Can we weather the Danger Zone?

[ click on image to enlarge ]

As an earlier Arctic-news analysis shows, Earth may have long crossed the 1.5°C guardrail set at the Paris Agreement.

Earth may have already been in the Danger Zone since early 2014. This is shown by the image on the right associated with the analysis, which is based on NASA data that are adjusted to reflect a preindustrial baseline, air temperatures and Arctic temperatures.

As the added 3rd-order polynomial trend shows, the world may also be crossing the higher 2°C guardrail later this year, while temperatures threaten to keep rising dramatically beyond that point.

What is the threat?

As described at the Threat, much carbon is stored in large and vulnerable pools that have until now been kept stable by low temperatures. The threat is that rapid temperature rise will hit vulnerable carbon pools hard, making them release huge amounts of greenhouse gases, further contributing to the acceleration of the temperature rise.

Further release of greenhouse gases will obviously further speed up warming. In addition, there are further warming elements that could result in very rapid acceleration of the temperature rise, as discussed at the Extinction page.

The Danger Zone

Below are some images illustrating just how dire the situation is, illustrating how vulnerable carbon pools are getting hit exactly as feared they would be with a further rise in temperature.

On July 5, 2018, it was as hot as 33.5°C or 92.3°F on the coast of the Arctic Ocean in Siberia (at top green circle, at 72.50°N). Further inland, it was as hot as 34.2°C or 93.5°F (at bottom green circle, at 68.6°N).

The satellite image below shows smoke from fires over parts of Siberia hit strongly by heat waves.

The fires caused carbon monoxide levels as high as 20,309 ppb over Siberia on July 3, 2018.

Methane levels that day were as high as 2,809 ppb.

On July 4, 2018, forest fires near the Lena River cause smoke over the Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea. CO (see inset) and CO₂ levels that day were as high as 45080 ppb and 724 ppm (at the green circle), as illustrated by the image below.

The Copernicus image below shows aerosol forecasts for July 4, 2018, 21:00 UTC, due to biomass burning.

Another Copernicus forecast shows high ozone levels over Siberia and the East Siberian Sea.

EPA 8-hour ozone standard is 70 ppb and here’s a report on recent U.S. ozone levels. See Wikipedia for more on the strong local and immediate warming impact of ozone and how it also makes vegetation more vulnerable to fires.

The global 10-day forecast (GFS) below, run on July 3, 2018, with maximum 2 meter temperature, shows that things may get even worse over the coming week or more.

Could we move out of the Danger Zone?

What can be done to improve this dire situation?

One obvious line of action is to make more effort to reduce emissions that are causing warming. There’s no doubt that this can be achieved and has numerous benefits, as described in an earlier post. Emission cuts can be achieved by implementing effective policies to facilitate changes in energy use, in diet and in land use and construction practices, etc.

One complication is that the necessary transition away from fossil fuel is unlikely to result in immediate falls in temperatures. This is the case because there will be less sulfur in the atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space. Furthermore, there could also be an increase in biomass burning, as discussed at the Aerosols page, while the full wrath of recent carbon dioxide emissions is yet to come. As said, the resulting rise in temperature threatens to trigger numerous feedbacks that could accelerate the temperature rise even further. For more on how much temperatures could rise, see the Extinction page.

While it’s clear that – besides emission cuts – further action is necessary, such as removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans, the prospect is that such removal will have to continue for decades and decades to come before it can bring greenhouse gases down to safer levels. To further combat warming, there are additional lines of action to be looked at, but as long as politicians remain reluctant to even consider pursuing efforts to reduce emissions, we can expect that the world will be in the Danger Zone for a long time to come.

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.


• How much warmer is it now?

• 100% clean, renewable energy is cheaper

• Feedbacks

• How much warming have humans caused?

• IPCC seeks to downplay global warming

• The Threat

• Extinction

• Aerosols

• How extreme will it get?

• Climate Plan

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