         298,335
2018 Aor     1,001,841         296,618
Swine Production
Total Swine Beginning Stocks Total Swine Production
2014        798,311     1,280,041
2015        795,862     1,263,225
2016        785,296     1,248,378
2017        769,192     1,266,199
2018 Oct        755,242     1,291,635
2018 Aor        772,470     1,298,206

However more research is needed to localize sources and particularly to determine if natural gas production is making a higher contribution to changes in methane concentration.

There may be other natural methanogenic sources that need further consideration, but that is another post.