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R. Gates

I've been using the term "Human Carbon Volcano" to present a clear picture of what the rapid transfer of carbon from the lithosphere to the atmosphere is like during this particular interglacial. Every tailpipe and smokestack collectively go into making up the HCV, and its forcing effects upon the climate, which have both cooling and warming effects, have a greater net warming effect. No other known interglacials had a similar rapid atmospheric alteration, and the last similar rapid alteration of the atmosphere to this extent was the PETM, which of course saw a huge die-off in species as well. Such a rapid alteration could certainly release a large methane "burp" over the next few decades, or slowly over the next century, but fast or slow, it would only add to the effects of the HCV to the warming side.

Hans Gunnstaddar


'Large, Troubling Methane Pulse Coincides With Arctic Heatwave, Tundra Fires'

Robert Scribbler, who often posts on this blog may or may not have linked the above article of his here, but in any case it came out today with link above.

Here are some exerpts: Yesterday, I reported that a large Arctic heat wave had settled over Siberia, once again setting off tundra fires. The heat wave was so intense that it pushed temperatures in a range of 77 to 86 degrees all the way to the shores of the Arctic Ocean even as it caused numerous massive blazes to emerge both on open tundra and throughout Siberia’s arboreal forests.

On July 21-23, a large methane emission in which numerous sources caused atmospheric spikes to greater than 1950 parts per billion flared over a wide region of Arctic Russia and the Kara Sea. This event was so massive that an area of about 500 x 500 miles was nearly completely filled with these higher readings even as a much broader region, stretching about 2,000 miles in length and about 800 miles at its widest, experienced scores of large pulses.

Average global methane levels are currently around 1830 parts per billion. This level, about 1130 parts per billion higher than the pre-industrial average of 700 parts per billion represents an additional global warming forcing equal to at least 28% of the added CO2 forcing provided by humans.

This week’s large methane pulse where a broad region experienced methane levels of 1950 to 1980 parts per billion is yet more evidence that the Arctic is beginning to provide a dangerous and troubling amplifying feedback to the already break-neck pace of human warming.

These first methane burps are a warning for us to act now, before our capacity to act is seriously degraded and before events start to spiral beyond the point of rational control.



Take a look at the satellite imagery I posted in the Consequences thread in the ASIF that I tagged above.
See comments 60-61.


Neither did you respond to Vergent's post of the ice core CH4 and CO2 trends which show that we are above previous interglacial maximum's, and lay the foundation for further warming that may trigger CH4 release in higher levels seen previously


I'd appreciate your insight's on those in relation to what we are observing in the Arctic in relation to methane release, and also that continued warming and feedback may lead to more vigorous releases in the near future.


Take a look at the satellite imagery I posted in the Consequences thread in the ASIF that I tagged above.

What does it show? That in the dark northern winter there its lots of CH4a above the 70N line. This we know.

That the global baseline of CH4 is rising.

This we know.

You have to identify the null hypothesis and address it, that this is just an increase from increased industrialization or natural sources other than the arctic are reacting to a warming world.

We have a heavy duty to the public to be not 100% but 110% sure of everything we communicate to them in terms of climate. Every i dotted and t crossed.

We are asking so much, we have to be ruthless among ourselves in terms of our standards.

Sorry I have to be the bad guy here. But this is so important.


Hi Hans,

Just a note, the average global CH4 at 1830 ppbv may be a typo, the average depends on the mb/hPa layer being measured and that is far higher than anything I have seen reported by satellite, which would be the only source.

I download the METOP 2 IASI CH4 images daily, the highest mean in the last few days was 1806/7 ppbv. The only readings higher have been when the satellite has not captured the full globe in a 12 hour period, and is an outlier that should not be used.

I'll ask Robert for his source.


Steve Bloom

"the PETM, which of course saw a huge die-off in species as well. "

No, as a direct extinction event it was fairly small, except for the deep sea. Probably this was because the climate was already in a hothouse state (no ice) and cool-adapted deep sea species had nowhere to go. What the PETM did do was trigger a large amount of speciation, which I assume (haven't checked the details) would have led to lots of subsequent extinctions due to niche competition.

In any case, massive climate disruption is highly unpleasant and very good to avoid even if it's not a large direct extinction threat.



What are the consequences of Vergent's post of the 800000 CO2 and CH4 levels in prior glaciation periods compared to today's readings?

If there is a null hypothesis, would it not be reasonable to assume that CO2 readings that are 25% higher that the last maximum, (400 ppm vs 320 ppm) and CH4 readings that are 260% higher (18800ppbv vs 700 ppbv) than the prior ice core readings, represent an undeniable shift from the long term cycles, and leave us open to a new climate warming state and process?

No matter human or clathrate sources, it is there and it is real, and climate science says both gases create warming, which we are yet to experience the full effects.

This is beyond winters.... and what I showed is apparent at a number of points in the change in annual cycles.

You did not explain the change in the methane readings...from 2002 to 2012 nor what the impacts will be,

I am awaiting an answer.

R. Gates

Steve, thanks for that clarification on the species die-off during the PETM. It was, as you point out, really a deeper ocean mass extinction event for the benthic foraminifera.


I am no ice expert, but I am having a hard time seeing ice-free winters occurring in the Arctic anytime soon.

I don't see the volume making an impact on how much winter ice forms; ice should form if it is cold enough. It could be really thin and weak first year ice, but still ice.

The only way I can see ice-free winters happening is if winters in the Arctic are too warm for ice to form. Arctic winter temperatures will need to be at least 0ºF (-18ºC) for this to happen.

Since it is always night in the Arctic during the winter, I don't see Arctic winter temperatures reaching that high unless a major catastrophic event occurs.


Made a mistake in my post above; the temperatures in the Arctic need to be at least 28ºF (-2ºC) for ice to not form in the winter.


Actually, I'm going to step up and join in with dorlomin's "contrarian" (for this blog..) view on the matter. I also agree with his argument that we need to be very ruthless with our own assessment of the changes which are taking place, and have care not to over-state them in ways which undermine the persuasive case we are *all* trying to make to convince the world that global warming exists, we are at the root of it, and we need to take direct steps to address the changes which *will* occur.

That said, let's examine the immediate thermodynamics and impact of CH4, and consider systemically what this would do.

First, presuming about 5x10^18th kg of atmomsphere, the CH4 fraction of that (at about 1700PPB +/- a bit) come out to around 9GT of Methane. Assuming a prompt release of 2000GT, that would be a 200 fold increase in concentration. This would enormously increase the total carbon load in the atmosphere, but unless sustained by a continuous sustained release, the fact that the "Life" of that methane before converted to CO2 is only about 12 years means its prompt impact will diminish significantly over a fairly short period of time. We *could* potentially triple CO2 in the atmosphere at the same time. While serious, it would be a fraction of the problem Methane presents, and, we need to consider that the effect of increasing CO2 on climate is not linear.


So, shooting from the hip, the effect of even that massive an "immediate" (less than a decade) impulse of clathrate would be of fairly short duration. Very unpleasant for those of us going through it because of weather changes, but its impact on the enthalpy of the system over all, would be much less for reasons of energy density and rate of transfer.

As dorlomin pointed (or was it someone else?) it's all about the heat required to raise sea water temperatures, over all. The energy required to raise the world's oceans 1 degree C is over 250 times what it would take to do the same to our atmosphere. Further, that heating would not be linear, as by nature, the transfer of heat would take place differentially over depth, just as we see now.

So, by my thumb-nail estimate, the most likely immediate effect would be simply to hasten the transition to a year-round ice-free arctic, something which we already know is a near certainty, within the next few decades.

I think the decay rate of methane precludes any effect which would be sufficiently synergistic to force the prompt decay of the remaining clathrates in any sort of immediate (think < centuries) time frame. There is simply too much stuff to heat up in order to get to it; and that can't happen in time frames of less than decades with the earths current heat budget (that is - how much heat we get - not the heat in the atmosphere).

Jai Mitchell

using the PETM as an example of present warming potentials is probably not a good analogy due to the very slow release of carbon into the atmosphere during MIS-31.

The more similar scenario to show what is currently happening would be the Permian Triassic event, or the "Great Dying" http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121018141844.htm When the sun was still about 10% less intense and the Siberian traps ignited massive coal deposits in the only natural event that is similar to what humans have been doing to the planet.


During this period, most life ended in the tropics. If we do have a massive release of 90% of the stored carbon in the arctic region and the oceans warm to a point that they start to release carbon dioxide, well, we will have a full blown runaway greenhouse effect that will approximate the P-Tr event. In the space of only a few hundred years.

Jai Mitchell


When the sun was still about 10% less intense

should read

When the sun was still about 1% less intense

based on http://www.learner.org/courses/envsci/visual/visual.php?shortname=young_sun


I'm familiar with the Permian/Triassic extinction. As far as I'm aware, we're still not fully clear what the source of the CO2 was.

We *definitely* are on track to match that level of extinction if we proceed un-abated in our random manipulations of the environment. I can easily imagine conditions which leave the tropics mostly uninhabitable.

I think the key point I'm trying to make (as I also presume others), is that the transition while quick on geological scales, will not be as prompt as some of the assertions which are being made. I think we *do* have a window in which we can perform sufficient environmental engineering (over multiple generations) to mitigate it. Even with some of the most serious impacts of warming, I think we can still recover. Our key need is, to communicate this to establish the political will to do so. In this, I think it is very important to be exacting in our message, and not overstate the rate and scale of change which will take place. The message we have without embellishment, is far and away serious enough! We need to get the rest of the public to understand this.


jd, that large of a burst of methane would use up the OH that usually breaks down methane in the time period you referenced, so the persistence time would likely be much larger in that scenario.

Also, it is certain that such a pulse would greatly speed up other feedbacks (some of which we are already seeing):

--Melt of terrestrial permafrost
--fires in boreal forests and peat
--fires elsewhere
--drying out of other soils releasing their C
--faster melt of GIS revealing C beneath
--possible effects in the upper atmosphere (too complex to go into here)

I could go on, but basically there are a lot of feedback about to or in the process of kicking in. Sea bed methane is just one, but it would definitely affect most of the others.


I think the secondary feed-backs would still be CO2 and not methane, and as indicated, would be attenuated by the diminishing effect of CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Frankly, at high concentrations, I'm more worried about the effect of CO2 on invertebrates and the oceanic food chain than I am warming.

Boreal permafrost melt will take time; some places in Siberia it is more than a KM thick, and overburden will provide significant insulation.

The key assertion I'll make is the it will still be a pulse, and the most pronounced of the effects of it would be transitory. I'm not convinced that the high concentration would reduce oxidation of the gas that significantly; it is highly reactive.

Your prompt effects (fire, drying) I'm not so sure would have as dramatic an impact as the long-term contribution of peat decay and thawing permafrost. I don't think there's a way that those will significantly speed up with (what for those processes is) modest heating. The secondary effects of the increased temperature may result in far higher humidity, which may be a synergistic effect/problem. However, precipitation produced by that increased H2O may mitigate some of the other problems.

The other thing to consider, is the effect will be discontinuous. While we will have an ice free arctic, we will *still* have winter, which will significantly mitigate the rate of release of C.

It *WILL* be chaotic; and that in itself will be a problem, compounded by our usual social intransigence at attacking problems in a way which fairly distributes risk (think: WAR).

Once again, I'm not trying to minimize what we may face; I'm just trying to cast it in a way which I think is rational, and matches the systems and data we currently have as resources to evaluate.

Jai Mitchell

Jd I agree with you on all levels, especially the need to communicate effectively. The increase in permafrost degradation after summer sea ice loss is well studied here:


Lawrence et al 2008

We find that rapid sea ice loss forces a strong acceleration of Arctic land warming in CCSM3 (3.5-fold increase, peaking in autumn) which can trigger rapid degradation of currently warm permafrost and may increase the vulnerability of colder permafrost for subsequent degradation under continued warming. Our results also suggest that talik formation may be a harbinger of rapid subsequent terrestrial change. This sea ice loss – land warming relationship may be immediately relevant given the record low sea ice extent in 2007.

Ned Ward

Jai Mitchell writes: If we do have a massive release of 90% of the stored carbon in the arctic region and the oceans warm to a point that they start to release carbon dioxide, well, we will have a full blown runaway greenhouse effect that will approximate the P-Tr event. In the space of only a few hundred years.

But there's no evidence that any such thing is under way now, and no particular reason to think that such a thing is likely in the foreseeable future. So what's the point?

I would have no problem with discussion of time bombs and doomsday scenarios if they were accompanied by the recognition that the most likely future is rather less dramatic. Some people around here, though, seem to have extraordinarily pessimistic (apocalyptic?) ideas about the magnitude of impacts from AGW. That doesn't seem healthy, IMHO.



@Ned Ward - doesn't need to be much worse to be apocalyptic ;)

Applying systems thinking - our societies are not particularly robust when dealing with shocks. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan are good evidence of that. The secondary economic effects of that catastrophe whipped around the entire globe. In the US, we are still sorting out Hurricane Sandy, and New Orleans hasn't yet recovered from Katrina.

What happens if we get two or three equivalent events, per year?

How long will it be before the wheels start to fall off (unless we take steps to prepare for it)?

The biggest problems (which will be severe) will not be those presented by changes climate.

They will be those related to how we, as a global community, do or do not take steps to mitigate their effects

Ned Ward

Apocalypse4Real writes: would it not be reasonable to assume that CO2 readings that are 25% higher that the last maximum, (400 ppm vs 320 ppm) and CH4 readings that are 260% higher (18800ppbv vs 700 ppbv) than the prior ice core readings, represent an undeniable shift from the long term cycles, and leave us open to a new climate warming state and process?

Concentrations of CO2 and especially methane are much different from previous interglacials, yes. And if you are looking at something like ocean acidification (or CO2 fertilization) then the atmospheric concentrations of the gases themselves are obviously of direct importance.

But if you're talking about climate, they mostly just matter in terms of the radiative forcing they produce. And that's something we understand pretty well.

The current, vastly elevated methane concentration has a radiative forcing that's distinctly smaller than the forcing from CO2 (and that's much, much smaller than the radiative forcing from Milankovich cycles in the Arctic).

Over the past couple of years, methane has been increasing at something like 0.3% per year. At that rate, the radiative forcing from methane in AD 2200 would still be smaller than the radiative forcing from CO2 today.



I'm using yearly Mauna Loa averages, rounded to the nearest 10 (ESRL). The daily level varies by about 60 ppb, depending on time of year. I picked yearly averages because I believe they give the best context.

Jai Mitchell

@ned ward,

Currently the earth sequesters a very generous amount of anthropogenic CO2. This percentage will go down significantly in the near future.


average, says McGuire, the Arctic accounts for 10-15 percent of the Earth’s carbon sink. But the rapid rate of climate change in the Arctic – about twice that of lower latitudes – could eliminate the sink and instead, possibly make the Arctic a source of carbon dioxide.

in addition, the North Sea captures an additional 7-10% of the earths carbon in the overturning circulation.

Under a scenario where overturning circulation slows or stops, and in an environment were the Arctic becomes a net source of carbon, then the rates of forcing will increase at about twice the current rate.

There are also indications that the climate sensitivity analyses are off by over 3'C and we may be looking at a long-term equilibrium of 4-6'C for a doubling of CO2, which will produce large scale permafrost releases.

Making Sense of Paleoclimate Sensitivity
See figure 2.

In this scenario we could easily be approaching the MIT model for 2100 A1Fl emission scenario temperatures.


this would produce an equilibrium temperature much higher than 7'C warming by 2150 and likely, with increased natural feedbacks, including warming oceans releasing CO2, even higher temperatures that are similar to a P-Tr event.

This means that it is possible that this scenario will unfold this way. It also means that we are very close to (if not already) being unable to save our civilization other than through massive societal transformation AND using some sweeping forms of geoengineering, including but not limited to atmospheric CO2 removal.

(Please note that the MIT model in the Telegraph article actually projected methane emissions to go down after 2050.)


Off-topic: the blog received many comments last night while I was sleeping, but none ended up in the spam bucket. This means that TypePad's spam filtering system is finally starting to work. Even Steve Bloom gets to comment now. Thanks for everyone's patience.


With respect to all...

Radiative forcing not withstanding...

The changes in capture by changes in CO2 & Methane concentration are not significant *until* they radically increase sea water temperatures.

The best they can do is give us an ice-free arctic and accelerate melt elsewhere. The oceans represent a huge energy sink, which will literally take centuries to reach some sort of equilibrium with the atmosphere. The transfer of heat simply cannot move any faster than that. The atmosphere without a doubt will be more volatile, but it will still be moderated by the oceans, UNTIL, they reach some sort of balance with the atmosphere.

That's not to say weather will not become a serious hazard; it will, for certain.

It is just that, the additional forcing caused by any sort of overwhelming increase in carbon in the atmosphere will simply be lost, unless it is consistently supported by some sort of on-going replacement. Both Anthropomorphic release and clathrate sublimation could do that, short term; but past a discrete number of decades, that will top out, long before the oceans and permafrost have a chance to catch up.

Bluntly, heat just simply can't be transferred to them fast enough. The excess will be re-radiated out of the atmosphere, as it has no where else to go.

"Short" term, what that means is, we still have an opportunity to adapt and possibly moderate what happens. As Jai suggests, it will not be simple.

Glenn Tamblyn

Regarding the rate of CO2 emissions today compared to the PETM, Lee Kump and his colleagues published a study last year based on a core from a shallow seabed from around the time of the PETM. This gave a far more accurate estimate of the rate of CO2 concentration rise during the PETM than anything previously.

Take home message. CO2 levels today are rising 10 times faster than during the PETM.

Wrt Methane Time Bombs, nothing in the record from the HCO or the Eemian suggests methane emissions at catastrophic rates. However, if warming proceeds as is likely in coming decades we will move into uncharted territory wrt temperatures and rates of change.


No matter human or clathrate sources, it is there and it is real,

It does matter for your claims. You have shown some images of NH methane levels and used them as evidnence for something. I am suggesting that they dont really back up your claim the way you seem to think it does.


jd wrote: "heat just simply can't be transferred to them fast enough. The excess will be re-radiated out of the atmosphere, as it has no where else to go."

Wasn't that the assumption behind all those models that predicted no significant loss of Arctic sea ice till toward the end of the century, at earliest?

Yes, the ocean has and will continue to absorb both CO2 and heat. Of course, the hotter it gets, the less it will be able to absorb CO2.

Also, earlier you claimed both that the feedbacks would not exude methane and that increased water vapor would mitigate some of the risk of burning.

Unfortunately, the second implied effect--increased precipitation--will increase the portion of permafrost melt that creates methane.

And of course as we have seen, the pattern is increasing torrential rainfalls, when it does rain, interspersed with 'stuck' dry, hot spells.

It is, of course, an enormously complex system. No one can tell exactly how it's going to play out. It is important to note both the large C and heat "sinks" but also the large pools of C ready to emerge.

What it all means is that the prudent thing to do is to stop thwacking at this enormous hornets nest (=unsequestering billions of tons of C per year), even if we can't say exactly how many hornets are in there or how fast they are likely to fly out and how frequently they will sting us.

We can certainly agree that the weather is going to get nastier and nastier.


Oh, and speaking of nasty weather, another feedback in the wings (or that may be in the process of hitting us) is a possible shift from our current system of three atmospheric cells in the North Hemisphere (Hadley, Ferrel and Polar) to just one big Hadley cell. This would much more effectively move tropical air into the Arctic hastening ice loss, permafrost melt...and radically disrupt weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

This is currently being discussed on the 2nd storm thread, so I won't go into it further here.

But it does point out that shifts can be sudden and catastrophic--discontinuities, hysteresis, and all that.


Apologies for multiple posts, and if this has already been posted.

Mann has now weighed in on the issue:

climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann tells TakePart: “The precise magnitude [of methane] is an object of valid debate, but the possibility of a substantial release cannot be dismissed out of hand.” Climate modelers have underestimated Greenland sheet ice and Arctic sea ice melt, so the estimate is not outside the realm of possibility.

“It is not difficult to envision much larger costs, [i.e. $60 trillion] given the potential larger and more abrupt warming [the more abrupt the warming, the more costly it is to try to adapt] that the authors calculate,” says Mann. And it’s not difficult to imagine that there are costs we haven’t even begun to imagine. And when you multiply those costs, city after city after city, suddenly $60 trillion becomes a very realistic and frightening number."


Ned Ward

Jai Mitchell writes: "There are also indications that the climate sensitivity analyses are off by over 3'C and we may be looking at a long-term equilibrium of 4-6'C for a doubling of CO2, which will produce large scale permafrost releases."

Well, there are also "indications" that climate sensitivity analyses are off in the opposite direction.

Rather than cherry-picking outliers on one side or the other, we should consider what the most likely range for climate sensitivity is, and it's pretty clearly not 4-6C, in fact it's more likely to be under 3C than over 5C.

And that principle applies all over. One can find specific times and places in the Arctic where there's a large methane flux from the surface. One can also find places and times where there is not a large methane flux from the surface.

If we want to construct doomsday scenarios, we can focus only on the former, extrapolate it to large areas, assume the worst possible climate sensitivity, etc and come up with something rather scary.

If, instead, we want to know what is likely to happen, we need to look more broadly.

Ned Ward

jdallen writes: "Applying systems thinking - our societies are not particularly robust when dealing with shocks. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan are good evidence of that. The secondary economic effects of that catastrophe whipped around the entire globe. In the US, we are still sorting out Hurricane Sandy, and New Orleans hasn't yet recovered from Katrina."

I suppose it's how you look at it. From my perspective, the tsunami in Japan and Katrina, Sandy, etc. in the US show how robust and adaptable we are. I don't want to minimize the individual suffering of people affected by those events (my own town was hit by Irene in 2011, and some of our infrastructure still hasn't been rebuilt two years later). But Japan, and the US, continue to exist more or less unchanged. Even a hugely destructive tsunami hasn't knocked Japan from its place as a wealthy, technologically advanced liberal democracy.

Please understand that I don't want to see more of these kinds of shocks, and that I strongly support taking action at all levels from the individual to the international in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize AGW. But I think there's a tendency to underestimate human societies' ability to adapt and evolve. Europe is much stronger and more advanced today than it was before the catastrophes of WWI an WWII. Over the past century, China has survived (as a society, not the same government) an incredible series of disasters, traumas, and catastrophes, and today China is much stronger than it was a century ago. Individuals suffer, but societies do pretty well at adapting.

Glenn Tamblyn

OT but ...

Take a look at this 'kick' in the DMI Extent graph

This is one 'weird' melt season!


Ok, I know Neven and some of you will complain on this comment, but I think it has at least some merit.

If the Arctic time bomb thing is happening anyway, and there's no real evidence that it has not been going on for many decades or centuries anyway, since there weren't any instruments previously, then why not just harvest the methane from the biggest problem spots at the lowest arctic latitudes, and go ahead and use it for fuel?

The 7 years it spends in the atmosphere as methane at supposedly 30 times more potent GHG than CO2, would equate to 210 years worth of the same amount of carbon as CO2. Not counting the fact that it breaks down into CO2 anyway.

If its going to escape anyway, and it's going to turn into CO2 eventually anyway, then you may as well skip the Methane step, use the Methane as a fuel to at least get some value out of it, and then just forget about it.

Burning the Methane would ultimately be "Greener" than not burning it, because at least you skip the 7 years at 30 times part, and at least you get useful work out of it.

Not burning the Methane is a waste either way.

Kevin O'Neill

D - I think the practicality of harvesting the methane from seeps and clathrates is practically nil :)


"you asked why, I gave you a few reasons. The fact is that the arctic has never warmed so far so quickly, this is not a normal interglacial cycle." - end quote.

Can I ask how you know that? Proxy data cannot be that precise, because it can only tell you general information, subject to deposition of fossil micro-organisms, which is itself subject to any number of things, such as ocean currents and predation before deposition, or catastrophism local or global.

You don't honestly believe proxy data can tell the difference between a 10 year change and a 100 year change @ 400,000 years ago eh? Nevermind a million or ten million years ago...

Doesn't the Black Sea flood prove there have been bigger changes in just the past 10,000 years alone? Also wasn't it the North Sea and the English channel which were above ground only about 40,000 years ago? Why doesn't anyone talk about that because those changes are tens of feet over a relatively short time, compared to 400,000 or millions of years....and the biggest part of the change was recent enough that the foundations of human structures have been found under the water in some locations.

I think people fail to view the greater scheme of things that this stuff and worse things have happened throughout the history of this planet. I'ts like when a major hurricane hits and all the locals wrongfully cry "this has never happened before," and you go check the newspaper archives and turns out something twice as bad happened a hundred years ago in the same location...

Grow up people.


Ok, 3 metrics on the amount of ice:

Extent, Area, Volume. Currently all 3 of them are well above the record lows from the past several years. The volume curve linked to on this site shows the volume for June was well over a thousand cu km above last year. I don't know what the raw data says, but the curve actually looks more like 2000 cu km above last year. So we're well on pace for a significant rebound year in volume, which will reset the "exponential curve" by quite a bit, I should think.

Conrad Schmidt

Ned Ward, you said: "We want to know what is likely to happen". True, but I use my seat belt all the time and the odds of my needing it in the next ten years are probably less than some of these dire predictions.


"D - I think the practicality of harvesting the methane from seeps and clathrates is practically nil :)" - end quote.

I've seen a demonstration on Discovery or Science channel about how it could be done.

All they did was put an inverted tube over the seep and let it condense on the inside of it. By placing an pump mechanism there, I think you could extract quite a bit of it.

When the BP oil spill happened, the temporary cap thing they tried didn't work because the clathrates solidified inside of it and caused the low density to make it buoy up. However, that wasn't a very inventive design.

If you had an auger in there to break up the clathrates and pump it up the pipe, that problem wouldn't happen. Also, I don't think torches from clathrates are anywhere nearly as pressurized as the well leak was. From what I've seen it appears to be more or less gentle bubbles.

It should't be a technical problem. The only real problem is scale. Which is why I suggested concentrating on only the worse locations..


Also, I'm not trying to claim we could somehow capture all of it, but capturing and actually using at least some of it has got to be better than nothing.

Consider this, if the arctic opens for shipping, you could install some sort of system on the ships to extract methane from the water as they traverse it, and use some of it as fuel on the trip. Thereby effectively lowering their net carbon footprint, since the methane torch would be there whether or not you extract the methane, you may as well do it.


D, consider the size of the Arctic and the methane source areas. it's a good thing that you're 'not trying to claim that we could somehow capture all of it', because the amount we could realistically capture would be utterly negligible. it is an extremely remote and hostile environment.

and if this year's volume does end up quite a higher than last (a racing certainty at this point, i would say), the exponential curve is likely to be reset from 2015 (PIOMAS exponential), to what, maybe 2017? one year's uptick does not invalidate a 30-year curve, of course

michael sweet

Sorry for the slow response. I was out of town.

You cite a paper that is ten years old to support your claim that it was warmer previously in the Holocene than it is now. It precedes the melting of the Arctic ice shelves and the collapse of Arctic sea ice. The Arctic temperature has increased substantially in the last decade. It is behind a paywall so I cannot determine how much warmer they claim it was ten years ago. Can you produce an up to date cite to support your claim that the Holocene was warmer in the Arctic?

The global heat budget is substantially larger than it has been at any time in the Holocene. While the Arctic insolation was larger in the past, much more heat is being transported into the Arctic from the Atlantic ocean than at any other time. The global temperature already has substantial warming in the pipeline. Greenland has seen only a few melting days over its entire surface like last years. Your claim that the Holocene was warmer needs more data to support it.

Kevin O'Neill

D - Regarding the harvesting of methane - I don't think you understand the geographical scope of the problem. Or the fact we've very little data on where the seeps are, or the fact that this *is* the arctic where normal engineering feats become major adventures. Even though the ESAS is the largest continental shelf on the planet it is the least studied.

As to discriminating annual changes from fossils - of course it can be done. Think of tree rings; we see annual growth in the individual rings. Many other living organisms can be analyzed in similar fashion through bone growth plates, shell growth, etc. In many cases a 'bed' of fossils of varying ages is found (juvenile to adult). This can give an accurate representation of the annual cycle over a period of years longer than the individual lifespan of any one organism.

This is pretty much how tree ring data is 'spliced' together to give records stretching back hundreds or thousands of years.



I already know that about the micro-organisms, but the scientists are trying to make specific, to-the-degree claims about temperature over time scales of hundreds of thousands oreven millions of years, based solely on carbon isotope ratios in ice cores and and microbes in mud core samples.

I mean seriously, the carbon ratios in the ice is even circular logic, because they're using the premise of a theory to try to prove the conclusion of the theory, when real science is supposed to use evidence to prove both the premise and the conclusion.

Let's take an example of the saem thing happening in reverse in nature...i.e. global cooling events.


...for some reason all the "T" ones are bad.

Anyway, these represented either global or hemispheric cooling of several degrees in a matter of a few months to a year or two, and in the case of Toba and Taupo, it reinforced the ice age, by the geologist and climatologists own data, and wiped out most of the humans at that time.

Now I only point this out to show that natural climate changes in the opposite direction have happened, and they've even been larger and more abrupt.

Wouldn't it be natural for the opposite to happen as the global winter effects are removed...

Why does the sea level record over the past several thousand years shows a ridiculously sharp increase about 8,000 years ago...mind blowing large that dwarfs anything happening presently? The humans alive at that time could not possibly cause such an event, and the total sunlight hitting the planet is the same now as then. The Earth didn't expand to have a larger cross-sectional disk size, after all...

When somebody can explain that discrepancy in a manner that isn't a circular logic or a post-hoc or non-sequiter, then I'll stop this line of questioning.

So far I haven't found anyone on this site or Dr. Masters' Wunderground who can adequately explain these events, i.e. 8000 years ago, in any context that would negate the possibility of it being within natural norms both then and now.

Considering that event, I think it's naive to conclude that humans are somehow doing worse climate change than what the Earth did to itself back then...


I also forgot to mention Tunguska meteor/comet event, whatever it was. And it's also coincidentally another T name.

This too put a lot of anti-greenhouse agent in the atmosphere, as it was reported as far west as England that there was dimming of the sun for weeks afterwards, and strange atmospheric lighting phenomena, probably red skies and saint elmos fire sorts of things.

This event would also "naturally" lower the base temperature in the early 1900's due to this cooling event. Even though it was nowhere near as big as Tambora, which was itself the smallest of the four volcanos I mentioned.

The point here is that the "modern record" of the late 1800s and early 1900s is actually not a consistent planetary baseline, because the temperature was naturally cooled below baseline by Krakatoa and the meteor.

Compared to today, there was virtually no instrumentation on the planet to record these events. a few weather stations or geologists. pah.

Today we have 5 spectrums of satellites viewing every point on the planet, with a new frame every minute, to a quarter kilometer resolution in some cases, not to mention a thermometer every few miles in every major population area, and even in the middle of nowhere in some cases, such as buoys all over the planet taking readings every 15 minutes.

That stuff did not exist in 1883 nor even 1908 or even 1920. Weather radar didn't exist until WW2, and the most primitive Infrared Satellites were in the late 50's or early 60's if I'm remembering right.

So people call that the "modern record" for the past 120 years or so, but really only about 40 or 50 of it is to standards we consider scientific today.

Are you going to say that a volcano so powerful that the shockwave reportedly circled the Earth 7 times would not lower the baseline temperature? Or a meteor that flattend hundreds of square miles and darkened th skies for weeks, this right in the beginning of the 120 year period, the critical 20 or 30 first years, that is used as the alleged "natural" baseline temperature...yet it was "naturally" lowered by the catastrophes...

It seems completely dishonest to blame all the temperature increase since then on humans.


Also, I know strange green lights were reported in England with Tunguska as well.

It's also worth nothing that England is WELL up wind from the prevailing jet streams and atmospheric currents from Tunguska, so the anti-greenhouse agents that caused these phenomena must have circled the Earth in the Stratosphere at least one time, and possibly several times, in order to affect England's sunlight and night lights...

That's bigger than anything that happened in my lifetime, and it had to be bigger than Pinatubo as well. Pinatubo didn't level everything like Tunguska did...

Jai Mitchell


methane pulses have been modeled to create a logarithmic type response in temperature it shows a step change in temp with a near vertical slope at t=0-20 years and a gradual shift to near-horizontal about t=250 years. Depending on the size of the pulse the temperature rise is shown to be about 2.5C once equilibrium is reached (additional warming given current CO2 levels).

The idea that forcing cannot cause atmospheric warming because of the oceans assumes perfect mixing of the ocean. This isn't the case.

Ned ward

The lower climate estimates do not include paleo data taken from previous interglacials. The interglacials are the only periods with similar environments to today. The amount of data available from them for climate indicates a much larger sensitivity and variability, due to a combination of albedo change, and shifts in the ocean mixing rate (read: arctic warming driven declines in the AMOC) during these relatively short periods. Unfortunately, these are the only periods that actually matter because of our current environment.


I don't talk to deniers anymore, if you want to find a reasonably astute explanation for the cause of the younger dryas then there are plenty of places to look. like here: https://www.google.com/search?btnG=1&pws=0&q=8%2C200+year+climate+event

The fact that you haven't done this yet makes me think that you would rather argue and confuse the discussion (i.e. troll).


Why does the sea level record over the past several thousand years shows a ridiculously sharp increase about 8,000 years ago

It shows a slow down 8000 years ago. Before the the giant ice sheets such as the Fennoscandian and the Laurentide were melting back.

This is a very dynamic process that can alter in speed for a variety of reasons including large parts of it reaching a low enough altitude to accelerate the melting or more rain than snow falling on it in summer.

You may be refering to the famed Melt pulse 1A. But that was about 14 000 years ago and likely related to a warm stadial (Bølling-Allerød), this alone is likely a major part of the explanation.


I also forgot to mention Tunguska meteor/comet event, whatever it was. And it's also coincidentally another T name.

This too put a lot of anti-greenhouse agent in the atmosphere,

Tunguska was an ariel explosion. There is no crater so their would have been no ejecta to reach the stratosphere. What "anti-greenhouse agent's" do you imagine it generated?


Proxy data cannot be that precise, because it can only tell you general information, subject to deposition of fossil micro-organisms, which is itself subject to any number of things, such as ocean currents and predation before deposition, or catastrophism local or global.

Our best proxies are from ice cores. The level of detail in them is largely about the thickness of annual snow accumulation. For many, especially younger, we can get pretty detailed even down to years.

Perhaps if you read up on the subject you may have less of a confused scatter gun approach to it. I would recomend William Ruddiams Earth's Climate: Past and Future as a good place to start.


@ michael sweet
You cite a paper that is ten years old to support your claim that it was warmer previously in the Holocene than it is now
The paper has over 130 cites. Someone thinks it is worthwhile.
If you disagree with it can you please show me the source you are using that says I am wrong. I am ever interested in expanding my knowledge.

We analyze the global variations in the timing and magnitude of the Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM) and their dependence on various forcings in transient simulations covering the last 9000 years (9 ka), performed with a global atmosphere-ocean-vegetation model. In these experiments, we consider the influence of variations in orbital parameters and atmospheric greenhouse gases and the early-Holocene deglaciation of the Laurentide Ice sheet (LIS). Considering the LIS deglaciation, we quantify separately the impacts of the background melt-water fluxes and the changes in topography and surface albedo.

In the analysis we focus on the intensity of the maximum temperature deviation relative to the preindustrial level, its timing in the Holocene, and the seasonal expression. In the model, the warmest HTM conditions are found at high latitudes in both hemispheres, reaching 5 °C above the preindustrial level, while the smallest HTM signal is seen over tropical oceans (less than 0.5 °C). This latitudinal contrast is mostly related to the nature of the orbitally-forced insolation forcing,


There is a great deal of evidence for a warmer than current arctic and high latitudes in the early holocene. Given summer sunshine would have been producing something like 40 watts a square meter more this is not really a surprise to anyone.

Kevin O'Neill

D- "...and the total sunlight hitting the planet is the same now as then....

Ummm ... no. The Holocene Climate Optimum was a predictable effect of the earth's orbit around the sun. Milankovitch forcing would have been about 8% greater. During the HCO the earth was closest to the sun during northern hemisphere summer - today it is *furthest* from the sun during northern hemisphere summer.


I don't want to hijack this topic, but I will say one more thing about Tunguska, based on the eye witness reports in the wikipedia article.

From the eye witness reports, the second paragraph appears to describe at least 5 shockwaves and at least 3 fireballs. This is not consistent with the single air burst theory of the impact. I can explain two shockwaves from one airburst, because one would come directly to the observer from the blast, the other would be deflected from the ground, travelling straight down from the object, and then outwards so that an observer would hear and feel "thunder" and "wind" knocking them off their feet on two separate occasion from one explosion. What I can't explain from one explosion is 3 different fireballs over several hours period and 5 separate shockwaves.

Then in the third eye witness report in Wikipedia, it appears that the object's relative velocity to Earth was so slow that it's decent took fully 10 minutes, and gave off a blue flame that was too hot to look at even from dozens of miles away. The insanely long decent time suggests the object was moving nearly parallel to the Earth's orbit and was basically "captured" at the moment it entered the atmosphere at nearly a tangent angle. Consider, the "atmosphere" is scientifically said to be about 10,000km above the surface, but this is incredibly diffuse. The area that actually causes significant friction is only about 400km. If the object was moving 10 to 20km/second relative to the Earth as normal objects do, then it would only be visible for less than a minute.

So whatever the object was, this eye witness report claims it was burning bluish-white for ten minutes decent before the explosion and fireball happened. Then he reports a series of 10 explosions, again not one explosion. Being in a different location than the account in paragraph 2, it's possible some of these explosions were masked from the other observers' position.

Now for reference, The recent Russian meteor gave off a red flame in the videos I saw of it, so it couldn't be the same material. Though there may have been some reports of other colored flames as well. Yet clearly, in this recent Russian airburst, there was not a ten minute decent time with a beam of light so bright you couldn't look at it from a distance 40 miles away...

The theory of how this airburst event happened is not consistent with any of the eye witness accounts, because it produces at most 2 shockwaves and one fireball, while the accounts have at least 3 fireballs and at least 5 shockwaves, not to mention the ten minute impossible-to-look-at beam of light during the decent.

It's interesting to me that as many times as I've watched documentaries on this, I have never one heard of that second or third account word for word like that. After reading that I can't take the prevailing theory seriously, because it's just too exotic and too dynamic to make sense in that context.


To follow up on Kevin O'Niell's comment and to support what I have said earlier, here is a graphic of the insolation at 65N for June\July.
(roughly Iceland latitude.)

You can see we are talking 40 watts per square meter for the early holocene.



You realize the time frame you're talking about where the temperature at the end does not parallel the cycle, that time frame is over 10,000 years. According to the graphic, the temperature hasn't been matching the projected cycle since before recorded history, so why is it suddenly to be blamed on humans since it's been happening for over 10,000 years anyway?

It looks like it leveled off about 8000 to 5000 years ago...

I don't get how that supports blaming humans for the warming at all...


I don't get how that supports blaming humans for the warming at all...

I recomended Bill Ruddimans text book. He has in fact produced a brilliant theory to explain why Holocene CO2 levels and temperature have not followed the pattern of previous interglacials.

Something so obvious its embarrassing we missed it.


Huge amounts of CO2 absorbing biomass have been cut down, the UK was for example one huge broadleaf forest, now it is mostly agricultural fields.

Also the arrival of flooding rice paddies to inhibit weed growth created huge amounts of methane. Still nearly the biggest source of human sourced methane on our planet.

We have been altering the radiative balance since we discovered metal strong enough to cut down the great wild woods of Eurasia.



A link covering the discussion of the 'early Anthropocene.' You can follow links in it to more technical papers.

Kevin O'Neill

D - if the earth was warming 'naturally,' there would be predictable effects. Just as there are predictable effects if it is due to CO2. The data says it's due to CO2 and not natural variation.

This isn't the correct place for a discussion of this topic. I'm sure most of your questions have been answered in depth already at more appropriate sites -- I'd suggest you go look around on Skeptical Science and ask your questions there.



I used a piece of paper and folding in half to scale that graph. I would revise my estimation of the leveling off to be from 6000 to 4000 years ago.

Based on this population graph:


The population during that period was between 200 million and 500 million. Compared to modern CO2 curve, that is insignificant. That's between 1/14th and 1/35th of the present world population.

They would only produce 0.05ppmCO2 per year from breathing, and virtually nothing from industry or agriculture, because simple blacksmithing was the limits of their wood or coal based industry. Compared to today where we have electric foundries working thousands of tons of metal per day. We actually produce 6PPM CO2 per year gross and abour 3.5 to 4 of it gets taken up by the environement, in addition to the naturally produced global CO2. This leaves us with an apparent net surplus of 2 to 2.5PPM per year presently.

I don't think 20% of one part per million gross production of CO2 between 6k and 4k years ago would have any effect whatsoever on the environment.

Can you offer some other theory as to why the leveling off occurred? The man induced thing is not feasible...remember, North America and South America at that time had their native forests, not touched at all by Europe, so any pathetic CO2 production from Europe or Asia would have been easily taken up by the environment scores of times more easily than today.

I'd say it was leveling off for unknown, but "natural" reasons.


Neven, just a few points:

1. The methane beast is very tricky and sensitive to all forcings and feedbacks, both positive and negative.

2. Stopping human emissions as fast as possible reduces risk of catastrophic damage, but does not eliminate it. On the flip side. There is no way to avoid catastrophic damage without first reducing emissions to near zero. Our actions in this regard are critical.

3. 1,500 gigatons are estimated to be locked in permafrost, some of which would be released as methane, some as CO2.

4. Arctic clathrates contain an estimated 500 to 1000 gigatons (I'm citing the 1000 gigatons number on my blog, but it could be less or, in a more remote potential, more).

5. The above are separate sources that may be colocated though they respond differently.

6. The sudden release of 50 gigatons from 2015 to 2025 is a low probability event. The reason is that during this time, only a small volume of the massive Arctic Carbon store is likely to experience release level heat forcings. If such a release were to happen, it would spell climate change game over writ large by completely wiping out the OH sink and by also more than doubling the current heat forcing of all greenhouse gasses.

7. We have one big natural break remaining to help keep some of these carbon stores locked in place--- the negative feedback inherent in a rapid Greenland and Antarctic melt. Flooding of Arctic land methane stores and a deepening of the ESAS and other ocean clathrate stores would serve as a significant negative feedback. Further, the decades to centuries of regional colder weather caused by large ice melts would serve to keep some of these stores in check.

8. None of this should be comforting news as the negative feedbacks necessary to keep natural methane stores in check produce highly damaging Earth changes and weather events.

9. To reiterate -- it is absolutely critical that global carbon emissions are reduced as rapidly as possible. Further, governments should be working on effective rational responses should worst case events emerge. A combination of very slow movement on mitigation, paltry movement on adaptation and almost zero movement on response is both unconscionable and vastly irresponsible. If just half to 1/4 of the funds currently invested in the world's military and security forces were re-routed, we could, likely both rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and begin to develop responses that aren't as damaging as those currently available.


You have not understood what I said. And clearly have not read the text book I recommended.

This thread is about a specific piece of research. Stop dragging it off topic.

There is a forum associated with this site where you can demand people educate you because you are unwilling to read text books on the subject you seem to think you know more than the working scientists.

Ned Ward

I'm dubious about trying to draw too strong conclusions from the Vostok-temperature-versus-65N-insolation curve. If you look back into the past, there are times when the two line up nicely, but there are also times when they ... don't.

I think the system is more complicated than that. Prior to the development of agriculture, it was more complicated for "natural" reasons. Now it's more complicated for "natural+anthropogenic" reasons".

That said, I'd second dorlomin's recommendation of Ruddiman's textbook. It's a fantastic overview of the earth's climate and climate changes at all time scales, from tectonic to AGW. I am personally agnostic about Ruddiman's "early anthropocene" hypothesis but his book is a great overview of the field.

Jai Mitchell


Abstract. The anthropogenic era is generally thought to have begun 150 to 200 years ago, when the industrial revolution began producing CO2 and CH4 at rates sufficient to alter their compositions
in the atmosphere. A different hypothesis is posed here: anthropogenic emissions of these gases first altered atmospheric concentrations thousands of years ago.This hypothesis is based on three arguments. (1) Cyclic variations in CO2 and CH4 driven by Earth-orbital changes during the last 350,000 years predict decreases throughout the Holocene, but the CO2 trend began an anomalous increase 8000 years ago, and the CH4 trend did so 5000 years ago. (2) Published explanations for these mid- to late-Holocene gas increases based on natural forcing can be rejected based on paleoclimatic evidence. (3) A wide array of archeological, cultural, historical and geologic evidence points to viable explanations tied to anthropogenic changes resulting from early agriculture in Eurasia,
including the start of forest clearance by 8000 years ago and of rice irrigation by 5000 years ago. In recent millennia, the estimated warming caused by these early gas emissions reached a global-mean value of !0.8 "C and roughly 2 "C at high latitudes, large enough to have stopped a glaciation of
northeastern Canada predicted by two kinds of climatic models. CO2 oscillations of !10 ppm in the last 1000 years are too large to be explained by external (solar-volcanic) forcing, but they can be explained by outbreaks of bubonic plague that caused historically documented farm abandonment
in western Eurasia. Forest regrowth on abandoned farms sequestered enough carbon to account for the observed CO2 decreases. Plague-driven CO2 changes were also a significant causal factor in temperature changes during the Little Ice Age (1300–1900 AD).



In that last link you provided, it first of all focused on points at 5k, 8k, and 2k years.

Secondly, he blames CO2 concentration fluctuations as large as 5 to 10PPM on pandemics and forest regrowth in abandoned areas...at 2k years ago population levels...

...I'm not seeing it. I mean, if you killed a billion people today it would only make about a 1PPM difference over a 1 year period, and maybe not even that. After all, the Keeling curve is not even growing proportional to population growth. We've added 2 billion people in the past 25 years, but the slope of the net increase in the curve only went up by about 0.5 to 1PPM, considering the present gross output is 6PPM it means a 40% increase in population corelated to only a 15% increase in gross production and a 1/3 to 2/3 increase in net production of CO2....and this is assuming the entire net gain is to be blamed on humans...r.e. the arctic methane torches are not quantified due to lack of study and understanding...

So if adding 2 billion people only makes about a half of a PPM per year over a 25 year period, that's about 12PPM total net gain from a 2 billion person population change.

Since world population wasn't anywhere near 2 billion at 2000 years ago, and since no pandemic ever changed the population by anywhere near a billion, nevermind 2 billion, I don't see how that theory holds water.

Not to mention people back then used a pathetically small amount of energy (blacksmithing, brick making, and cooking and heating in winter,) compared to people today: factories, automobiles, canning an cooking, heating/air, asphault roads, concrete roads, etc.

Not only was the population too small to explain such a large fluctuation even at our present average energy consumption, but they just flat out didn't use as much energy per person as we use today. So you really have two variables working against that theory that humans caused 5 to 10PPm fluctuations through agriculture and deforestation and "resets" from pandemics.

You could kill a billion people today from Europe, China, India, and the U.S. randomly, and it would take 20 years for a 10PPM difference to happen compared to the present curve's slope...

Jai Mitchell

This link is a power point presentation that will answer most of the questions posed here. The correlation of the black plague to the little ice age also happened to coincide with an extended solar minimum. The calculations showed a decrease in global forcing of .4 W/m^2 during the LIA.

It also discusses the younger dryas and the 8,200 year climatic event. Definitely a worthy read. imo.



"2. Stopping human emissions as fast as possible reduces risk of catastrophic damage, but does not eliminate it. On the flip side. There is no way to avoid catastrophic damage without first reducing emissions to near zero. Our actions in this regard are critical." - End Quote.

While I actually agree based on calculations, assuming our output is to blame, this step is both technically and morally impossible.

It's technically impossible because there is no way to do food preservation and transport in a global carbon neutral market. Assuming everything was run on TRULY carbon neutral energy, you'd need ridiculous amounts of either very large batteries, or hydrogen fuel cells for all the trucks, trains, and ships which presently run on Diesel.

I figured the battery space for an Electric Semi truck would kill between 2 and 4 pallet spaces per container trailer...and you would need to swap out the battery or the trailer at the end of every route, even on local dedicated routes, to re-charge it for the next use. Presently local dedicated routes make 3 or 4 round trips per day, but it would take a full day to charge one battery, so you would need 3 to 5 batteries per truck just to do ordinary local food and container transports.

Also, capping carbon footprint to zero would require a mandate of no more than 2 children per woman world wide, and a preferred suggestion of no more than 1 child per woman, for 2 or more generations, because present world population growth is happening faster than our ability to economically replace dirty technology with carbon neutral technology.

But honestly, a child-per woman cap is immoral, unethical and in the U.S. constitutional and DoE illegal, in terms of personal God-given rights.

How would you enforce it anyway? Fine the parents a thousand dollars per year for each child beyond the second? That would be a violation of the child's "Right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness."

While I have personally pointed out that a child cap is literally the most practical solution, it is also the least moral solution I can think of, and in many cases may even be quite hateful. I can envision married couples being required to take DNA tests and I.Q. tests to earn a "License" to have a child.

Is that what people want? Because ultimately that's what type of regulations would be put in place...it's a horrifying thought...

Ned Ward

michael sweet writes: The Arctic temperature has increased substantially in the last decade. It is behind a paywall so I cannot determine how much warmer they claim it was ten years ago. Can you produce an up to date cite to support your claim that the Holocene was warmer in the Arctic?

It's not easy to directly compare present conditions to the mid-Holocene across the entire Arctic. You kind of need to look at a bunch of different sources.

Kaufman 2009 has a reconstruction of pan-Arctic temperatures, but it only goes back 2000 years.

The GISP2 ice core (Alley 2000) has a reconstruction going back much further, but it ends in the mid-1800s.

I've made a graph comparing the two here:

link to graph

I tried to extend the GISP2 record to the present by using data from Box et al (here) that has temperatures from 1840 to 2011.

It's a bit of a mishmash, but should convey the idea. Temperatures in the Arctic now are probably higher than they've been in the past 2000 years. Kaufman 2009 doesn't go back further than that, but GISP2 suggests it was generally warmer than that earlier, and that's what you'd expect to see from Milankovich forcing in the Arctic. Finally, this is more than a bit dodgy, but the general tendency of Kaufman 2009 is a long-term decline in temperatures from 0 AD to the 19th century, followed by a rapid (hockey-stick like) increase. If you extrapolate the decline backwards in time, it would also be more or less consistent with what Milankovich forcing and the GISP2 ice core are saying about the mid-Holocene.

In other words, there's reasonable evidence to confirm our expectation that it was warmer ca. 7000 BP than it is today. If projected warming continues, we could certainly exceed that later in this century. At that point, the Arctic would be warmer than any time in the current interglacial.



The answer is that we (humanity) will not act. That is in part due to the reasons you cite. The alternative, which is our default answer, is to continue on our present path procreating as fast as we can (austensibly so we can out populate 'the other guy' and "win") and emitting carbon without limits based on a growth philosophy that ignores the physical limits of the system.

The outcome of that is an unmitigated collapse of the entire system with the loss of over 90% of all species on Earth in a very short period of time. Oh, yeah, and did I forget to mention the death of far over 90% of all humans.

Now tell us, what is moral?

We have created an impossible situation measured in terms of 'acceptable' human responses. All answers will be atrocious measured in our current terms.

At this point, we have travelled so far down the path that all solutions will result in mass death to species and humans in the decades to come. That is now irrevocable and unstoppable.

On the current path, burning every bit of carbon we can find as fast as we can, we may well cause the single greatest extinction event in Earth's long history, greater even than the great dying. That's a pretty impressive feat for a monkey.

The wonderful part is that evolution doesn't care. All catastrophe's (shy of Venusian thermal runaways) are good. They prune the weak and make way for more durable, resilient replacements. And boy are we going to have an opportunity now.

The sad part is that that takes a whole heck of a lot of time to play out. As the sun warms in its dying, the Goldilocks zone moves outward and the system constraints become tighter. About 750 million years from now we will reach a bottleneck. The constraints will be so tight that minor perturbations may lead to Venusian runaway events. And in time Earth will follow Venus. If life on Earth fails to generate an intelligent species to replace us that is capable of planetary shielding, or of leaving this star to find a new home, then we will reach the end of the line for this solar system. All that remains after that is for the sun to flash into a nova and turn out the lights a few billions of years later.

Ned Ward

D writes: "While I actually agree based on calculations, assuming our output is to blame, this step is both technically and morally impossible.

"It's technically impossible because there is no way to do food preservation and transport in a global carbon neutral market. "

So you're arguing that humans are inevitably going to go extinct, or return to a preindustrial existence, when we run through our stored fossil fuels?

Regardless of whether one thinks that peak oil is just around the corner or many decades off, there has to be some finite limit to the mass of fossil carbon available for us to dig up and burn. At that point, we either become "carbon neutral" or we kiss our industrial civilization goodbye.

It has to happen sooner or later. Given the uncertainty about climate change, why not do what we can to shift in a more carbon-neutral direction as soon as possible?



Is it possible to put someone on "ignore" in the is blog?




You realize of course, that few brains equals fewer discoveries and less surplus economies to fund research projects. So the situation is a catch 22 anyway in light of the CO2 issue and in terms of your perceived need to advance and leave the planet.

I think you're over doing it. A 90% extinction is a bit ridiculous imo. A supposedly million year long super-plume wasn't even that bad.

I think real world economics will force people to change the way we live when "crunch time" happens, if our technology doesn't catch up to our needs.

Example, megalopolises which are located 1400 miles away from their primary food source. This is a source of major fuel consumption for no good reason other than the fact the "traditional city" has been there so long it became a self-reinforcing system. However, if food prices and fuel prices reach ridiculous levels they may well achieve in a few decades as population reaches 8, then 9 billion, then I think these cities, such as Miami and New York and Manhattan will experience major collapses.

Consider another thing. We have something like 70% of our economy from "white collar" work, which mostly consists of mid level management (I consider lower management as blue collar in many cases), and of course finance, which the U.S. has most of it's population apparently employed in manipulating other people's finances, including brokerages, banks, lawyers, etc. A large portion of this is in someway misleading, fraudulent, or otherwise parasitic.

When a collapse does happen, if it happens, I think these people will go into three basic categories:

Educated or otherwise experienced survivalists will become the new "blue collar" class.

Much of the existing white collar class which has no farming or survivalist experience will just be screwed, and become the new poverty class.

The rich and powerful will in the short term be unaffected, as they will simply manipulate and extort everyone else, at least until these wealthy people die anyway. Even if the dollar fails, so what? They own all the gold, silver, and platinum, and the own all the land. It won't hurt them personally at all. They may even profit by the collapse, because they'll be able to buy up all the businesses and lands they don't already own. Rental properties are far better than gold mines.

Is it possible to put someone on "ignore" in the is blog?

Terry, I was busy today, so haven't been on the ball. Sorry about that.

I don't get how that supports blaming humans for the warming at all...

D, I would kindly like to ask you to take off-topic stuff elsewhere, especially if it's about AGW theory stuff that has been discussed a couple of million times elsewhere. You're putting a lot of effort in your writing, so I don't want to delete anything.


This was and still is a good discussion, and I think we should have it from time to time, and keep in mind that methane is just one of several consequences of the changes in the Arctic, and despite its enormity probably a bit further down the road. Hopefully.



I was hoping someone would ask that :)
As this site continues drawing more and more
people, which is inevitable, I suppose there
might come a time when an occasional
house cleaning is in order ;)


I wrote: "heat just simply can't be transferred to them fast enough. The excess will be re-radiated out of the atmosphere, as it has no where else to go."

Willi wrote:

Wasn't that the assumption behind all those models that predicted no significant loss of Arctic sea ice till toward the end of the century, at earliest?

Two problems - first is, a flaw in logic. A problem with models predicting sea ice does not equate to my assumptions being similarly flawed. The conclusions I'm making aren't being drawn from the output of a model, but rather empirical measurements, and an (admittedly amateur) understanding of thermodynamics and physical chemistry.

Second - there is a vast difference energy-wise between changing a system such that the top few meters of ocean become ice free, and raising its entire energy. That has been happening, but not as fast as one might think. Over the last 50 years, the measured increase in temperature has been small, in at least in ways it would directly affect clathrates at depth, globally:

"The heat content of the world ocean for the 0-2000 m layer increased by 24.0×1022 J corresponding to a rate of 0.39 Wm-2 (per unit area of the world ocean) and a volume mean warming of 0.09ºC. "

Citation: Levitus, S., et al. (2012), World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0-2000), 1955-2010, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2012GL051106

Paper: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/pip/2012GL051106.shtml

This does not preclude large methane releases; and the conclusions which may be drawn from the paper itself are quite alarming. I think it does suggest that wide-scale catastrophic release of methane is unlikely. I do agree that "thwacking at the hornets nest" has to stop.


Neven wrote: "Read Wadhams' response to Jason Samenow's poorly written hit piece."

That's a good response, and worth the look. I think Wadhams puts the threat in proper perspective as well:

... we calculated its effect on increasing overall global warming, obtaining a 0.6C figure by 2040. We rightly consider these to be substantial figures which deserve wide circulation among climate scientists, and Nature and its referees agreed with us....

We don't need to be waving arms and jumping up and down about possible but low probability catastrophic releases of methane, when the much slower, higher probability events will be quite severe enough to warrant action.


Robertscribbler.wordpress.com said:

Neven, just a few points:

Nice summary, Robert.

Regarding this one...

"4. Arctic clathrates contain an estimated 500 to 1000 gigatons (I'm citing the 1000 gigatons number on my blog, but it could be less or, in a more remote potential, more).

I've seen estimates of clathrates at 2000GT, and a total arctic carbon load of 40000GT. I'll see if I can find citations. That 40000GT figure fits nicely with some theories about the P/T extinction. A similar scale of northern hemisphere carbon in peat and locked under permafrost would make attractive source for the carbon released as the Siberian traps spread out across Asia.


"Posted by: D | July 28, 2013 at 20:12"

That comment is a fraud, and is not me. It is someone impersonating me to try to inflame the admin.


"So you're arguing that humans are inevitably going to go extinct, or return to a preindustrial existence, when we run through our stored fossil fuels?" - Ned Ward.

No, not at least any time soon humans aren't going extinct. Never said that.

I don't think pre-industrial existence is required either.

What I do think is both technical and social issues need vast reformation before the problem ever gets solved.

You guys are talking about almost totally replacing infrastructure that was developed over a 160 years period from the first rail ways and steam boats. You can't honestly expect that to be replaced on a whim, and probably not even within a generation or two.


I'm 'this close' to deleting and banning. Take the off-topic elsewhere.

The topic is: methane, the alarm it produces, and whether this alarm is justified or just alarmism.


Dit is slechts het begin van uw succesvolle blog. Veel mensen hebben een mening, voelen zich geroepen om iets onder ogen te brengen, terecht. U zal zeker kordaat moeten zijn want de aandacht voor de topic zal enkel groeien. Het verwondert mij dat het aantal volgers niet exponentieel toeneemt, dit kan natuurlijk snel veranderen, zoals het artisch klimaat.

Ned Ward

Sorry for my contributions to the off-topic drift, Neven.

To get back on the rails, here are a couple of graphs that might be of interest:

First, atmospheric methane concentrations from 1900 through mid-2013, from ice core (Law Dome) and direct measurement (Cape Grim):

(In case the image doesn't work, here's a link).

[Law Dome] ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/icecore/antarctica/law/law_ch4.txt
[Cape Grim] http://www.csiro.au/greenhouse-gases/

Second, here's a plot of the annual increase in CH4, from the above data sets, or more actually from a LOESS interpolation since the Law Dome data are at irregular intervals:

(Again, a link in case that doesn't show correctly).

The growth rate was generally increasing from 1900 to the 1980s, then reversed itself and began decreasing. In the Cape Grim record, there's no sign of a sudden upsurge of methane in recent years.

Of course, Cape Grim is in the southern hemisphere and it takes a while for atmospheric circulation to even things out. I'd rather use Barrow data in that comparison, but haven't seen any data from Barrow before 1986 or after mid-2012. But here's a comparison of CH4 concentrations from Barrow and Cape Grim, from 1985 onward:


Source: ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/ch4/in-situ/brw/ch4_brw_surface-insitu_1_ccgg_month.txt

Again, no particular sign of methane taking off. There's been a slight uptick since 2007, after a decade of near-zero growth, but not at anything close to the rates that prevailed prior to the mid-1980s.

Ned Ward

Huh. Looks like the right quarter of all those images got cut off -- I should have kept them smaller.

Anyway, click on the links under each graph to see the full width.

And sorry for the mess.

Ned Ward

Of course, the longer term view looks a bit more dramatic. Here's the entire Law Dome dataset (with Cape Grim at the end):

(link to larger size)


Again, no particular sign of methane taking off. There's been a slight uptick since 2007, after a decade of near-zero growth, but not at anything close to the rates that prevailed prior to the mid-1980s.

07 is just after the whole fracking for gas in places like the Barnett shale. There may be no connection but it is also possible that some of that uptick comes from the hundreds of new wells drilled a year.


jd, I'm glad we agree about hornets nests '-)

I would just point out also that we are on the verge of essentially ice-free conditions in the Arctic Ocean.

Where is all the enormous amount of heat that went into that change of state going to go once the melting is over?

It will almost all go into the ocean--another local effect that could accelerate things in unexpected ways. Also note the point that an ice-free ocean creates much bigger waves than an ice-bound one, stirring in surface water into the relatively shallow depths of the ESAS, surface water that will become more and more super-heated with 24/7 sun throughout the summer.

I hope that you are right that sudden release is a remote possibility. But I agree with Neven and Prof. Mann that, even as such, it is worth discussion.

I'm for deleting off topic posts here, or shifting them to a thread in the forum.

roberts: I, too, like your list. Another possible negative feedback would be SLR if it happens fast enough, since destabilization depends on pressure as well as temperature.

I would imagine that salinity changes may have an effect on them, too, but I haven't read much on that.

I could imagine that with more evaporation, the Arctic Ocean may become more saline. Of course, there is going to be more fresh water coming into it as rains increase on the surrounding lands, but most of that is going to come from the Arctic itself--so maybe it's a wash, so to speak?


I hope this is not off topic. These are a couple of videos that could be instructive for the non-professional general audience on the subject of Methane.


and more dramatic,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRLD_vH5Efo (fast forward to the 3:30 - 4:31 minute mark.)


Where is all the enormous amount of heat that went into that change of state going to go once the melting is over?

Every winter, it will be radiated into the universe.

Jai Mitchell


That is not what current models say. It is far too simplistic to assume that the increase in ocean heat enthalpy and land surface temperatures will radiate into space as we approach a hothouse climate. Several factors, including cloud cover will work to retain the heat. If subtropical moisture transport into the arctic begins to happen on a regular basis then this will work to ensure more warming during the winter season as well.


as we approach a hothouse climate.

You going to have to run this one past me again. What is the scientific definition of a 'hothouse climate' and when do we reach it.


@Jai et. al.

The "Greenhouse" will always have leaks; the question everyone is fussing over is just what where will the climate be when the black-body radiation taking heat off of the planet matches the heat injected by insolation.

There are distinct limits to how effective CO2 will be in raising the bar on those temperatures. Even taking into account increased heat retention caused by injections of methane and more H2O, at this juncture in the earth's history, climate warming is extraordinarily unlikely to take us past a point where life is impossible. We're just

1) trying to determine where the bar will land and

2) trying to identify "bumps" along the path to it.

Regardless where it ends up, the rate at which heat can be taken up is limited. In this remember that the phase change of ice to water requires as much energy as is needed to raise the temperature of the same mass of liquid water about 80C. When you apply that metric to permafrost which in some areas is hundreds of meters thick, this means a huge amount of energy needs to be applied just to get it to freezing.

I think that we will see clathrates sublimating and injecting significant quantities of gas into the atmosphere. I think those volumes will be limited, and released discontinuously. The "spikes" of retained heat they will create will not be sufficient to significantly speed the rate at which the environment takes up heat to reach our new "energy balance". That rate will *still* be driven primarily by insolation, modified by albedo and greenhouse effects. Heat transport via oceanic currents from lower latitudes will be an important part of the energy exchange as well.

The timeframe to reach an energy balance is still going to me measured in centuries. We are in for a wild ride even if we find ways to sequester the carbon and drop CO2 levels below 350 PPM. Methane bursts will no doubt contribute to the havoc; mostly by way of short term injections of heat which cause extreme weather, rather than causing more clathrate sublimation, or starting some sort of "run away".

Jai Mitchell

for the terms of this discussion, I refer to hothouse climate as being northern hemisphere arctic ice free year around.

In my statement I said we are "approaching" this. I estimate it will happen sometime around 2150 but could be earlier if we have a massive methane release or other compounding runaway feedback occurs after we reach June 1st arctic sea ice free states sometime around 2030.

There are plenty of arctic seafloor core samples that show the increase in subtropical rain in the arctic during the Eemian. Once we begin to see rainstorms over the arctic in May the arctic ice will collapse much earlier than we are now experiencing.


Jai said "I estimate it will happen sometime around 2150 but could be earlier if we have a massive methane release or other compounding runaway feedback occurs after we reach June 1st arctic sea ice free states sometime around 2030."

I think even if we have a methane burst, a June 1st ice free arctic caused by it will be transitory, until such time as the rest of the system comes into balance. We're going to see some pretty wild oscillation back and forth while reaching it.

Doug Lofland

Getting back to how this blog started, "This should be headline news. It should be plastered all over the front pages of newspapers and web sites around the world." I am struck by the dedication of conductor Neven and his orchestra of 193 followers, who collectively have figured out that some very serious events are unfolding in the Arctic. I don't know the site traffic on this, but his last YouTube update garnered just over 1,000 views. My own 2008 video of weirdness in Nares Strait has done just slightly better over 5 years.

The reality is that this information is not reaching the masses, and what does get there is getting neutralized by the major CO2 emitting industries.

Yet, a young man from Seoul, does a funny dance (Gangnam Style), and ends up with 1.7 billion views, and over 6 million subscribers. Maybe we can get him to do his dance on a small iceberg with a catchy song.

I think the real challenge is marketing. Social media. Something.

The Dark Snow project, led by Jason Box was the first, I think, to try to use social media, crowd funding, Twitter, etc and had limited success, but did not reach the masses. They did get funded and are doing some great research, but I suspect that most of it came from the small community of Arctic watchers.

What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Clouds, clouds, go away, let MODIS count the ice cubes another day.

Catch phases? Marketing? It really has to be done. Soon.


The earth began a cooling phase ~6,000 BP according to Imbrie's paper from 1980. If the Arctic had gone through a natural cycle the warm pulse originating from Arctic inundation would have been followed by a continuing cooling pulse and our worries of a sudden release of CH4 wouldn't be justified.
A paper from 2012 finds that, at least in Nordic Seas, the Holocene has been warmer than the Eemian.
"Moreover, inferred temperatures for the Nordic Seas were generally colder in the Eemian than in the Holocene"
Since this indicates that warm Atlantic waters were also absent from the Siberian shelves it provides another reason for CH4 to remaining sequestered through the Eemian.

I see 4 factors at work & while no 3 of them would be cause for alarm, combined they assure a failure of the (formerly) impervious cap.

1) Sea water inundation as the ice age was ending
2) Geo-heating melting from below
3) Warm Atlantic water hastening top melt
4) AGW removing the sea ice forcing additional melt & allowing mixing

Without all 4 in place the CH4 remains sequestered or vents over very long time periods. With all 4 in place the destruction of the cap is unavoidable.

I don't see a sudden blow out as an unlikely event but rather the inevitable consequence of the combination of natural and man made forces that are being applied.


Wayne Kernochan

I have tried to create a plausible scenario for Arctic methane mattering, in amateur fashion, via my blog, waynekernochanblog.blogspot.com (too long for a post here}. Please, anyone who cares to comment and amend, I'd appreciate reasoned critiques.


My apologies if I am repeating anything as I may have missed it.
The far north in all parts of NH consists mainly of Tundra or frozen bog to the tune of around 1.5 Million sq. miles. The methane that we are taking about here is the methane captured in the year round frozen section called the permafrost. Unlike capturing methane trapped in clay or rock this methane cannot be captured as it is released at the time the permafrost is melted and that starts from the top and goes down. There are no pockets of methane. There are 3 articles that could be of interest related to this discussion (last is over my head.
Based upon the 1st article it seems to be saying that bog size has been dropping in the last 6,000 yrs although with the rise in Arctic temperatures could that not stimulate growth that has been in check because of the cold in the Tundra up to this time.
Article 2 seems to indicate that a bigger source of trouble for rising temperatures could be in fact plant growth in the Arctic.
You then get to Article 3 which seems to say that higher temperatures combined with flooding can greatly stimulate methanogens.
On this last point let us remember that the soil layer is relatively thin because of the glacial activity in the last ice age. Ergo water has very few ways it can travel other then surface.

Jai Mitchell


The global atmospheric methane burden has more than doubled since pre-industrial times, and this increase is responsible for about 20% of the estimated change in direct radiative forcing due to anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions.

Shared Humanity

I've been coming here for more than a year to learn. I have not visited for a couple of days. I do not have the right boots to wade through the comments on this thread nor the energy to sort it all out.

I guess I'll have to go shopping for some of these....



Methane hydrates: a volatile time bomb in the Arctic

Byu Prof. Carlos Durante and Dr. Antonio Delgado Huertas


Shared Humanity

Link does not work.....it was a picture of tundra boots that cinched at the hip.

Dr Tskoul

Soon to come to Alaska: Worst forest fires in 10,000 years


Jai Mitchell

From your link above:

But the fires of recent years have been the worst for 10,000 years and, they warn, things are likely to get worse: what happened to the conifers of Alaska could happen in other places as the world warms and the sub-Arctic begins to dry, with a change to deciduous trees. - See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2013/07/29/alaska-forest-fires-worst-for-10000-years/#sthash.4uoOLUU1.dpuf

looks like they already are.

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