New Antarctic Study Looks at CO2 Changes During Post Ice-Age Deglaciation

Researchers from Scripps, Oregon State, and other schools recently published a study in the journal Nature, showing the results of an analysis of 3,405 meters of Antarctic ice core samples. The study was done at a base constructed on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide, where annual snowfall would reliably accumulate and be subjected to minimal horizontal flowing.

At the coldest time of the last ice age, sea levels are believed to have been 120 meters below today’s levels, and atmospheric CO2 measured around 180 parts per million (ppm). Since then, the level of atmospheric CO2 has tracked upward along with average air temperature and sea level.

This new study was able to track the last ice age from its peak to complete deglaciation; it showed an increase in atmospheric CO2 of about 80 parts per million, taking place over 10,000 years. But the researchers were able to study fine time increments, and they found that there were three events within this deglaciation period, where CO2 levels surged 10-15 ppm during a smaller timeframe of 100-200 years.

“The rate of change during these events is still significantly less than present-day changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The Keeling Curve record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, launched by the late Scripps geochemist Charles David Keeling, recorded levels of 315 ppm when it began in 1958. In 2014, monthly average concentrations reached 401 ppm, an increase of more than 85 parts per million in less than 60 years.”

– an excerpt from the study, published in late October 2014 in the journal Nature

The dominant expectation had been that studies would most likely reveal a fairly steady rate of CO2 increase. Thus, in the 10,000 years following the last ice age peak, an increase of 80 ppm would mean roughly 0.8 ppm per century. Instead, the study revealed an even slower average rate of increase in atmospheric CO2, with surges possibly related to other earth processes. “Either the cause of these pulses is at least part terrestrial, or there is some mechanism in the ocean system we don’t yet know about,” said Oregon State paleoclimatologist Edward Brook, a co-author on the Nature study.

The results point out the extraordinarily rapid pace we are seeing today in the increase in our atmospheric CO2 level. Notably, the fastest observed rates were 0.8 ppm per century; today, our average annual CO2 increase is 1.4 ppm per year, thus 180-times the highest rate of increase for atmospheric CO2 level as actually observed in nature. The rate of fossil fuel consumption in today’s automobile-centric communities is historically amazing; in the U.S., each person consumes 21 barrels of oil per year … and that is only our oil consumption (and does not look at our trend to export huge quantities of coal and gas to other nations). The vast majority of this consumed fuel becomes water vapor, CO2, and other pollutants. If our current rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 is connected to human consumption of fossil fuels — and nobody has yet provided credible evidence of any other non-human source — then we will soon feel great pressure to severely cut back on the use of oil, coal, and natural gas.

And, Aviation (as well as all other transportation uses of energy) will be impacted enormously.


See also:

One Year of Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions

NASA climate scientists used a supercomputer to model carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, and present a full year compressed down into a 3-minute time-lapse video. You see plumes of CO2 rise from the largest emitters – the U.S., Europe and China. And then, you see the plumes flow and collide and mix in our weather systems. Copied from an EcoWatch article.

Are G20 Members Burying Their Heads by keeping ‘Climate Change’ off their Agenda?

20141113cpy.. 400 burying heads in sand at Bondi Beach

More than 400 people buried their heads in the sand at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Photograph: Mike Bowers

Starting with the 2008 financial meltdown, twenty world leaders have met each year at the ‘G20 summit’. This year’s conference will be on November 15th and 16th, in Brisbane, Australia. It will be led by Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

These twenty leaders represent roughly 85% of the entire world economy, and thus likely well over 90% of world energy consumption. So, if an issue such as ‘CO2 and Climate Change’ is to be taken seriously, these are the officials to lead the way. Getting away from coal is one major step toward addressing these issues. But, one major hurdle is that the top five nations for minable coal reserves (U.S., Russia, China, India and Australia, respectively) are all part of this G20 Summit. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the world’s largest private-sector coal producer, Peabody Energy (based in St. Louis, MO), is sponsoring the ‘Brisbane Cafe’ conference event in the days just prior to the G20 Summit. Nor is it a surprise that Climate Change is being left off of the agenda.

There is a strong appearance that national leaders are travelling to Brisbane to help broker deals that serve coal corporations with no regard to how people are adversely impacted. Hence, the protest by generally younger Australians, who symbolically buried their heads on a Sydney beach.

China and India are Playing ‘Catch-Up’

And, it is no coincidence that both China and India, where per capita energy consumption remains way behind that of people in places like the U.S., UK, and Germany, have rapidly growing economies. Thus, they are hungry to buy and use all the U.S. and Australian coal that they can find.

1751-2012 GtC
2012 population (M)
energy per capita
UK
5.4
63 Million
85.7
USA
26
314
82.8
Germany
6
82
73.2
Russia
7.3
143
51.0
China
10.7
1,350
7.9
India
3
1,260
2.4

The Table above presents total Gigatons of Carbon (GtC) emissions for each of the nations, from 1751 to 2012. It then presents the 2012 population in Millions. The red column shows the relative energy consumption for each nation, calculated as total Carbon emissions divided by total population in 2012. Note that UK and the U.S. each average more than ten-times the per capita energy consumption of China, and roughly thirty-five-times the per capita energy consumption of India. Clearly, these two most populated world nations have a lot of capacity to grow into larger energy consumers.

Here are two related charts, from a 11/12/2014 ThinkProgress article:

20120000.. Top Four Fossil Fuel Emitters (graph, from GlobalCarbonProject)

Cumulative CO2 Emissions, major nations, 1751-2012


See also:

UPDATED 11/21/2014

More CO2 means more Polar Amplification

An interesting Post at RobertScribbler discusses Polar Amplification. Record heat levels in October, along with surprisingly large increases in CO2 (at a time of the year when levels tend to stay flat). He goes on to explain how the atmospheres of Earth and Venus are different yet becoming more similar. He posts graphs showing how the average temperature differences between the equatorial and polar regions have been diminishing over recent decades. And, all of this leads to changes in the jetstreams, thus changes in normal weather patterns. It is an interesting read.

Here’s the link: Late October Sees Strong Polar Amplification, Mangled Jet Stream Impacting Much of Antarctica

Changing our Energy Habits

Here’s a collection of graphs and data showing U.S. energy consumption levels and trends, as well as comparing energy consumption for all nations of the world. A bullet-list with some summary interpretations is added below…

Estimated U.S. Energy Use in 2012, 95.1 quadrillion Btu's (LLNL graphic)

(click on image to view LLNL graphic in a new window)


See also:
…for more, please click on page two of this Post…

Florida Airports are Particularly Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise

If there is one U.S. state whose airports are most vulnerable to climate change, it is Florida, where many significant airports are at very low elevation. The busiest Florida airport, KMIA in Miami, is at 9-feet elevation. The state’s fifth-busiest airport, KFLL in Fort Lauderdale,**The airport at Fort Lauderdale is undergoing an $800 Million project to expand one of the runways. The design includes elevating the runway, with bridges over where the extended runway crosses railroad tracks and a major highway (US Highway 1). This may be the first of many necessary and very expensive projects to elevate Florida runways. It seems doubtful that our economy will remain capable of funding such large aviation projects in another decade or two. is also at just 9-feet elevation. The state’s sixth-busiest airport, KTMB to the southwest of Miami, sits at just 10-feet elevation.

As atmospheric CO2 continues to climb, it is expected that the massive amounts of ice on Greenland and Antarctica will continue to melt. The rates of melting in the past decade have increased substantially, and some now believe that we have passed a tipping point — that the meltoff is irreversible. If so, sea levels around the world are expected to rise by dozens of feet. Of course, how quickly the sea levels rise depends on how quickly the ice melts or slides off into the adjacent seas.

Considering the vulnerability of Florida aviation to climate change sea-level rise, it is shocking to see the diversity of reactions by Floridians. On the one extreme, Senator Marco Rubio is in full denial. Yet, on the other extreme, a major Christian group is bucking the conservative trend and speaking of how we have a moral and religious obligation to protect our environment:

“…Climate change just isn’t in faraway places. Florida, your home, literally represents “ground zero.” Sea level rise, more extreme weather, saltwater contaminated wells, loss of farm land and increased air pollution all pose significant threats to the health and well-being of Floridians. Unfortunately, a few in our nation are attempting to portray addressing climate change as a liberal issue. It’s not. It’s a moral challenge to all Americans. It is a call to follow our Risen Lord and act to prepare for the impacts, many of which are already happening, and to work to reduce our carbon pollution to help our children, now and in the future….”

One other area of the U.S. that is especially vulnerable: New York City. The three busiest airports there all average more than 1,000 operations per day and include: KEWR in Newark at 10-feet elevation, KJFK (Kennedy) in New York in Jamaica at 12-feet elevation, and KLGA (LaGuardia) at 12-feet elevation (and with one runway end at just 7-feet elevation).


Links to three recent articles:

 

Weather Data for the Extreme Rainfall Event at Islip [KISP], 8-13-2014

Wednesday morning brought record rainfall amounts to much of the northeastern U.S. The one major commercial airport most at the center of the event was at Islip, NY, at the Long Island MacArthur Airport [KISP].

20140813.. Rain event flooding Sunrise Highway near Rte-111 [KISP]

People look on as a car remains flooded on Sunrise Highway at Route 111 following heavy rains and flash flooding Aug. 13, 2014 in Islip, N.Y. (Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)

The weather records are copied below, from the NWS website. Red text has been added to highlight weather likely to significantly delay (or even fully stop) commercial aviation operations. This includes strong gusting winds (e.g., 21G31 means a 21 knot windspeed with gusts to 31 knots), low visibilities (below a mile), heavy rain (+RA), fog (FG), mist (BR), and of course heavy rainfall rates.

The rainfall amounts are nothing short of astounding. The table shows that weather observations were recorded typically four times per hour, and there are many records showing rain falling at rates of more than three inches per hour, and a peak rate of 5.34 inches per hour!

time EDT temp dew wind-dir knots VSBY weather clouds altimeter hr rain
12:56 am 71 64 SE 21G31 7.00 -RA FEW095 BKN110 29.90 0.03
1:56 am 68 62 SE 13 5.00 RA FEW029 BKN100 OVC120 29.88 0.13
2:51 am 66 63 E 7 2.50 VCTS +RA BR SCT034 BKN075 OVC100 29.85 0.23
2:56 am 66 63 E 9 2.00 VCTS +RA BR BKN034 BKN055 OVC090 29.84 0.35
3:11 am 66 63 ENE 13 2.50 +RA BR FEW019 BKN035 OVC048 29.80 0.19
3:20 am 66 64 ENE 13G20 4.00 +RA BR FEW021 OVC037 29.80 0.25
3:34 am 66 64 ENE 15G21 3.00 +RA BR BKN016 BKN026 OVC039 29.77 0.32
3:38 am 68 64 ENE 15 2.50 +RA BR FEW006 BKN016 OVC036 29.77 0.36
3:54 am 70 66 NE 16G25 3.00 +RA BR FEW008 BKN014 OVC031 29.74 0.52
3:56 am 69 67 NE 20G25 3.00 +RA BR SCT008 BKN014 OVC031 29.74 0.54
4:19 am 70 66 VRBL 5 4.00 +RA BR BKN006 OVC017 29.74 0.10
4:38 am 70 66 NNE 21G25 2.50 +RA BR OVC006 29.72 0.35
4:53 am 68 66 N 17G26 1.50 +RA BR OVC010 29.73 0.70
4:56 am 68 66 N 15G25 1.25 +RA BR OVC010 29.73 0.84
5:08 am 68 66 NE 9G21 0.75 +RA BR SCT005 OVC010 29.76 0.67
5:16 am 66 66 N 20G30 0.50 +RA FG BKN005 OVC010 29.74 1.44
5:26 am 68 66 N 24G33 0.50 +RA FG VV006 29.71 2.31
5:39 am 70 68 E 10G44 0.50 +RA FG VV005 29.75 3.53
5:56 am 68 67 NNE 17 0.50 +RA FG VV006 29.73 5.34
6:13 am 68 66 NNW 13G23 0.50 +RA FG VV007 29.75 1.33
6:35 am 68 66 NNE 13 0.75 +RA BR VV009 29.73 3.12
6:47 am 68 68 E 9 0.50 +RA FG VV011 29.72 3.84
6:56 am 69 68 E 6 0.50 +RA FG VV012 29.72 4.37
7:31 am 70 68 NNE 8 0.75 +RA BR FEW004 BKN009 OVC021 29.70 1.21
7:43 am 70 68 NE 12G28 2.50 -RA BR OVC007 29.69 1.47
7:56 am 71 69 ESE 16G30 9.00   OVC007 29.69 1.48
8:04 am 72 70 SE 18G36 8.00   SCT007 BKN012 OVC023 29.68  
8:56 am 72 69 SSE 23G35 4.00 -RA BR BKN010 OVC023 29.68 0.01
9:12 am 72 70 SSE 12G43 0.50 +RA FG BKN010 OVC023 29.68 0.05
9:19 am 73 70 SSE 17G28 0.50 -RA BR BKN008 BKN012 OVC023 29.67 0.15
9:56 am 73 70 SSE 28G36 5.00 -RA BR BKN008 BKN012 OVC023 29.68 0.15

If severe weather events like this are becoming more frequent, and if this trend continues, how might his impact aviation? Do we need to take serious action, to change our high-consumption lifestyles and economies? If we continue to do nothing, what will our grandchildren face?

Rapid Ice Loss in the Arctic Region

Sea ice is melting in the Arctic at near record rates. The chart below shows the area of Arctic Ocean covered with at least 15% sea ice. The wide grayish-blue band area shows a statistical average for the period 1981-2010. The solid line in the mid-range of this band is the yearly average for this thirty-year time period. Note that average sea ice area peaks in March each year, at around 15 million square kilometers; also, sea ice area declines to a minimum in late September each year, averaging around 6 million square kilometers.

The largest recorded melt in human history occurred in 2012, when the decline plummeted to around 3.5 million square kilometers. This is depicted by the dashed line.

And how are we doing this year? Look closely at the orange ellipse below. At its center, the gray line marks sea ice conditions for 2014 and is updated each day. Note the steepening line, indicative of a very high rate of melting. There are many variables in weather, but this year’s record-high temperature levels in northern hemisphere oceans, and the intensified flow of weather systems north to the pole area, will tend to further accelerate rates of polar warming. This means faster polar ice melting.

There is a high probability that 2014 will shatter the 2012 record with a new record low in Arctic sea ice extent. Sometime around September 20th, the results will be in. How low will we go … 2.5 million square kilometers?20140630.. Charctic Sea Ice Graph, steep decline

If you want to track this melting process, the graph is revised daily and viewable online at: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/

Also, the chart is interactive, so you can select other years for comparison. The other years showing the most extreme melt rates are 2007, 2010, and 2011.

Weather-Curious? Check out RobertScribbler.wordpress.com

Just for a minute, suppose the climate-change deniers are right. Well, then a few of us are wrong, and that would include me. But, maybe this is a lot more important than who is right and who is wrong. And, maybe right or wrong is irrelevant anyway, because nobody is arguing against the fact that we are seeing some interesting, pronounced, and potentially scary changes. These impact our weather patterns, our climate, and the healthy environment we need for food and water (plus a few other benefits). Some of us attribute these changes to hydrocarbon hyperconsumption, but so what; frankly, at this point, the effect is far more important than the cause.

One website I ran into just a couple months ago is Robertscribbler.wordpress.com. It is, by far, the most interesting source for weather charts, satellite imagery, and other graphics, combined with good writing that often entertains, too. The latest Post looks at the severe drought in California, where there is virtually no snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. He posts a satellite view (copied below, with labels added); he also posts a state drought map and a pressure map showing the three huge high pressure systems over the Pacific Ocean, which are blocking storm flows that instead are going north to Alaska. All of this is very unusual; none of this should be ignored. The news is not good, but hey, we all have a responsibility to stand up straight, see what is happening, and do all we can to make the best of it.

20140624.. near snowless SierraNevada, from R.Scribbler

EXCERPT: “There is no relief for poor California. To the west, a heat dome high pressure system sits its dry and desiccating watch, deflecting storm systems northward toward Canada, Alaska, and, recently, even the Arctic Ocean. It is a weather system that drinks deep of Northwestern Pacific waters heated to 2-4+ C above average by humankind’s extraordinary greenhouse gas overburden. A mountain of dense and far hotter than normal air that is shoving the storm-laden Jet Stream at a right angle away from the US west coast and on up into an Arctic Ocean unprepared for the delivery of such a high intensity heat and moisture flow….”

From what I have seen, the author typically Posts 3-6 times each week, so if you just drop in and look at his Posts every few days or so, you will almost always come away with more knowledge, and a deeper sense of why we need to get serious about climate change. And SOON.

The Race Past 400ppm Continues…

…with a new Record High. The Keeling Curve atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa measured 402.84 parts per million (ppm) on May 31st, and the May average will soon be announced. A year ago, the May average was 399.76 ppm. Two years ago it was 396.78 ppm; in 2004 it was 380.63 ppm; in 1994 it was 361.68 ppm. Atmospheric CO2 ppm is not just increasing — it is accelerating. In the meantime, government officials fail to address this emerging problem which will raise ocean levels,  intensify weather, and destroy crops. This puts everyone at risk, not just of ‘inconvenience’, but of species collapse.

click on chart to see Keeling Curve at Scripps (ucsd.edu)

Aviation has an exceptionally high rate of CO2 production. An hour spent on a commercial airliner is roughly equivalent to ten hours spent driving a car. In fact, a concerned citizen who minimizes energy consumption can destroy all of their gains by just one long-distance flight. Substituting biofuels is not a solution, as biofuels still contribute to the growing CO2 levels, which are now far beyond what any humans have ever experienced. The only real solutions will include aggressive actions to reduce aviation, such as:

  • the imposition of steep aviation fuel taxes (or an overall carbon tax);
  • the curtailment of aviation subsidies that encourage excessive air travel, especially by businesses and corporations;
  • substantial reduction of air cargo shipment, especially those on all-cargo fleets;
  • and, a careful management of the overall aviation system, to eliminate fuel-inefficient doglegs such as are done when Super-Hubs are used (Atlanta, O’Hare, DFW, Newark, and Charlotte, are among the worst).