Sunday, May 12, 2019

Global CO2 Passes 410 ppm in February 2019

On May 6th, NOAA ESRL reported that our world reached a global atmospheric CO2 concentration over 410 ppmv. This is not the Mauna Loa mean, which often substitutes for the actual global indicator, but the preliminary result of the Global Greenhouse Gas Network, and reflects the real mean of the world-wide reporting network.

The longer NOAA ESRL trend demonstrates the accelerating achievement of each new 10 ppm increase. 

If this 410 ppm mean holds through future updates, we will have increased the global CO2 concentration by 10 ppm in 47 months - less than four years. More on that sobering significance later.

Compared to 2018, global CO2 increased by 2.64 ppm, partially due to increased emissions, and perhaps influenced by the mild El Nino or other feedbacks. 

Furthermore, we have increased CO2 by 12.85 ppm in the last five years. 

Over the last 10 years, comparing February 2019 to 2009, the carbon dioxide concentration has increased 23.35 ppm, a new record acceleration - not just for the last 10 years - but the last 800,000 years. It has never happened before in human history or the natural environment. This is not normal.

It is deeply troubling that we have increased our global CO2 concentration by 70 ppm in 39 years. How troubling becomes obvious as we review the trend. 

Here is how long it has taken us to reach each 10 ppm milestone in the NOAA ESRL data. 

In May, 1960 we hit 320 ppm as a monthly mean for the first time at Mauna Loa (MLO). Here is how many months/years it took to reach each 10 ppm increase after that date. In the table (Glbl) is the NOAA ESRL Global Greenhouse Gas Network monthly mean.

Site       CO2 ppm Date          Months    Years
MLO 320 ppm May-60
MLO 330 ppm May-72          144 12.00
Glbl 340 ppm May-80             96 8.00
Glbl 350 ppm May-87            84 7.00
Glbl 360 ppm Jan-95            92 7.67
Glbl 370 ppm Apr-00            63 5.25
Glbl 380 ppm Apr-05            60 5.00
Glbl 390 ppm Dec-10            68 5.67
Glbl 400 ppm Mar-2015           51 4.25
Glbl 410 ppm Feb-2019           47 3.92

Here is the graphic, which depicts how quickly we are increasing the concentration rate in 10 ppm increments:
This slash in the rate increase is gut wrenching - a bad roller coaster going only one direction. It is worse than it looks when we add in the ice core data. That helps us have a full picture of the global CO2 rate of change through millennia. 

The ice core data used here is from the EPA, Vostock, EPICA and Law Dome records found at:

Let's just examine the last interglacial cycle from 15615 BCE (the last time we were approximately at 190 ppm (and in an ice age), to the present 410 ppm. The graphic below depicts how many years it took to add the next 10 ppm to the global CO2 concentration. 

For example, to increase from 190 ppm in 15615 BCE to 200 ppm it took 896 years, till 14709 BCE. It took 586 years to reach 210 ppm, and another 503 to reach 220 ppm. 

There is significant variability after this point. It took 5,923 years increase from 250-260 ppm, and 4,204 years to increase from 270-280 ppm. 

However in 1780, when we reached 280 ppm, it was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution - the human use of fossil fuels. It took till 1880, just 100 years, to reach 290 ppm. Humans then turbo-charged 10 ppm increases from millennia to decades and less - in less than a century. 

What we have done in the last 60 years practically causes heart palpitations when you think of the coming changes this CO2 increase will cause to the environment - and for human civilization.

Ponder this. The 3.9 years to go from 400 to 410 ppm is .00065 of the 5,923 years it took to go from 250 to 260 ppm. Or .00093 of the 4,204 years to go from 270-280 ppm. if it makes one feel better, It is 3.9 percent of the time to go from 280 to 290 ppm, from 1780 to 1880.

There is another traumatic perspective of we have inflicted on the global climate system and humanity - the adding of 70 ppm CO2 in the last 39 years. 

Let's compare that increase, from 340 to 410 ppm, to every other 70 ppm change since the past ice age, in increments of 10 ppm. In other words, how many years did it take for the same 70 ppm change, for example, from 190 to 260 ppm? At 190 ppm we were in an ice age and at 260 - we were not. 

Here is every 70 ppm change in 10 ppm incremental steps. It is obvious that human generated CO2 emissions are short circuiting natural processes. 

In conclusion, here are three things to ponder from the above graph.
  • The change from 210 to 280 ppm (emerging from the last ice age to beginning of the Industrial Revolution) took 15,900 years.
  • The change from 280 ppm to 350 ppm (reached in 1987, when the international community and energy industry unequivocally knew that emissions were going to cause a problem for human society) took only 202 years.
  • The last 60 ppm increase (350 to 410 ppm) has only taken 32 years. This has never happened in 800,000 years. In fact, in the ice core data there is no record of a 10 ppm increase in 39 years - until human emissions impacts in the 1900's.
Global CO2 concentrations have never increased by 10 ppm in 47 months. There is no comparison in 800,000 years of ice core data. Nothing in paleo-climate proxies. Only in models with polynomial, or exponential, curves.

We are in uncharted "terror incognita" (pun intended).

Imagine what the next increment looks like. Imagine if we do not accelerate efforts to quickly drop emissions. ACDC comes to mind....

"No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody's gonna slow me down...." 

We're on a Highway to Hell.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Global CH4 up 8.4 ppb in November 2018

According to the NOAA ESRL latest monthly data release, November, 2018 saw the planet experience a global methane mean of 1867.2 ppb, an increase of 8.4 ppb over 2017.

During the past five years we have experienced an increase of 46.8 ppb, and in the last 10 years, a 69.8 ppb increase.

As recently reported, the science community is still determining the mix of sources driving this increase since 2007, and the acceleration since 2014. What has been proposed are changes in biological sources such as emissions from cattle, a drop in hydroxyls in the atmosphere which impact the length of time before methane breaks down, or agricultural production that is increasing methane emissions, particularly from rice production. A final source suggested is an increase in methane released by new natural gas and oil production. 

Of significant concern is that natural feedbacks may begin or increase. If this occurs - despite cuts in human emissions - natural sources will offset our cuts and lead to future climate change.

Global CO2 December 2018 - On Track for 410+ ppm in March/April 2019

Global CO2: December 2018

In December, 2018, NOAA/ESRL reported global carbon dioxide at 409.36 ppm, or 2.83 ppm above December, 2017. That annual change was the highest since those associated with the 2015-2016 El Nino, when the world experienced increases above 3 ppm for 12 consecutive months. 


This month continues the unbroken CO2 concentration rise observed at Mauna Loa since 1959, then globally since 1980.

Five and Ten Year Increases

When December, 2018 is compared to 2013, global carbon dioxide has increased 12.71 ppm, the highest five year change since July, 2017 when we experienced a five year increase of 13.09 ppm. 

The last three months have experienced a decadal change above 23 ppm, with December having the highest at 23.32 ppm. The five and ten year rates continue trends which reflect ever increasing global emissions at increasing rates of change.

Passing 410 ppm

The world is on track to pass 410 ppm in 2019. It is possible this will be reached in February, quite probable in March, and almost certain in April, 2019. It is also probable that the global concentration will exceed 411 ppm in April or May 2019, given historical changes of 2+ ppm between December and April/May in recent previous years.

Quicker Milestones

Of greater concern is reaching 10 ppm increases in shorter times. If we pass 410 ppm in March, 2019, it will be only 48 months after passing 400 ppm in March, 2015. To increase from 320 to 330 ppm took 12 years (May 1960 to May 1972). We are now blowing through these 10 ppm milestones in 1/3 the time. 

The Future Trend?

If we stabilize carbon dioxide concentration increases for each future 10 ppm at 48 months, the planet will experience a doubling of CO2 compared to pre-industrial by 2080 and over 610 ppm by 2100. However, given that emissions are not slowing, combined with potential environmental system feedbacks, we may reach 560 ppm sooner, with less ability to influence the trend with decreasing emissions. More on this in another post.

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.