Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Report: Towards first Arctic blue sea event

Annual Average Extent 18—25 June

26 June, 2016
All in all this little chart illustrates how we are well on our way to the lowest year ever for Arctic sea ice extent:

For the fresh follower of Arctic sea ice, this plot may seem strange and even counter–intuitive. We're approaching high summer, and yet the 2013 graph is going up and up! What's up with that? Well, on June 25 2013 we had 10.2m km2 sea ice, while on June 25 2012 there was 9.5. This makes the 2013 annual average extent rise on June 25th, as that last day out of 365 that make up the annual average, has more ice than the year before. On September 1 the gap has widened, so the rise is even steeper: 2013 had 5m and 2012 3.5.

2016 is about .6m km2 lower than last year, so its AAE graph is falling fast. The graph is already as low as 2012 for late October, but a full 4 months earlier in the year. The significance is 2016 could continue its fall for 4 more months and be way lower than 2012 in late October, as long as the current ice extent stays well below that of 2015.

Annual Average Extent (AAE): From the last update at about 10.02 million km² on 17th June, we've lost about 9700 km² from the AAE in just 8 days, which was 7 days earlier than the expected timespan of July 2—6.

In detail, daily extent went from 9,870,723 km² on 17th June to 9,250,571 km² on 25th June, compared to 10,110,833 and 9,817,719 the year before, giving a relative loss of 327,038 km². The average decline in AAE over these 8 days has been 1209 km²/day, which means we've been on average 441,000 km² lower than last year in daily extent.

The next 10,000 km² line is 10 and expected on July 1—3.

JAXA Annual Average Extent for 2015 as a whole was 4th lowest at 10.11 million km², and by mid July we may be lowest ever at about 9.98 million km². For the first time in 4 years we may end up lowest ever on December 31st.

2013 is currently the only lower year, and we're on a clear path into uncharted territory. It's now virtually certain that 2016 will be lowest during July. Some very interesting times ahead, with the best chances yet for a Blue Ocean event in the early autumn.

The next major milestone of the Arctic sea ice collapse is 10 million km² AAE, and expected on July 1—7.

Why watch the Arctic sea ice?

While the area around the North Pole is a cold and relatively barren place, compared to eg. the Amazon rainforest (although the ocean underneath the ice is teaming with life), the fate of the Arctic sea ice to a large degree seals the fate of the Amazon rainforest — whether it will eventually go up in flames or not — and not the other way around. Put short it decides the fate of our global climate, no less.

In contrast to the land–based area around the South Pole, the opposite pole consists of sea ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean, which makes it an excellent indicator for our rapidly changing global climate.
Why watch the Arctic sea ice in 2016?
Well, for a number of reasons.
* After the first 177 days of the year, 2016 is already lowest ever in average extent.
* 2016 even had the lowest ever extent for June 25th.
* For the first time in 4 years the full annual average extent (on Dec 31) may be lowest ever.
* September minimum extent may go lowest ever in 2016.
* There's even an off–chance that humanity's first ever Blue Ocean event will happen in September.

Why isn't the Arctic sea ice frontpage news everywhere?
Well, they've all got their reasonings and motivations for focusing elsewhere, haven't they. And besides; constantly reporting on the retreating Arctic sea ice goes against a number of news criteria, such as:

* it happens far away from us
* it is a relatively slow and un–eventful process
* it's not really a very positive or optimistic message for our readers and advertisers
* it's complicated and too scientific

"It's Complicated"
This chart may give you a hint as to why it is 'complicated':

2016 has now had the lowest ever extent for 88 days straight, since late March. Chart also shows how rare these prolonged periods are, with most of the record–lows lasting only a week or two. 2012 has an 83–day lowest lead in July–October, but can it survive THIS melting season?
During a year the extent of the ice goes up and down because of the seasons. For parts of the year, 2012 may have the lowest ice extent, but for other weeks even 2006 may be lowest. For most of the days of the year, anyone may interject that "extent was lower in year 20–X", and be correct.

To simplify the picture for reporters and their editors, these annual fluctuations may be straightened out into an annual average extent. Currently, this average stands at 10 million square kilometers of sea ice extent.

Going lowest in 2016?
On this chart for the annual average extent, you can see 2016 moving rapidly towards that 'lowest ever' position:

It may happen this very summer, first going lowest, lower than 2013, and then perhaps even going ice–free, in humanity's first ever Blue Ocean event?
Sea ice leaving the Arctic Ocean entirely in late summer could be the Brexit of the Arctic, throwing markets into a dangerous turmoil, as such a Blue Ocean event could mean our so–called Carbon Budget is gone forever. There's no way we can stop global warming at 2C with an ice–free Arctic. Such an attempt to stay below 2C would close down all industry, shipping and aviation globally and crash every financial market. For the sea ice itself, it would surely mean longer and longer periods every summer would be ice–free for the years to come, trapping ever more insolation and heat in the Arctic Ocean. A strong self–reinforcing feedback, rendering every last human attempt to control global warming more or less futile.

Thanks Harold Hensell
Arctic Ice  - 06 27 2016

This is on the NE tip of Greenland. 

The ice is flowing through what is called the Fram Strait into the Greenland Sea. This is a fairly cloudless view. 

It is hard to get perspective from a long distance satellite view. 

Notice the ice berg about to come around the bend on the upper left of this image . 

Think of a town about 50 miles away. This is about the size of this "chunk."

Paul Beckwith on Methane Emissions From Arctic Ocean Seafloor

Methane Emissions From Arctic Ocean Seafloor

Paul Beckwith

I discuss a recently published paper (May, 2016) titled "Effects of climate change on methane emissions from seafloor sediments: A review".

Rapidly declining sea ice and snow cover is darkening the Arctic, leading to large temperature amplification. I talk about some of the paper highlights, and how a warmer, wavier and more open Arctic is leading to many physical and geochemical processed that are causing increased methane concentrations in both the water column and the atmosphere.

Wellington City Council identifies threats and the public scoffs

The only one that is not CERTAIN to happen in our lifetimes is the major earthquake. Climate Change and Financial Shocks are already happening and becoming more urgent every day

The problem is not so much with this partial response from the City Council but with a public that is determined to stay ignorant.

Only 6 per cent agreed with me that climate change is a problem.

How many people do I have with me if I say ABRUPT climate change is THE problem.

If you’re in any doubt about this read the comments.

This is the first one:

"Seems the insurance industry has been successful in creating the fear factor that will earn them billions of dollars in premiums every year until every old building in Wellington has been demolished. Even the City Council has fallen for the scam. Creating a psyche of fear is the easiest way to have absolute control. Wellington is no more at risk of a large earthquake than any other city in the world. What a load of BS"

The Powers-That-Be have done such a fabulous job in the last 30 years of dumbing down the population that now they are UN- EDUCATABLE.

Capital concern: The four major events that could spell doom for Wellington

Wellington has identified the four big threats to its prosperity, which it needs to plan for.
Wellington has identified the four big threats to its prosperity, which it needs to plan for.

28 June, 2016

A devastating earthquake, the rising frequency of storms and sea levels, a massive economic downturn and an Auckland-style housing crisis – these are the things that could bring Wellington to its knees.
These four major "shocks" have been identified as the most significant threats to the capital's future prosperity by a collective of Wellington City Council staff, business people, utility providers, scientists, academics, health workers and volunteers from across the region.
The Resilient Wellington report forms part of the capital's role as part of the global network of 100 cities, including Christchurch, working to share knowledge that will protect them from physical, social, and economic disasters


A major earthquake was "undeniably" the most profound shock Wellington has experienced in the past, and will experience in the future, the report found.
If the Wellington fault, which cleaves Wellington and Hutt Valley, suffered a large rupture then the capital's CBD could have no power for 95 days, no waste disposal for 75 days and no road access for 120 days, although the Transmission Gully motorway could significantly improve things.
A separate report recently estimated some suburbs would also be disconnected from the water network for 100 days.
These recovery times could force business to relocate outside of the region, particularly if it was going to take almost 100 days to restore power to the central city, the report said.
"In practical terms, this means that supermarkets will not be stocked, car use will not be viable beyond individual suburbs and the CBD will not function."
A devastating earthquake like the one that hit Christchurch in 2011 is the top concern for Wellington. 

Other events, such as a tsunami and fires in urban areas, could also be triggered by a big quake.
The report found Wellington was poorly-perpared for post-quake fires as the response would be hampered by a lack of water and traffic congestion.
About 5500 buildings in Wellington's CBD have been assessed and 720 have been deemed earthquake-prone.

A big Wellington earthquake could potentially cause $12 billion in building and infrastructure damage in the capital, and an annual GDP loss of $10b, the report said.
Scientists estimate the last big movement of the Wellington fault occurred between 300 and 500 years ago – long before the capital as we know it existed. If it happened today, the rupture could lower some areas by a metre.
Storms are likely to become more prevalent, causing major disruptions in some areas.


Climate change is also likely to trigger greater frequency and intensity of river and coastal flooding, land-slides, high-veolcity winds and disease outbreaks across the Wellington region, according to the report.
"Events, like storms and related flooding, will be faced by some parts of Wellington - Hutt city in particular - on a regular basis and will be a significant source of disruption to the region."
While Wellington's geography was well-suited to drain heavy rainfall, the floor of the Hutt Valley was not, which would mean flooding in areas where there is already extensive development, and plenty more to come, the report said.

It also pointed out that while much of Wellington was already constructed for dealing with strong winds, climate change may also change the nature of wind, and the city did not yet know what that would mean for its infrastructure.
Wellington has extensive amounts of residences, businesses and roads that are vulnerable to rising tides and coastal erosion. The capital's south coast and the suburb of Kilbirnie, along with the Lower Hutt suburbs of Eastbourne and Petone, are thought to be most at risk from sea level rise.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the issue was being looked at now, as a matter of urgency
Global economic uncertainty, such as the recent concern caused by Brexit, is also something Wellington is wary of. Photo: Supplied


Wellington needs to make sure it economy was diverse enough have the ability to respond to financial shocks like the Global Financial Crisis and the more recent uncertainty created by Brexit.
Wade-Brown said the city also needed the tools to large increases in unemployment or people going to food banks
Natural disasters feature in the discussion here too,with the report pointing to Government contingency plans to move to Auckland if Wellington is too incapacitated.
Wade-Brown said Wellington was also home to a lot of jobs on the periphery of Government, such as policy analysts, which could also follow.
"If Government has gone somewhere else then guess where the policy analysts are going to go."
Wellington is keen to see avoid its house prices getting out of control. Photo: Fairfax NZ


Wade-Brown said housing affordability was also a concern for the council. It wanted to learn more about Wellington so it could avoid heading down the path that has seen Auckland house prices soar out of the reach of many.
"I think it's pretty simple that somehow we've got to get more housing built here."
Outside of council and state-owned housing, Wellington does not have a deep understanding of how safe, warm and affordable its housing stock is, the report said.
"However we do know that homes are damp and draughty, with consequential health issues."
The report found about 6000 households in Wellington spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.
This group was considered most vulnerable to housing market pressures, while some were already experiencing rental stress.


Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett, who is also chairman of the region's emergency management group, said the report highlighted the need to get on with critical water and roading infrastructure projects across the region
"Wellington's biggest threat is a catastrophic disaster that cuts of the city's lifelines and makes it impossible to run Government, which could then move to Auckland and we struggle to get it back."
Wade-Brown said Wellington had already assessed about 5000 buildings for seismic risk, strengthened water reservoirs and council housing, and painted tsunami warning lines in vulnerable suburbs.
"So it's not like we've been sitting there, doing nothing and waiting for this report."
Mike Mendonca​​, the city council's chief resilience officer, said Wellington's future planning, particularly when it came to earthquakes, would focus on "thriving" rather than just surviving.
"We're trying to think about what the key things are that we need to do in order to thrive faster than Canterbury has done."


* The resilience report will be debated by city councillors on Wednesday.
* If they agree with the areas of focus, then solutions will be drawn up and presented to councillors in September
* Funding for those solutions will then be discussed

Ireland 'breaking EU law' if it abandons water charges

One straight-speaking anti-austerity Irish politician says it how it is.

Richard Boyd Barrett speaking on the vote for the UK to leave the EU

There is a dishonest narrative going around that all leave voters in the UK are racist

Richard Boyd Barrett slams the EU as an undemocratic force that is causing the problems such as racism and xenophobia due to its policies of brutal austerity.

There are of course racist and xenophobic forces that we must oppose in the strongest possible was and defeat.

We must look at who funds the remain campign- Goldman Sachs, Citi Group, Morgan Stanley and the Hedge Funds of London- the very same groups that caused the financial crisis which the policy of austerity protects.

The EU has slaughtered the people of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland and also the refugees who are being sent to Turkey where they are being shot.

'There is no going back on water charges' - EU
There is no going back on water charges, the EU Commission has said in its clearest statement on the controversy to date.

27 June, 2014

Ireland is breaking EU law if the Dáil seeks to abandon charging as is expected after a nine month consultation period agreed in the Programme for Government.
In reply to a Parliamentary Question from MEP Marian Harkin, the European Commission said Ireland “made a clear commitment to set up water charges” and there is no provision “whereby it can revert to any previous practice”.

The statement is the clearest yet on water charges and suggests that Ireland could be left open to significant EU fines unless a billing system is implemented.
The Commission said that Ireland is signed up to Article 9(4) of the Framework Directive which sets down “strict conditions”.

It says that a member state wishing to avail for flexibility under this provision needed to take a decision on what constituted an “established practice”.

On the contrary, in the said plans, Ireland made a clear commitment to set up water charges to comply with the provisions of Article 9(1).

Ireland subsequently applied water charges and the Commission considers that the Directive does not provide for a situation whereby it can revert to any previous practice,” the Commission said.

The statement is likely to reignite the war of words over water charges.

Fianna Fáil has claimed that it has legal advice which says that Ireland can legally scrap water charges.

However, Fine Gael continues to say that water charges cannot be reversed and recently Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that despite all the protests people will eventually end up paying for domestic water.

Legislation that allows for the suspension of water charges for nine months is to be debated in the Dáil later this month.

It will allow for the setting up of a Commission which will make recommendations on the future of water charges.

Nature Bats Last – 06.28.16

NBL interviews editor of the 


We enjoyed a rollicking conversation with Scott Dikkers, founder and editor-in-chief of The Onion. We took a couple of excellent calls, too, and finished the show with a climate-change update.

The greening of the Arctic

Thanks to climate change, 

the Arctic is turning green

By Chris Mooney

Using 29 years of data from Landsat satellites, researchers at NASA have found extensive greening in the vegetation across Alaska and Canada. Rapidly increasing temperatures in the Arctic have led to longer growing seasons and changing soil for plants. (Cindy Starr/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)
27 June, 2016

Earlier this month, NASA scientists provided a visualization of a startling climate change trend — the Earth is getting greener, as viewed from space, especially in its rapidly warming northern regions. And this is presumably occurring as more carbon dioxide in the air, along with warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons, makes plants very, very happy.

Now, new research in Nature Climate Change not only reinforces the reality of this trend — which is already provoking debate about the overall climate consequences of a warming Arctic — but statistically attributes it to human causes, which largely means greenhouse gas emissions (albeit with a mix of other elements as well).

The roughly three-decade greening trend itself is apparent, the study notes, in satellite images of “leaf area index” — defined as “the amount of leaf area per ground area,” as Robert Buitenwerf of Aaarhus University in Denmark explains in a commentary accompanying the study — across most of the northern hemisphere outside of the tropics, a region sometimes defined as the “extratropics.” Granted, there are a few patches in Alaska, Canada and Eurasia where greening has not been seen.

Starting from this set of observations, the researchers, led by Jiafu Mao of Oak Ridge National Laboratory but including 18 others from multiple institutions in the United States, France, and China, conducted what scientists call a detection and attribution” study. This is an experiment in which differing sets of climate model runs are used to determine whether a particular event or change — ranging from an extreme heat wave, to a coral bleaching event, to a major trend like Arctic greening — is more likely to happen in simulations that include human greenhouse gas emissions, than it is to happen in those that do not.

Sure enough, the greenhouse-gas filled computer simulations looked much more like the satellite observations than did simulations that only included natural variability. The study therefore concludes that “the trend of strengthened northern vegetation greening … can be rigorously attributed, with high statistical confidence, to anthropogenic forcings, particularly to rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.”

While this formal detection and attribution appears to be new, the report is at least the third study in the past several months alone to highlight northern hemisphere greening and to reinforce this basic conclusion. It’s one that has often been celebrated by climate change skeptics and contrarians who have long contended that global warming won’t be all bad, and that plants might help offset any global warming trend.

We first find this kind of human fingerprint … particularly the greenhouse gas impact, on this kind of enhanced vegetation growth,” says Mao, the study’s lead author.

The researchers also dove in more closely to try to determine precisely why so much greening is happening in the Northern Hemisphere’s colder latitudes. Sure enough, the overall trend was tied to warmer temperatures, although in areas where greening was missing, declining precipitation trends seemed to partly explain the result as well. (The study did not discuss whether growing wildfires in northern forests may also be countering greening in some areas.)

Another factor enhancing plant growth, meanwhile, seems to be more human-induced falling of nitrogen out of the atmosphere, as we have amped up the global nitrogen cycle with our fertilizers and our fossil fuels (nitrogen also can enhance plant growth).

In his accompanying essay evaluating the research, Aarhus University’s Buitenwerf praises the study but notes that in some ways, the current satellite-based approach represents a blunt instrument. An examination of total leaf area, he notes, doesn’t record whether a particular area has changed its type of vegetation, say from smaller tundra shrubs to small trees.

Buitenwerf also notes that the science is less clear about what is happening in the global tropics and in the Southern Hemisphere, where greening trends are either less apparent, or more difficult to explain.

Still, the subtext of all of this research is clear — a key fraction of all the greenhouse gases that humans pour into the atmosphere each year is pulled back into plants through the process of photosynthesis. This is happening even as the overall warming of the planet may, by lengthening growing seasons and moistening the atmosphere, further stoke plant growth. They don’t call it the “greenhouse effect” for nothing.

The key question then becomes how much this process can offset overall global warming over time. And that’s quite unclear.

There’s a lot, after all, that we don’t understand. For instance, a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report found that while Arctic tundras have indeed been greening over the past 30 years, in the past two to four years, that trend has reversed itself.

Although we already identify this kind of human impact on this historical vegetation growth, for the future, it’s hard to predict,” says Mao. He said he is not sure to what extent the greening trend will continue, as “disturbances” like wildfires might counteract it, or plants may become “acclimated to this kind of high temperature.”

Still, the trend is already prompting more optimistic assessments of our climate future in some quarters. Arctic greening was recently cited, in a major report by the U.S. Geological Survey, as the central reason that the state of Alaska, despite worsening wildfires and more thaw of permafrost, might still be able to stow away more carbon than it loses over the course of the 21st century.

It is clear, then, that greening is emerging as a factor with the potential to blunt some of the worst impacts of human greenhouse gas emissions. But thus far, researchers do not seem to be arguing that it’s enough to counterbalance the entire human-induced warming trend.

While we are perhaps lucky that CO2 has this effect on plant physiology, in addition to being a greenhouse gas, it is not our ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to our ongoing emissions of CO2,” climate scientist Richard Betts of the U.K.’s Hadley Centre wrote recently.

Instead, global greening is perhaps better taken as yet another indicator, visible from space, of how much we are causing the Earth to change.

Given the strong evidence provided here of historical human induced greening in the northern extratropics, society should consider both intended and unintended consequences of its interactions with terrestrial ecosystems and the climate system,” the new study concludes.