As climate change strikes with ever greater ferocity, five henchmen dominate the news: Storm, Flood, Heat, Smoke and Fire.
During the first 6 months of 2021, there have been 8 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events across the United States. The U.S. has sustained 298 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2020). The total cost of these 298 events exceeds $1.975 trillion. The total cost over the last 5 complete years (2016-2020) exceeds $630.0 billion — averaging more than $125.0 billion/year — both new records.
The image on the right shows very high temperatures over North America end July 2021, with fire radiative power as high as 247.3 MW.
The NASA Worldview satellite image below shows large smoke plumes on July 7, 2021, reaching Hudson Bay. Furthermore, large smoke plumes are also visible over British Columbia.
The NASA Worldview satellite image below shows smoke traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast of the U.S. on July 26, 2021.
The Copernicus image on the right shows Siberian fires spreading aerosols over the Arctic Ocean on August 2, 2021
The NASA Worldview satellite image underneath on the right shows fires (red dots) in Siberia spreading smoke over the Arctic Ocean on August 2, 2021.
Mainstream media do cover such disasters, often with sensational footage and while pointing at the extensive damage and loss of life caused by such events.
However, mainstream media rarely point out that climate change is getting worse and and even more so due to feedbacks
that can amplify extreme weather events and can further speed up how climate change unfolds.
One of these feedbacks is albedo loss, i.e. decline of the snow and ice cover resulting in less sunlight getting reflected back into space.
Fires also come with soot that can settle on snow and ice, resulting in surface darkening that will speed up melting and albedo loss.
The rapid thinning of Arctic sea ice was discussed in an earlier post
and is again illustrated by the Naval Research Lab animation on the right.
As the temperature difference between the North Pole and the Equator narrows, the wind flowing north on the Northern Hemisphere slows down, which changes the Jet Stream, resulting in more extreme weather events, including heatwaves and fires.
One of the most dangerous feedbacks is that, as temperatures in the Arctic rise at accelerating speed, this will destabilize sediments under the Arctic Ocean where huge amounts of methane are stored, threatening to cause huge quantities of methane to erupt the atmosphere.
This threat has been discussed in many earlier posts such as this one
and this one
This threat becomes dramatically larger as the latent heat threshold gets crossed and the buffer constituted by Arctic sea ice disappears, so further heat entering the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean can no longer be consumed in the process of melting the subsurface sea ice.
Ominously, the MetOp-2 satellite recorded methane levels as high as 2839 ppb at 469 mb on July 30, 2021 pm, as the image on the right shows.
The image underneath shows how methane levels over the Arctic Ocean at 293 mb on August 1, 2021 pm, while a mean global methane level of 1940 ppb was recorded. At a 1-year Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 200, this translates into 388 ppm CO₂e.
This 388 ppm CO₂e is almost as high as the mean global carbon dioxide level is at the moment.
A GWP of 200 for methane
is appropriate in the light of the danger of a huge burst of methane erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, which would, due to the abrupt nature of such an eruption, make its impact felt instantaneously.
Methane levels are already very high over the Arctic, so additional methane erupting there will be felt most strongly in the Arctic itself, thus threatening to trigger even further methane releases.
The situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan
• NOAA Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Time Series
• Copernicus – aerosols
• MetOp methane levels
• Heatwaves and the danger of the Arctic Ocean heating up
• Arctic sea ice disappearing fast
• When will we die?
• Most Important Message Ever