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Suffice to say that if the current trend continues and the ice doesn't get a chance to thicken sufficiently this winter, things will get even more worrisome than they already are.

That's putting it mildly, IMO. With the new PIOMAS data I ran the Annual Average Volume script again, and it suggested at current pace all ice all year round would be gone starting January 2021.

Good luck with your sabbatical, but we've stepped outside of the cliff now, and we've even looked down and realised our mistake, thus we begin the fall....

Click graph for full blog post, or here for the youtube teaser.

Greg Wellman

No offense Viddaloo, but talking about ice-free 365 days is deeply unrealistic. Yes, the ice is in serious trouble. Yes the first complete summer melt-out (with "complete" still allowing for quite a bit of ice clinging to the CAA and Greenland shores) could happen in the 2020s, although the PIOMAS trend line would suggest more the late 2030s. But a year ice-free at the north pole (thankfully!) requires a lot more CO2 than we've yet released. It's just not a physically possible scenario under current conditions.

Rascal Dog

Past climates with Arctic Ocean ice free year round had CO2 levels in the range of 2 to 4 times postindustrial or higher. 500 to 1000 ppm or more.
Turn of the century, maybe.

Tom Zupancic

Clearly, we are observing the reality of a fundamental change in the climate system. The current unprecedented events are... unprecedented. The canary is singing.

Is anyone listening?

Hans Gunnstaddar

"The canary is singing."

You're right about that, Tom. Worth a gander, the following link has graphs for Antarctica & the Arctic with November jaw dropping simultaneous precipitous extent events.



Greg Wellman, you claim that an ice-free 365 days in 2021 is unrealistic? You seem to be focusing solely on one factor (CO2) and missing every possible other feedback that turns up with less ice. A warmer ocean, dying plankton, more (above zero) precipitation, more water vapor, more CH4. Unlike in previous ice melt eras, we're driving it exponentially now.

But a year ice-free at the north pole (thankfully!) requires a lot more CO2 than we've yet released. It's just not a physically possible scenario under current conditions.

Greg, as J_b_t pointed out already, there are a vast amount of feedback loops, and CO2 isn't the only show in town. My app may of course be wrong, but with apps for extent and volume consistently outputting 2021–24 for either daily, weekly or monthly, since November 1st, I would say these 4 years constitute The Ballpark for what we must expect. Things could unravel faster than linear, however, and then the 365 ice–free will be here 2020 or earlier. Or the other way around, there could be mechanisms that slow things down, and we're looking at 2025+.

Also, we're not talking about 'current conditions'. Here's Wikipedia on that last element of 'climate change':

The process or end result of becoming different

Vid, if you subscribe to the 5 year cycle like Hans and I do, your model gets a 2 year kicking every 5 years.

Still I'm expecting the back swan event in 2022 unless later this winter the ice just does not grow.

That would push any 365 event back into the late 30's or early 40's given the retarding effect of the two regrowth years.

CO2e though is nearly at 500 already and we have to factor in the e because we are pushing out gasses that nature does not, normally.

For me local CH4 in the Arctic is a game changer in the short term. In the short term because the e gases tend to be much shorter lived than CO2


I need lessons on importing graphs. Maybe somebody can get this one from NOAA:




In 1700 it looks like CO2eq was 270ppm and virtually all CO2. Now CO2eq is 490ppm. Sam, another poster here has CO2eq pegged at 527ppm if ozone is included. More of a telling tale than just CO2.

Vid, if you subscribe to the 5 year cycle like Hans and I do, your model gets a 2 year kicking every 5 years.


I don't subscribe to any cycle, and I absolutely do not have a model.

If volume keeps collapsing at the current pace or even faster than this linear decline, there's simply no ice left to last through 2017–2021. Climate is changing in the North, so we shouldn't expect it to stay the same just at slightly lower ice levels. Uncharted waters means we haven't been here before and we don't know what we should expect.

I know it's unsettling, but clinging to what used to be just isn't the right way to stay safe these days.

Hans Gunnstaddar

"For me local CH4 in the Arctic is a game changer in the short term."

True enough NeilT, and at what point does the downward spiral of Arctic ice volume/extent lead to destabilization of the shallow depths methane deposits in the ESAS? And does it slowly destabilize, releasing CH4 over sufficient time to break down and not cause cascading positive feedbacks, or so quickly it causes a sort of flash heating up of the entire region including Greenland?

With both the Arctic and Antarctic now losing ice in concert, has a tipping point been passed? Or is that scenario temporary? It wasn't but a few years ago global temp. increase over pre-industrial was at .8C, and then it went to 1C and now there's talk of 2016 clocking in at 1.2-1.25C?! Are those numbers correct? Unless this past El Nino was the culprit and now La Nina provides a respite to deploy massive amounts of renewables and get serious about GHG emissions reductions, or we're off to the runaway races. It does seem like a situation that is either gone out of control or still possibly time to make a transition to a low carbon economy (best case, cross your fingers scenario).

Oh, and on the 5 year repeating cycle: 2017 will be the tale of the tape to determine if that cycle repeats or changes, but if it follows suit, then we will see a new record minima by a sizable reduction. The prediction is down to 2.58 million sq. kilometers. If that comes to pass then we need to keep an eye on CH4 increases. What is the rate of increase?


Viddaloo, if you don't mind, may I request that you post a zoomed-out graph so that the full trends are visible?

I find it very difficult to get any meaningful information from the zoomed-in ones you show.

I absolutely do not have a model.

That's not entirely true, vid. You have a statistical model.


13800/7.37 isn't a model but a simple division, Neven. And let's not split hairs here, even though that's more pleasant than focusing on the message.


you may indeed. Anyone is urged to dive into the matter of annual averages and all their applications for predicting the near and far future. I find it highly interesting, yet my choice has been to zoom in to see interesting things, rather than zoom way out and lose all the detail.

Here's how you do it: Download the full dataset from either PIOMAS (sea ice volume) or JAXA (sea ice extent), import to a spreadsheet and tell that sheet to give you an average for 365 days of ice. Copy or repeat and tell the app to draw you a graph. Best of luck! :)


Rascal Dog,

Say humanity were to increase its emissions to 4ppm/year then it would only take 25 years to reach the lesser side of that nasty run-away condition you mention.

(Too close for comfort I say. Add hysteresis and make it 3 generations from now then you might have some sort of reality science fiction book half written. I don't like this eery feeling much myself....)


Market Failure: the failure, by markets, to provide goods and services.

r w Langford

Another heat wave on the way. https://robertscribbler.com


r w Langford

Not to forget sea ice morphology, extent and thickness which also affects the weather on a vey large scale. It is a feedback loop. We see the near future coming dark nights a little clearer: a very loose Arctic Ocean pack ice in darkness. An invitation for Cyclones to stay above the Arctic Ocean, bringing the low clouds, these winds, those very warm temperatures we are more familiar with, all keeping sea ice thinner, less expansive and broken up badly. I have always found this lack of appreciation of sea ice in darkness a hard thing for many to undrstand. I have patience to explain, but planetary geophysics don't need our comprehension, they just react always reaching for thermal equilibrium.

Rob Dekker

Viddaloo said

I don't subscribe to any cycle, and I absolutely do not have a model.

With all due respect, but without a model, how do you make predictions ?

Either way (with of without a model) I second josh-j's request : " may I request that you post a zoomed-out graph so that the full trends are visible?"

13800/7.37 isn't a model but a simple division, Neven.

I agree that extrapolation is the simplest of (statistical) models. Doesn't mean it's wrong, but chances are that it's a crap shoot.


I get your anxiety, hombres. So if I make the "prediction" that next year (2016+1) will be 2017, that's also a model, right? Because I use math. Oh well, my bad. I keep forgetting how unpopular that may be in some places.


you may indeed. Anyone is urged to dive into the matter of annual averages and all their applications for predicting the near and far future. I find it highly interesting, yet my choice has been to zoom in to see interesting things, rather than zoom way out and lose all the detail.

[Rob Dekker is possibly the last person here who needs to be told how to do statistics or make a graph. No need for condescension; N.]

Doesn't mean it's wrong, but chances are that it's a crap shoot.

"PIOMAS Annual Average Volume is down 7.37 km³ per day — If sustained, the first ice–free 365 days would commence in January 2021" isn't wrong, Neven.

If collapse rates are sustained, there will be no Arctic sea ice starting in January 2021.

You may say that you don't believe they will be sustained, in which case you and I would agree. Here's what I (already) stated about that very likely eventuality:

My app may of course be wrong, but with apps for extent and volume consistently outputting 2021–24 for either daily, weekly or monthly, since November 1st, I would say these 4 years constitute The Ballpark for what we must expect. Things could unravel faster than linear, however, and then the 365 ice–free will be here 2020 or earlier. Or the other way around, there could be mechanisms that slow things down, and we're looking at 2025+.
isn't wrong, Neven.

Yes, that's what I said.

Or the other way around, there could be mechanisms that slow things down, and we're looking at 2025+.

Exactly, and to incorporate these possibilities your model would need to have to be more complex. Right now it's a crap shoot.

Either way, I hope that year-round ice-free conditions are well into the future. Or else, why would we even bother doing anything? Year-round ice-free conditions in 2021 would mean civilisational collapse, as the rate of change would inherently be much faster that it already is.

That makes an ice-free September look rather benign. Is that the idea?

[Rob Dekker is possibly the last person here who needs to be told how to do statistics or make a graph. No need for condescension; N.]

Maybe so, Neven. I was merely showing him how he and everyone else could get what he wanted.

I totally accept his request, however, and I've already put it on my (very) long–term plan for further graph developments for the Arctic sea ice collapse.

Frank Pennycook

Hi, a long-time lurker here. I agree with those interested in a zoomed-out view of the PIOMAS 365-day average, so I've plotted a few years. Please bear with me if it doesn't display correctly, I'm not sure about the system for posting images.


Well done Kait Parker:


It is very refreshing to see a meteorologist TV presenter actually dishing out science. I would suggest a daily continuance destroying misinformation as fast as it comes, like antibodies for our collective minds, for a better educated populace, but especially work on memories. Not everyone is a scientist like her, but everybody has memories:


Bill Fothergill

Regarding the request for the average extent to be presented in a different fashion, I have already plonked something on the IJIS thread on the forum.

See comment #3524

I'm now getting dragged off to get the Xmas tree....


From Kait's dissertation:

"Many think that 2017 will be cooler than previous years. Myles Allen of Oxford University says that by the time of the next big United Nations climate conference, global temperatures are likely to be no warmer than the Paris COP in 2015. This would be a strange thing to happen if, as some climate scientists have claimed, recent years would have been a record even without the El Niño." (David Rose, U.K. Daily Mail, quoted by Breitbart)

Quick Jim! Looks like a job for the toothless press commission.

Either way, I hope that year-round ice-free conditions are well into the future. Or else, why would we even bother doing anything? Year-round ice-free conditions in 2021 would mean civilisational collapse, as the rate of change would inherently be much faster than it already is.

That makes an ice-free September look rather benign. Is that the idea?

Neven, I don't know how to respond to that. Final ice loss will be a rough time for everyone and every living being on this planet.

Jim Hunt

Wayne - I doubt that IPSO will be interested, but here's Tamino's deconstruction of David Rose's latest "temperature" article:


Arctic sea ice gets a mention too. A topic on which Mr. Rose has been remarkably quiet recently for some strange reason.


Hi Jim

Rose has no chance in twisting sea ice demise with his mis-characterizations. Is it possible that Mr Rose suffers from science malnutrition? No confidence in the technology which gives him a platform to spread really bad information? Should he go to speaker's corner Hype Park, use an old soap box instead, forego the computers,
servers even electricity?


"What is the rate of increase?"

As we only do sporadic monitoring of the actual releases, by ship survey and not every year, that is a hard one to answer and, probably, harder to model.

What we do know from the surveys

The water circulating the 50m continental shelf layer is exiting the Arctic warmer than at any time we have observed before

There are one hell of a lot of clathrates in that 50m layer as well as huge deposits of methane which are bubbling up through the sediment there.

Every time they send a ship there, we find more and more methane locally escaping from the sea.

Can we extrapolate it to a model? I don't think so because the ice cores don't really tell us the year by year mechanics of it. I guess we'd have to drive bore holes into the ground to measure the pressure in the methane layer. But that could cause even more issues. We could put more temp sensors on the sea bed by the clathrates to measure the temp of the water flowing over the shelf. We could even place tethered buoys around the shelf with gas analysers on them.

However given that funding for monitoring is difficult even for ice tethered buoys, I'm guessing that funding for something this critical is likely to be in the "unobtanium" class.

So all we're likely to know is "faster than we think" till it hits us over the head like a sap.

As for the temp rise? Remember 97/98? I do, clearly. I also remember the temp falls in 99-03. Then it gradually worked it way up till that massive peak in 97/98 became the norm. Say 16 years. I guess the 2015/16 peak will be overcome somewhat faster than the 97/98 peak because there is so much more CO2 and CH4 up there.

Until then we'll have to deal with idiots like Rose going on about "No rise in temperature for x years" until the silence when those 15/16 Nino temps become the norm.

Rose is like the frog in the pot of cold water brought up to boil. Sadly, for the human race, some day we're going to wake up and find climate change is like a frog in a liquidiser and no way to put it back together again.


Vid, on the cycle thing.

There have now been two events on a 5 year cadence. Sudden massive melt, followed by a two year re-growth in ice before it starts to drop back into another large melt. Followed by two more years of re-growth.

If this is a cycle we'll need to wait till 2022 to see it fully through. However we'll get the first indication in 2017. Anyone want to bet it won't be a huge melt season right now??? Obviously we'll have to see how the spring melt goes before having a better view, but, if you subscribe to the model, then it would be easy to predict that 2016 was not going to break any minima records and that 2017 would.

We shall see.

Now I know that people believe that two events do not make a pattern. Sure, absolutely.

But my contention is this.

Our record, on satellite, on ships and on sediment cores, does not allow for the events of 2007 and 2012. They stand out and stand alone.

So what if the events which have created them have also set up a repeating 5 year cycle?

How would you know? There would be no precedent, no record and no way of verifying that this is what is. No model could predict it and no model has.

What is much more interesting to me is the circumstances of the events. Which lead me to believe there is a cycle in play now which was not there before.

In 2008/9 we entered the lowest solar minimum that we have seen in 100 years. It went on for so long with solar flux so low and sunspots completely missing that people started to ask "what if it's a Maunder Minimum?" In this scenario with a portion of our solar heat budget missing, it is no surprise that we had two years of increased ice after the 2007 melt back.

BUT. Here is the real kicker. 2012, on the rise of a new solar cycle (24), beats all records. Followed by a regrowth of ice in 2013/14. But 2013/14 were at the very Top of solar cycle 24 with maximum solar flares for the cycle and maximum solar flux.

Clearly solar our heat budget was higher than 2008 and in fact 2012, so why would we see a sudden growth in ice? Of course the growth was less than 2008/09, as you might expect with more heat.

So now we're heading into 2017 and more uncharted waters. What will the year bring? Another 2007 "perfect storm"? Another huge melt back coming close to the black swan event we are all anticipating and, at the same time, not very comfortable about reaching?

Then what in 2018?

That is the question. Then, if we see ice re-growth, at the bottom of the solar cycle, greater than 2013/14 but less than 2008/9, do we accept there is a cycle in play here? Or do we have to go round a few more before we can say that 2005/6/7 ushered in a step change which has fundamentally changed the way the arctic ice responds to heat and weather?

Sadly I will have a long wait. I have to wait till 2022 to see if my observation is borne out in fact. But I've been doing this for more than 20 years now, what's another 5 or so?



I think the icescape as a whole has changed, therefore cyclical repeats are not possible within the context of a somewhat similar ice sheet:


Sea ice outlook is much more miserable than Trump's pick for the EPA. I lament all the wonders and scientific achievements of science from the US, now all mocked and abused by a growing wave of backwards people of which some who question the Apollo program. How does science become so unfavorable despite its massive accomplishments? The time for a greater understanding of science is now, exactly when it is most needed.

Hans Gunnstaddar

"...guess we'd have to drive bore holes into the ground to measure the pressure in the methane layer. But that could cause even more issues. We could put more temp sensors on the sea bed by the clathrates to measure the temp of the water flowing over the shelf. We could even place tethered buoys around the shelf with gas analysers on them."

Maybe no funding for it NeilT, but I like some of those ideas. How about an anchored floating dome in the ESAS of X Sq. Ft. that catches all the methane rising up year round and relays the data to this website, then it would easy to multiply by other areas of that depth to get an estimated broader total of CH4 emissions, viddaloo can create a graph and make annual comparisons. Ah, no funding, right.

On your point Wayne; "How does science become so unfavorable despite its massive accomplishments?" It's because they are too ignorant to realize all the tech type stuff in their lives was founded on good science. So as they push buttons on an IPhone waiting to get an MRI, they have a good laugh with their spouse about GW. "Those people just like to take long field trips at taxpayer expense and pretend to gather information from ice and mud."



As you correctly note, year round ice sheet loss will mean the collapse of civilization. The full reality sadly is very much worse than that. Worse yet, it is now inevitable. Whether it happens in 2021 or 2035 is irrelevant. Measured in geologic scales this is a blink. Measured in human scales it is quick.

There is now quite literally nothing we can do to prevent it.

We had perhaps the possibility to delay it a bit. That opportunity is now sadly lost. The future is dire. Billions will die as a direct consequence of humanities failure in the very near future.

While it was likely that our children's generation would suffer and our grandchildren would perish due directly to the compound cataclysms brought about by climate change, now we know that even we who discuss this here are likely to die as a direct result of climate changes impacts. And that is even true for those of us now nearing retirement. The cataclysm is fast upon us.

At the same time, denial and self interest are so powerful that precisely when we most need to know more and to act decisively, humanity is doing the opposite. We will even be denied a good record of what happened.

It is the sadest of times for those who can see.

But then again, what does it matter? Extinction is forever. Whatever species finally achieves sentience after us will be so far into the future that no record even of our prior existence is likely to remain.



Sam, maybe it's because our personalities differ (I assume), but if I would be certain that the end is nigh and inevitable, I wouldn't waste my time going to some small blog to announce this to all those who are too stupid to get it.

So, either you don't really believe it, deep down (or hope it isn't true, which is the same). Or you're playing the ultra-alarmist card to make anything else (like an ice-free September) look like a walk in the park. But from what I've read from you, I don't believe it's that either.

Either way, it doesn't make sense to share this here. Or at least, it doesn't to me.

And extrapolating PIOMAS volume or JAXA extent numbers as an argument for Judgment Day (year-round ice-free Arctic) before the 2024 Summer Olympics doesn't make sense to me either. If it comes about, there's no use presenting graphs on some obscure blogs that no one can grasp intuitively. And if it doesn't come about, everyone will be relieved that it's 'only' September going ice-free.

In both cases nothing happens. Which makes it a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. And I hate those.

Don't be like Hollywood, don't always try to create a bigger bad guy or disaster for your sequel, because otherwise everyone will get bored and won't listen to you.

And one more thing: We're all going to die, regardless of what happens.

Merry Christmas, everyone! ;-P

Elisee Reclus

I'm certainly no expert on climatology, but it seems to me the Earth has survived many more devastating crises than our current greenhouse gas excursion. Our planet has been bombarded by planetoids, undergone continental drift, suffered continent-wide lava flows, ice ages, and a multitude of other catastrophes and biological life has managed to thrive here for close to four billion years and we have an uninterrupted fossil record to prove it. Even complex metazoans have a continuous history of 500 million years without having had to start over from scratch. As Ecclesiastes and George Stewart remind us, Earth Abides.

I suspect that Earth will not suffer the atmospheric fate of either Venus or Mars, and that biological life, and probably even the human race, will survive. Whether human technical and industrial civilization can weather a drastic climate change occurring within a generation, or even a lifetime, with all the social and economic disruption that implies, is another question altogether.

Using our planetary history as evidence, I find it highly unlikely the polar icecaps will disappear year round...that would imply the equatorial seas would boil, something that has never happened before. Even in Florida, sometyimes the ponds freeze over in winter.

However, ice-free Arctic summers (and the changes in worldwide rainfall patterns, land use and human settlement that implies) is not impossible, even in our lifetime.

I suspect our industrial and agricultural systems will collapse long before the planet's built-in feedback energy distribution systems do. The problem will solve itself--Le Chatelier's Principle. A new thermal equilibrium will be achieved, and although it may not be to our liking, multicellular life, and perhaps even some Neolithic primate culture will probably survive.

That's just my speculation, but its my worst-case scenario. It probably won't even be that bad, but it will still be no picnic.


Sam, there does seem to be an inevitability about events. After all, humans are a species with a characteristic behaviour so we cannot expect that to change in any significant way. I suspect most who visit here do see the inevitability of a sea ice free Arctic very soon and perhaps have an excitement about it despite declaring that they don't want it to happen. Once it does, a year round sea ice free situation will seem inevitable too, due to sea ice dynamics.

I guess somewhere between the ice free summer and the ice free year, this blog will become extinct.


Hi Elisee

" However, ice-free Arctic summers (and the changes in worldwide rainfall patterns, land use and human settlement that implies) is not impossible, even in our lifetime."

The latter is already here , unless all this world is a stage and I am the spectator being played. Changing summer/fall/winter circulation patterns were made obvious in 2016 with a much diminished and scattered sea ice.

Neven is right Sam, we are not here to blow syllables because we are doomed, there is hope, it is fragile, but so is living fragile and our expected lifespans nearly tripled in the last 100 years.

Elisee Reclus

No one can predict the future, especially when data about the present is so fragmented and incomplete. But we have one data point that cannot be denied nor overlooked: the planet is very old and has been relatively stable for billions of years, in spite of some extraordinary shocks. I believe the engineering jargon for this condition is "robust". The surface configuration and conditions may change over time, but there do seem to be mechanisms that tend to push it back into equilibrium. Runaway excursions don't seem to happen, but there do seem to be long range cycles, and we seem to have initiated the latest, and it may be severe.

The safest bet to make is that we have messed with the climate, and there is a possibility that our agriculture will be affected as a result, and along with it our industry and population distribution. The tertiary effects will be conflict, civil strife, economic distress, famine, waves of refugees, perhaps war. We may already be seeing the first of these changes manifesting themselves. The changes have been slow up to now, but they will probably speed up in the near future, and become more severe. How severe yet remains to be seen, and the time scale is not clear.

All we know is that the situation is not necessarily catastrophic. Even if it can't be reversed, or even stopped, perhaps it can be mitigated, and it stands to reason that the sooner we start the better.


Neven, and all,

I had thought we here had collectively gotten past the point of confusing desires with reality. I have never had that option. My comments are not meant to nor are they apocalyptic by desire or design. They are simply observations on the real world and where we are. My experience of this world is that the only way we stand any chance of benefiting our future is by realistically coming to grips with where we are, where we are headed, and the bounds of what we can do to adjust that path. Then knowing those things, buckling down to do the hard work to make the future better match what we wish within the bounds of what is physically possible.

I have been stunned frankly in the past decade to come to the unwelcome realization that the vast majority of humanity does not do this. Instead, people most generally start by deciding what they want, then select data and information to bolster their own views and desires (irrespective of any test against reality, against sufficiency, adequacy or anything else). Next, they tend then associate with those who affirm their desires and views and who reject other views. That's all well and good so long as it isn't in direct contradiction to physical reality and the limits it imposes.

I wish most fervently to be wrong, to have erred in assessing where we are and where we are headed. I see little potential for error large enough to significantly change the conclusions.

It is fundamentally clear that human emissions of carbon gases are radically changing our climate. It is clear these are directly tied to the numbers of us and the "living standard" we demand. It is clear that our numbers are growing exponentially and are now far beyond sustainable levels. We are now rapidly degrading all of the earth's supporting systems. And we continue to grow exponentially.

It is also clear from the trends on Arctic ice area, extent and volume that within the next decade that we will have a substantially ice free Arctic for at least one month each year. It is also clear that ice melt will continue and likely worsen thereafter. It is clear that sometime by about the mid 2030s that the Arctic will be ice free year round save for Greenland.

With that change, the fundamental driving force for atmospheric circulation in the northern hemisphere will break down. We are already seeing the beginnings of that now. With Greenland as the only cold source we will have at best a severely weakened and highly unbalanced driver for our current three cell atmospheric circulation. Weather patterns will at the very least shift dramatically and non uniformly.

Simultaneously, the great oceanic conveyor will lose its northern driving force as the diving current fails with the loss of ice to melt. This too will lead to dramatic changes in the oceanic circulations, productivity, and impacts on weather, as well as further warming of the Arctic, clathrate breakdown and consequent methane release, tundra collapse and more.

There is little to nothing we can meaningfully do about that now. But the only chance we have of doing anything about these things comes about by first understanding the brutal condition we have placed ourselves in.

With CO2eq now over 500 ppm, our room to maneuver is extremely limited. We are currently releasing an ever increasing amount of warming gases to the tune of an additional 3.5+ ppm CO2eq each year (and rising each year).

Things only get worse from here. But again, we can only have any possible chance of changing this trajectory if we first come to grips with where we are and with what is actually required to accomplish a significant change. Not recognizing that or coming to grips with it leaves us failing to do what is required. It frankly doesn't matter how we feel about it, or what we desire if we fail in these things.

As to your question about why I raise this here? Where else is there to raise it? If this group of people cannot deal with this, there is no other forum or group apparent in the world that can. And if it is indeed the case that this group cannot come to grips with this, then we are good and truly done.

As to the comments that we will not become Venus or Mars, or that the earth is 'stable'.

In time, the earth will become Venus like. That too is inevitable. Fortunately, we have about 750 million years before the suns rising heat emissions push us inside the inner edge of the Goldilocks zone. It is highly unlikely that anything man could now do could trip us over that edge. But that doesn't mean that we cannot create or force conditions that we as a species cannot survive. We are proving quite capable of that.

In its long geologic history, the earth has most often alternated between two quasi stable states - hothouse and icehouse earth. Seldom has the earth stayed in an intermediate state. And even when it has, the orbital and other oscillations have typically been so large and chaotic that agriculture would not be possible. It is only in this quasi stable midground with ice covering both poles that we have had this relatively stable period that allowed us to develop the food supplies needed to support civilization.


Bill Fothergill

@ Elisee
"Using our planetary history as evidence, I find it highly unlikely the polar icecaps will disappear year round...that would imply the equatorial seas would boil, something that has never happened before. Even in Florida, sometimes the ponds freeze over in winter."

The very existence of ice sheet(s) in the Arctic is a relatively recent (in geological terms) phenomenon. You might want to check up on the Pleistocene Glaciation (also known as the Quaternary Glaciation).

Glaciation in the Antarctic probably started around ~40 million years ago, but got into gear around the Eocene/Oligocene boundary. Basically, the planet went into a serious cooling mode following the Eocene optimum. If you want a culprit, how about the Indian plate going sailing into the Eurasian plate about ~50 million years ago. The subsequent period of orogeny resulted in the uplift of the entire Himalayan plateau, and the concomitant exposure of fresh rock surfaces.

Other events, such as the closing of the Panama Isthmus also had enormous impact upon oceanic currents and poleward heat transfer.

Prior to that, the polar regions were effectively ice free - without any sign of the equatorial seas boiling.

"The surface configuration and conditions may change over time, but there do seem to be mechanisms that tend to push it back into equilibrium."

You bet there are! Unfortunately, these tend to operate over geological periods, and are not going to be much use in the short term.

In order to get some feel for these stabilising feedbacks, one needs to have some familiarity with concepts such as the Stefan Boltzman relationship and the long-term Carbon Cycle - the later especially in terms of things such as Weathering.



On the other hand, there are much faster destabilising feedbacks which do operate on the human scale. Possibly the most worrying of these involves the Hydrological Cycle, especially as it pertains to the Clausius Clapeyron relationship.


Others would argue that the possible whole scale release of methane currently trapped within clathrates is what we should be worrying about.

Bill Fothergill

No idea why the final link (above) came out with the weird symbols. If that doesn't work, then try...


Elisee Reclus

Gentlemen, Gentlemen....

The world is over four and a half billion years old, and for at least half of that time (since the establishment of photosynthesis and an oxygen atmosphere) it has remained remarkably stable. True, there have been enormous variations in sea level, temperature, ice cover, continental distributions, land forms and so forth. But the fact remains, the planet has been able to support life, and evolution has proceeded to allow ever more complex life forms and ecologies to arise. Those changes which did occur transpired mostly over geological time scales, but let us not forget that some, particularly impact events such as the one that condemned the dinosaurs, happened instantaneously. There have been others, including geological processes such as supervolcanoes and massive lave flows which must have impacted climate severely in a relatively short time.

The point is, the world did not come to an end. True, any civilizations existing in those times would probably not have adapted; but biological life, multicellular organisms, and even human communities would have survived. The astronomical and geological catastrophes superimposed on the natural evolution of the biosphere were not sufficient to initiate a runaway collapse. No Mars or Venus. The evidence is overwhelming that Earth will remain habitable regardless of what we do to it, at least at our current level of technological evolution. This is the data point we cannot ignore: between two and three billion years of successful adjustment to multiple devastating, cosmic catastrophes.

This is not to say we are not in big trouble right now, I agree we are; but in order to get past the political debates and obstruction that mostly threaten us now we must not allow ourselves to be seduced by apocalyptic visions. They are distracting at best, dead wrong at worst. In any event, they are purely speculative.

Yes, perhaps we will unleash some totally unforeseen process that will spiral out of control overnight and destroy the world. (After all, supernova explosions only affect a tiny population of stars, but they do happen.) But dwelling on remote possibilities is counter productive to the very real problem of doing something about the problems we know we have now. And the solution to those problems lies in sober and realistic political action based on solid science and discussion, the kind we see on this blog. I really don't wish to dwell on this issue, but end-of-the-world scenarios are not only unlikely, they are counter productive in the societal debate we need to
engage in now. There are strong economic and political agendas which will benefit from nothing happening that might mitigate our climate problems and threaten their interests. I'm sure they are listening carefully to us and they will stop at nothing to seize on anything we say to discredit us.



What you seem to miss is what happens in the transition between these states, just how fast the transitions are, how poorly adapted most species are to the broad change required to survive the transition, and just how severely we have degraded the whole of the earth's ecosystems.

Most species cannot adapt fast enough to survive the transition to hothouse earth, or even the lesser transition that we have assuredly triggered. Species most often adapt to a narrow range of conditions for economy reasons (energy economy, genetic and molecular economy, ... not financial economy - obviously).

Most species are also highly dependent on other species in an intricate web of codependency. Obvious examples like the dodo are easy to understand. Less obvious ones like the timing of plants blooming and pollinators emerging are only slightly less hard to see. But even these simple examples are beyond the knowledge or awareness of the majority of humans.

The earth will survive and thrive for the next three quarters of a billion years. That does not mean that the species we know (possibly ourselves included) will.

During past transitions, oxygen levels have fallen to below 14% and stayed there for over million years. That is ample for many species. It isn't sufficient for most large mammals to remain conscious and to do all the things needed for survival. It is equivalent to living at 5-6 kilometers elevation.

Three distinct populations of humans carry adaptations to such thin air (Ethiopian, Himalayan and Andean). The vast majority of people do not carry these adaptations. Some yaks, alpaca, vicuña, etc also are adapted and might survive, provided there is sufficient food. Small mammals too will have a chance. Most large mammals won't. And a similar story plays out in the oceans.

Add to thus the declining pH of our blood in homeostasis with atmospheric CO2, and general health declines as well. We as a species are adapted to a narrow range of CO2. As CO2 rises our blood pH falls. As pH falls our general health declines. And again a different but similar problem plays out in the oceans as the pH moves below the range that will support formation or maintence of shells. And the shell fish perish - severely impacting all of the species that depend on them.

In the hothouse earth with O2 levels potentially rising to 30% in a denser thicker atmosphere, forest fires can start and rage on, all while drenching downpours occur. Three foot spiders and six foot sea going scorpions become possible and have occurred in the past. It is a world wholly unlike the world we know.

Elisee Reclus

Gee, Sam...

I don't doubt the nightmare scenarios you describe can happen, or even that they have happened in the past.

The question is, are they likely to happen again, and how soon, and how long will it take for them to come about, and how bad will they get.

My opinion, and I concede it is as poorly supported by hard evidence as yours is, is that what we are likely to face in the near future will be much more likely to be something like this:

The climate will become progressively warmer, and the weather more unstable and erratic. The manifestations of this will be loss of polar ice, changes in weather patterns and climatic regimes,
disturbances in oceanic and atmospheric circulation and in rainfall patterns. Some may even be counter-intuitive. We can conceive of scenarios where global warming can provoke continental glaciers in North America and Eurasia. The consequences will be the collapse of fisheries, rain falling in deserts, and fertile regions drying up. Regions now warm or moist will become dry and cold, and variations on that theme. Consider the Sahara as the new breadbasket of the world, and the American Midwest a semi-arid wasteland.

Agriculture and industry will suffer as the natural resources are affected. We can already see this happening now, and the speed at which it happens, as well as the scope and severity of the effects, will get worse. The human results will be predictable; famine, war, mass migrations, civic unrest and social conflict. How bad this will get, and whether human civilization can adapt fast enough is debatable. These are legitimate and serious concerns, and this is what we should be worrying about. Eventually, Sol will exhaust its fuel and enter the final, planetary nebula phase of its main-sequence evolution. But we haven't got time to worry about that now.

So we really can't say much more than that without any certainty. We may be doomed to a future of meter-long spiders, but they won't evolve overnight, and there are mechanisms and feedbacks that will make the final results unpredictable. And lets not forget, men, (and biota), are infinitely adaptable, albeit at different timescales. Some taxa will even flourish unexpectedly and easily exploit rapid changes in conditions, as they did after the end-of-Cretaceous meteor strike. I'm much more worried about the deterioration of industrial civilization and democratic government in the short run, in my lifetime and those of our children, than I am about the lifeless world ocean or Carboniferous nightmares you describe.

Besides, if over-population, industrial pollution and non-sustainable land use are the major causes of our environmental issues, then the problem may well be on its way to solving itself in the relatively near future. We may not have to do anything, except to suffer the immediate consequences of our own folly.

Robert S

My two cents worth of predictions:
- There will be an ice free September in the 2020's
- Ice free year round? I doubt we'll get there anytime in the next century, if at all. The current rate of technological adaptation will show a declining curve of atmospheric C rise... although I admit that some of the positive feedback mechanisms are a wild card.
- There will be massive famines in the vulnerable south... just as there already are today, but bigger and longer. I've worked on sustainable forestry and small-holder agriculture worldwide, and a lot of areas are already on the edge... and would likely get worse even without climate change, due to soil loss, population growth, etc.
- In the developed world, we will be partly isolated from the worst of the impacts over the short term by our wealth.
- Longer term humanity will adapt. It's what we are the best at, and we will push technologies in whole new directions to survive, once the problem is clear. I don't believe we're headed into a mad max world.

In the meantime, there's a reason I live on an island off the west coast of Canada - it's a goldilocks zone for climate change impacts - drier and warmer, the most likely impact, will only improve our agriculture. We need to be projecting where those zones are now, and be prepared to utilize the places where climate change improves conditions. It's not uniform doom!

Elisee Reclus

Robert S-

I'm inclined to agree with your assessment, but that only raises more questions in my mind. With the effects of climate change occurring gradually, primarily affecting the more vulnerable sections of the planet and with the more technologically sophisticated (affluent) nations somewhat sheltered from those same effects; it will only be easier for the urgency of the problem to be overlooked and postponed, deliberately ignored, and the sacrifices required delayed indefinitely.

Its not uniform doom or Mad Max, but millions will die needlessly and painfully. In the past, this sort of indifference could be ascribed to ignorance. I'm afraid we cannot use that excuse. Our posterity will never forgive us.


Hi Robert S

Beautiful idyllic place such as your home should already be getting some changes in the form of more rain otherwise once falling further South, this maxima precipitation zone should continue migrating North, depends which Island you live on.

Obviously we'll have to see how the spring melt goes before having a better view, but, if you subscribe to the model, then it would be easy to predict that 2016 was not going to break any minima records and that 2017 would.

Neil, I don't subscribe to that nor any other 'model'.

What has been recurring in 2006, 2011 and 2016 is that all of them go lowest ever (so far) in annual average extent. After each of 2006 and 2011 the next year went even lower for AAE, and that year also broke the 1–day September low record.

I think 2017 will be lowest ever both in terms of JAXA AAE and 1–day Sep low. Not because of the pattern, but because of how this winter looks so far.


Hmm.. I would have to side with Sam here. Most of the eternal optimists seem to be in some kind of denial of reality and recent observations. Why do you keep on pretending that humanity is nothing special for Earth to have happen to it?
Earth has never before suffered 444 active nuclear facilities ready to go into meltdown, when it gets too hot for them to be cooled properly, or when civilizations collapse due to other causes. The radionuclides released through that will guarantee a lifeless planet for quite some time to come, and very sudden.

Earth has never before seen a species that actually approved of the plurality of nuclear weapons that are so destructive any form of hope or planning is taken away from offspring as soon as they learn to read (the world's news), if only because of the knowledge of the one idiot required to push one button. Why would any offspring remain motivated to comply? Humans have ridiculously multiplied into what any biosphere would normally have classified as a plague, a resource depleting nuisance that deliberately, willfully and knowingly destroys its own habitat for short term gains.

To me there is little doubt summer 2017 will teach us all a lesson or two on realism and our lack of future prospect as a species. Have any of you recently checked the mixing ratio of Methane from Metop-2 at lower altitudes? The feedbacks from the Arctic have abundantly unmistakably started. Anomalies there will now only worsen by the month. Check the ocean temperature anomalies, then the CH4 releases, then the melting ice, then the ocean temperature anomalies, the CH4 releases, the loss of ice etc. I would not be surprised if indeed a year round ice-free Arctic is just around the corner for us; The current displacement of highs and lows, of the jetstreams, the extremes merging planetwide, is so obvious even my daughter senses something's not right with nature and life as we know it. I think we have lost our extra sensory perception of what's going on with our habitat, we have carelessly let it slip away, and now it's too late to have it return to the stable state we evolved from. The technofixes are too few too late.

Lord Soth

During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), about 55 million years ago, the Arctic and Antarctic was tropical, and the continents hasn't drifted that much in the grand scheme of things.

So what we got with the last episode of Global Warming during the PETM, was a more efficient distribution of heat, meaning the Arctic wasn't that much cooler than the equator.

Wouldn't we expect the same behavior at the dawn of the Holocene-Anthropocene Thermal Maximum?

It still going to be bad with sea level rise, and migration of people, and resulting wars, but if we don't manage to Nuke ourselves, the polar regions would open up new areas for farming.

It still going to be devastating, but it won't be like Venus, because the planet has gone thru this before, and life survived.


It may look grim J_b_t

But tell that to our in common ancient ancestor, one of very few , nomadic hunter gatherer starving often, barely escaping making a meal for saber tooth tigers. We have a propensity to survive, is rather a matter on how we want to live, with nature or against it .

Elisee Reclus


Is it even physically possible for the Arctic Ocean to remain totally ice free for 365 straight days?

That is, without temperatures so high in the equatorial regions that the ocean there boils! I understand that with efficient transport of warm air and water to the poles, it might be possible, but wouldn't this mean the equatorial, and even the temperate regions, would be uninhabitable, if not sterile. Has anyone quantified this rigorously, or do we have dependable historical evidence that this has happened in the past?

I can visualize the north pole being ice free year round, but I can't see the equator being habitable at the same time. Remember, this would mean an ice free Arctic even when the sun was under the horizon throughout the long polar night.

In your calculations, you may ignore the effect of terrestrial albedo being affected by thick cloud cover from increased evaporation. I understand clouds keep the heat in during the night, but reflect the sunlight during the day.


Lord Soth and Wayne,

Though the conditions during a hothouse earth period may sound benign, they are dramatically different than what humans are now adapted to. With a slow transition, we might well even adapt. What we have become is as far from a slow transition as is immaginable. It is in fact one of the most rapid non-asteroidal impact transitions in all of earth's history.

And it is the transition that is likely to do us in. We are now in one of the six greatest extinction events in all of earth's long history. The transition is far from benign. For example:

Hypoxia, Global Warming, and Terrestrial Late Permian Extinctions

Raymond B. Huey*, Peter D. Ward
+ Author Affiliations
↵* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: hueyrb@u.washington.edu
Science 15 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5720, pp. 398-401
DOI: 10.1126/science.1108019


An ice free earth (or even an earth with one pole ice free) operates under wholly different rules than the world we are accustomed to. The so-called equable climate world where this is true has long been a conundrum. T is only in the past decade that the pieces have come together about how the equable climate world works.

It has long been known that during an equable climate period that their is little temperature difference from equator to pole just how that could be was unclear. What we now understand (as I and many others have noted here) is that during such times that the atmospheric circulation breaks down from the current three cell circulation into a single cell circulation with heavy cloud cover over the pole throughout the winter.

The oceans do not boil. They circulate differently carrying heat to the pole.

This has been reported here many times already. You must have missed those many discussions.


Bill Fothergill

@ Elisee
"Is it even physically possible for the Arctic Ocean to remain totally ice free for 365 straight days?

That is, without temperatures so high in the equatorial regions that the ocean there boils!"

You asked that question earlier in the thread, and I answered at 13.44 yesterday. The planet has spent longer with ice free conditions at the poles than it has with polar glaciation.

This has NEVER resulted in "boiling oceans". Had such a thing been possible, it would have resulted in a Venus-style runaway greenhouse effect.

Please read my earlier post, especially the reference to rock weathering as a long-term stabilising mechanism.

Elisee Reclus

Sam and Bill -- Thanks. I presume our evidence for an ancient ice free Arctic is fossils of warm weather organisms at high latitudes.

Wayne -- We may have a propensity as a species to survive, but our civilizations have an alarming tendency to collapse under even moderate stress.

Jim Hunt

Wayne - David Rose is at it again in the Mail on Sunday this morning. I felt compelled to put virtual pen to paper again:

Post-Truth Global and Arctic Temperatures

Can you spot any “cumulative effects of man-made global warming”?

How about in the Arctic?

Elisee Reclus

Jim Hunt --

That's just the opening salvo.

Here is the main offensive.


Kevin O'Neill

Bill F writes:

The planet has spent longer with ice free conditions at the poles than it has with polar glaciation.

I think you forget the oft used disclaimer, 'past performance is not an indicator of future results.'

Scientists believe Venus was life supporting for 2 Billion years. The main reason is the sun was 30% dimmer. I believe Venus and Earth share the same sun. I.e., conditions in the past are NOT the same as conditions today. Nor are conditions today reliable indicators for tomorrow. In the future we expect the sun's output to increase even more - making a runaway greenhouse effect not only possible - but likely. But that's on a timescale few of use need worry about (a billion years from now).

In the past, periods of rapid climate change have wiped out most species on Earth. Humans have not been around long enough to undergo one of these periods. It's easy to imagine humans surviving in some post-apocalypse sci-fi scenario. It's more difficult to imagine us surviving while maintaining the technological, cultural, and societal norms we have developed over the past 10,000 years.

Jim Hunt

I was getting to that Elisee:

Google, democracy and the truth about internet search

Tech-savvy rightwingers have been able to ‘game’ the algorithms of internet giants and create a new reality where Hitler is a good guy, Jews are evil and… Donald Trump becomes president

Hans Gunnstaddar

"It's easy to imagine humans surviving in some post-apocalypse sci-fi scenario. It's more difficult to imagine us surviving while maintaining the technological, cultural, and societal norms we have developed over the past 10,000 years."

Good point, Kevin, and agree it would be a case of 2 steps forward, 1 step back via abrupt climate change to a much harsher environment, and that step back will lead to lower complexity with less specialization having numerous knock on effects on societal norms. We would also be squeezed into a much smaller geographical area with population passing through a bottleneck.

My personal opinion is since we were apparently not consciously advanced enough to accept what was coming long enough in advance (needing to start in earnest back in the days of Carter) and do exactly what was needed to avert calamity, then it is necessary to experience a downfall, but on the other side of that harsh experience will be the collective conscience understanding of our need to live in balance with our environment and thus we will then operate at a slightly higher thought level.

Maybe it's a case of the first time globalization occurs for a species that can manipulate mass at a technological level, something negative has to occur to jolt consciousness into a higher state. Even on the micro scale as individuals we often have to learn through hardship, so it's not a leap to realize that may also be the case on the macro scale.

Elisee Reclus

For Jim Hunt --

Thanks for turning me on to that article.

The authors make the claim its all a right-wing conspiracy, but I'm not sure I agree. I think its a lot worse than that! Sure, there are ideologues and ideology (as well as brutal commercial interests) behind this beast, but I don't see them as the cause, I just see them as unwitting components, like amino acids are components in DNA. I believe we are looking at artificial intelligence. It is an AI NOT conceived by and created by men and implemented on machines, it has spontaneously emerged in the matrix created on the world-wide web, the substrate of the internet, as the first microorganisms emerged in warm ponds, or briny pools, or smoker vents in the ocean abyss.

This is artificial life, artificial intelligence. It is Man-made, but outside Man's control. In fact, Man hasn't even really identified or recognized it for what it is. In the film "Ex Machina", the mad genius protagonist creates his robots using his proprietary search engine to research his users' and construct an algorithmic model for human intelligence and consciousness. I think this is what is happening here, except I believe this algorithm evolved naturally.

We've been expecting The Modern Prometheus since Mary Shelley's day. Maybe this is it.
Behold the Singularity.

Elisee Reclus

Dear Hans --

I was a student in the 1960s, long before the Carter administration, and we knew then the society we were growing up in was inherently unstable, and certainly unsustainable. We were too inexperienced and foolish to know exactly what was wrong, but we knew SOMETHING was wrong, and it was only a matter of time before it caught up with us. Over-industrialization, the population bomb, pollution, resource depletion, racism, commodification, regimentation, imperialism, militarism, commercialization, consumerism,...it was all around us. We knew it was going to happen, and probably in our lifetimes, but we didn't know exactly what. And we were too undisciplined and too stoned to think it through.

Like the old Spirit tune reminded us "Its nature's way of telling you something's wrong."

The hippies were right. But I derive no satisfaction from telling anyone "I told you so."

Jon Hurn

Huh? What's all this sea ice stuff in my favourite "prepper" blog?

Robert S

Great discussion: I've started researching the potential for a one cell circulation pattern, which I have been leaving "on the periphery" of my concerns up til now. However, so far I haven't been able to find a good paper discussing any modeling which would point towards what level of CO2e or other influencing factors might lead to the transition from three cell to one cell. Does anyone know of work like that?

Is a falling temperature difference between the tropics and the high latitudes one of the key driving factors for the transition? If so, I wonder what the key factors are which would drive the opposite transition, given that a one cell system would seem to be highly stable?


Robert, you might find something in this old blog post.


Well Jim,

I can only say that these deranged opinions about current "cooling"
conditions are driven by science starved people, eating junk science fake news 3 meals a day for years. Our answer here is in the sea ice itself:


Do these science deficient nitwits think that sea ice can spontaneously melt or keep from freezing more solid when the winter is suppose to be colder? Judith Currie has absolutely no idea about what she is talking about, she contradicts herself in same sentences,

‘I disagree with Gavin. The record warm years of 2015 and 2016 were primarily caused by the super El Nino.’

Really now? Just how the El-Nino become "Super"? By the way
the sea ice of 1998 was diminished from previous years, but current sea ice much less:


Despite Cryosphere today glitches. Does Mrs Currie believe this normal since there was no warming creating a "super" El-Nino?

We must really condemn these fools, since others cling to their every silly words.

Jim Hunt

Robert - See Eli Tziperman's "Equable Climate" info:


Since changes in the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration are often correlated to fluxes in the climate, one might initially assume that a change in CO2 levels caused equable climates. However, an increase in CO2 would raise global temperatures everywhere, not just near the poles. This fact eliminates a change in the CO2 concentration as the sole explanation for equable climates and means that a more uncommon event must have triggered the Cretaceous' and the Eocene's equable climates.

The problem is that current computer models attempting to replicate the climate during these periods fail to provide similar results to the proxy data. If the proxy data is correct, this fact reveals that the models do not include an important feedback mechanism.


Wayne, I'm not doubting that the sea ice landscape and climate landscape of the Arctic has changed. In fact I know it has. However I'm saying that the sheer inertia of a global system, driven by the sun and heat sequestration, is creating new and potentially short lived, cycles.

We'll see.



If you want to look for a cycle you have to look beyond the lows. You also have to look at what happens after the lows and before the lows.

What Hans and I have been saying is that 2006 preceded the 2007 low. But was followed by 2008/9 regression. 2011 preceded the 2012 low. But was followed by the 2013/14 regression. Much weaker but still there.

If you follow that logic. 2016 precedes the 2017 low (likely to be dramatic), followed by 2018/19 regression.

If, by the end of 2019, we have seen a super low in 2017 and regression in 2018/19, will you at least look at the potential that there is a new cycle in play?

Bill Fothergill

@ Kevin O'Neill
"I think you forget the oft used disclaimer, 'past performance is not an indicator of future results.'

Scientists believe Venus was life supporting for 2 Billion years. The main reason is the sun was 30% dimmer."

No I most certainly do NOT think that any perturbation to the Earth's climate system will necessarily mirror a previous excursion. I do, however, believe that the laws of physic are time-invariant.

Elisee posited the suggestion that ice free conditions at the poles would equate to boiling oceans at the equator - that is simply untrue.

I am afraid that you do not seem to grasp that the oft-quoted figure of a 30% dimmer sun relates to its luminosity at the beginning of its life - approximately 4.6 billion years ago. However, as stellar nucleosynthesis is an on-going process, one which will hopefully continue for another few billion years, the mean molecular weight of the sun is increasing with time. As a consequence, the sun's core needs to contract and warm up in order to provide the additional pressure required to counter-balance gravity.

When I was learning this stuff, the formula we were given was...

L(t) = L(T)/(1 + 0.4(1-t/T))

T = current age of the sun
t = earlier age
L(T) = current Luminosity
L(t) = luminosity at time t

Sure enough, when the sun was a new-born baby, t/T was effectively zero, and its luminosity would have been about 5/7ths, or about 71% of its present value.

However, by the time of the Cambrian explosion (~550 Million Years Ago) solar luminosity would have been up to nearly 96% of present levels. At the time of the Eocene Optimum (~50 MYA, and a few million years before Antarctic glaciation got underway) its luminosity would have been only about 0.4% below the present day value.

It is true that a Venus style runaway could happen here, but CO2 levels would need to be in the 10's of thousands.


I happen to be shit-scared about what the future will hold for my younger relatives. The fact that somebody like Trump can get elected - and in no small measure down to the fact that many states that I expected to go Dem happen to also have large coal reserves - can legitimately be viewed as a defining moment in the evolutionary progress of H sap. (With the "sapiens" qualifier being taken under advisement at present.)

Could you also please be so good as to supply a citation for your "Scientists believe Venus was life supporting for 2 Billion years" claim. Several of the planetary scientists in my local Astronomical Society would, I certain, be very interested.


If we want to talk about species survival, we need to also have our eyes open and we need to understand the problems our modern societies have caused.

First one. Eyes open. In late 2010 I was travelling a lot by train from France, late in the evening and also arriving late in the evening. I got a good chance to see what was moving on the rails by freight.

I noticed that there were One Hell of a LOT of new wagons I had not seen before. A little rummaging around in my mind and I realised they were grain carriers. More interesting still, was that they were wagons from countries all over the EU.

Clearly they were emptying the Silo's of stored grain and shipping it throughout the EU. As this route didn't really lead to any of the well know ports.

What was happening in the summer of 2010? The unprecedented Russian fires which damaged the Russian wheat harvest so badly that they were unable to export. Russia provides 25% of the world grain export market.

Second one. Being British I have a fairly British view on things, or at least I know more about it naturally than other places in the world I have to research.

The UK imports more than 50% of it's food. Simply put, the UK cannot feed itself at it's current population.

So, let's put the first and second points together and let's see how long our "superior" societies will last in the event of a shift which changes the availability of world market foods.

The rice dryers shut down in Australia through the 11 year drought. Simply they couldn't grow rice to export. Australia was 25% of the world rice export market.

The US has seen massive impacts to it's grain harvest, ditto Canada. Russia has already had fires. Argentina has often had a bumper harvest to help and Australia tends to be either feast or famine so when it's going well it will be bumper.

But. And here is the point. What happens to a country that imports more than 50% of it's food when 3 of these countries have massive climate driven losses in their harvests in any one year?

The rich western worlds are not really that more insulated from the problem than we might think. Yes, Canada, the US, Russia, Australia, Argentina, all net exporters, will be fine.

The rest? Well some of them have nuclear weapons!



here for one


Came from NASA, By Michael Cabbage and Leslie McCarthy from the Goddard Institute.

Kevin O'Neill

Bill, I've always considered it rude- akin to saying someone is making sh*t up - when one asks for a citation that can be found with a simple Google search. NeilT apparently had no trouble locating NASA's article.

I think you also need to bear in mind bifurcation and the *net* effects of solar forcing, Milankovich cycles, and GHG forcing. There can be more than one point of stable equilibrium. Also, the difference between a glacial and interglacial is really rather small.

Or, more pertinent, what small percent change caused this?

r w Langford

Series 2 of Years of Living Dangerously is worth watching or getting the videos from National Geographic, The sessions on water and soil and the oceans are accurate from my understanding and very scary. There are some very vulnerable populations, some in the hundreds of millions. Lethal Impacts over huge areas are in the present or a few years away, not decades. Here in Victoria BC we are experiencing one of the lengthy jet stream curls that go on for weeks now. The temperatures are predicted to be five degrees C below normal for almost a month . Historically they only lasted four or five days. Jennifer Francis is right.

Jim Hunt

Wayne - My alter ego has taken the liberty of asking Prof. Curry to justify her "Super El Niño” remark:


She hasn't got back to me as yet.


JAXA SIE has shot up by almost 400K in two days, so maybe things will soon return to 'normal'.


Neven, I did a bit of playing with Chartic and found that all the years to 2003 ended the year on a declining trend of extent.

However from 2004 onwards every year but 2010 ended the year at almost exactly the same extent.

I'm wondering if 2016 is going to break that trend and start a new end point. I'll be looking to see.

But, in the end, come March, it will be within 15% or so of the normal extant I'm sure. The ice will just be thinner and more fragile, ready for a spring decline.

That's my take. The Arctic, overall, tends to resist really sudden change. Although it's doing a very good job of accelerated change right now.

Jim Hunt

There's still quite a way to go before area/extent returns to "normal":

And of course all that new ice isn't very thick just yet:

That's slightly out of date because Bremen seem to be rejigging their servers at the moment.


I agree Jim

There has to be a last date open water graph, sort of opposite of sea ice and with it an accretion estimate based on time left for accretion, up to the last day per latitude decimal. We would have a better idea of next year minima with such a colorful graph.

Neven, there has been a 2016-2012 daily variance between -500,000 and-1,100,000 within the last 30 days, of which the last few days increase is interesting given that there was a warming over the Arctic Ocean, eventually darkness will win ice everywhere, but what kind? Especially how thick since freeze up starting so late may only mean drastically less sea ice come minima. So given the potential of equal extent with previous years a definite possibility, it is only an illusion if you do not integrate accretion days per pixel.


A numerical illusion, a quick glimpse out of daily IR HRPT graph completely describes everything well without any calculations.

Remko Kampen

" But a year ice-free at the north pole (thankfully!) requires a lot more CO2 than we've yet released. It's just not a physically possible scenario under current conditions."

Exactly disagreed. The opposite is not physically possible.
That ocean will have serious difficulty refreezing right after the first summer wipe-out.
PIOMAS is clear too.

Elisee Reclus

So humor me. I'm not a climatologist, but I play one on the Internet.

OK. I'm willing to concede that 365+ ice free days in the Arctic is possible, and it is not necessary to propose boiling equatorial seas to make them possible. After all, they've found Carboniferous deposits in Antarctica, and temperate forest fossils in Northern Canada--and I'll take your word for them not having been the result of plate tectonics.

Now the question is, how long did it take for these conditions to establish themselves, and how long did it take for them to revert to our current scenario? Are we talking decades, centuries, millennia? When we say "rapid change of state" are we talking astronomical, geological or historical time scales? Or are we describing events on an individual life or generational span?

I understand that catastrophic events (like meteoroid impacts) can alter the climate severely and abruptly, but I'm discussing more gradual change, such as we are experiencing now.

And if we can answer these questions, how do we know? Do we have geological or fossil evidence? How solid is it? Or are we just modeling and filawsafizing? ( A respectful nod to R. P. Feynman.)

Like I said: Humor me.

Remko Kampen

"... but I'm discussing more gradual change, such as we are experiencing now."

No, we are experiencing a veritable detonation now.
You can set the 'we are here' at a little over +1° C in this: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CTj5ZQ2XIAA90kg.png .
Compiled by a lot of paleoclimatological evidence augmented by last century's instrumental data.

The normal climate change takes millenia for a degree.


Sam, Greg, J_b_t, Neven (et al):

Since the January 2021 shock comment, at the latest update and blog post we have a record slow zero ice prognosis of only minus 87 thousand km2 per month, which translates to April 2025. Gives everyone a bit more time to think about what we've done as a species/collective. (However there is a growing gap between volume based and extent based estimates, echoing some people's statements that JAXA extent may be a suboptimal measure of sea ice collapse.)


After the 2007 extent record low, only 2012 set a new record (Year 1 in new Cycle):

$elow[1] = 3177455; // 2012
$elow[2] = 4065739; // 2007
$elow[3] = 4257003; // 2015
$elow[4] = 4269199; // 2011
$elow[5] = 4500623; // 2008
$elow[6] = 4622092; // 2010
$elow[7] = 4809288; // 2013
$elow[8] = 4884120; // 2014
$elow[9] = 5054055; // 2009
$elow[10]=5179300; // 2005

Emerging details/trends within the Pattern also suggest that as 2013 AAE went on to go lower than 2012, without 2008 AAE going lower than 2007, then both 2018 and 2019 AAE may go to new all–time lows (even lower than the record low 2016 AAE, and, perhaps the new low in 2017), breaking down the so–called Cycle quite a bit. Another break–ball is the amazing October–December plunge of 2016, that is only matched by 2007 and not 2012, which was less dramatic. In Cycle lore, this plunge was supposed to have waited till autumn 2017, but here we are....

After the 2007 volume record low, 2010–11–12 all set new records (Year 4 + 5 in Cycle, + of course 1 in new Cycle).

$vlow[1] = 3673; // 2012
$vlow[2] = 4302; // 2011
$vlow[3] = 4582; // 2010
$vlow[4] = 5392; // 2013
$vlow[5] = 5670; // 2015
$vlow[6] = 6458; // 2007
$vlow[7] = 6810; // 2014
$vlow[8] = 6832; // 2009
$vlow[9] = 7072; // 2008

As we know volume is the real deal, volume is perhaps what should be focused on for sea ice collapse.

With the increased severity and abruptness, going lowest in 2017 might be followed by a 2019–20–21–22 rush of new records for minimum volume.


Hi Viddaloo,

Thanks for the numbers. But you can't just put a straight table like that and say "see no such cycle exists".

Remember that we are on a sliding slope, top left to bottom right.

Therefore 2008 after 2007 is an upswing.2009 is a drop, but still an upswing on 2007 (volume), but on AAE, you see 2009 going lower than 2008.

Then we go into 2010 -2012 and we swing into the same cycle, with post 2007 descent on the sliding scale.

2012 trashed the volume and AAE, but then 2013/14 bounced back. Follwoed by the descent into the 2017 (projected), low.

If you take the raw numbers, then map them onto a line graph and superimpose the PIMAS descent line underneath them, you will see an oscilating line around the PIMAS volume. Each cycle wave running in the same pattern along the descending volume trend.

Also you need to extend backwards more. Bring in 2002 onwards. Because the snapshot myopia is giving us a false picture of what has changed.

You see what I'm saying? You need a "tale of the tape" type representation. Sheer numbers and their position just don't do it. They can't and you can't interpret them just from the numbers. They won't show you the cycles.


Elisee, what your are saying sounds like lukewarmism, or to be polite, lack of vision.

As Remo says, the Arctic changes we are seeing are unprecedented in the 800,000 year history which we have in relative detail. Also we know that the Arctic has been ice free at several times in the distant past due to sediment cores where they can determine the difference between an ocean bed covered in ice and one covered in only water.

We are living in a time of human forced warming which has never been seen before in any geological records we can find. In natural interglacials there are sudden spurts, they last for many hundreds of years.

What we are watching and recording is, quite literally, several hundred years in a decade. Lately we're observing many decades if not low hundreds of years of natural change in a single year.

This is not in doubt at all. It would be best to go and research those events rather than challenge what is being said here by people who know a hell of a lot more than I do about this process. The information is out there. Great resources, RealClimate, SkepticalScience. Tamino's blog. Jim's blog as well, which he links to.

The best thing to do is forget historical precedent, stop trying to fit this into some past model and accept that we are way, way, outside anything this planet has experienced in the last 60 million years.

The source of that change is Human emissions of climate changing gasses.

Once you accept that, recognising that some people have a more pessimistic view of where we are going than others is easier to understand.

Whilst I don't, personally, believe ice free in winter is viable in the next decade, I'm not going to totally rule it out either. Some time in the next 3 decades that methane clathrate gun is going to fire and when it does the impact on the Arctic is going to be spectacular, to say the least. It could be next year or it could be 30 years, but when it does go, then things are going to change for the foreseeable future.

With that change will come the ice free winters we are anticipating but not looking forward to.

Making statements like the sea boiling in the equator to source ice free conditions in the Arctic just shows a lack of knowledge of the situation. Nothing so dramatic is required. Simply a lack of heat loss to the dark night sky. This can be facilitated by Clouds (moisture), CO2, or methane, or, most likely, a combination of all three.

To be clear. Whenever we put the money into going and looking, we see a combination of all 3 growing stronger and stronger.

Best to challenge from a position of knowledge or ask from a position of learning. The people here are curious, friendly and very informative. Just not very patient with statements which can be construed as feeding denialism.

Elisee Reclus


Thank you for your prompt and informative responses. Please allow me another question, for anyone that cares to respond.

Assuming this abrupt and severe temperature excursion as outlined by Mr Kampen, is indeed supported by the evidence and real, how confident are we that we are due for a violent and sudden discontinuity in climate parameters (as opposed to merely a continuously worsening deterioration in weather conditions). I realize it is a bit unfair to expect anyone to provide a precise timetable or a catalog of events and consequences, but surely there must be some order-of-magnitude estimates and projections the professional climatological community can roughly agree on.

And how sensitive are these changes to mitigating action? My own opinions (which I concede are based on more speculation and intuition than any hard expertise) are that if we do nothing, we can look forward to gradually deteriorating conditions for decades to come, and that the rate at which they deteriorate will continue to increase--but no discontinuities or runaway exponential excursions. I cannot quantify these suspicions, but am I even qualitatively in the ball park?

Or have we initiated a destabilzation of the atmosphere that will continue and worsen no matter what we do, and that will quickly lead to the collapse of human technical civilization. I'm not trying to put anyone on the spot here, I'm well aware these are key questions we really don't have the tools to answer confidently. But surely there must be some kind of consensus emerging in the community of legitimate specialists trying to come to grips with this problem.

To phrase it another way: if the deterioration of our climate due to human activities leads to the collapse of our civilization to say, 18th century levels (or earlier!), will the climate quickly recover to something like its familiar state? Or have we set in motion a series of events that will snowball (no pun intended)
into the far future.

I am not a climate change denialist, not even an AGW skeptic. I'm just trying to get a grip on just what we're facing here.

It may help you in composing your response to know my academic background. I have undergraduate degrees in astronomy and mathematics, and a graduate degree in geography. My professional background is 40 years in computer mapping; including astrometry, maritime navigation, aerial photogrammetry, automated cartography, image processing, geological remote sensing and geographic information systems.

I know I can keep up, but first I have to catch up. Thank you for your patience.

But you can't just put a straight table like that and say "see no such cycle exists".

LOL, Neil, call me a Cycle Skeptic, as I think it's all falling apart, including this alleged Cycle itself. One of the reasons for that which I forgot to mention is this:

"Going lowest in 2017 might be followed by a 2019–20–21–22 rush of new records for minimum volume" is not entirely accurate, as we could see Blue Ocean Event uncharted waters as soon as 2017, and a number of math–savvy commenters have pointed out earlier that you cannot go lower than ice–free (although temperatures may be able to exceed 0C water, with some help from our star).

In a nutshell, I think we're collapsing way too fast for any such patterns to be able to repeat, or carry out a new Cycle of 5 years, sans collapse.

Collapse itself is collapsing: When this very blog ceases to emit a certain level of (unfounded, IMO) optimism, it will cease to be.

Elisee Reclus

Yo, NeilT

Lukewarmism? Well, I must confess. I've never been accused of THAT before!

My critics usually just call me a fanatical climate alarmist, or a Communist.

Thanks, Neil. I hope I can contribute something of value to this community. We may all differ in degree, but in kind I think we are all in agreement.


True viddaloo, that is where we differ. I believe we will run at least one time round the cycle before we get a blue ocean event. I don't think we have just quite enough heat or ice decimation yet.

There are some calculations somewhere which tell us just how much volume of ice is melted and exported in each season.

I think we would need 3 full seasons worth to go blue ocean in 2017. However with the impact of 2017, 2022 would only have to be 1.5 or 2 seasons worth of melt, depending on what happened after.

So I lean towards 22 rather than 17.



I found your explanation today of the uselessness of IPCC–style climate scientists to be more than just a little bit enlightening:

Over and over again, during the debates, Gavin Schmidt has been seen to say that these annual variations must be ignored if we are to see the larger picture. And he's right, the larger picture is 100 to 1,000 years.

So what they do is bury the annual variations in decadal averages and then bury them again in multi decadal averages. Truth be told, if you take the 30 year running mean, we're pretty much on target. When you look at the 2000's averaged out. Even the 2010's, when the decade is done, will be averaged with the previous two decades to create the 30 year running mean.

The problem with this methodology, which is used by all climate scientists when they report to the IPCC, is that it fails to anticipate, or even detect, step changes when they happen. In fact it's designed to do exactly that, remove them.

The major problem with that approach is that what is happening to the Arctic is massively driven by annual variations and those variations are getting larger as every decade goes by. By the time that the 2010's annual variations are released from the 1990's, it will already be blindingly obvious to everyone that they are out of touch. Also the model will mitigate to tone down even those effects.

In reality the 30 year running mean has been a wonderful ruler for measuring future change over the last 5 decades. It' was extremely useful in the denialist rantings in the aftermath of the 97/98 nino and the return to the norm which happened there. It forced the denialists to take out the 97/98 as a baseline and then their entire assertions fell apart.

So, I think, when railing at the "Scientists" for not predicting what we are seeing now, I respectfully submit that their models and their projections are specifically designed to ignore it. Because, so far, by ignoring it, they have been more right than wrong.

Honestly I feel that an ice free arctic in 2022 will force them to reassess that. Because the possible forcings created by the black swan event are enough to overwhelm the 30 year running mean and to continue with it would be foolish. They would need to create a new baseline and then run a parallel comparison and draw conclusions that way.

Getting scientists to throw away long held and very good baselines will take an extreme act. The same extreme act we see evolving before us in an unprecedentedly warm winter with unprecedentedly low ice volume and extent.

What I'm saying is "Don't allude motives to the Climate scientists just because they are not monitoring the same thing you are". Because, in the end, these people have been in the firing line for a long time and the vast majority of them are both honerable and extremely thick skinned. But, believe me, they have feelings too.

I'm guessing they will have to go directly from 30–year means to monthly, quarterly, half–yearly and yearly drops in Annual Average Volume of Arctic sea ice when that elusive Black Swan starts to sing. And that it will be a rough time for the milieu that started hating annual averages the moment they first heard of them, but that they will adapt and mitigate once people with vested interests in climate change start using them.


I don't hate the annual average. I just find it one of the puzzle pieces that is harder to grasp (especially in the way you present it), but I'm probably just too stupid.

I just find it one of the puzzle pieces that is harder to grasp (especially in the way you present it), but I'm probably just too stupid.

Neither ad–hominem attacks nor Wishful Thinking will make Arctic winter white again, Neven. I'm just a messenger, so you no other choice but attacking me!


I believe I ad-homed myself. :-P

And you're not a messenger, but an extrapolator. You should make that more clear to people, that you're just extrapolating trends.

You may turn out to be right - anything is possible - but it's not because you're a genius seeing something that no one else is seeing. If only for the fact that there are and have been many other extrapolators.

If you believe your extrapolations and that the Arctic will be ice-free year-round by 2021 or 2023 or 2025, you also believe that civilisation will collapse (and humanity will probably go extinct under such a scenario), because that's what such a rapid change would mean. No two ways about it.

And if you believe that, there is absolutely no sense in bombarding this small blog with annual average extrapolation spam. It just makes no sense at all. Either you don't really believe it, or you have ego issues (craving to be the only smart guy in the room).

If I would truly believe that the end is nigh, I'd have so many better things to do than that.

But again, maybe that's just me. It's the same reason I'm not religious. I have a hard time submitting to a belief.

Maybe the world comes to an end soon, but hey, maybe it doesn't.


Hi Viddaloo,

I didn't say it was useless. What I said was it was a very good methodology which has stood the test of time. What is now a problem is that changes are happening so fast that the methodology can't keep up, in fact it's designed not to.

So there will have to be a change large enough to cause feedbacks which are recognised as invalidating the methodology.

This is different from "useless". Nothing could be further from the truth. It is more a case that events are outgrowing it.

When they do it will be updated to match events.

Vid you don't face the scrutiny they do. You do not have to face politicians and explain yourself and you don't take funds for research which is constantly under scrutiny and people are attacking as a handle to try and make your work produce a different result.

Try and keep that in mind when you become frustrated with the fact that the predictions created by this methodology are totally out of whack with what we are tracking on a year to year basis.

Nobody would have predicted the 10mm rise in sea levels in the last 18 months. Then again nobody would have predicted the 6mm fall in sea levels back in 2010. OK that water fell back to earth and evened things out. But the point is this. Over the years these dramatic events even out and the multi decadal model is the underlying signal.

Today we're finding that the decadal model is changing so fast that it's starting to outstrip the 30 year running mean by quite a large margin.

But, consider this. 2008/9 and 2013/14 were/will be also averaged out by this methodology and we're still a bit away from it being completely out of step.

So long as the system swings backwards and forwards, some method of smoothing the curves needs to be in place. Until a step change overrides the curves it will be needed. Even after a new form will also be needed.

If anything, 20 years of intense scrutiny of the cryosphere of the planet (layman not scientist), has taught me that the system will try to work itself back to the mean over and over again. It is the human impact which is stopping it but that is a push, not a sledgehammer.

Neven knows all of this and chooses to poke fun at himself.

Not a bad approach.



you seem to have a very hard time understanding what an average is, what an ad–hominem attack is, what Wishful Thinking is, what testable scientific method is, and also why people are concerned about Arctic sea ice collapse. Not being the most naive person on the blog, I have no illusion that any of these things can be explained in any way so that you will get them. People are what they are and they particularly don't appreciate having to change the way they see things. The Arctic will change very very slowly until BANG! it doesn't change slowly anymore. Kicking out all the nay–sayers from your forum and blog won't stop the bomb going off, but I'm probably wasting my time already trying to explain this to someone like you.

You never make fun of yourself when you launch ad–hominem attacks against me, Neven. They're always against me, not against yourself, you are smarter than that. We all know you're not really trying to kick yourself out of your own blog.

John Bilsky

Hey Viddaloo.....
Take a chill pill man. As a long time lurker here (since the very inception of this blog) I can assure you that Neven has a solid understanding of what you say he seems to not have. I've spent 32 years teaching science and recognize quality work when I see it. Neven puts out quality work. One cannot do that without an understanding based in science.

We are ALL up a creek without a paddle when the Arctic Ice goes away but NONE of us can say for certain what the effects will be or when they will come. Some of us are scared silly & some are more of the persuasion to "wait and see". We all prepare in different ways depending on our attitudes. If a person grew up in Florida for example and moved to northern Minnesota, their first winter there would be catastrophic. The locals don't bother putting on long pants until the snow is over a foot deep. Buffalo NY almost NEVER cancels school for snow storms; I've seen schools close in PA on a forecast that never materialize.

The future is going to get here soon enough and it will bring surprises for all of us. People who live in stone houses shouldn't throw glasses. (Or something like that.)

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