Saturday, 28 March 2015

Methane levels reached 2619 ppb in January

Here is an analysis of the high methane levels that have been observed early this year that correspond with a record thin Arctic ice for winter.

Whilst the situation doesn't look quite the same as the handwritten graph that I drew last weekend the situation remains dire.

On a very superficial reading of this this seems to be the most important point

From January 1 to March 20, 2015, methane levels reached levels as high as 2619 ppb (on January 12, 2015), while peak daily levels averaged 2373 parts per billion (ppb). At the start of the year, global mean methane levels typically reach their lowest point, while highest mean levels are typically reached in September

There is absolutely no doubt that the process of methane emissions is accelerating.

The worry is that in the case of a blue water event this summer there could conceivably be a warming of the ocean leading to the methane burb talked of by Natalia Shakhova.

Methane Levels Early 2015



27 March, 2015



Below is a comparison of highest mean methane readings between three years, i.e. 2013, 2014 and 2015, at selected altitudes on March 10. The comparison indicates that the increase of methane in the atmosphere is accelerating, especially at higher altitudes.


The table below shows the altitude equivalents in mb (millibar) and feet.

56925 feet 44689 feet 36850 feet 30569 feet 25543 feet 19819 feet 14383 feet 8367 feet 1916 feet
74 mb 147 mb 218 mb 293 mb 367 mb 469 mb 586 mb 742 mb 945 mb


This rise in global mean methane levels appears to go hand in hand with much higher peak readings, especially at higher altitudes.







From January 1 to March 20, 2015, methane levels reached levels as high as 2619 ppb (on January 12, 2015), while peak daily levels averaged 2373 parts per billion (ppb). At the start of the year, global mean methane levels typically reach their lowest point, while highest mean levels are typically reached in September. Highest daily global mean methane levels for the period from January 1, 2015, to March 20, 2015, ranged from 1807 ppb (January 6, 2015) to 1827 ppb (March 5, 2015).

Further study of the locations with high methane levels indicates that much of the additional methane appears to originate from releases at higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, in particular from the Arctic Ocean, from where it is over time descending toward the equator (methane will typically move closer to the equator over time as it rises in altitude, as discussed in this earlier post).


The largest source of additional methane appears to be emissions from the seabed of the Arctic Ocean. Annual emissions from hydrates were estimated to amount to 99 Tg annually in a 2014 post (image below).









The image below, based on data from the IPCC and the World Metereological Organization (WMO), with an added observation from a NOAA MetOp satellite image, illustrates the recent rise of methane levels and the threat that methane levels will continue to rise rapidly.




What causes these methane eruptions?

Methane eruptions from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean appear to be primarily caused by rising ocean heat that is carried by the Gulf Stream into the Arctic Ocean. The image below shows sea surface temperatures of 20.9°C (69.62°F, green circle left) recorded off the coast of North America on March 14, 2015, an anomaly of 12.3°C (36.54°F).

[ click on image to enlarge ]

Furthermore, both methane eruptions from the Arctic Ocean seafloor and demise of the Arctic sea ice and snow cover are feedbacks that can interact and amplify each other in non-linear ways, resulting in rapid and intense temperature rises, as illustrated by the image below.

Diagram of Doom - for more background, see Feedbacks

How high could temperatures rise?

Worryingly, a non-linear trend is also contained in the temperature data that NASA has gathered over the years, as described in an earlier post. A polynomial trendline points at global temperature anomalies of over 4°C by 2060. Even worse, a polynomial trend for the Arctic shows temperature anomalies of over 4°C by 2020, 6°C by 2030 and 15°C by 2050, threatening to cause major feedbacks to kick in, including albedo changes and methane releases that will trigger runaway global warming that looks set to eventually catch up with accelerated warming in the Arctic and result in global temperature anomalies of 16°C by 2052

[ click on image to enlarge ]
Action

The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.

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