March & April 2024 climate extremes threaten doom

If we don’t reverse the climate system’s growing energy imbalance it will soon drive us over the lethal fall into global mass extinction

ALL the global climate indicators are at or near all-time records so extreme that by September last year staid climate professionals have called the readings “gobsmackingly bananas.” — a phrase that is now in common usage in the climate science community. To some, the readings spell doom is nigh. But, here, i’m with the Guardian’s Fiona Katsaukas and her friend in the green shirt.

These gobsmacking records bear witness that Earth’s climate system has shifted into a new kind of rapidly evolving climate regime that is not encompassed or anticipated by existing climate forecasting models (at least not before 2050…). Every month since September has set new, still more extreme records.ALL the global climate indicators are at or near all-time records so extreme that by September last year staid climate professionals have called the readings “gobsmackingly bananas.” — a phrase that is now in common usage in the climate science community. These records bear witness that Earth’s climate system has shifted into a new kind of rapidly evolving climate regime that is not encompassed or anticipated by existing climate forecasting models (at least not before 2050…). Every month since September has set new, still more extreme records.

In 1985, the renowned planetary systems scientist and cosmologist (also one of the best communicators of hard science to the public the world has known), Karl Sagan addressed the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Hazardous Wastes and Toxic Substances hearing on the greenhouse effect to explain the then scientific understanding of global warming. The 17 minute video on YouTube of his speech is extracted here by C-SPAN. C-SPAN also has the full 2 hour, 24 min video of the hearing. I mention this to triply underline the fact that the science of global warming and its consequences was already clearly understood four decades ago. The only fault in Sagan’s exposition is that the predicted dire consequences are happening sooner than he anticipated. This is still a common problem in climate science today where most climatologists trained in maths or physics still fail to appreciate the importance of fundamental non-linearity and chaos of complex dynamical systems like climate. The existential emergency Sagan predicted for the latter half of the 21st Century has already started now.

Because the [greenhouse] effects occupy more than a human generation there is a tendency to say that they are not our problem. Of course, then nobody’s problem, not on my tour of duty, not on my term of office… It’s something for the next century. Let the next century worry about it. But the problem is that the greenhouse effect is one of them which have long time constants. If you don’t worry about it now, it’s too late later on; and so in this issue, as in so many other issues, we are passing on extremely grave problems for our children when the time to solve the problems if they can be solved at all is now.

Carl Sagan, 1985, transcribed from C-SPAN video [2:30-3:15]

Today’s screams heard now from continually breaking climate records are the realities anticipated 39 years ago in this address;

In my “Feb. 2024 climate extremes” report (published March 12) I review the records as they were being broken in the February peak of the global climate cycle. I am currently trying to finish an update on the first anniversary of setting continuous daily record high global sea surface temperatures. detailing the piling up energy flows through the climate system (as described by Sagan) from the time solar energy is absorbed in the climate system and is eventually emitted back to space in the form of infrared emissions leaving the Earth. I have posted the current state of the first part, “Considering the first anniversary of a new climate regime — Accelerating down the road to extinction in Earth’s Hothouse Hell?” in the Google Docs format (that everyone should be able to read). Completing this is difficult because many indicators are literally breaking records faster than I can write about them. The most important of these regularly breaking records is the daily average sea surface temperature (SST), which is the first place excess solar energy piles up in the climate system. On 9 May SST is still more than 0.1 °C above 2023’s 9 May record – the 423 day of continuous daily records. The graph below focuses mainly on the part of the years where this year’s record is on top of last year’s. Note that Sagan also predicted rapidly rising sea levels. Today’s Washington Post describes how the southeastern US is currently being affected by this rise (probably because hot water is being backed up in the slowing Gulf Stream).

However, so people can see the evidence that is driving us here in @VoteClimateOne to do what we can to fight the emergency, I have also been posting to X-Twitter, and I include a couple of samples here:

As ever increasing numbers of climate scientists and aware commentators are crying out that it is time to sound the emergency alarms and urgently mobilize to fight the global emergency while there is still some chance that with our far greater knowledge and more powerful science than Sagan knew about (he suggested that by now it would be too late to stop the inevitable catastrophic end), it might still be possible for us reverse the solar energy imbalance that is rapidly driving our planet’s temperatures towards runaway feedbacks that will ensure global mass extinction is truly under way before the end of the 21st Century.

Another new fact in today’s in box hit me in the face. The record high rate of increase in CO₂ causing a majority the backup of the solar energy that is cooking us is still ACCELERATING UPWARDS at a record high RATE OF ACCELERATION. To me this suggests that runaway warming driven by positive feedbacks with temperature has well and truly started. ‘Natural’ emissions are already coming out of the ground, permafrost, wetlands, forests, and oceans faster than we are reducing fossil fuel emissions.

I’m like the girl in the green shirt in Katsaukas’s cartoon. I think it is well and truly time to sound all the emergency alarms and start total global mobilization to fight the crisis. My knowledge and experience tell me that if enough of us are willing to accept the reality of the danger and work together as a disciplined emergency force, we have sufficient knowledge and technological prowess to turn off the road to extinction and find some way to sustain at least some of the living world we know today.

Born in 1939, I’m old enough to remember living in a blacked out house in Los Angeles, and then the successful ending of WWII in 1945 little more than 4 years after America mobilized and joined the war at the end of 1941. At least in 1941-42 Americans managed the kind of mobilization we need today. I think we might still be able to defeat the runaway warming enemy if we start soon enough and fight hard enough to find a place in a still sustainable biosphere. On the other hand, I’m as close to certain that if continue to avoid looking at the grim and (for some) terrifying reality in hopes of continuing with business as usual, we will be burning up in the midst of the worst global mass extinction (i.e., even worse than the End Permian extinction ~ 250 million years ago).

As well as learning about global mass extinction when I learned to read from my father’s university textbooks in geology and paleontology, I grew up in navy towns started university as a pre-engineering student before changing my major to zoology and earning my PhD in evolutionary biology as well as teaching a variety of genetic, organismic, systems and population biology courses. I also worked professionally as a radiation ecologist and for the last 17 years before ‘retiring’ I designed a variety of documentation and knowledge management systems for Australia’s then largest defense engineering company. There, my systems helped ensure the on-time, on-budget completion of the ~7 billion $AU ANZAC Ship Project. (This is one of the very few large defense projects in world history that did not end up years overdue and billions of dollars of cost overruns, thanks in good part to systems I designed specifically to solve the kinds of management and engineering change issues that defeat most large defense projects). Finally in retirement I have spent some 15 years researching and writing on the coevolution of humans and our technologies prior to deciding that doing what I could to address the climate crisis was far more important than finishing a book for a society doing nothing to save itself from extinction.

In we have thought a lot about what we can do to help the mobilization. It is clear that most governments in the world today are being run by fools, useful idiots, or puppets owned and led by already insanely rich fossil fuel and other special interests will do or say almost anything to gather more wealth. Political party discipline means that a majority government can be controlled by a handful of ‘strong’ party members and functionaries in leadership roles. For example, in Australia, the supposedly ‘climate friendly’ Labor majority government has just demonstrated its fealty to its puppet masters over effective climate action. has a two-pronged approach to try to change governments into supporters and even leaders of the climate emergency mobilization effort.

Given how urgent the need for action is, we hope to convince the puppets and other blockers that climate action is far more important and urgent than whatever benefits they gain from catering to the desires of their patrons and masters. However, this will take a massive effort – much more than just supplying truthful information that is easily ignored or actively denied. Minds might be changed if enough people piled on each and every recalcitrant parliamentarian – but this would take the concerted action of a large number of climate and environment action groups that has to this point not been forthcoming.

The other prong in the spear, is to actually replace enough of the recalcitrant parliamentarians with progressive community representatives or small party members who truly understand and accept the crisis and the need for action; and who are willing to put in the effort to get elected — to prevent either major party from forming a majority government. Not only will there be more sensible and effective parliamentarians, but any party forming government will have to listen to and compromise with genuine community representatives to do anything, even if this requires them to mobilize an effective climate action.

Our home page, ACT NOW, and TRAFFIC LIGHT VOTING explain how this all works, and provides examples of how we have addressed past elections. Hopefully all voters will have the chance to see and think about what these pages have to offer, and inform their voting decisions with the climate crisis in mind. As elections approach, CLIMATE SENTINEL NEWS will be providing frequent updates on the state of the climate and relevant political news.

Our grandchildren tell us all to “vote climate one” so they can have a happy future rather than the descent into Earth’s hothouse hell (like Sagan and most climate scientists until the last few months, the authors of the referenced paper have overestimated just how much time we have left for effective action).


Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Feb. 2024 climate extremes: Welcome to 2024 as we race down the road to Hothouse Earth

Rev. 0 – 11/03/2024!

2023 set new planetary extremes as our activities force global temperatures ever higher on the way to mass extinction. 2024 looks even worse! Soon humans will no longer be able to survive in the climate we are forging.

My featured image of the state of Earth’s oceans up to February 1 is already dated (see below). The world’s sea surface temperature is still rising and setting new records every day since 14 March last year and is within 4 days of overlapping last years’ unbroken sequence of record days. ClimateReanalyzer – updated daily – shows global average Sea Surface Temperatures for every day since Sept 1, 1981. (This web page also provides links to details on the methodologies used to compute these values.)

The implications of these observations is truly alarming when placed in the context of Earth’s climate system. Emergency mobilization of global action is required if we are to have any hope of avoiding the existential consequences of runaway warming that may have actually started. This level of action will require many individual sacrifices that governments and people prefer not to think about and will be reluctant to make. However, history shows (e.g., mobilization for WWII)1 that humans can and will unite and act if the reality of the threat is accepted and taken seriously.

What follows is no hoax! It is how universal physical laws work in the real world of our planet. Ignore the evidence at your peril, or accept reality and work to survive the impending apocalypse foretold. As will be explained, my featured image announces the existential threat all humanity faces from global warming – currently being largely ignored by politicians, press, and citizens.

March 13, 2024, when this year’s continuous all-time record heating builds on top of last year’s continuous-all time record heating, should be taken as our “Pearl Harbor Day“.

Hot oceans drive many potentially catastrophic changes to planetary climate.

Earth’s accelerating energy imbalance

Earth oceans are warming at a geologically prodigious rate that we can clearly see major changes in a human lifetime (Figure 1). This is because oceans are being flooded with excess energy much faster than they can lose it. The rising temperature has dire consequences. However, before presenting the consequences of ocean warming, we should understand what is causing the warming.

The average surface temperature of our planet (i.e., the biosphere) is determined by balance between the amount of (heat) energy it receives from all sources versus the amount of energy it loses to outer space as radiant heat.

The vast amount of energy received by the biosphere comes directly from the Sun, as “radiant energy“, mainly in the form of visible light. This varies only slightly over time, due to astronomical factors. There are also two very minor internal sources (“internal energy“) left over from Earth’s formation billions of years ago that I mention for completeness: (1) the decay of radioactive elements in the Earth’s body and (2) the residue heat from the conversion of gravitational potential energy into heat as our planet formed by condensation of small part of the solar nebula that also gave birth to the Sun. This internal energy, brought to the surface from below by conduction and volcanic activity, accounts for only about 0.03% of the total energy warming the surface.

Given that vacuums cannot conduct heat, and that gravity stops particles from carrying away energy (i.e., convection), the only way Earth can lose heat is by radiation. All objects warmer than absolute zero, including Earth, lose heat by “black-body” radiation. Objects close to absolute zero lose energy via microwave radiation. As the object’s temperature rises heat energy is able to escape at shorter (more energetic) wavelengths – with a growing percentage of energy at these shorter wavelengths. E.g., hot iron may be ‘red hot’; molten iron is literally ‘white hot’. The hottest stars actually radiate most of their energy at the blue end of the spectrum. Under normal circumstances surface temperature fluctuates up and down until there is a balance between the amount of radiant energy received by the surface and the amount energy radiated away.

At Planet Earth’s temperature, most heat is lost as relatively short wavelength infrared radiation, because ‘greenhouse gases‘ block some of the longer wavelengths (Wikipedia’s articles do a good job of explaining the physical laws and processes governing Earth’s energy budget). With no greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the average temperature of Earth’s surface would be about −18 °C, rather than the present average around 15 °C. As explained, for a given mix and concentration of greenhouse gases Earth’s average temperature will rise or fall until the same amount of energy (mainly in the form of infrared) is radiated to outer space as is received from the Sun (mainly in the form of visible light).

However, Figure 2 shows that is not the case today. Our planet is suffering from what is an extraordinarily rapidly growing energy imbalance that vastly exceeds anything that can be reconstructed from the last 150,000 year geological record of the planet. Currently, 93% of the excess energy is being stored by heating the Ocean. According to Trenberth and Cheng (2022),

About 93% of the extra heat from [Earth’s Energy Imbalance] ends up in the ocean as increasing ocean heat content (OHC). In 2022, the global OHC was the highest on record (Cheng et al 2022) and the global warming signal in OHC is large compared with the natural variability, unlike [Global Mean Surface Temperature], so that trends in OHC can be detected in four years….]

Read the complete article….
Figure 2. Base source: Shackleton et al. (2023). Benthic δ18O records Earth’s energy imbalance. Nature Geoscience. See Lopatka (2023). A new proxy for Earth’s past energy imbalance. Physics Today. for a short take on how these measurements were made. @Leon Simons’ X-Twitter thread presents what he calls “The most important graph in the world”, and explains the methodology in more detail.

Figure 3 below, shows that this imbalance is rapidly growing in the 21st Century, the latest reading (mid 2023) is around 5 times what it was in 2001. This imbalance is what is driving the rapid growth of sea-surface temperatures shown in Figure 1.

Figure 3a. Earth’s net radiation balance for February 2024 as measured by NASA’s CERES project. Some of the Sunlight that reaches Earth is reflected back to space by bright surfaces like clouds or ice. The rest is absorbed by the atmosphere, oceans, and land. This absorbed light is converted to heat, which the surface and atmosphere emit back to space. “Net radiation” is the total amount of absorbed sunlight and heat energy that does not escape from the top of the Earth’s atmosphere back into space.
Specifically, net radiation is the sum total of shortwave and longwave electromagnetic energy, at wavelengths ranging from 0.3 to 100 micrometers, that remains in the Earth system. The net radiation is the energy that is available to influence the climate. On a global scale, the net radiation must be zero or else the planet’s overall temperature must rise or fall.
These false-color maps show the net radiation (in Watts per square meter) that was contained in the Earth system for the given time period. Regions of positive net radiation have an energy surplus, and areas of negative net radiation have an energy deficit. The maps illustrate the fundamental imbalance between net radiation surpluses at the equator, where sunlight is direct year-round, and net radiation deficits at high latitudes, where direct sunlight is seasonal. This imbalance is the fundamental force that drives atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. (
Figure 3b. Rapidly accelerating growth in Earths Energy Imbalance during the 21st Century. @Leon Simons

The only thing that will forestall that flood of excess energy into the oceans making them even hotter is to reverse the imbalance by radically reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere allowing more heat to escape AND by reflecting more of the incident energy back to space before it is absorbed into the oceans.

Regarding reflection, Leon Simmons2 and others have shown that a reflective smog of sulfate aerosols produced by worldwide shipping burning dirty, sulfur-rich diesel fuel slowed ocean warming by a significant amount. This source of sulfur emissions largely stopped when the International Maritime Organization shipping regulations increasingly restricted sulfate emissions (see Hansen, Sato, Simons et al., 2023. Global warming in the pipeline. Oxford Open Climate Change). This unplanned experiment and the Mt Pinatubo eruption in 1991 demonstrated that sulfate aerosols could measurably reduce the amount of solar heat absorbed by Earth. However, given that the aerosol particles basically consist of concentrated sulfuric acid that eventually falls into the living biosphere to acidify land and ocean, sulfate aerosol production will probably cause more problems than the additional heating allowed by clean air. IPCC climate modeling grossly under represents the energy imbalance (Schmidt et al., 2023. CERESMIP: a climate modeling protocol to investigate recent trends in the Earth’s Energy Imbalance. Frontiers in climate; see also Leon Simons X-Twitter thread).

Ocean currents distribute excess heat from hottest areas to the rest of the planet. Far more heat energy enters the air via convection and increased humidity carrying latent heat in vaporized water from the oceans than is absorbed directly from Solar radiation. Heated land also contributes energy to the atmosphere via evaporation and convection.

Figure 4. European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) plot of global average temperatures at 2m above the ground from 1940 to date. The ECMWF reanalysis project ERA5 is a meteorological reanalysis project carried out by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). ERA5 has recently been released by ECMWF as part of Copernicus Climate Change Services. This product has higher spatial resolution (31 km) and covers the period from 1979 to present. Extension up to 1940 became available in 2023. – Wikipedia.
Figure 5. Grant Foster’s Adjusted Global Temperature Data removes the known effects of natural astronomical and geophysical effects on global average temperatures to show residual variations from other causes such as the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the global energy imbalance. Compare the strong upward acceleration beginning in 2001 observed in this graph, with the similar upward acceleration in preceding graph (Figure 3) of Earth’s Energy Imbalance.

Evidence the climate system is broken!

See the full thread

Figure 6a. On 18 February, the air temperature in Perth, Western Australia was so far beyond the kinds of record highs that can be expected from random variation around some “normal’ value for the time of the year that it was unimaginable — until it was recorded.

And then it was much hotter further up the Western Australian coast from Perth! See Sophie McNeil – 10 °C hotter in Canarvon and Shark Bay Airport; and based on satellite measurements, probably at least 14 °C hotter on the flatland inland of Shark Bay where there are no ground-based weather stations to record the measure. Closer to the boiling point of water than the freezing point! and well above temperatures where unprotected humans could survive. WeatherZone Business highlights these observations on their Instagram account.

Figure 6b. WeatherZone’s map, with Australian Bureau of Meteorology data Carnarvon Airport and Shark Bay Airport for 10 days as an inset. Given that the BOM’s reported dates for the official data apply to the preceding 24 hours, the actual peak temperatures would have occurred around 1 PM on the 17th of February.

This heating of the oceans (Figure 1) and atmosphere (Figures 4 and 5) caused by the energy imbalance is already causing a range of catastrophic extreme weather events around the world. However, before exploring these further we should first consider what causes the energy imbalance.

Global warming is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases emitted by and as a consequence of human activities.

Until the accelerating trends illustrated in the following graphs can be reversed to the point that the “increase” graphs extend into negative territory and the “concentration” curves begin to curve downward to show decreasing concentrations, physical laws determine that forcing of the energy imbalance (Figure 3) will continue to grow ever more lethal for the biosphere. The main forcing factor is the still accelerating rising concentration of infra-red blocking greenhouse gases.

Figure 7. Continuously growing concentrations of major greenhouse gas as a 10 February 2023 are amplified by increasing rates of growth. See Excepting only 3 years of the methane record, every year the concentration of each of the greenhouse gases has been hotter than the previous year, and generally by a larger amount than the previous years.

The record for direct CO2 measurements, a carbon dioxide concentration of 426.5 parts per million (ppm), was observed on Friday Feb. 3 2024 when the wind over Mauna Loa shifted to more northerly. This brought air in from North American and East Asian industrial areas thousands of miles upwind.

Figure 8. The Keeling Curve is a daily record of global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration maintained by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego – Note:  “On Saturday, Feb. 3, the daily Keeling Curve record was broken when instruments at Mauna Loa detected a carbon dioxide concentration of 426.5 parts per million (ppm). It was the first time in the modern record a daily reading had exceeded 425 ppm, though the annual peak does not typically take place until May. Since then, several daily readings have surpassed 425 ppm. The reading was also an increase of more than 4 ppm from the previous day’s. Scripps CO2 Program Director Ralph Keeling said that a shift in weather patterns played a role. “We attribute the large increase in CO2 that occurred from Feb. 2 to Feb. 3 to a strong wind shift, as a new weather system moved in,” Keeling said.  “Before this weather shift, the Mauna Loa Observatory was receiving air that had blown in from lower latitudes.  After the shift, the air was coming from northern latitudes, where CO2 is normally higher this time of year.  An upwards shift in CO2 was therefore to be expected.”- See also:

These measurements are made in many locations around the world as indicated on the following world map.

Figure 9. Locations where greenhouse gases are measured on a regular basis to track changes through time. Solid symbols are currently active measurement programs. Open symbols designate locations used in the past. –

Wherever in the world these trends are measured, the increasing concentrations of principal greenhouse gases show similar patterns. For example:

Figure 10. Recent growth in CO2 from pole to pole –
The figure shows daily averaged CO2 from four GML Atmospheric Baseline observatories; Barrow, Alaska (in blue), Mauna Loa, Hawaii (in red), American Samoa (in green), and South Pole, Antarctica (in yellow). The thick black lines represent the average of the smoothed seasonal curves and the smoothed, de-seasonalized curves for each of the records. These lines are a very good estimate of the global average levels of CO2. Details about how the smoothed seasonal cycle and trend are calculated from the daily data are available here.

The four locations in Figure 10 show relative decreases going from north to south. A majority of emissions are made in the Northern Hemisphere and a majority of the net draw-down into the biosphere occurs in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere.

Figure 11. Blue Curve: CO2 rate of change based on Mauna Loa Record. ● Black Curve: CO2 rate of change based on the Antarctic ice core record from Law Dome before 1958 (Macfarling Meure, C. et al., 2006: Law Dome CO2, CH4 and N2O ice core records extended to 2000 years BP. Geophysical Research Letters, 33.) and a seasonally detrended arithmetic average of monthly air measurements from Mauna Loa and the South Pole from the Scripps CO2 program after and including 1958. The records were combined without adjustment. Ice core data are rejected after 1958 which overlap direct measurements. The ice core data are interpolated to monthly resolution using a spline with a stiffness of 0.8. The curve is smoothed to suppress short-term interannual variability, for example, due to El Nino events. ● Red Curve: Fossil fuel CO2 emissions.
Mauna Loa and South Pole data from Scripps CO2 Program.

The way in which this excess heat is distributed around our planet has profound implications for the planetary biosphere and human survival in it as expressed in the inevitable weather and climate extremes as the world warms beyond our physiological limits of adaptation.

Ocean circulation is the major engine distributing excess heat around the planet.

We know a great deal about the dynamics of ocean heating and the distribution of heat through the international Argo Float program (see Fig. 12 for a link describing the Argo program). In addition to the direct physical measurements by Argo Floats, sea surface temperatures are also based on scans of the whole of the Earth’s surface by numerous satellites launched by several different countries.3

Figure 12. The global distribution of active floats in the Argo array. The program started around 2001. In Jan 2024 there were 3879 floats. Although the USA operated the majority, 23 other nations also provided and operated floats, making it a truly international endeavor. – explains what the floats can do and how the data they produce is processed.

Wikipedia’s Ocean Heat Content article explains how the ocean redistributes its heat content around the planet.

Figure 13. Ocean heat content (OHC) is the energy absorbed and stored by oceans. To calculate the ocean heat content, it is necessary to measure ocean temperature at many different locations and depths. Vast amounts are stored in the ocean depths that may continue driving extreme events for several to many years even if we achieve surface cooling.

Heat absorbed in the ocean is circulated around the planet by ocean currents, where much of it is transferred over time to the atmosphere by direct contact.

Figure 14. Leon Simons’s chart of rising global average temperatures (as measured in the air 2 m above the ground). Note: 1940 is the oldest year shown on this chart. Note that Copernicus.EU, the Earth observation component of the European Union’s Space program, offers information services that draw from satellite Earth Observation and in-situ (non-space) data. Their just released just released Climate Pulse app provides easy user access to surface air and sea surface temperature variations (charts of daily variation in absolute value or anomaly – similar to the above – by year and global maps of these variations by date, month, or year).

AMOC under threat

Earth’s ocean currents are critical in distributing and regulating heat over the entire planet. These currents are largely driven by temperature differences between polar and tropical waters. Although the Atlantic Ocean is smaller than the Pacific, the Atlantic circulation is probably the most important because it is the primary connection between the Arctic Ocean and the tropical regions. (The shallow Bering Strait between NE Asia and Alaska completely blocks the exchange of deep waters between the Pacific and the Arctic Ocean). Wikipedia explains in detail:

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is a system of surface-level and deep currents in the Atlantic Ocean which are driven both by changes in the atmospheric weather and thermohaline changes in temperature and salinity. These currents collectively make up one half of the global thermohaline circulation that encompasses the flow of major ocean currents. The other half is the Southern Ocean overturning circulation, and both play highly important roles in the climate system.

Also, the most extreme oceanic heating has taken place in the North Atlantic (where shipping traffic has been the most concentrated and where there has been the greatest reduction in sulfate emissions).

Hot water in the North Atlantic does two things:

  1. It warms the surface waters in the Arctic.
  2. Excess heat in the ocean and in the air heated by the ocean speeds the melting of glaciers to dilute the salinity of the ocean at their feet (and raise sea levels).

Both factors work together to reduce the density of the northern waters to the point that they are no longer able to sink below relatively dense mid-level waters to form the Atlantic Deep Water flowing back to the tropics, leaving the warm currents (e.g., the Gulf Stream) bringing heat up from the south no place to go, stopping the flow. Paradoxically, this blockage would probably allow NE North America and NW Europe to become extremely cold over winter.

Leon Simons’s thread below explains:

Figure 15. Follow Leon Simons’ Show more thread for a detailed summary of how these conclusions were reached, and discussion of consequences.

Marine dieoffs and the collapse of marine ecosystems

As the oceans rapidly grow hotter, we’ll soon see the extinction of keystone coral species and collapses of ecosystems they support. Not only will we lose many species but their rotting remains will emit greenhouse gases such as CO2 and poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas…. The additional CO2 emissions will add to positive feedback increasing the energy imbalance –> global heating –> sea surface temperature.

In Australia and elsewhere, other than coral bleaching and death (e.g., the Guardian’s latest – Bleaching fears along 1,000km stretch of the Great Barrier Reef), we are also seeing dieoffs of mangrove, sea grass, and kelp. For several years we have known these were happening, but as the ocean continues to warm, the die-offs will take place faster and more comprehensively until the species (and the ecosystems they support) are lost entirely (i.e., become extinct).

Ice melting and sea-level rises

Warm oceans carry prodigious amounts of heat into polar zones, to substantially increase the rate of ice melting and raising polar temperatures to slow and eventually stop re-freezing. There is ample evidence for a greatly increased rate of melting.

Figure 16. Global sea-ice extent was at its lowest level for the year on 31 January ( This uses the same database is the US National Snow and Ice Data Center’s (NSIDC) Charctic application does, but with the addition of Global (here), Anomaly, and Deviation versions of the graph.

Antarctic sea ice extent is currently very close to its all-time low recorded last year. As of March 1, this year’s extent passed its low point as second lowest ever and has now risen to 4th lowest . In any case, at an extent of only 2 million km2 the Antarctic Ocean will not be reflecting much heat away from the planet.

Figure 17. Antarctic sea-ice extent at its lowest level for the year on 17-18 February (

Warming produces melt-water that lubricates the sliding of ice into a hot ocean

Figure 18. Dawson et al., 19 Jan. 2024. Heterogeneous Basal Thermal Conditions Underpinning the Adélie-George V Coast, East Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters.
East Antarctica’s Adélie-George V Land has been relatively stable over the last few decades. However, this region contains the Wilkes Subglacial Basin, which has a downward-sloping bed inland of the grounding zone. This could make irreversible retreat possible if warming seawater off the coast enters beneath the ice sheet…. We find that areas near the outflow of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin, critical in maintaining the stability of the region, might consist of mixed frozen-bed and thawed-bed or near-thawed conditions on the scale of tens of kilometers across. This finding is important since the extent of basal thaw affects how easily ice can flow or slide over the bed. If parts of the bed are close to thawed, this could make Adélie-George V Land more sensitive to climate forcing, possibly resulting in mass loss. For media articles see also:; California-size Antarctic ice sheet once thought stable may actually be at tipping point for collapse.

Where Antarctica is concerned, its land ice has the potential to cause major rises in global sea levels compared to what Greenland can do. In 2024, East and West Antarctica’s riskiest glaciers are still plugged by grounded ice. However, as the article referenced above (Figure 18) discusses, several of the plugs on the largest glaciers are showing signs of impending collapse.

Sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate as a consequence of melting land ice (mainly Greenland and Antarctica)

In addition to the rise in sea level due to the addition of meltwater from land ice, ocean water expands in volume as its increasing heat content increases its temperature.

Figure 19. Rising Mean Sea Level. (
As global warming occurs, a direct reaction of the climate system is the sea level rise. This rise results from seawater expansion as a response to the temperature increase and addition of water from land-ice sheets and glaciers melting. Precise monitoring of the sea level rise is made possible using altimetry satellites that help understanding climate change and its socioeconomic consequences. The Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) has thus become a key indicator of climate change.
The reference global mean sea level (GMSL) based on data from the TopEx/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2, Jason-3 and Sentinel-6MF missions from January 1993 to present, after removing the annual and semi-annual signals and applying a 6-month filter. By applying the postglacial rebound correction (-0.3 mm/yr), the rise in mean sea level has thus been estimated to 3.6 mm/year with an uncertainty of 0.3 mm/yr.
Note that over the last quarter of year 2022, Sentinel-6 MF is affected by an inaccurate radiometer calibration error resulting in an overestimation of the wet tropospheric correction and therefore of the GMSL by about 5 mm (see issue #9170 of EUMETSAT User Notification Service at ).
Analyzing the uncertainty of the altimetry observing system yields to construct an uncertainty envelop for the GMSL climate data record (shaded area in the figure above). 
The dashed line displayed over 1993-1998 is an estimation of the GMSL evolution after correction of the TOPEX-A instrumental drift (Cazenave WCRP 2018). It is estimated from empirical correction derived by comparing altimetry and tide-gauge sea level data (see more details in Validation). The TOPEX-A instrumental drift led to overestimate the GMSL slope during the first 6 years of the altimetry record. Accounting for this correction changes the shape of the GMSL curve, that is no more linear but quadratic, indicating that the mean sea level is accelerating during the altimetry era (1993-to present, Beckley et al. 2017, Nerem et al. 2018). Currently, this empirical correction is not applied to the AVISO GMSL dataset, wainting for the ongoing TOPEX reprocessing by CNES and NASA/JPL.

The most immediate dangers from ice melting are in the Arctic Ocean

Figure 20. Sunny day flooding at high tide in Hampton, NH, USA. AccuWeather
@accuweather. Drone video shows the extensive flooding in Hampton, New Hampshire, on Sunday morning, just two months after the same area was hit with significant flooding. Melting land ice adds more water to the ocean. As water grows warmer it expands — increasing in volume. See video of beach erosion in nearby Massachusetts.
Figure 21. Winter maximums of Arctic sea ice extents from 1980 to 2024 (Charctic Interactive Sea Ice Graph). Note that February 2024’s extents closely tracks the extents recorded for the same days as 2012 (red dashed line), when the record low summer extent was reached that still holds today.

The reflection of a significant percentage of solar energy over many days of 24 hour summer sunlight Arctic Ocean’s sea ice and Greenland’s ice cap is an important component in Earths energy balance. Similarly, Greenland’s potential contribution to total sea level rise is limited by its small size compared to Antarctica. However, over the near term, Greenland’s proximity to the rapidly warming North Atlantic Ocean and an Arctic Ocean likely to be ice-free and also rapidly warming in the next few years puts the entire Greenland ice cap at risk for rapid melting. What happens in the Arctic over the next few years will profoundly affect the entire world.

Changes in the in the reflectivity (“albedo”) of the Arctic can have a profound effect on Earth’s planetary weather system. Sam Carana’s article started in 2012, Albedo, latent heat, insolation and more, explains the roles and feedbacks between ice melting, insolation, and temperature and explores the potential consequences of these changes.

The following images provide the evidence to bring the story up to February this year. They drive home the message that we are probably on the cusp of a critical tipping point to a new climate regime governed by an ice-free and rapidly warming Arctic Ocean that governs climate for most of Planet Earth.

Figure 22. Charctic sea ice concentration from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, Sea Ice News. Near the midwinter peak in early March of Arctic freezing (29 Feb 2024) 10-20% open water extends up from the North Atlantic near to and past the North Pole!.
Figure 23. Estimated Arctic sea ice thickness for 1 Mar. 2024. US Naval Research Laboratory HYCOM Consortium for Data-Assimilative Ocean Modeling – GOFS 3.1
Real-time 1/12° Global HYCOM+CICE Nowcast/Forecast System. Close to the winter maximum extent, except for a tiny sliver of thicker ice piled up close on the northernmost areas of the Canadian Archipelago and Greenland. The thickest sea ice anywhere on the Arctic ocean is < 2.6 m. Over half the coverage is < 1.5 m. In the early 1980’s large areas of the Ocean north of Canada and Alaska were covered by 4 to even 5 m thick ice.
Figure 24. Albedo sea ice surface types and associated feedbacks in Earths energy imbalance.
The albedo for different surface conditions on the sea ice range widely, from roughly 85 per cent of radiation reflected for snow-covered ice to 7 per cent for open water. These two surfaces cover the range from the largest to the smallest albedo on earth. Melting snow, bare ice and ponded ice lie within this range. There is a general decrease in the albedo of the ice cover during the melt season as the snow-covered ice is replaced by a mix of melting snow, bare ice, and ponded ice. As the melt season progresses, the bare ice albedo remains fairly stable, but the pond albedo decreases. During summer the ice cover retreats, exposing more of the ocean, and the albedo of the remaining ice decreases as the snow cover melts and melt ponds form and evolve. These processes combine to form the ice–albedo feedback mechanism.
Year: 2016.From collection: Global Outlook for Ice and Snow: Albedo of sea-ice surface types –; Feedbacks associated with albedo changes – Cartographer: Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

Arctic temperatures are already rising at a rate 2-4 times faster than for the Earth as a whole (referred to as Arctic amplification. This reduces the difference between subtropical-temperate zones and polar regions that drives jet streams. With less energy to work with the jet streams slow and begin to wander chaotically that in turn enables the development of lethally extreme heatwaves or cold outbreaks in sub-polar and temperate zones that can remain stationary for days or even a week or more.

With some fluctuations, for the last several decades the extent of Arctic sea ice has been declining to annual minimums in the 2020s to around half the area the ice covered in the early 1980s. With much less apparent impact up to now, the thickness of winter ice has also been diminishing significantly, to the point that within a very few years the extent of midsummer ice will show a catastrophic drop to virtually nothing as its thickness drops to zero, as several national technologies have shown in the following thickness maps.

Given geopolitical conditions around the margins of the Arctic Ocean, the US Navy is particularly concerned with ice conditions in relationship submarine and surface ship navigation. The CICE Nowcast system developed by the US Navy Research Labs, was only operational beginning in 2015, but even beginning from then, a year before the minimum ice extent yet was recorded in 2016, today’s ice thickness is conspicuously less than ~ a decade ago.

Figure 25. Sea ice thickness for Feb 19 for 2015 and 2024 compared. (Source details as per Fig 23.). In 2015 (the earliest year available in this system, there is still a significant area of ice greater than 3.5 m thick. In 2024 this thick ice is reduced to a practically invisible sliver against the Canadian Archipelago and Greenland.

The next series of graphics are from European sources – mainly from the Danish Meteorological Institute’s Polar Portal. Greenland and the Faeroe Islands are autonomous territories of Denmark, so their waters are territorial waters of Denmark – which accounts for Denmark’s longtime concern with navigability and sea ice conditions in the Arctic and North Atlantic.

Figure 26. Sea ice thickness for Feb 1 for 2012 and 2024 compared. Summer 2012 still holds the record for lowest Arctic Sea Ice extent. !n 2012 near the winter maximum there were still extensive areas of the ocean covered by 3 m thick ice although the volume was at a record low for the date. It was still at or near the record low at peak thickness on May 1. However, approaching the midwinter peak in 2024 these areas of ice were reduced, but not quite to the extreme indicated on the US CICE maps (Fig 21). As at 21 Feb, 2024 sea ice thickness is at a new record low, ~ 2000 Km2 lower than the 2012 record for this date in the series. On 3 March the deviation below the previous record is even larger.

Some of the clearest and most intelligible data outputs of sea-ice changes are produced by University of Bremen’s research group on “Remote Sensing of Polar Regions“. Several of their programs connect directly with the EU’s Copernicus programs in climate science. Compare the observations below with US and Danish systems and are explicitly validated against direct physical measurements from buoys and ice-breaking ships and sensors placed directly on the ice floes.

Figure 27. AMSR2 sea ice concentration. Monitoring of changes on a daily basis. The image here for 20 Feb 2024, (MODIS-AMSR2, 1 km). “Since October 2019, we have been producing sea-ice concentration at 1 km grid resolution retrieved jointly from MODIS and ASI-AMSR2 data. The data are available operationally between October 1st and May 31st. No retrieval is performed in Summer.” The color palette used clearly identifies the different sea ice concentration values. Here you can very clearly see how much open water there is within the extent bounds of the ice cap. E.g., in the northern midwinter, the red areas indicate where there is between 10 and 15 % open water.extending from the extremities of the North Atlantic more than halfway across the ice cap passing in close proximity to the North Pole.
Figure 28. Left. Concentration of multi-year ice on 10 Feb 2024. This is a product of the Multiyear Ice Concentration and Ice Type project. Clearly most of the Arctic sea ice is less than a year old!. Some of new ice formed this year could get squashed together to make thicker multi-year. But it is likely that most will melt over summer to make a ‘blue’ ocean. Right. Product of the Thin Ice Thickness project. Analytical tools have been developed to estimate the thickness of thin skins of ice down to centimeter accuracy. This map from 21 Feb 2024 indicates that a large expanse of the Arctic Ocean close to the North Pole is covered by a thin skin of ice less than 10 cm thick. This would account for the fact that it is easily broken up enough to expose patches of open ocean indicated by the concentration maps. (Note: interpretation of the area of thinnest ice close to the pole is partially confused by radio frequency interference – visible here as dark grey and lighter color spotting rather than blue pixels. However, using the data browser, the large ‘blue’ area of thin ice traces back over several days earlier to patches not confused by the interference.)

The conclusion to be drawn from the body of remote sensing observations (backed up by on the ice measurements from oceanographic cruises such as the icebreaker Polarstern‘s voyages in the MOSAiC program) is that much of the ice sheet covering most the Arctic Ocean over summer, is presently so thin and broken in winter that it is teetering on the brink of dispersal and complete melting over summer, possibly as early as this year or the next. Replacing the reflective ice with close to totally absorptive blue ocean as shown in areas currently lacking multi-year ice (Figure 24, left) will substantially increase Earth’s energy imbalance. Surrounded by warm water and rising temperatures, any remaining multi-year ice will also soon melt. Depending on how fast summer’s 24 hour solar heating warms the surface waters well above the freezing point, the Arctic Ocean may soon remain ice-free over winter as well…..

For further background, see Polyakov et al. (2017). Greater role for Atlantic inflows on sea-ice loss in the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean. Science.

One more set of ice observations seems relevant to support the perilous state of Earth’s cryosphere.

Figure 29. North America’s Great Lakes practically ice free – a record low for what is normally when ice is at its maximum extent.

Polar ice and its feedback into polar and global air temperatures

The Danes’ long-term concerns about Arctic ice and weather has provided another set of charts that is particularly informative about the interactions between air temperature and sea ice that is likely to impact on future climate conditions (Figures 30 and 31).

Figure 30. Daily mean air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean (i.e., above 80° N) – Note: the link here gives yearly records going back to 1958. Average autumn, winter and spring temperatures begin deviating significantly from the 1958-2002 baseline between 1995 and 2000. This is illustrated more clearly by the plots of the seasonal and annual anomalies shown in Figure 27, below.
Figure 31 Seasonal and annual anomalies of the >80° N mean air temperatures (

Figures 30 and 31 illustrate an important phenomenon that will reveal itself as a step change in temperatures over the Arctic Ocean – possibly as soon as this year’s northern summer. Spring, autumn, and annual temperature anomalies began rising above the 1958-2002 baseline temperature around 1995. By 2015 they were between 2 and 4 °C above the baseline. The winter anomaly was between 4 and 8° higher than the baseline: offering clear examples of arctic amplification.

Seemingly paradoxically, the summer anomalies have continued to track the baseline anomaly quite closely through the entire measurement period. Actually, this just represents the physical fact that melting a given amount of ice absorbs as much energy as it would take to heat the same amount of liquid water to 80 °C ! Thus, almost any amount of excess summer heat over an extent of sea ice will be absorbed in the process of melting surface ice ice rather than significantly raising surface or air temperatures, whereas in other seasons with ambient temperatures considerably below zero degrees, excess heat directly warms the ice, bringing it from the deep freeze closer to the melting point. Once the ice is gone, summer surface air and water temperatures will rise considerably.

As long as at least a thin layer of sea ice remains frozen through summer it will continue doing its job of reflecting a lot of excess solar energy back to outer space. However, once a substantial fraction of that ice cover has melted, all hell will break loose! Excess energy that went into melting ice without changing its temperature will heat up cold water fast. An open Arctic Ocean under 24-hour a day solar heating will absorb several to many times as much energy that could be delivered through the ice, to say nothing of the fact that the air temperature over the open ocean may end up being many degrees hotter because it is no longer being cooled by melting ice.

For example, over the last few years weather stations on or near the Arctic Ocean coastline in Siberia and Alaska have recorded temperatures above 30°. With no ice cover, nothing would stop those temperatures extending out over the ocean adding to the heat. Ending the sunny season with sea surface temperatures of 10 – 20° could well prevent ice from forming over winter….. A radical change between one year and the next that would undoubtedly cause a ‘regime shift‘ in the behavior of Earth’s climate system. Removal of the sharp temperature difference between polar and sub-polar air masses will probably cause the polar jet stream system to collapse – at least over summer – leading to lethally extreme and long-lasting weather events such as heat domes beyond anything seen to date.

Time for a break before it gets worse…

Cartoonists sometimes have the knack of expressing human foibles. Their few words about cliimate hoaxes may provide a bit of a break before the last bit of climate reality reality that we humans are the only thing left with the capacity to resolve.

Figure 32 a couple of cartoons illustrating some of the difficulties in accepting physical reality. My guess is that pictures on the left are from last year’s movie, “Don’t Look Up” – only here we are talking of a few decades or years – where immediate action might actually minimize the collapse, while in the movie it was a matter of days….

The universal laws of nature and evolution are what they are irrespective of human desires and intents

Most of these laws relate to the interactions of heat energy and pressure on gases, their mutual solubilities (i.e., the degree to which they can mix together), changes of state from gas ⇌ liquid ⇌ solid, and their spectroscopic properties (i.e., relatively easily measurable details of how they absorb and emit different wavelengths of radiant energy as a function of temperature and pressures. These differ considerably among the important gases that generate weather (water vapor, CO2, methane). These three gases also are heavily involved in very different ways in various aspects of the metabolisms of living systems. Physical interactions of the gases were already well understood in the early 20th Century and their biological behaviors by the 1960s and 1970s. What they do in all possible circumstances is purely a function of the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry that are totally independent of any human beliefs, fears, and desires. In other words, we have to live (or die) with whatever laws of nature that the Universe provides.

This includes extreme weather that is mostly driven by energy released or consumed by water as it changes in temperature (the energy here is called ‘sensible heat‘ because we can actually feel the temperature changing) or changes its state from solid (ice), to liquid (water), to gas (water vapor). The changes between ice and liquid water, and liquid water and water vapor consume large amounts of energy, but do not change the temperature. In this case the energy being transferred is called ‘latent energy‘.

Either kind of energy will change the density/pressure of the liquid or gas transferring the energy, or conversely externally pressure changes will affect the energy content of the parcel of molecules being affected by the pressure. Wikipedia’s article on ‘Weather’ explains how these laws work to generate weather. The basic message I am trying to communicate here is that the more energy applied to parcel of atmosphere, the more extreme its weather will be….

Figure 33. Simple laws have major consequences! A useful rule of thumb is that the maximum absolute humidity doubles for every 11 °C increase in temperature. Thus, the relative humidity will drop by a factor of 2 for each 11 °C increase in temperature, assuming conservation of absolute moisture. For example, in the range of normal temperatures, air at 20 °C and 50% relative humidity will become saturated if cooled to 10 °C, its dew point, and 5 °C air at 80% relative humidity warmed to 20 °C will have a relative humidity of only 29% and feel dry (and have much more capacity to induce drought by drawing water out of crops and agricultural soils.

Some cases of extreme weather ramped up by increasing heat trapped by greenhouse gases

Figure 34. Some extreme examples of NB4 (‘never before” seen) climate events.
(1) Canada has a large proportion of the world’s subarctic/Boreal forests including a large area on carbon rich peaty soils on permafrost. For 20 years Canada has had a powerful satellite system for objectively tracking thee extent of wildfires. Record high temperatures and drought led to burning over 4x more area than than any of the past 20 years. The 2023 fires are estimated to have emitted 2.5 x times as much greenhouse gases as all sectors of the Canadian economy together. Some of the fires are still burning today in the peat soils and are already beginning to surface for the 2024 fire season (see also).
(2) on Sept. 10-11, 2023, a few days after dumping more than a meter of water on the north-eastern agricultural area of Greece, Storm Daniel dumped enough water on the Cyrenaican area of Libya to erase a major part of the high-rise center of the city of Derna, along with around 13,000 of the city’s inhabitants. (See Derna is our 9/11 for climate action for my initial survey of the event). I am still documenting details of the flooding from the comprehensive satellite, press, and social media imagery available, but it is clear from dateable geological evidence that this is the most extreme flood event along this area of coast since the Eemian period of the Last Interglacial ~120,000 years ago.
(3) Mexico’s major Pacific Coast resort city of Acapulco was comprehensively smashed by Cat 5 hurricane Otis. According to the US National Hurricane Center, Otis was the strongest hurricane in the Eastern Pacific to make landfall in the satellite era, and the second most rapidly intensifying hurricane in the recent era (US NOAA – National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service; unbelievable videos).
(4) Chile’s heatwaves and firestorms in early February are unprecedented and have killed more than 100 people.


The observations above point to the conclusion that we have already entered a new climate regime of positive feedbacks that are forcing Earth’s Climate System into the Hothouse Earth mode and a 6th global mass extinction event at least comparable to what caused the End Permian global mass extinction – only very much faster

Figure 35. Once extinct, that is the end point for that species – for all time. Hints of its past existence will be left in its remains and impacts (for better or worse) on the Universe. Humans will leave behind the consequences of the greatest mass extinction event so far in Earth’s history.

Dynamical physical processes driven by positive feedbacks tend to grow exponentially until the process runs out of fuel or the system they are part of breaks. Humanity’s experiment to turn a significant percentage of Planet Earth’s fossil carbon (accumulated in the geosphere over hundreds of millions of years) into greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in a little more than a century is completely unprecedented in Earth’s history.

If humans cannot quickly reverse the feedbacks in global warming processes documented in this essay that have been triggered by our burning of a significant fraction of Earths fossil carbon driven, we’ll soon be extinct along with most other large, complex organisms currently inhabiting our single planet.

Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical & climate hazards at University College London and author of Hothouse Earth: An Inhabitant’s Guide, acknowledges this:

If the fracturing of our once stable climate doesn’t terrify you, then you don’t fully understand it. The reality is that, as far as we know, and in the natural course of events, our world has never — in its entire history — heated up as rapidly as it is doing now. Nor have greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere ever seen such a precipitous hike.

Think about that for a moment. We’re experiencing, in our lifetimes, a heating episode that is probably unique in the last 4.6 billion years.

…[T]his is a problem — a big one. After all, we can’t act effectively to tackle a crisis if we don’t know its full depth and extent.

What’s happening to our world scares the hell out of me, but if I shout the brutal, unvarnished truth from the rooftops, will this really galvanize you and others into fighting for the planet and your children’s futures? Or will it leave you frozen like a rabbit in headlights, convinced that all is lost? It is an absolutely critical question. With politicians and corporations unable or unwilling to take action rapidly enough to stymie emissions as the science demands, all we as climate scientists are left with is to seek to rouse the public to try and force through — via the ballot box and consumer choices — the enormous changes required to curb global heating.

Read the complete article: Bill McGuire, 7 Mar 2024, CNN. “Opinion: I’m a climate scientist. If you knew what I know, you’d be terrified too”

Most people find it difficult to think about the possible near-term end of our green living biosphere as we know it and extinction of the human species that depends on this biosphere for its survival. Many prefer to deny the reality of this possibility and continue with business as usual in the blind hope that nothing will change, than take it seriously and try to do something to avoid the extinction that we are still driving towards.

True, no individual action on its own can stop the planetary climate system from doing whatever it is going to do. But, the collective action of millions or even billions of humans mobilized and working together to use the best of our knowledge and technologies may still be able to alter this fatal path enough to reach some kind of sustainable future.

What gives me hope that we can solve the crisis

is that even thoughtless greedy humans, starting ~200 years ago, had the demonstrated capacity to turn the planetary climate system onto its currently lethal trajectory.

The unplanned planetary geoengineering project to strengthen Earth’s greenhouse layer was driven by greedy men competing for power. It was begun by men wielding picks and shovels to mine fossil carbon, build canals, roads and rail, and men with poles and horses pulling wagons and barge loads of fossil carbon to fuel 18th Century steam powered technology. Much of the energy released from the carbon along with greenhouse gases was used by men to build increasingly sophisticated and powerful technology to dig up and burn ever more carbon faster and faster to fuel even more GHG emissions that are still increasing today.

Unlike our great, great, … grandparents, today’s instantly networked humans (women included!) have virtually instant Web access to the exponentially growing and collected knowledge of our history and increasingly powerful technologies and sciences. Is it not plausible that we now have the capacity to use the essentially unlimited resources of solar energy to reduce, remove, and repair enough of our past damage to Earth’s climate to find a way off the road to Hothouse Hell to a sustainable future?

As is blindingly obvious from the range of current measurements reported here of many different aspects of our global climate system it is clear average temperatures have risen so high and so much extra heat energy (both sensible and latent) has already been absorbed into the system that several temperature-related feedbacks have been pushed past thresholds where Earth’s natural processes will continue to force temperatures and GHG concentrations higher even if human GHG emissions stopped today.

Figure 36. A reminder of what dooms us if we cannot reverse this process.

As long as Earth’s energy imbalance continues to rise, global temperatures will also continue to rise as our planet tries to balance the books by radiating more energy at higher temperatures. Many animal species (including humans) and plants are already living close to the maximum temperatures their physiologies can survive. Local extinctions of populations are already happening every day – and when the last populations of a species dies off they can no longer (ever!) provide ecosystem services many other species cannot live without who could survive the ambient temperature. People can air-condition their living spaces, but they cannot survive the collapse of the agricultural ecosystem that provides the food we must eat in order to live.

Greedy stupid humans accidentally geoengineered the freeway to Earth’s Hothouse Hell and the Sixth Global Mass Extinction with the Industrial Revolution

This gives me a real hope that today’s wiser and more conscientious humans can geoengineer a greener road to a sustainable future.

Beginning very slowly in the mid 1700s, machine power began to replace human and animal muscle power for doing work to make and move things around in the environment. This began when it was discovered that the heat energy given off by combustion could be used to boil water to create steam in a pressure-tight container where the excess energy in the hot steam could be converted to mechanical work by driving a system of pistons, gears and connectors. In principal the steam engines could be fueled by burning wood, but the ancient forests were soon consumed by land clearing and agriculture. Coal was found to provide more energy per kilo than wood, but this had to be dug out of the ground and transported to where the power was needed.

Steam engines were first used to increase the rate of mining by allowing deeper areas to be mined. Gradually they replaced virtually every other source of mechanical power beyond the very limited areas that could be driven by falling water. Competition between nations and individuals for power in the broadest sense led to the positive feedbacks between the still rampant greed for power and the burning of fossil carbon in a wide variety of heat engines that is still increasing the rates of greenhouse gas emissions driving Earth’s Energy Imbalance to lethally high levels.

Human’s blind greed, starting with picks, shovels, and steam punk technology change ad whole planet’s life-giving atmosphere into a life-stifling heat blanket in less than 200 years. This fact screams out that with enough will, wisdom, foresight, and work that humans with our 21st Century knowledge of science, a vast array of technologies, and networking capabilities should be able to put the excess atmospheric carbon back into the ground. Although it may just still be possible for us to do this, it will not be easy. Greed and and the Second Law of Thermodynamics guarantee that. At the very least, it will involve a global mobilization on the scale of what Americans achieved in 1941 to win the Second World War (WWII). Two articles give small hints of what this actually involved: Social and economic changes –, World War II Mobilization 1939-1943; and The Scientific and Technological Advances of World War II. (Note: the mobilization affected so many aspects of society, was so pervasive, and so rapid that I have been unable to find any single document that does justice to the revolutionary changes enacted by an initially divisive, isolationist, and hedonistic society not unlike Trumpist America is today.)

However, more than most people now alive, I am old enough to remember the end of WWII and the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thanks to the diverse threads in my lifetime of learning, I have come to understand that as a child I had first hand experience with the incredible total mobilization beginning in December 1939 and almost totally complete by the end of 1941; that won the War by 1945 through largely united social action informed by vast advances science and engineering. By 1941 the Axis powers (Germany, Japan and tag-along Italy) had controlled the whole of Europe between Great Britain and Moscow, virtually all of the Mediterranean border lands, the whole of East Asia save the western reaches of China and most of the Western Pacific save Australia and New Zealand. Within a little more than four more years, led by America, Germany and Japan were reduced to smoking rubble and unconditional surrenders. Within a few more years, the whole theater of war outside of Russian control was restored to functionality and even some degree of prosperity by the Marshal Plan for Europe and similar aid in Asia, initially under General Douglass MacArthur who had been Supreme Commander in the Pacific and oversaw the post-war occupation of Japan.

The brutal, unvarnished truth is that if record breaking climate trends established over the last year continue to accelerate as they have over this last year there’s a high likelihood that most species of large complex organisms, including humans, will be extinct before the end of the current 21st Century.

Most academic scientists, especially those reporting via the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) find it close to impossible to deal with the reality included within the socially and politically unacceptable term, ‘extinction’. Thus, to get the ‘brutal, unvarnished truth’ about what the facts the measurements of climate change are telling us that you need to know in order to prioritize your actions, you need to consider what retired curmudgeons like me have to say. Of course, you should also investigate whether they have qualifications that would give you reason to have the qualifications to actually understand what they are saying.

Nevertheless, the facts reported above show that we are already well started down the road to extinction and are rapidly running out of time when physics will transcend any conceivable actions humans might take to stop that progress. This was already apparent in 2022, even from the hyper-conservative IPCC’s publications, when UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned world leaders at COP 27 summit that nations must cooperate or face “collective suicide” from climate change because:

We are on a highway to Climate Hell – with our foot still on the accelerator!

UN Secretary General António Guterres at the Opening Ceremony of the World Leaders Summit | #COP27, 6 Nov 2022 – the entire speech.

The facts presented in this article show that in the ~16 months since COP27 the climate situation is far, far worse than almost anyone anticipated then. Yet, so far Guterres’s often repeated warnings that we were already accelerating towards “collective suicide” in [Earth’s] “Climate Hell” have been almost totally ignored by virtually all of the world’s nations, national medias, and most people.

Around the world virtually all nations and states are still practically owned by the self-interests who have the financial power to elect their puppets and useful idiots who work to protect the interests to national and state governments. Even in supposedly representative democracies like Australia, the USA, Great Britain, etc., they only need to control a few key representatives in parties forming majority governments…. Party discipline gives them control of the majority party, and thus government.

We must change the politics that has allowed this to happen and will prevent effective action that may for a small while yet allow humanity to climb back up over the cliff before we are cooked in the caldera of Hothouse Hell

Figure 37. Our dilemma – the greatest danger to the biosphere and human survival is ourselves, and we keep voting for the puppets of the axe and shovel wielding special interests.

To have any hope at all to organize and implement the kind of total mobilization that will be required to marshal the people, science, technology, and logistics to deal with the global emergency we must first revolutionize our governments to cut their allegiances with the industries that are killing us, either by changing the minds of our present representatives, or by replacing the puppets and useful idiots with progressive community independents who will act for the citizens who elect them by promoting, authorizing, and leading the kinds of actions required to address the emergency.

Vote Climate One along with Climate Rescue Accord and a number of other volunteer organizations have been formed to address the critical political issues, by identifying, promoting, advising, and electing suitable progressive and climate oriented candidates to our parliaments and governments who can be trusted to focus governments on mobilizing emergency actions to address the current existential emergency.


  1. America’s mobilization for WWII shows what humans can do in an emergency situation if they work together.
    I was born in 1939 and am old enough to actually remember the war’s ending: My father worked in the defence industry. We lived on a boat in the Port of Los Angeles close to the 2nd largest builder of Liberty Ships in the USA, and then in San Diego Harbor directly opposite North Island Naval Air Station and home port of the Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers. In my postgraduate career I worked for 15 months for the Atomic Energy Corporation; and for the last 17½ years prior to retirement I was a knowledge management systems analyst and designer in logistics support engineering for Tenix Defence (at the time, Australia’s largest defence engineering project manager). I have also read a lot of history, so I know a bit about what was mobilized and how it was done.
    Until Dec 7 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Americans were isolationist deniers of the reality of Axis aggression (not unlike Trumpist ‘MAGA’). By 8 May 1945 Germany had been expunged and on 6 Aug. 1945 the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (and then Nagasaki a few days later) overwhelmed Japan. In 1941 nuclear fission was a wacky idea proposed by some academics. In 4 years nuclear science was developed, the Manhattan Project was conceived, several different kinds of production infrastructure (Hanford, Oak Ridge Facility, Savanna River)(a bit after the War), Los Alamos, etc…) were designed and built, atom bombs were designed, built, tested, and used. In the area of engineering and logistics, an average of 5 highly capable destroyers were built each month for 32 months and an average of 3 Liberty Ships every 2 days between 1941 and 1945. were able to be assembled and launched each week. The United Nations was formed, etc.. Equally prodigious challenges were met in many other areas that completely changed world history. Yes, conscription, coercion, rationing, etc. was required – but the global challenge was met and the common danger vanquished….
    Today, we have massively more knowledge and prowess than we did in the early 1940’s. Humans can do remarkable things if people and governments unite and work together to fight the common danger. There is no greater danger than the near term extinction of our entire species and most of the rest of Earth’s biosphere! ↩︎
  2. Leon Simons makes a good case that the abrupt rise in the imbalance is at least partially due to the sharp reduction of sulfur emissions from worldwide shipping. The smog emitted along with CO2 by the burning of especially sulfurous diesel bunker fuel in the voyages of hundreds of thousands of ships per year almost certainly reflected a portion of the incoming solar energy back to space before it had a chance to be absorbed into the ocean – especially in the highly trafficked North Atlantic. See Stopping the sulfur emissions would certainly allow more solar energy to impinge on the ocean. Nevertheless it is still likely that the bulk of the rising temperature is due to the the increase in absorbed energy caused by the also rapidly increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. ↩︎
  3. Few people who don’t actually work with satellite remote sensing technologies or work with their data products since the early 1980s have any idea how comprehensively weather, oceanographic and climatological variables are measured over space and time. Hundreds of operational satellites in polar orbits and dozens in geostationary orbits collect and send tens of millions of individual observations every day to government and private supercomputer centers on the ground for cross checking, validation and processing. Such centers are operated by the USA, EU, Russia, Japan, China, Australia, along with several university and commercial centers in the USA and EU — all competing to provide their customers with the most accurate information possible. In fact, so much information is available that in a couple hours of searching I have been unable to find any single reference to site here that comes close to providing a reasonable overview of the complete scope and depth of the available remote sensing data from satellites. ↩︎
Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

News in a year of no winter from midwinter in the northern USA

If you want a future, it is time to take global warming seriously and totally mobilize to fight the fires driving us towards Hothouse Hell.

Bill McKibben, one of America’s most respected environmentalists and a founder of the international, reports from the northern state of Vermont on the winter that wasn’t. As noted by my featured image, even high school students in Pennsylvania have commented how extremely unwinterly their weather has been. These are signs of the rapidly accelerating global climate emergency.

From the article by Bill McKibben

As Winter Melts Away

Notes toward a eulogy for something I love

Bill McKibben, 29 Feb 2024 – The Crucial Years

I don’t write that often about developments in the actual climate in these pages—it’s uniformly depressing, and it is the part we can do the least about. None of us has the power to change how much heat a molecule of carbon dioxide traps, nor can we alter how the jet stream reacts to changes in polar temperatures. All we can do is determine how much CO₂ and methane there is up there in the air—and so that’s what I concentrate on.

And yet the changes underway on our planet are now so extreme, and so remarkable, that sometimes we do need to stand back and simply gaze in awe and sadness. At my latitude (43.97 degrees north, or very nearly halfway between the North Pole and the equator) the changes in winter may be the most dramatic signs yet. And the most dramatic in my heart for sure, because winter is the time I love the most.

This year in North America has been about as close as we’ve ever come to a year without a winter…. [T]he gases we produce increase the temperature: it was 70 degrees in Chicago yesterday, in February—which was also the day that the Windy City decided to join other American cities in suing the fossil fuel industry for damages. But that was just one of a hundred heat records broken in the course of the day, from Milwaukee to Dallas (94 degrees). But it wasn’t a single day of heat—it’s been an almost unrelentingly warm winter, with by far the lowest snow coverage for this time of year ever recorded (13.8 percent of the lower 48 as of Monday, compared with an average of more than 40 percent) and with the Great Lakes essentially free of ice.

In the high Arctic, previously unheard-of thunderstorms are melting ice faster than ever. As Ed Struzik reported last week from Greenland, “surface crevassing, which allows water to enter into the interior of the icecap, is accelerating, thanks to rapid melting. And slush avalanches, which mobilize large volumes of water-saturated snow, are becoming common: In 2016, a rain-on-snow event triggered 800 slush avalanches in West Greenland.”

Further south, those record winter temperatures let forests and grasslands dry out fast. That’s why Canada’s boreal forest burned at a record rate last summer, and it’s why huge blazes are driving Texans for cover today—the Smokehouse Creek fire in the Panhandle, which only started Monday, is already the second largest blaze in the state’s history; it forced the evacuation of the country’s biggest plant for disassembling nuclear weapons.


Read the complete article….

What does this mean?

I’m still trying to finish my February 2024 climate report on climate extremes as the indicators are growing faster than I can keep up with (Please see the working draft: Feb. 2024 climate extremes: Welcome to 2024 as we race down the road to Hothouse Earth). However, every day the meaning becomes more stark. Earth is heating up enough that large swathes of country are too warm for snowfall even in midwinter (amongst a vast array of other problems from extreme weather!).

Earth’s energy imbalance is currently increasing at an accelerating rate. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (mainly CO2 and methane) trap an increasing amount of solar energy striking the planet. Earth can no longer radiate enough energy as long-wave infrared radiation to balance the books. Earth rises until the excess energy can be radiated away as shorter wavelength IR, and it won’t be able to cool down below the new balance until GHG concentrations fall enough so the necessary amount of energy can again be shed as longer wavelength IR.

Earth’s energy imbalance is currently increasing at an accelerating rate. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (mainly CO2 and methane) trap an increasing amount of solar energy striking the planet. Earth can no longer radiate enough energy as long-wave infrared radiation to balance the books. Earth rises until the excess energy can be radiated away as shorter wavelength IR, and it won’t be able to cool down below the new balance until GHG concentrations fall enough so the necessary amount of energy can again be shed as longer wavelength IR.

Most of the excess energy is first absorbed in heating the oceans, and melting ice.

Rabid acceleration of Earth’s Energy Imbalance over the last 23 years. It is now ~4x as bad as it was at the beginning of the 21st Century. This will cause a comparable acceleration in rates of global warming (though perhaps with a few years of delay).
Global sea surface temperatures – every day since 1981. Temperatures have been above records for the day, every day of 2023 since since 15 March, and every day of 2024 so far (each of the thin black lines shows the variation in temperature for a year. Since my last version of this graph, on Feb 27, 2024 the temperature has risen to slightly above 21.1 °C. This is yet another new all-time record 2 weeks to 6 month’s before previous all-time records. (For details see my report for February 2024.)

Because of water‘s huge capacity for storing heat, more than 90% of solar energy goes first into heating the tropical and subtropical oceans. Currents circulate the heat around the planet, including its polar areas – even in midwinter. Warm water gradually melts polar ice from below and transfers heat energy into the atmosphere as ‘sensible heat‘ by increasing the air temperature and much more heat energy in the form of ‘latent heat‘ water vapor (= humidity). Particularly when water vapor condenses back into liquid (cloud droplets & precipitation), the atmospheric energy creates extreme weather and heats the land and melts a lot more ice from above. (Even if the ambient temperature is cold enough for the precipitated water to freeze as snow or hail, the region ends up being significantly warmer than if it hadn’t snowed!)

Decreasing snow and ice cover allows the Earth to absorb more solar energy in a positive feedback cycle to melt even more snow and ice. Warming soils, permafrost, and wetlands cause strong positive feedbacks by increasing greenhouse gas emissions to raise temperatures even faster…..

A couple of cartoons illustrate some of the difficulties in accepting the physical reality shown by this kind of evidence.

In other words, it is likely that Earth’s Climate System has already crossed several tipping points where exponentially growing positive feedbacks pushing us ever faster down the road of runaway global warming to Earth’s Hothouse Hell.

My guess is that pictures on the left are from last year’s movie, “Don’t Look Up” — where the mass extinction event was only a few days away.

Compared to a dinosaur killing meteorite strike in days, where runaway warming is concerned the final collapse will be decades to a couple of centuries away.

The problem is literally planetary in scale. Human greed, competition for power (both literally and figuratively), intelligence, and ingenuity led us to dig up and burn in little more than a century as much carbon as it Earth’s geological processes millions of years to sequester. We started this task with the aid of the original coal-burning steam-powered technology. And it is clear from the news I have been reporting on the Climate Sentinel that the emissions from the carbon we have already burned is probably enough to snuff out most complex life on Earth, including our own species.

However, if we take the threats of the climate catastrophe seriously and begin total emergency mobilization very soon, immediate action might actually minimize the collapse by reversing the global energy balance enough to allow some cooling to begin.

What to do about it?

With today’s vastly more sophisticated and powerful technology aided by our much greater understanding of science we should be able to work out how to recapture most of our carbon emissions and implement technology to put it back into the ground. However, this will require coordination at state, national, and global scales.

Unfortunately, most of our governments have been captured by special interests in the fossil fuel and ‘development’ industries who will have to immediately stop burning fossil fuels – and any effective action on their profits from emitting greenhouse gases is seen as a direct threat to their wealth. Thus they and their government stooges will do everything fair and foul to delay and deter actions to stop greenhouse emissions or broadly implement clean energy solutions. In the process they will invent very costly and thermodynamically impossible “carbon capture and storage” industries to sop up as much money as possible to keep it from being spent developing workable solutions. There isn’t much that we as individuals can do to solve these global scale problems.

Probably the most useful thing individuals can do is unite with others to change our governments by removing puppets and collaborators of the special interests from office, or convincing them that they will be replaced at the earliest opportunity if they don’t ditch their sugar daddy patrons and work for you and your community. You do this by electing people who are genuinely committed to working for their communities rather than special interest patrons (many of whom are not even citizens).

Vote Climate One was established to help you do this this, and our pages there offer a number of other suggestions as to how you may help change governments.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Lethal Humidity for Derna – a 9/11 event in the climate crisis

(Rev. 2 – 29/10/2023)

Water was the cradle and mother of all life. When the world is too hot it is also the destructor that erases life, as in Derna, Libya on 11/09/2023

Life originated in the sea, dependent on and driven by water based chemistry. When our remote ancestors colonized the land more than 300 million years ago they had to carry enough water in their bodies to keep the organic chemistry of life working. Even today, between 50 and 60% of our body weight is the water surrounding and supporting our metabolic chemistry — truly water is the cradle of our life. Water-based chemistry is also controlled by temperature. Most of life’s chemical processes are facilitated and regulated by proteins called enzymes. Protein structure and function are strongly dependent on the temperature of the surrounding water. Water temperature also affects the rates of chemical reactions irrespective of any changes do enzymes.

For billions of years, complex life on Earth has evolved to live in a temperature range between water’s freezing point and a maximum of 35-45 °C. Mammals (like us) and birds who have evolved evaporative cooling (e.g., sweating) can survive somewhat higher environmental temperatures for a while if they can maintain the flow of water through their bodies. However, if our body temperature rises more than a degree or two above 40° for more than an hour or so it’s lethal because enzymes begin to denature and the chemical processes in our body cells no longer coordinate the keep us alive. We die ! (ref Wikipedia Colonization of land, Thermoregulation, Human body temperature).

As our planet grows ever hotter as a consequence of human’s industrial conversion of fossil carbon into greenhouse gases, rising temperatures are triggering a growing range of extreme and increasingly lethal ‘weather’ events. Many of these involve the effects of excess heat working with the physical properties of water — and we are far from understanding all of the implications for understanding this.

The latest example of lethal humidity at work was the rapid intensification of tropical rainstorm Otis in less than 24 hours into the “apocalyptic” category 5 hurricane that struck the tourist town of Acapulco on the Mexican Pacific coast around 1:00 AM on 25 October, 2023. None of the forecast models run on the 14th predicted that it would even become a hurricane at all. And then there’s Tropical Cyclone Lola, the earliest cat. 5 cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere that has just savaged Vanuatu on the same day.

Last month’s example of lethal humidity working in unprecedented ways is presented below.

During the dark early hours of Sept. 11, 2023 hot water demonstrated the power of humid air to erase life in the the normally dry drainage upstream from, and in the center of the Libyan city of Derna in a cataclysm never before seen in its ~2,600 year recorded history.
This satellite imagery can be viewed by anyone with a desktop computer by downloading the freely available Google Earth Pro (Windows, Apple, Linex), searching for “Derna, Libya”. Vision beginning with Planet Earth will zoom into about 8 km above your requested location. If you then search for “Al Sahaba Mosque” vision will zoom in to about 1 km showing the latest high-resolution satellite imagery of Derna’s center from late morning on Sept 13, around 56-58 hours after the peak of the cataclysm. Using your mouse wheel you can zoom in to ~12 m above the ground where you can readily see the ant-like shadows of individual survivors crossing the now dry wadi on foot, and the first attempts to make temporary roads to reconnect eastern and western parts of coastal Libya. Earth Pro also provides access to historical imagery (click the Time Time icon) allows you to travel back in time through historical imagery. The most recent imagery (also providing the highest resolution) prior to the cataclysm is from June 19. This provides the “before” vision of Derna. Unfortunately the post-cataclysm imagery has only limited coverage. The image above, at one edge of a Sept. 13 tile crossing the wadi provides the before and after in a single image. The image below compares the before and after of the mosque and the area to its north. The red lines are sight lines and measurements left by various measuring tools I used in trying to understand and reconstruct what what happened here in the early hours of Sept. 11.

The idea of “lethal humidity”

I was reminded of the fact that humidity can be lethal by Dr Andrew (“Twiggy”) Forrest’s recently initiated speaking tour on the climate emergency to economic forums, world leaders and top universities in the world. He stresses that if global warming is not stopped and reversed, a major killer will be heat deaths caused by the growing heat accompanied by excessive humidity from the increasing amount of water evaporated by the high temperatures.

Forrest, one of Australia’s leading multi-billion dollar mining and industrial carbon emitters, has accepted the reality that global warming caused largely by his and other industries will cause near-term human extinction. He began broadcasting his concerns and the absolute urgency of stopping and reversing the warming if we are to avoid social collapse and subsequent extinction. He first raised this at the Boao Asia Forum — sponsored by China in Perth on 30 August (transcript here), and more recently at Oxford University (video below) – the start of a global lecture tour to key universities around the world accompanied with meetings of world leaders and at COP 28.

As Forrest said in the Boao Address, this is not a concern for the future, but right now! Substantial numbers of people are already being killed by the accelerating warming. The main killer will be what he calls “lethal humidity”. As noted above, if the air is too hot, and humid as well, without air conditioning we die within hours. (He says that survival in these areas will depend on air conditioning – assuming the power doesn’t fail). Forrest stressed that large areas of the world, including areas of India, China and America are crossing that threshold right now. These points were reiterated and expanded on in a lecture and “Fireside Chat” at Oxford University .

In the “Fireside Chat” sponsored by the Rhode’s Trust, Forrest expanded considerably on his ideas expressed at Boao and lecture covering the urgent and critical need for people in general to force governments and industry to act seriously on climate change. This Q&A ‘chat’ runs for another hour, but is well worth listening to if you have any concerns about futures for yourself and your family members.

My Climate Sentinel News article following up on the Boao address, Billionaires & action groups can save the world together! summarizes the contexts (including his ‘time out’ from empire building to earn a PhD in marine ecology) that led Forrest to his current mission — and what the climate and environmental action movement needs to do to assist the global mobilization needed to stop and reverse the warming process.

However, as strongly as Forrest stresses the dangers of the heat deaths humidity will cause in our progress towards global extinction, high humidity can also be even more catastrophically deadly in other ways.

The lesson of Derna, Libya is that humidity can lead to the destruction of not just human lives, but all visible life in given areas, and even the infrastructure created by humans or any other evidence that life ever existed in those areas.

Another way too much water in the atmosphere will kill us

On 10 September, 2023, the ancient and small but relatively prosperous port city of Derna, Libya had a population around 100,000 people. Its history traces back to the settlement of Cyrenaica (the eastern, coastal part of Libya) by the ancient Greeks in the 7th Century BCE. It was an easy place to settle because the inland plateau area was suitable for agriculture and the small delta of the wadi draining the plateau offered a reasonable area of flatish land close to sea level on the normally steep shoreline for a port and settlement. Since Derna was settled it has been a secondary port city that served at various times as a regional capitol that was comfortably wealthy from the agricultural productivity of the hinterland during periods with adequate rain and its proximity to Rome on the other side of the Mediterranean. Under Muammar Gaddafi, Derna benefited from Libya’s oil revenue.

However, due to Derna’s location on the sediment fan (or delta) formed at the mouth of a relatively steep wadi draining somewhat more than 500 km², it has been subject to occasional damaging floods. But nothing remotely comparable to the 11 September cataclysm had ever been recorded before in Derna’s 2,600 year history.

What happened in the early hours of 11 September literally ‘erased’ more than 20% of the city and more than 10% of its total human population from the earth. Derna warns us that water, the cradle and mother of all life (can and will destroy most of that life if we allow the planet to grow much hotter than it it already is.

“Evaporation” is what happens as individual H₂O molecules break free from a liquid mass of water to form the gaseous phase or vapor of water that basically dissolves in the atmosphere. As liquid water warms, the rate of evaporation increases up to a limit determined by the pressure of other kinds of gases forming the atmosphere. If the vapor molecules become frequent enough they will begin to stick together to “condense’ back into the liquid state. it takes a lot of extra energy for a water molecule to actually evaporate free of a mass of liquid water. This energy is released as the “heat of condensation” when the water molecule returns to the liquid state. The rates of condensation and evaporation vary significantly with changes of temperature.

Aside from controlling the rates of evaporation and condensation, temperature also strongly influences how much water vapor can dissolve into the air before it starts condensing. As air temperature increases, the amount of water vapor it can carry before condensation begins also increases about 7% for every °C of temperature increase.

Global 2 m (‘surface”) air temperature has been in in world record territory since the end of May this year. Sea Surface Temperture has been been in world record territory since mid May (more than 7 MONTHS!). Hotter water evaporates more water vapor, hotter air absorbs and transports ever more water as vapor.

“Gas Laws ” relate air pressure, density of a given mass of air. As air warms it absorbs energy to become less dense by expanding. As it cools, its density increases and heat is released. In the atmosphere this leads to convection. with warm air rising and cooling as it expands while tending to cool further by radiation of excess heat to space until it cools enough that again becomes dense enough to sink alongside rising hotter air.

More details of the physics of water, how its various states are measured, and water’s implications for weather can be found in my mailing to politicians, “Act Now – Later may be too late” and in the related “Global Climate Change Now“.

My presentation linked below makes the case that Derna demonstrates how heat and too much water in the atmosphere can do far worse things than just cooking people by preventing evaporative cooling. The more water vapor in the atmosphere the more water there is to drop on the land, and the more heat energy there is available to force wet air masses high in the sky to squeeze out the last drop of what was already an excess load of water as rain and ice (the freezing of ice from water releases still more energy (the energy of fusion) to drive the weather to even further extremes.

Where Derna was concerned, another consequence of having several unbroken months of high temperatures setting daily and occasionally all-time records, the jet stream system that normally keeps cold spots and warm spots moving around the world basically broke down — becoming very weak and chaotic. The combination of record high land and sea temperatures over summer with stalled heatwave conditions all around the Mediterranean provided optimum conditions to load the atmosphere with a truly prodigious amount of water. The availability of so much water and heat energy resulted in the formation of Storm Daniel. With little or no jet stream, Daniel was left to wander more or less randomly around the eastern Mediterranean. Daniel first dumped more than 700 mm of rain were dumped on areas of Greece to flood more than a third of that country’s prime agricultural lands, and then more than 400 mm on the Libyan city of Al Beyda a few km west of the upper end of Wadi Derna’s watershed. These numbers are already crazy & incomprehensible, but a fluke of bad luck associated with the particular landscape of Cyrenaica may have added even more kick to the already stupendous amount of peak water in the pipeline provided by the wadi. The catchment’s main reach on the plateau behind Derna runs from west to east, and it’s probable that Daniel’s rain cells were also moving from west to east at a comparable speed to the progress of the flood peak down the Wadi.

In any event, except for the last (possible) fluke, this kind of increasing storm intensity is a predictable product of global heating — which is what makes the Derna situation so alarming. If we allow the world to continue heating at an ever faster rate (as driven by Earth’s Energy Imbalance), lethal humidity will soon be be cooking so many people and trashing so much infrastructure needed to feed ourselves and condition the ever hotter air to a livable temperature we will face social and ecological collapse. If this happens humans will no longer have the capacity to do anything further to stop the runaway warming that will put all of the accessible soil and organic carbon back into the atmosphere. The worst global mass extinction event in Earth history so far will then run its course unhindered.

The presentation ends with a possible silver lining — humans working together can do very remarkable things if sufficiently motivated. I’ll write more on this later, below.

Download a PDF version by clicking HERE. Note: Throughout the presentation there are many links to the web to source materials or other relevant information. These should work if you click on them.

Some comparisons to think about

Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011

Several of the commentators on the Derna cataclysm said it was like a tsunami. I spent a couple of months trying to measure the impact of the Japanese Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011 that led to the destruction of four of the Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear power plants from the vast array of news, social media postings of videos, and the Google Earth record. Obviously, the tsunami affected thousands of kilometers of coastline, but nowhere did the 2-3 waves of the tsunami as comprehensively erase the evidence of human existence as happened in Derna.

[Google Translation of title] “Great East Japan Earthquake] People fleeing the tsunami in Minamisanriku Town, Miyagi Prefecture (different angle)”. This is a snapshot from There were countless videos like this (many now no longer accessible). Note that most of the structures being destroyed were wooden houses that were floated off their foundations before being crushed in the melee.
The comparison here is from the Japanese fishing port city of Minamisanriku of an area approximately 60% the size of the area depicted in the first graphic of this post from where one of its rivers meets the sea. Here, concrete buildings remain intact and except for the river mouth where significant soil has been removed, roads and the concrete slabs and foundations of buildings remain relatively intact. Boats in the upper picture were all destroyed, cast on the land or dragged out to sea on the return waves.
Devastation after tsunami in Rikuzentakata, Iwate, Japan. This image, which was originally posted to Flickr, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 7 April 2011, 15:40 by Akira Kouchiyama. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

At Rikuzentakata, one of the worst hit cities, the tsunami wave reached heights of 13 meters (third floor of surviving buildings), and possibly killed 10,000 people. Wooden structures were completely demolished, but roads and concrete infrastructure remained largely intact as can be seen in the large trove of imagery accessible via Google.

Unlike a tsunami that normally involves only two or three killer waves at the most, Derna’s flood seems to have lasted several hours – long enough to strip everything away more-or-less down to bedrock!

Possibly cataclysmic valley floods in other parts of the world

My first contact with cataclysmic flooding was in the summer of 1976, when I was teaching for a year on a temporary appointment at the University of Colordo in Boulder, where I was a near witness to the deadliest disaster of any kind in Colorado’s history. One very muggy (humid) afternoon a very ominous and noisy system of dark clouds and lightening passed over the university. I thought of possible tornadoes, but no rain was falling yet. Soon after this the storm cell got stuck in the valley of the Big Thompson River draining Glacier National Park ~ 45 km north of Boulder along Rocky Mountains forming the Continental Divide. The humid prevailing winds from from the prairie at around 1,600 m altitude were trying to push the storm over the Divide. The upper (western) third of the Big Thompson catchment is surrounded on three sides by ridges more than 3,500 m high (as can be followed on the clear contours of Global Watersheds‘ “Topographic” or “Thunder Forest” base maps). The storm cell dumped 300 mm in less than 4 hours. The resulting flood formed a “wall of water” more than 6 meters high that rushed down the steeply sloping canyon (2.4% gradient for the last 3 km — as measured to the accuracy allowed by Google Earth Pro) at a speed estimated to be 6 m/sec with a discharge rate of with a discharge of 1,000 cubic meters per second, killing 143 people (mostly campers).

As measured in the “slow lane” on the flat land in front of Al Sahaba Mosque well before the flooding reached its maximum height (upper floor of the main mosque) and erased the shrines and the 1,400 year old graves of the Companions of the Messenger of God, the water there was already moving at around 4 m/sec well before the flow reached its peak height. The peak speed over the wadi itself was probably two or three times what was measured in the Big Thompson flood!

When the flood happened, I was living in one of the University’s faculty flats situated alongside Boulder Creek. This has a drainage of 340 km² and cuts Boulder in half (a city that was then comparable in size and relative affluence to Derna with its Al Sahaba Mosque). I immediately considered what happened at Big Thompson and soon found other lodgings. Big Thompson had less sever another flood in 2016 that also caused substantial damage. So far, Boulder has been lucky.

Other potentially dangerous river systems

Other river systems with deeply incised valleys capable of producing cataclysmic floods under appropriate conditions that I know personally because I have lived in their neighborhoods are Melbourne’s Deep Creek-Maribyrnong system above Footscray and the Yarra River above central Melbourne. The Maribyrnong catchment above Footscray measures 1,300 km², and the Yarra river catchment at Kew (deeply incised from Warrandyte through Kew) measures 3,900 km² (or 5,500 km² measured at its mouth Port Philip Bay that includes the Deep Creek-Maribyrnong as a tributary). Both the Yarra and the Maribyrnong have flooded, with the Maribyrnong having its worst flood in several decades this time last year. Derna style floods fueled by high temperatures and lethal humidity would have unimaginably worse consequences for the cities these rivers flow through. (Note: the free Web ap, Global Watersheds, will plot the watershed extent and area for any point on the land in the world on a range of base maps. For understanding the landscape, I recommend “Satellite” – good but several years out of date, and “Topographic” or “Thundercloud” for clearly labeled elevation contours).

Catchment map from Global Watersheds, Google Earth Pro image from 22/04/2023. The controlled concrete spillway is located at the upper left edge of the dam, with the engineered topographic “natural” spillway near the lower right. This can be examined in more detail in Google Maps’ satellite view.

Possibly Victoria’s most dangerous drainage is the Campaspe River draining into the Murray Valley Vote Climate One’s home base in Kyneton is located in the middle of this catchment that begins just over the hill from where I live. The river is held back by Lake Eppalock, formed by a 650 m long embankment dam (i.e., similar to Derna’s mud-pie dams) that at full supply holds back 300,000 megaliters of water (possabably 1000 x as much as the Derna dams) from a catchment above the dam of 2,100 km². Unlike Derna’s dams that had no provision to manage spillage over the top of the dam. Eppalock has a well designed “controlled” concrete spillway with a maximum capacity of 8,000 m³/sec, as well as two “emergency” spillways enabled by the existing topography. [Based on Global Watersheds topography and Google Earth, the second emergency spillway is no more than a narrow topographic low that could pass only a small fraction of the volume passing over the engineered spillways.] In October last year, (and once in 2011), with the dam at 130% of full capacity, flooding exceeded the capacity of the controlled spillway with an outflow of 103,000 megaliters a day! (more than a third of the lake’s entire capacity at full supply in one day!).

Excellent drone vision is available for the effect of this outflow on the spillways, i.e., erasing the road along the top of the emergency spillway and scouring away the earth down to the bedrock forcefully enough to eat into the rock itself. Fortunately the scouring did not reach the concrete leveling wall designed to ensure that the overflow was spread uniformly across the very wide spill area to minimize concentration of the erosive flow of the water on small areas.

Google Earth imagery of flood scouring of the emergency spillway. Red lines show the location of the original road (erased) and the temporary replacement road below it. Arrows point to the deepest gouges eroded into the basement rock. Some of the erosion is a result of the prior spillage of the reservoir in 2011, but it is clearly deeper here. The leveling wall is clearly visible along the bottom of the graphic

Even more detailed imagery of the functioning of both spillways and very real damage sustained by the emergency spillway during and after the 2022 flooding is provided by Joel Bramley Photography.

Noting that the 2011 and 2022 floods were caused by ‘ordinary’ decadal scale extreme weather events, one wonders whether the dam would survive a Derna scale cataclysm.

The Wadi Derna dams across a topographically sloping drain could only hold small volumes of water limited by the dimensions of the sloping drain and height of the dams and were completely empty until Daniel arrived. By contrast Lake Eppalock is on the edge of a plateau where the topography allow the storage of many times the volume of water of the gorge immediately behind the dam. At full supply, Lake Eppalock has three main reaches. Two are approximately 10 km long, and the third is 5 km long. In places each of these is more than a km wide. Unlike the Derna dams, Epalock has well engineered spillways to minimize the likelihood of overtopping and it’s maintained. But, very much like the Derna dams, it is a ‘mud pie’ construction susceptible to cracking and slumping (especially if overtopped):

  • Significant cracking was observed on the crest of the main embankment at Lake Eppalock for many years, but in recent years increasing movement upstream [slumping?] during low reservoir levels indicated a progressively deteriorating stability situation. Investigations also revealed cohesive filter material [clay?] that would allow a crack to propagate. A fast-tracked [emergency?] remedial works program was completed in 1999 to rebuild the highly vulnerable upper rockfill shells and filters, both upstream and downstream. [Davidson et al., 2000. The Dam Safety Upgrade at Lake Eppalock]

Downstream, the Campaspe cuts through the center of the small farming town of Rochester, 56 km N of the Eppalock Dam. The 103,000 megaliter/day flooding over Eppalocks’ spillways soon flooded around 1000 of Rochester’s 1500 homes on its way to meet the also flooding Murray River in Echuca rising higher and causing a lot more damage than the 2011 flood, which was the first time Lake Eppalock spilled over the emergency spillway. Today, half of the flooded homes are still uninhabited, with some of the repairs expected to take another year for all of them to be completed because it seems there is no capacity left in the system to finish the work any sooner.

Rochester in the 2022 flood
Rochester, Vic., flood levels at 2011 Campaspe River flood
The extent of the 2022 flood was substantially worse than the 2011 flood indicated by the red line.

The end game

The stark reality is that climate change, currently driven by Earth’s exponentially growing energy imbalance, is already stressing human society to the point that we cannot even maintain a status quo where we are able to repair extreme weather damage as fast as it occurs. As cataclysm and catastrophes increasingly concatenate and overlap due to continuing global warming, resources and capacities will decline at an ever faster rate, until society can no longer avoid collapse into chaos and barbarism, and then near term extinction.

We are truly facing an existential emergency. If we cannot mobilize the the scientific, technological, and human resources reverse the imbalance to slow, stop, and reverse global warming in the very near term, the exponential growing feedbacks (primarily carbon emission from soils, permafrost, oceans and accessible fossil sources) that are driving the energy imbalance will be unstoppable until all the accessible carbon has been transferred to the atmosphere as greenhouse gases. By then humans and most other complex organisms on Earth will be extinct.

Personally, I think humans, if they can work in a focused way and cooperatively together to fight the common enemy, actually have the capacity to stop the lethal feedbacks while they are still in their early stages of ramping up. This thought is based on 14 years focused and in-depth research and writing on the co-evolution of humans and our technologies, 17 years working as an engineering knowledge management systems analyst and designer for what was then Australia’s largest defence project engineering and construction organization, and a lifetime student of evolution grounded in physics and Earth and marine sciences.

I am also old enough to remember the end of WWII and am fully aware of how America entered the war as a disunited mob of apathetic to passionate pro fascist isolationists to pro communist utopians. Yet, within weeks of being dosed with the reality of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the mob united, turned scientific glimmers into totally new sciences, technologies and logistcs, crafts into massive assembly lines, and anarchic mobs into war machines. The global war was won in Europe with America’s help with the German surrender on 8 May 1945; and by America in the Pacific with Allied help with the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945 after the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August (well under 4 years). This was followed up by the formation of the United Nations (a good start towards global government), and the restoration of many nations to a road to prosperity under the Marshall Plan.

The realities reviewed above show that humanity is currently facing the most lethally dangerous crisis in our evolutionary history, probably even more extreme than the End Permian mass extinction event that our ancestors survived 250 million years ago. If we accept this reality it should motivate us to work together collectively with the necessary focus and discipline to put the Apocalyptic Horsemen back into their mythic stable in God’s Scroll so we can escape from the down-hill highway to Earth’s Hothouse Hell (see also David Spratt’s series on Climate Code Red).

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Gov’t fiddling while Australia faces global burning

Labor Gov’t slashes vital Antarctic research by $25 M while promoting fossil fuel production/export and gifting $200 million to Aussie sport despite the desperate need to understand how unprecedented Antarctic ice and oceanic conditions relate to the climate crisis.

Anthony Albanese and the federal Labor government are supposedly concerned to keep Australians safe. Yet, if you listen to what they say,

  • It is necessary to save money by cutting $25 m from Antarctic research into why such a record shattering low amount of sea ice has formed this winter — a phenomenon that seems to place the whole of the human species at risk of near term extinction if we fail to understand and mitigate the risk. See what the science journal Nature says about this: (16 Aug 2923) Australia’s Antarctic budget cuts a ‘terrible blow for science’
  • It is more important to spend $200 m in voters’ tax dollars on cake and fairy floss (for girls sports) because the Matildas came 4th in the contest for the World Cup (see more below).
  • It is more important to cater to whims of fossil fuel with subsidies the Australia Institute estimates to be worth $57.1 bn over the forward estimates (see more below).
  • It is more important to grovel to America and the UK by spending $268bn to $368bn over the next ~30 years ($10 bn per year!) for delivery of 8 nuclear subs able to project our ‘power’ around the world in the by and by (the majority of these costs would also go overseas) when we could build 20 air-independent subs, a huge kit of other defensive weapons & related infrastructure, with $hundreds of billions left over (see more below).

I would call this government malfeasance of the highest order!


A couple of news items and some basic data on our only planet may make the claim of malfeasance more real.

Incredibly low sea-ice extent around Antarctica. Since early May (i.e., for more than 3½ months!) there has been an all-time record low for the month of the year since records began in 1979. Sigma (σ) is a measure of the probability of observing a deviation of that amount from the average of all measures for that day, assuming the deviations are randomly distributed. -5σ is about one chance in 3.5 million, -6σ is about one chance in 500 million! – and we have seen these extremes day after day after day!!

News Corp, 2 Aug 2023

Vital research interrupted as Australian Antarctic Division faces budget woes

As many as 56 Antarctic research projects could be cancelled, delayed or restricted, said an email sent from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) to its staff.

The email stated that the division was facing budget constraints and would need to locate $25 million in savings in order to deliver the planned projects, which include studies into the diminishing sea ice, declining penguin populations, and the “cleaner Antarctica program”, an initiative designed to remedy damage caused by human activity such as oil spills.

Further information from anonymous insiders confirmed that two of Australia’s Antarctic research stations would not be fully staffed during the upcoming summer season, when scientific research at the south pole is usually at its peak.

The announcement comes at a crucial time for scientists, many of whom say this research is more important than ever.

Just last week, it was reported that Antarctic sea ice levels are at a record low, with ice that is normally recovered over the winter being absent – an event that would naturally occur only once every 7.5 million years. [this assumes that the variation is random, but clearly, this record is not random as the deviation has lasted for months, and many other climate indicators are also going crazy at the same time for similarly long periods]

“It couldn’t be any more catastrophic to hear at the moment, considering we’re seeing these incredible changes, particularly the sea ice right now. We’re seeing so little sea ice relative to what we normally see this time of year.”

If there’s a gap in data collection, it’s catastrophic for our understanding. If we have data up to a certain date, and then we have a gap for three years, five years, and then we start the data set again, it doesn’t make it useless. But it makes it really hard for us to get that understanding that we need.” [Especially when we need that information right now!]

Read the complete article….

Global Sea Surface Temperature at an all time high since records began in 1981 — and still rising compared to previous high records for day of the year. ClimateReanalyzer. Grey lines – Global average SST variation for each year from 1981 to 2021. Dotted line – global average SST, dashed line – 2σ above the average, Red line – global average SST variation for 2022. Note: for legibility, the image only shows temperatures from March 1 to Sept 17.

Sea Ice Thickness: Given that only a thin veneer of sea-ice is left over the Arctic Ocean with 3-4 weeks of melting time left, it seems possible that there may be “blue ocean” at the North Pole this year.

These three CICE charts are a product of the US Naval Research Lab’s GOFS 3.1 Global Ocean Forecasting System. See also Wikipedia: Measurement of sea ice. Other products for both poles provide similar ocean graphics for Sea Surface Salinity (SSS); Sea Surface Height (SSH) – as the ocean warms, it expands so the surfaces of warmer volumes will rise above mean sea-level; and CICE Speed and Drift. They also provide GIF animations of the last 30 days variation for all plots, and daily plots back to 2014. Except for the ice-related products, all of these measures are provided for global oceans and subregions.

Like most Australians, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been inspired by the Matildas’ World Cup performance Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/FIFA/Getty Images / From the article.

Tony Sheppherd, 19 Aug 2023 in The Guardian

Albanese government to pledge $200m for women’s sport after Matildas inspire Australia

In the wake of the Matildas’ World Cup performance, the government will unveil new funding and changes to TV bidding rights for sporting fixtures.

The Albanese government will promise $200m to improve women’s sporting facilities and equipment after the Matildas’ historic Women’s World Cup run sparked an unprecedented outpouring of support for women’s football.

As the Matildas prepare for their third-place playoff against Sweden in Brisbane on Saturday, the government will declare the national team had “changed sport forever”, while unveiling a new funding package and flagging moves to make more major events available on free-to-air television.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will announce a new grants program, called Play Our Way, with money available for all sports. The government expects soccer will need a significant amount, given clubs have seen a “mind-boggling increase in interest” in the wake of the World Cup.

The grant guidelines have not been completed, but the government said the money would go to “promote equal access, build more suitable facilities, and support grassroots initiatives to get women and girls to engage, stay, and participate in sport throughout their lives”.

[The total budget for the Antarctic Division is around $800 million…; The ANKUS Submarine Project will cost between $268bn to $368bn between now and the mid 2050s – assuming society doesn’t collapse from ‘global boiling’ and precipitate global mass extinction before then.]

Read the complete article….

Cumulative area burned in Canada by year estimated from satellite detected hotspots since measurements began in 2003. Natural Resources Canada. Black line is 2023. As at 23 Aug 2023 14,664,278 ha had burned (off the scale of the automatically generated chart) — 3 x larger area compared to the previous largest burn, 4,524,137, recorded for the whole of 2014. Note also that in previous years very little burning occurred after mid August. In other words 1.47 % of the total land area of Canada has burned so far this year, with no indication that the burning will be stopping any time soon.

Sea Ice Concentration: Where thin ice still exists, most of that is fairly broken up with 30% or more of the surface within the pixel apparently open water.

Sea Surface Temperature: Warmish sea water, 2-4+ °C comes up to the edge of the thin ice, and even seems to be detected within the edge of the mapped extent (>15% concentration)

Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere jet streams from ClimateReanalyzer’s Today’s Weather Maps. Normally each hemisphere has two circumferential jet streams: Polar and Sub Tropical. In the Northern Hemisphere the winds are mostly too slow to be considered as jet streams at all (> 60 kts) and essentially completely chaotic. This accounts for the frequent, long-lived, mostly motionless, and extreme heat domes promoting unprecedented flash droughts, wildfires, and floods. In the Southern Hemisphere, the winds are of jetstream strength, but again they seem somewhat confused and chaotic which may be associated with the extreme anomalies in sea ice.

What do these measures signify?

On its own, any one of the unprecedented deviations from ‘normal’ climate behavior over the last 40 years or more shown the the graphics above would be scary/remarkable. The fact that several different global measures are more or less simultaneously show similar degrees of (or even growing!) deviation over several months should be sounding emergency warning sirens around the world.

Reports posted to all Australian parliamentarians last month (available via VoteClimateOne.Org) provide more detail and explanation of these and other climate measures documenting the accelerating crisis: Cover Letter – 5 July 2023 and Australian MPs: Act Now! Later may be too late. These, in turn, link to still more recent data on Climate Sentinel News: Global Climate Change Now and an unedited collection of links to the latest news during August to date — Aug 2023 Climate extremes.

As explained, the nature, extent and duration of the deviations scream out that the complexly dynamical global climate system has been ‘forced’ by increasingly high global average temperatures out the semi-stable glacial-interglacial cycle where it is now beginning to fall (i.e., run away) towards climate apocalypse, collapse and global mass extinction in a much hotter ‘hothouse Earth’ state. The current rate of change in climate indicators is far faster than anything that can be reconstructed for even the worst of them all – the End Permian that also seemed to be driven by runaway warming as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions. As explained in the documents cited in the previous paragraph, if we cannot mobilize effective action quickly enough to halt and reverse the global warming, our climate system seems to be crossing several tipping points that will drive us ever faster down the road to our extinction in Hothouse Hell. If we continue our present ‘business as usual’ attitudes of supporting the fossil fuel industry and gaslighting emergency actions to manage the climate crisis, and the climate trends seen in the last few months continue at the present pace, society may well collapse before 2050 with probable extinction of our species by 2100.

Note: In the cited documents above I suggested one of the tipping points being crossed was stoppage of Earth’s ‘thermohaline circulation‘ in the North Atlantic. At least I have found solid evidence showing that it is still working — even though hot water is covering the ocean surface — the depressed sea level and actual whirlpools E of Newfoundland and S of Greenland show deeper cool salty water is still being sucked down the usual plug-hole to the bottom of the ocean: last 30 days GIF of Sea Surface Height.

Is doom now inevitable or are there good reasons to think we can still climb out of the hole to a sustainable future? YES! Stainability is possible, but only if we act fast enough and hard enough!

Even if we have the threshold to runaway greenhouse, I remain optimistic enough to think if we act fast and hard enough we can still manage to find a survivable future. My reason is based on historical experience. I’m old enough to remember the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Consider the history that led up to this:  It took something on the order of 150 years of work using steampunk technology starting with mining coal with picks and shovels to reach our current crisis point. However in the same 150 years our scientific understanding, technological prowess, and overall knowledge has grown exponentially over that same time with a doubling time of 2-5 years (see Homo habilis to Homo destructor ― How the rise of tool-making apes can destroy the world). 

America’s mobilization for WWII shows what humans can do in an emergency situation if they work together. Until Dec 7 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Americans were isolationist deniers of the reality of Axis aggression (not unlike Trumpist ‘MAGA’). By 8 May 1945 Germany had been expunged and on 6 Aug. 1945 the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (and then Nagasaki a few days later) overwhelmed Japan. In 1941 nuclear fission was a wacky idea proposed by some academics. In 4 years nuclear science was developed, the Manhattan Project was conceived, several different kinds of production infrastructure (Hanford, Oak Ridge Facility, Savanna River (a bit after the War), Los Alamos, etc…) were designed and built, atom bombs were designed, built, tested, and used. In the area of engineering and logistics, an average of 5 highly capable destroyers were built each month for 32 months and an average of 3 Liberty Ships every 2 days between 1941 and 1945. were able to be assembled and launched each week. The United Nations was formed, etc.. Equally prodigious challenges were met in many other areas that completely changed world history. Yes, conscription, coercion, rationing, etc. was required – but the global challenge was met and the common danger vanquished….

Today, we have massively more knowledge and prowess than we did in the early 1940’s. Humans can do remarkable things if people and governments unite and work together to fight the common danger. There is no greater danger than the near term extinction of our entire species and most of the rest of Earth’s biosphere!

In other words, there is no time left for the slow process of electing climate activists to replace sitting puppets in our parliaments.

We need a government fit and able enough to declare the emergency and lead an emergency mobilization to research and manage the climate crisis. If we are to gain effective government coordination and support we have no choice but to change the minds of the parliamentarians we have now.

Measuring Labor’s prioritization of the climate emergency relative to supporting the fossil fuel industry and crazy defence projects

A good measure of our government’s national priorities is the amount of our tax money being allocated to supporting various kinds of activities, and how these amounts change over time.

Australians are paying increasingly high costs due to more frequent, extensive, and severe weather and fire events associated with the accelerating rate of global warming driving climate change. One would think our government would give high priority to understanding what causes the extremes in hopes that we can better prepare for and/or mitigate the ever worsening catastrophes caused by the climate extremes. There are good reasons for thinking that positive feedbacks from ‘polar amplification‘ play a major role in driving the crescendo of climate catastrophes. This winter’s shockingly low rate of sea ice formation around Antarctica that might happen once in 500,000,000 (FIVE HUNDRED MILLION) years through random variation given the observed variations over the last 40 years. (Earth’s land animals emerged from the water less than 500 million years ago.) Clearly the missing winter sea ice is associated with the other similarly improbable climate extremes noted above for this year. Clearly we need to understand scientifically what has caused this year’s anomaly and how it relates to the other extreme variations…….. Yet, because the Government is cutting their funding, the Australian Antarctic “division [is] facing budget constraints and [needs] to locate $25 million in savings in order to deliver the planned projects, which include studies into the diminishing sea ice, …”, etc. Clearly, our government has little interest in supporting Antarctic research critical for understanding climate change.

Some indication of who our Australian state and federal governments are supporting big-time (along with many other countries) is their apparent patrons in the fossil fuel industry (mostly comprised of overseas multinational companies).

By comparison, it is interesting to see how concerned Federal Labor is to support action to protect citizens from the increasing catastrophic and existential threats from climate climate change driven by global warming.

According to the numbers the Climate Council has provided, their steps towards climate action amount to $3,621,600,000 for some very fuzzily defined categories — $3.62 bn compared to $29 – $57 bn (depending on who you follow) in pretty definite subsidies and supports for the mostly overseas fossil fuel industry.

What do they get in return for this money? In FY2022 [1], fossil fuel companies donated $2 million to the ALP, Liberal and National parties. Not a lot, but it helps them with ‘winning the election’ costs. Total revenue from the industry is around $20 bn (still less than the subsidies!)

And then there is government management of the potentially existential cost of the climate emergency versus abject kowtowing to ‘his master’s voice’ via AUKUS

Rex Patrick, ex submariner in Oberon and Collins Class subs, sonar and electronic technologies expert, defence contractor, author for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and Federal Senator from South Australia, is what I would consider to be a qualified expert on naval technology. In one X-tweet Mr Patrick demonstrates just how mindlessly stupid allocating $368 bn to AUKUS would be — even for the purpose of acquiring military kit to defend ourselves from other nations:

Instead of 8 nuclear subs that may (or may not) be delivered for the currently estimated cost sometime by the Americans and UK able to project Australian power (for whose benefit?) to the other side of the planet, the same budget would supply 20 air-independent (= very quiet!) subs to protect Australian interests around our shores and in adjacent waters (e.g., Indonesian Archipelago) and a huge kit of additional defence hardware that could mostly be manufactured within the Australian economy — leaving $200 BILLION FOR MEASURES TO KEEP AUSTRALIANS SAFE FROM CLIMATE CATASTROPHE.

What is it about Australian governments in majority power that makes them so eager to work for the interests of (mostly overseas) special interest patrons rather than for the safety and well-being of Australian citizens who have voted to put them in power? To reiterate:

We need a government fit and able enough to declare the emergency and lead an emergency mobilization to research and manage the climate crisis. If we are to gain effective government coordination and support we have no choice but to change the minds of the parliamentarians we have now.

The only way this will happen is if they can be convinced that voters will remove them from Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity if the don’t. They only way they will be convinced they will be voted out is if enough voters flood their mail boxes, in trays, and phone lines with demands for climate action — or else! And, I’m pretty sure there are enough members of climate and environment action groups that if we all sent our emails, posts, phone calls, and even personal visits to electoral offices to deliver this message, that action will be taken.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Aug 2023 Climate extremes

Unedited links etc to climate news sources I trust

The Age reports Global warming to cost Australia up to $423 billion over 40 years This relies on the IPCC’s consistent downplaying of risks in complex dynamical systems that are inherently unpredictable – especially when based on input data that likely did not include observational data of extreme 1weather events over the last 4+ years. Extreme weather is ‘smacking us in the face’ with worse to come, but a ‘tiny window’ of hope remains, say leading climate scientists Heatwaves, wildfires and floods are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, leading climate scientists say.

Extremely well done survey of this year’s climate breakdown!

A climatologist telling how difficult it is for a scientist to actually tell the full horror of the accelerating climate crisis forecast by the science:

The summer ahead By Joëlle Gergis Sept 2023 in The Monthly

The climate disasters unfolding in the northern hemisphere are a sign of what’s in store here, as governments fail to act on the unfolding emergency

South America’s winter too:

Western Sydney University researcher Thomas Longden says heatwaves are a “silent killer”; they are responsible for about 2 per cent of deaths in Australia, but that toll goes largely unnoticed. Heatwaves are also set to get more frequent and more intense with climate change.

A Bureau of Meteorology map showing sea surface temperatures. The Bureau of Meteorology expects a patch of the Tasman Sea off Tasmania and Victoria will be at least 2.5C above average from September to February.

Hawaii Officials Release List of 388 People Missing From Maui Fires. New York Times 25 Aug 2023

Authorities in Hawaii released a list late on Thursday naming 388 people who are still unaccounted for in the aftermath of the deadliest wildfires in America in more than a century, which killed at least 115 people.

The fires devastated the coastal town of Lahaina on the island of Maui, as well as other areas of the island, more than two weeks ago. Search-and-rescue teams are still sifting through the last patches of ash and rubble looking for human remains.

In publicizing the names, the authorities hope to narrow the tally of the missing. In a statement, Maui’s police chief, John Pelletier, asked anyone who survived the fire to come forward and remove their name from the list. Officials had said earlier on Tuesday that 1,000 to 1,100 people remained unaccounted for.

The list released on Thursday, Mr. Pelletier said, includes anyone for whom officials have a first and last name and contact information for the person who reported them missing.

Officials have been bracing the public for the likelihood that the number of confirmed dead from the fires — which stands at 115 — will rise substantially.

….. – Scientists raise alarm over ‘dangerously fast’ growth in atmospheric methane. As global methane concentrations soar over 1,900 parts per billion, some researchers fear that global warming itself is behind the rapid rise. [paywall]

Finally, what seems to be a rational way to use computational methods to assess to predict tipping points in realistic models of complex dynamical systems where the input data does not (yet) include any observed tipping points!!

[PDF] Tipping Point Forecasting in Non-Stationary Dynamics on Function Spaces

M Liu-Schiaffini, CE Singer, N Kovachki, T Schneider… – arXiv preprint arXiv …, 2023

Tipping points are abrupt, drastic, and often irreversible changes in the evolution of
non-stationary and chaotic dynamical systems. For instance, increased greenhouse
gas concentrations are predicted to lead to drastic decreases in low cloud cover,
referred to as a climatological tipping point. In this paper, we learn the evolution of
such non-stationary dynamical systems using a novel recurrent neural operator
(RNO), which learns mappings between function spaces. After training RNO on only …

Cites: ‪Permafrost carbon emissions in a changing Arctic‬

Australia’s Antarctic budget cuts a ‘terrible blow for science’ Scientists around the globe have expressed concern at reports that the Australian Antarctic Division will have its budget slashed by the government. Nature 16/08/2023

Scientists worldwide fear that research tracking how climate change is affecting Antarctica will be disrupted, after it was reported that the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) will cancel, postpone or strip back several of its research projects this summer because of a looming Aus$25-million (US$16.2-million) budget cut. The cut comes hot on the heels of the news that Antarctica’s sea ice has hit a drastic and surprising new low.

Among the projects on the chopping block are studies investigating how sea ice is changing in the warming climate. “It’s just a terrible blow for the science,” says Nerilie Abram, a palaeoclimate scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra who chairs the Australian Academy of Science’s National Committee for Antarctic Research.

In July, AAD management told staff by e-mail that it needed to reduce its annual operating budget for the next year by 16%. AAD staff have confirmed to Nature that several projects scheduled to be conducted from Davis and Mawson will not be supported this season, including surveys on sea-ice thickness and landfast sea ice — large ice sheets that are ‘fastened’ to the shoreline or sea floor.

Nathan Bindoff, a physical oceanographer at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia, says he was “astonished” when he learnt about the cuts. “That’s a lot of money — even in a very big programme — to absorb,” says Bindoff, who leads the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership, which collaborates with the AAD to understand the role Antarctica has in the global climate system and the implications of this relationship on marine ecosystems.

On 27 June, data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center showed that the sea ice surrounding Antarctica had reached a record low winter extent of 11.7 million square kilometres, more than 2.5 million square kilometres below the average for the same time of year between 1981 and 2010. Although researchers expect sea ice to dwindle as climate change intensifies, its drastic fall this year came as a surprise, says Abram.

Now, more than ever, researchers need to be on the ground in Antarctica to gain a better understanding of what’s driving the sudden decline in sea ice, she says. “We really need to get there to make those physical measurements.” Abram adds that gaps in long-term monitoring data will make it difficult for researchers to understand how Antarctic systems are changing as temperatures rise, particularly on the relatively understudied eastern side of the continent, where the Australian division is based.

Australia’s Antarctic budget cuts a ‘terrible blow for science’

Article needed to discuss & highlight differences between Andrew Weaver’s article, The “Gulf Stream’ will not collapse in 2025: What the alarmist headlines got wrong” and Kemp et al., “Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios

See also: Naomi Oreskes on November 1, 2022;;

Many risky feedback loops amplify the need for climate action 2023

This one is politics, not science:

Atmospheric Methane: Comparison Between Methane’s Record in 2006–2022 and During Glacial Terminations –

Atmospheric methane’s rapid growth from late 2006 is unprecedented in the observational record. Assessment of atmospheric methane data attributes a large fraction of this atmospheric growth to increased natural emissions over the tropics, which appear to be responding to changes in anthropogenic climate forcing. Isotopically lighter measurements of


are consistent with the recent atmospheric methane growth being mainly driven by an increase in emissions from microbial sources, particularly wetlands. The global methane budget is currently in disequilibrium and new inputs are as yet poorly quantified. Although microbial emissions from agriculture and waste sources have increased between 2006 and 2022 by perhaps 35 Tg/yr, with wide uncertainty, approximately another 35–45 Tg/yr of the recent net growth in methane emissions may have been driven by natural biogenic processes, especially wetland feedbacks to climate change. A model comparison shows that recent changes may be comparable or greater in scale and speed than methane’s growth and isotopic shift during past glacial/interglacial termination events. It remains possible that methane’s current growth is within the range of Holocene variability, but it is also possible that methane’s recent growth and isotopic shift may indicate a large-scale reorganization of the natural climate and biosphere is under way.

Increasing trends in regional heatwaves Nature Communications

Several good links in the following Conversation article:


Following is a very useful/important post. Open X-tweet and follow the thread!

I think humans have reached the point where we have to unite to mobilize a global war against global warming or accept near-term human extinction. Just from today’s evidence there are strong reasons to think we have gone over the threshold of a cascade of tipping points into temperature raising positive feedbacks that seem to have no off switches — and we are still doing our best to continue increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Temperature has been in record territory since March 15.with the deviation of the anomaly increasing fairly steadily since then.

Crazy mad jetstreams in the Southern Hemisphere. Basically no jetstreams in the Northern…. (Wind speed needs to be more than 60 kt to be considered a jetstream)

Following is a US Navy product: presumably in aid of submarine navigation. Shows Arctic ice melting fast – not a record yet, but what is left doesn’t look like it will last too many more days before the usual late September minimum. If open ocean extends to the North Pole that will be a decade or more earlier than predicted from past warming trends. I have not watched these animations in previous year – but to me the following four graphics seem to be heading for a cataclysmic train wreck. A blue Arctic Ocean exposed to 24 hour solar heating is not good news for the planet. (Note: this is the updated version-3)

20-30% open water at the North Pole!

SSS = Sea Surface Salinity. Here you can clearly see relatively fresh cold water flowing out into the North Atlantic east of Labrador making saltier water less dense (that is already too hot and light to sink into the depths to drive the deep water return flow of the AMOC / Atlantic Conveyor / Atlantic branch of the global thermohaline circulation work. In other words there is currently a total stoppage of the AMOC. Southern branches also seem to be mostly plugged judging by the water around Antarctica being too hot for anything like normal amounts of Antarctic sea ice to form in the southern winter.
Mixed layer depth. Note that vertically insolated regions (northern hemisphere summer) have very shallow mixed layer. Antarctic subpolar regions with little or no solar heating have deep mixed layers (i.e., with little thermal stratification) presumably facilitating the formation of sinks for cold mixed water into the global thermohaline circulation.

See also:
  1. Testing the NEW? footnote function. ↩︎
Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Northern globe burning & El Niño is just starting

Northern Hemisphere summer is just starting but heat and wildfire records are already shattered over three continents! Oz + El Niño + summer?

The 6 June 2023 Washington Post gives us a bit of a hint of the kinds of conditions humans are likely to face over the next few years if we fail to stop our accelerating slide down the road to extinction as our global climate system flips from its semistable Glacial/Interglacial cycle to its Hothouse Earth state. We need climate emergency action now!

Smoke billows upward from a planned ignition by firefighters tackling the Donnie Creek Complex wildfire south of British Columbia on Saturday. (B.C. Wildfire Service/Reuters) / from the article

Ian LivingstonDan Stillman and Jason Samenow – 06/06/2023, Washington Post

Extreme heat, wildfires wreaking havoc with hottest months still ahead

The oceans are record warm while heat waves have invaded multiple continents and ice levels are at historic lows.

Spring has only just begun to transition to summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but some of the season’s most odious and dangerous extreme weather is already running rampant.

Prolonged and punishing heat waves in Asia have sent temperatures soaring to 100 degrees as far north as Siberia and above 110 degrees in Thailand and Vietnam, breaking records.

Wildfires are raging in Canada, which has never seen so much land burn so early in the year. They come after a record-warm May.

Extreme conditions extend to the Southern Hemisphere too, where record warmth and historically low sea ice levels linger even as that part of the globe enters winter.

The extremes are all connected to ocean waters that have hovered at record-warm levels for months, boosted by human-caused climate change. The weather chaos could escalate in the coming months as summer temperatures peak and a developing El Niño elevates air and water temperatures worldwide further.

Read the complete article….

Compare what is happening this year in Canada with what was observed by Hall 2016:

See the complete presentation….

And then the 2020 wildfires on the Siberian permafrost and taiga as summarised by Hall 2020:

Apparently the situation this year in early June, which is still very early in the normal temperate and subpolar climate zones of the Northern Hemishere, is already significantly worse than either the whole years of 2016 and 2020.

Where climate change is concerned, in 2023 before the year is halfway finished, indicators of the progress of global warming are already of the map into previously uncharted territories.

This post here only adds to alarms being set off by Climate Sentinel News‘s posts of the last few days (click thumbnails to read the posts):

What can we do to turn off the road to extinction in Hothouse Earth before it is too late?

In a few days and affiliated organizations will be launching our “Tools for Changing Government Minds”. The need for change is too urgent to depend on replacing people in office. Instead we have to change the minds of the existing people in office. Our launch document(s) will provide access to the tools, explain how to use them, and provide an armory full of nuggets of knowledge to be used as ammunition.

The first nugget to be fired at your local representative from as many different sources as possible is: (again click the thumbnail to open the file):

We need climate emergency action now! to get it started email the link to or post a copy of the document above to your federal and state MPs and senators with your own comments: If they don’t immediately start acting on the climate emergency that they will be history come the next election. Actions must include declaring (or passing legislation) that they recognize that we have to fight an existential emergency and all parliamentarians must get off their arses to shut down all sources of carbon emissions and begin mobilization to develop genuinely globally scalable technologies for capturing carbon from past emissions and safely sequestering the captured carbon in soils or in the deep oceans.

You can start doing this today if you want. You are welcome to link to or download and print any of the Climate Sentinel News posts that will help drive home the points you want to make in your cover note.

The basic idea of the campaign is very simple.

What politician is going to continue working as a puppet for special interests against first a few letters on the climate action theme, then tens, then hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and possibly even hundreds of thousands specifically addressed to him/her with the message act or else…… The mailing lists exist, we are crafting proforma covering documents, etc..

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Australian MPs: Act now! Later may be too late!

Human activities are triggering self-reinforcing existential climate risks that are growing more lethal with time — our extinction is likely

Over the last 200 years prodigious amounts of carbon-based fossil fuels (coal, oil, methane) have been burned to produce waste gases (mostly CO₂) and useful energy to drive the Industrial Revolution, our affluence, our toys, our technologies, our wars, and everything that has followed. The fossil carbon humans have extracted from the Earth and burned in an instant of geological time took our planet millions of years to accumulate and store in the geosphere (i.e., rocks & soil). In the same geological instant, the waste gases released from the burning are fundamentally changing Earth’s atmosphere (the air we breathe, etc…). Because of the physical properties of CO₂ molecules and other atmospheric emissions, this has trapped enough additional solar heat in the atmosphere to significantly raise average temperatures around the world. In turn, the added heat is already causing unprecedented climatic disasters. These existential climate risks will only become more frequent and catastrophic as temperatures continue to rise. (See CO2: Past, Present, & Future – one of many dozens of articles covering the same facts, and Climate apocalypse).

However, natural regulatory processes in the climate system have kept the environment stable enough for more than 800,000 years up until the 20th Century – enough time for humans to evolve and develop the social systems, agriculture, technology, and cultural riches we benefit from today.

Image modified from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Atmospheric CO2 levels (blue line) and temperature (red line) from year 1,000 to 1978. Data for CO2 from Vostok ice core, Law Dome ice core, and Mauna Loa air samples. Data for temperature from Vostok ice core. CO2 measured here is in parts per million (ppm = by weight), which is similar to ppmv (by volume).

As shown in the graphs above, the shock to the composition of the atmosphere caused by these human generated changes is increasingly disrupting natural climate regulation. If we do not quickly stop and repair the damage we have done to the atmosphere, then over the next few decades increasingly extreme, frequent and extensive climate changes and catastrophes will be causing more death and destruction to our societies than we have the capacity to repair. In turn, this climate collapse will lead to agricultural, economic and social collapse followed by mass die-offs and probable human extinction within a century or two.

Business as usual cannot cope with a global systems breakdown. Nor can uncoordinated individual actions. However, at least for a few more years before systems breakdown has progressed too far, we should still be able to assemble the technology and knowledge to avoid this doom. Beginning with primitive Victorian era steam-punk technologies backed by a very limited scientific understanding of climate and geophysics, humans took over 150 years to burn enough fossil fuel to accidentally cause the present crisis. Today we have now developed a deep and detailed scientific understanding of how the world works and vastly more powerful technologies. With will, leadership, and cooperation at international, national, state, and local areas we should be able to locate, diagnose and repair aspects of the climate system we have broken to re-stabilize it in a state we can live with.

However, to do this we will have to revolutionise many of our governments. We need to change them from their usual businesses of representing and working for the special interests of their donors, patrons and puppet masters (many of them associated with fossil fuel industries), to a new business of truly representing the needs of the citizens they supposedly represent – – especially in the face of the growing climate crisis.

If you are an MP, you need to join this revolution!

The factual scientific evidence of the consequence we face if we fail to stop and reverse global warming is overwhelming. However, I recognize that a life in politics where almost everything can be ‘negotiated’ does not prepare most politicians to understand the difference between responding to non-negotiable facts of physical reality and the business-as-usual of getting elected/re-elected and trading influence.

In the remainder of this work I present some of the overwhelming evidence of the dangers we face from an increasingly destabilised climate system driven by unrestrained global warming, and why our governments must change and act if we are to have any hope of surviving the existential global crisis this is causing. Because this evidence is based on scientific laws developed over some 400 years of testing and practical use, it is totally independent of whatever people might want to ‘believe’ now about how the world works

Laws of physics, geology, chemistry and biology

The scientific laws of physics and chemistry describe how the universe we live in works, irrespective of anything we humans might want to believe. Because atoms and molecules work the way they do, burning carbon releases ‘greenhouse’ (i.e., heat trapping) gases into the atmosphere. Because the increased concentration of these gases in the atmosphere traps reduces the amount of solar energy leaving our planet, the world is growing warmer.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s (NOAA) Mauna Loa observatory’s records show the longest available continuous series of meticulous(!) measurements of important greenhouse gases. Variation in the two most important gases are shown below. The amount of these gases in the atmosphere increased every year since the recording began (except for methane which showed slight decreases in three out of 5 years beginning in 2000). More importantly, the rate of CO₂ increase has also increased in 5 of the 6 decades in the record (i.e., it’s getting worse even faster now than it was earlier!). These kinds of graphs are based on many discrete observations taken every day for many years at particular locations (in this case Mauna Loa, Hawaii) that are replicated by similar observations from other stable locations around the world (e.g., Cape Grim, Tasmania – see also CSIRO Atmospheric Composition and Chemistry).

NOAA Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases / Trends in CO₂ (carbon dioxide) / Trends in CH₄ (methane). The average amounts of gas are plotted (red dots) on a monthly basis. The average increase in the amounts of gas are plotted yearly.  Source

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere act as a thermal blanket causing the Earth’s temperature to rise by reducing the amount of solar heat lost to space — same heat in, less heat out: inevitably everything covered by the blanket gets warmer. Just how much warmer is measured by the ‘temperature anomaly‘.

It should be no surprise that dumping millions of years worth of carbon accumulation into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases at an accelerating rate over 200 years or so has significantly affected global temperatures.

Berkeley Earth’s Global Temperature Report for 2022 – Posted on by Robert Rohde.
The global mean temperature in 2022 is estimated to have been 1.24 °C (2.24 °F) above the average temperature from 1850-1900, a period often used as a pre-industrial baseline for global temperature targets. This is ~0.03 °C (~0.05 °F) warmer than in 2021. As a result, 2021 is nominally the fifth warmest year to have been directly observed, though the years 2015, 2017, 2018, 2021, and 2022 all cluster closely together relative to their uncertainty estimates. In particular 2022 and 2015 are essentially tied, and 2022 could just as easily be regarded as the 6th warmest year. This global mean temperature in 2022 is equivalent to 0.91 °C (1.64 °F) above the 1951-1980 average, which is often used as a reference period for comparing global climate analyses. The last eight years stand out as the eight warmest years to have been directly observed. (Note: Berkeley Earth’s methodologies and their differences from other groups providing similar global temperature records are described here.)

Around ninety percent of the excess heat Earth absorbs is held in the oceans, and water in its three forms (gas, liquid and ice) is the main transporter for distributing that energy around the planet.

Data source: Observations from various ocean measurement devices, including conductivity-temperature-depth instruments (CTDs), Argo profiling floats, and eXpendable BathyThermographs (XBTs). Credit: NOAA/NCEI World Ocean Database. A more detailed graph including additional measurements from instrumented mooring arrays, and ice-tethered profilers (ITPs) covers the period 1992 – 2022. Credit NASA ECCO. Covering more than 70% of Earth’s surface, our global ocean has a very high heat capacity. It has absorbed 90% of the warming that has occurred in recent decades due to increasing greenhouse gases, and the top few meters of the ocean store as much heat as Earth’s entire atmosphere.
Note: If you want to grasp how many and what kinds of precision measurements – cross-checked across a variety of measurement platforms go into constructing these graphs, I suggest taking the time to go through one of ECCO’s presentations: ECCO: Integrating Ocean and Water.

Water (= H₂O) is a major component in the climate system and the main carrier of energy driving weather and climate change.

Each of water’s three physical states: water vapour (=gas), liquid water, and frozen water (=ice), together with transitions between the three states, all play important roles in the absorption, storage, transport, and release of heat around the planet. In its own right water vapour is also the most important and variable greenhouse gas.

Of all the natural materials forming the outer layers of the Earth, water has the second highest heat capacity of any known chemical compound. A lot of energy needs to be absorbed or released to warm or cool a quantity of water by even one degree — the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 gm water by 1 °C at standard pressure and temperature has its own name, the calorie. (An old unit of measure, but the easiest to follow here.) This same amount of heat is released when the 1 gm cools by 1°. To raise the temperature of 1.3 sextillion litres just by 1° of the world’s oceans takes the absorption of a humongous amount of heat!

Water (Hydrosphere) and Air (Atmosphere)

Water in the world Ocean

At temperatures above 4 °C, water expands as it warms. In other words, a parcel of water composed of a given number of molecules occupying space expands in volume as it warms from 4 °C to boiling. Thus, as the ocean warms, sea levels rise. Water running off the land from melting glaciers and ice sheets causes sea levels to rise further and faster.

Warmer waters lying over cooler waters of the same salt content tend not to mix. However, as warm salt water evaporates, salt is left behind, making the remaining surface water denser, until it becomes heavier than cooler water below, allowing the warm water to sink and mix with the cooler water. This helps to suck in ocean currents to replace parcels of the cooling saltier water as they become denser and sink into the depths.

Thus, ocean currents are important engines for transporting heat around the globe.

Water in the atmosphere

Boiling or evaporating 1 gm of liquid water to gas (i.e., invisible steam) at one atmosphere of pressure takes approximately 540 calories of energy (= heat of vaporisation/evaporation)! Similarly, when H₂O gas condenses to form visible steam (i.e., a mist of liquid water) the same energy of vaporisation is released as heat.

When liquid water freezes to form solid ice it releases ~80 calories/gm, while 80 calories of energy needs to be extracted from the surrounding environment to freeze 1 gm of liquid water to ice.

The gas laws discovered in the 1800s through practical experience with the thermodynamics of steam and internal combustion engines govern the relationships between temperature, volume, and pressure of gases. As heat energy warms a parcel of gas at a standard pressure, the absorbed energy causes the gas molecules comprising the parcel to move faster – resulting in increased volume (lowering the density of the parcel compared to surrounding parcels that have not changed in temperature). Or, vice versa increasing pressure will cause the gas parcel to heat up. Similarly, cooling gas will shrink in volume (i.e., become more dense) as its temperature decreases, or warming gas will increase its volume becoming less dense as it is heated. This is why parcels of warm air tend to rise in generally cooler air and vice versa.

Finally, another set of laws describes the solubility of water vapour in Earth’s atmosphere, and the solubility of the various gases forming the atmosphere in water. A parcel carrying the maximum concentration of a dissolved material is said to be ‘saturated’. Normally any excess over the point of saturation is precipitated out of the solution. Where precipitation of water vapour in the atmosphere is concerned, the precipitated water is called dew (if it collects on a surface), mist (if the droplets are small enough to remain floating in the atmosphere), rain (if droplets are large enough to fall to the ground) or snow (if it is cold enough for the precipitation of solid water). Hail is precipitated as liquid droplets that coalesce and freeze on the way to the ground. Basically, the capacity for the atmosphere to carry water as dissolved water vapour and the rate at which the vapour evaporates from the liquid increases substantially with temperature.

Note that the process of evaporation absorbs a lot of energy (i.e., the vapour stores the energy that drove the evaporation as latent heat) which is released as sensible heat when the dissolved vapour condenses and precipitates. Warm air can hold a lot of water vapour while cold air can only hold a little vapour. Thus a warm air mass is often able to suck moisture out of vegetation and soils, but as that mass rises in elevation and cools a temperature may be reached where the air is saturated (this is called the ‘dew point‘) and possibly massive amounts of water are precipitated as rain or snow together with the release of huge amounts of latent heat as sensible heat causing the air mass to rise still higher (e.g., into towering anvil topped cumulonimbus clouds). The rising air is liable to suck in high speed winds and possibly even form small and large hail, cyclones, and tornadoes. The higher the temperature of the air mass is when the dew point is reached, the more precipitation, heat and wind is generated.

As global warming increases baseline and average temperatures around the world, the amount of energy contained in parcels of water vapour increases, and thus increases the total amount of energy available to drive extreme weather events.

Water on the land and in the biosphere

Liquid water is a powerful solvent for all kinds of minerals and flows downhill wherever it can. Flowing water is relatively dense, and therefore an important agent for the transport of solid materials ranging from particles of sand to potentially huge boulders and even buildings. Consequently, standing and flowing waters are the major agents of dissolution, erosion and storm damage: especially when combined with storm-force winds.

All living things on Earth are partially comprised of water, with humans being about 60% water and even trees 50% water. The water in and around living things acts a) as a solvent and as a medium of transport for the dissolved gases required for photosynthesis (where this exists) and respiration; b) as a medium of transport for the ions, molecular nutrients and waste products of cellular metabolism and growth; c) as a structural element in the three-dimensional folding of proteins and other macromolecules; and d) as a structural element in the maintenance of hydraulic rigidity of the shapes of cells and vesicles, and even whole organisms. 

Every type of living thing requires the availability of a minimum amount of water of a minimum quality to survive. Conversely, too much water and/or water of the wrong quality (i.e., it may be transporting harmful substances as particles or in solution) or wrong temperature (i.e., the shapes and activities of proteins involved in metabolism unavoidably change with changing temperature) may also kill.

Air in the water

Atmospheric gases (e.g., nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide) are more soluble in cold water than warm water. In other words, cold water can carry a lot more dissolved O₂ and CO₂ than warm water can.

CO₂ is relatively soluble in water because it readily forms carbonic acid. This is important for global warming because the oceans currently absorb about 30% of all global CO₂ emissions, thus slowing the rise of global temperatures due to the greenhouse effect. However, this is bad news for life on Planet Earth for three reasons: First, as the gas is increasingly absorbed into the water some of it turns into carbonic acid. This makes the water more acidic, dissolving calcium from shells and bones – contributing to the die off of plankton, corals, shellfish and bony fish. Secondly, given that CO₂ is the waste product of respiration it slows the respiration of all marine and aquatic organisms. Three, as water temperature rises CO₂ becomes substantially less soluble. This can be catastrophic for global warming because it acts like a time bomb. Rising temperatures drive significant amounts of CO₂ out of solution in the ocean, back into the atmosphere, where it acts as a positive feedback driving global temperatures still higher in a potentially vicious cycle.

O₂’s solubility in water is limited, but dissolved O₂ is critical to life for all complex organisms that respire water. This includes all aquatic or oceanic organisms: many bacteria, most protozoa, single-celled and multicellular algae (net O₂ producers by day, overnight they must extract O₂ at night for respiration) up to whole forests of giant kelp, giant squids, whale-sharks, and the largest whales. In the pre-industrial world O₂ levels in most waters were close to saturation. Any degree of warming beyond what species are adapted to live in reduces the amount of O₂ the water can carry. Species will begin dying when the O₂ levels fall below levels the different species have evolved to tolerate. For example, along the Southern California coast where I grew up, whole forests of giant kelp die off when the ocean temperature rises to around 23 °C. So do the myriad of other species living in those forests that may still be able to respire, because at some to many points in their lifecycles they required something the kelp provided. Other kelp forests around the world, and in Australia are also dying off, e.g., the once rich kelp forests of Tasmania – possibly even more comprehensively than they have in California (e.g., northern Tasmania).

And then there are the horrific die-off events in the rivers and lakes of Australia’s Murray-Darling region, where the combination of blistering heat combined with off-the-charts CO₂ levels is absolutely lethal to whole ecosystems. This year’s event even killed carp that can breathe air!

How will our Atmosphere, Hydro-/Cryo-sphere, Geosphere and Biosphere respond to global warming on the real Planet Earth?

Meteorology, climate science, earth systems science extend the basic laws of physics, chemistry and a little bit of biology into the real world. However, even a brief review of some of the basic laws of physics and chemistry above for water, oxygen, and CO₂ gives some hint of just how complex weather and climate change really are. Earth’s Climate System that generates weather and climate change in the world we live in is a complex dynamical system composed of probably hundreds of variables often interacting with one another in non-linear. Some of these interactions are poorly understood or even unrecognised even by the scientists studying them.

Even though the Earth System is absolutely and fundamentally governed by the physical laws of nature, trying to predict future weather and climate conditions is fraught with difficulties of two kinds. First, complex systems of many variables, where some of the variables have non-linear positive feedback relations with one another, often behave chaotically under some or even many conditions. (See also climate change feedback.) Second, is that some of the variables are probably still unknown to science or not well understood. Even the largest supercomputers in the world capable of performing more than 100 quadrillion calculations per second and working with millions of daily observations from around the world can only make usefully accurate weather predictions out to around 8 days before wandering off into random noise.

For these reasons, predicting the future trends of global warming with a high degree of accuracy and certainty is frankly impossible.  However, what is almost certain is that if we do not stop and reverse the process of global warming there will be major disruptions to all of these systems which will make much of the Earth uninhabitable for complex life.

How trustworthy are the sciences and the warnings?

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deals with the uncertainties by running large numbers of similar earth/climate system models (ensembles) with slightly varying inputs on supercomputers to forecast possible future trends and their likelihoods. These outputs are analysed statistically to determine frequent trends and the range of uncertainties around these trends. Thus, many believe that the models give us a relatively good idea of how changes in specific environmental variables are likely to change the climate.

Unfortunately, with regard to managing climate risks, the reality is that this approach is too conservative because:

  • It filters out some or all of the instances of chaotic extreme deviations from the likely results because these are usually considered to be consequences of “system breakdown” in what is assumed to be a bad model — even though system breaking ‘exponential blow-ups’ are to be expected in complex dynamical systems. In other words, the bad result where the model ‘breaks down’ may well be a realistically valid prediction of the model.
  • Most scientists agree that the RATE of climate change is increasing with time. However, the delays in knowledge flow between observation of reality and assessment and presentation of results mean that there is a lag built into the IPCC reports.  That is, the delays inherent in analysing and writing up the results, delays in conducting peer review and publishing the original research, conceiving and constructing and running the mathematical models based on those results to forecast the future, analysing and writing up the results of the modelling, delays in publishing these results; and then comes the added time cost to incorporate the published results in an IPCC Report. This IPCC process alone takes a minimum of 2-3 additional years of three drafts, two peer reviews, and a final sign-off by the political appointees of the 170 countries comprising the UN’s World Meteorological Organization. Thus, the years-old input data providing a baseline for the models’ predictions necessarily do not include the array of record-breaking temperature, greenhouse gas, and weather readings associated with the increasingly extreme weather events of the last few years.
  • Finally most IPCC scientists are associated with academic and research institutions funded by governments, where academic progress and promotions depend on not being too novel or controversial (i.e., exhibiting ‘scientific reticence‘). This leads to scientific self-censorship — downplaying alarming findings, reinforced by the need that IPCC Reports require political approvals by government appointees to be published.

The following graphic is the IPCC’s own depiction of their authoring and review process.

The graphic and a comprehensive description of IPCC’s writing and review processes are given in their document, Preparing Reports. In turn, even more detail on how each kind of document is prepared, reviewed and signed off is provided in the IPCC [Documentation] Procedures, according to the the Principles Governing IPCC Work that lay down the role, organisation and procedures of the IPCC. These guiding Principles establish comprehensiveness, objectivity, openness and transparency for all IPCC Work

Note, this and other issues with the IPCC’s predictions are examined in detail in my presentation: Some fundamental issues relating to the science underlying climate policy: The IPCC and COP26 couldn’t help but get it wrong.

Thus, when the formal IPCC reports publish their predictions for the future consequences: it follows that this is a gold-standard, scientifically correct but somewhat rose-tinted statement of the best possible outcomes we can hope for from the present state of the escalating climate emergency. The actual future is most likely to be worse, or even more worse. 

Given all of these factors, it is virtually impossible that the IPCC reports are in any way overstating the magnitude and dangers of the climate crisis.  Those who claim the IPCC reports are ‘alarmist’ are seriously misinformed or else aim to be deliberately misleading.

How do we know all of this?

There is a vast array of direct observational evidence from the real world (e.g., the graphs of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and rising global temperatures presented above) showing that our global climate is already deteriorating at historically and even geologically unprecedented rates. A few recent observations sample this kind of evidence.

Identifying, analysing, and managing climate risks

Most climate scientists have backgrounds in mathematics, physics or geology where they are used to working with well behaved regular systems — not complex dynamical systems with potentially chaotic and unknown variables where the models are inherently fallible in their predictions of the future. Although the mathematical theory of chaos emerged from early attempts to model climate, few have any formal grounding in complex systems or chaos theory. Consequently, they tend to believe their models can predict the future with some degree of statistical accuracy, rather than accepting that models are good for explaining what can happen but not what will or won’t happen.

Scientists (including a few climate scientists) who continue to deny that current climate change is mainly due to human activity are often used to dealing with changes over long periods of time, where natural and well understood processes are more or less adequate to explain how climate has changed in the past.  Many of today’s deniers formed their opinions years ago (e.g. 1980s) when even climate specialists actively debated the extent and causes of climate change.  In people prone to denial, ‘confirmation bias’ then begins to reinforce conclusions, where data fitting their belief is eagerly accepted, but seemingly contradictory data is critically scrutinised and rejected. 

Over time, with the overwhelming additional data supporting unnaturally accelerated climate temperatures on land, air and sea, almost all genuine climate scientists have come to conclude that human activities are in fact changing the climate.  The holdouts are usually in those other disciplines that have a default assumption that natural processes always explain changes in climate.

And then, there are those who have totally unscientific reasons for denying that humans cause climate change.Following on my career as an evolutionary biologist (PhD Harvard 1973) with strong backgrounds in geology, physics, systems sciences (systems ecology, genetic systems, cybernetics), I was employed for 17 years as a knowledge management systems analyst and designer with what became Tenix and then Tenix Defence through the life-cycle of “Australia’s most successful naval surface combatant project – by far” – the ANZAC ship project. I worked very closely with the company’s engineering systems analysts and risk managers (often the same people did both). The ANZAC Project was so successful because the prime contract was performance-based rather than specifications based. We were contracted to deliver for a fixed price certain capabilities and reliabilities in service rather than meticulously detailed products.

Large defence systems – especially like warships and aircraft with their multitudes of subsystems, assemblies and piece parts, are complex dynamical systems that are inherently but unpredictably fallible due to unanticipated dynamics, human errors, or unpredictable failures of critical parts. It was the job of contract analysts, systems engineers, design engineers and knowledge managers (me), to work out a ship design and construction process that could be trusted to meet the customers’ requirements within the negotiated fixed price.

Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA)

The critical analytical tool in Tenix’s success, apparently unknown to climate science, is application of the Military Standard, Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) within a risk analytical and management framework. Briefly, this involves (1) tabulating all conceivable failures and the potential consequence of the particular failure mode (i.e., its criticality) for every component of the system that might have a detrimental effect on the system’s safety or functionality, (2) preparing at least a matrix for every failure mode showing the approximate likelihood of failure, and (optionally) the likely consequences/costs to the system should the failure occur, and the costs to repair or mitigate the mode.

Applying FMECA to global warming

Should we ignore a risk because its consequences are so severe we fear accepting that it is real?

The following graphic plots an analytical matrix for the risk of human extinction from a failure to stop global warming at a safe global temperature for human survival. A serious analysis of this risk (that is unthinkable to many) demands examining the physical realities associated with each dimension of the matrix and looking for solutions to reduce consequences and likelihood of the risk happening, and to provide the maximum time possible to manage it; or alternatively, to entirely avoid the activities causing the risk. Unfortunately, given that the risk from global warming is associated with the project to power industrial, technological, and population growth by burning fossil fuels that began 150 years ago. Thus we have no choices but to live or die with the consequences arising from this project.

Slides 10 and 76 from Hall (2016). The angst of global warming – our species’ existential risk

Our planning to manage the risk must consider the third dimension — TIME. How much time do we have to manage the risk if we are to avoid its consequences? The possible consequences of the risk are existential – i.e., extinction of human society as we know it or even the entire species. The probability is likely to be certain if we do not stop and reverse global warming. The timescale is imminent, i.e., within the expected lifespan of today’s children.

Should we heed the science and the warnings?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established by the United Nations to research and provide the “best” scientific advice available to governments of the world regarding the science, trends, and likely progress of climate change. The Panel’s staff is selected and overseen by all the member states of the World Meteorological Organization. The peer review is exhaustive and intensive – probably more so than for any other scientific endeavour ever.

For reasons I have detailed it would be virtually impossible for any formal publication of the IPCC to overstate the dangers represented by climate change. Where the IPCC says that even the current trends will be catastrophic if realised, I would say that they are ‘existential’: A word the IPCC rarely uses and never defines.

Most dictionaries (e.g., see OneLook Dictionary Search) only define the word in terms of ‘existentialism’ – a branch of philosophy. In discussion of the climate crisis, in the framework of global catastrophic risk, “an existential danger threatens the very existence of something” (ref. Macmillan Dictionary).

The Wikipedia article on Global Catastrophic Risk defines “existential” in these terms:

Existential risks are defined as “risks that threaten the destruction of humanity’s long-term potential.” The instantiation of an existential risk (an existential catastrophe) would either cause outright human extinction or irreversibly lock in a drastically inferior state of affairs. Existential risks are a subclass of global catastrophic risks, where the damage is not only global but also terminal and permanent, preventing recovery and thereby affecting both current and all future generations.Note: This discussion of definitions may seem to be highly pedantic. It isn’t. It is deadly serious. Humanity faces a serious risk of triggering a global mass extinction event akin to the End Permian event that was “Earth’s most severe known extinction event,[11][12] with the extinction of 57% of biological families, 83% of genera, 81% of marine species[13][14][15] and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species.[16] It is the largest known mass extinction of insects.[17]If you are declaring a state of emergency, it does not help to describe the emergency in soothing terms.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

More on our warming World Ocean’s revenge…

Following on from my May 22 post, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is raising warning flags that the impending El Niño will be the worst yet.

There is actually a lot more on the front burner than El Niño. There are signs we may have just crossed a catastrophic ocean tipping point over the last three and a half months. The following thread of tweets and news items summarizes a very scary thread of observational data.

We may have broken Earth’s Thermohaline Circulation.

The data based on millions of satellite observations and hundreds of thousands of Argo Float profiles of ocean temperature, salinity and density suggests that the driver of major ocean currents distributing excess heat around the world has stopped working because it is choked with relatively hot and relatively fresh water.

In 2020 Argo collected 12,000 data profiles each month (400 a day) or around 436,500 profiles a year. Each profile provides for each increment of depth a a record of the variation in ocean temperatures, salinity, and pressure from 2,000 m deep to the surface, together with the precise global positioning coordinates where the probe surfaced.

In the past water flowing into the polar regions was quite salty because a lot of moisture evaporated from the surface in tropical and sub-tropical regions, leaving the salt behind to make the water more dense. However, because the water was hot the density was somewhat lowered due to thermal expansion it stayed on the surface because it floated over the surface of cooler but fresher water. As the salty water flowed into polar regions it cooled enough that even though it was being diluted by precipitation and runoff from melting snow and ice on the land, the cooling and increasingly diluted water become dense enough sink under the warm salty waters drawn towards the poles by the sinking polar waters. This circulation also carried oxygen into the depths and nutrients from the depths towards the surface in areas where deep water wells up to replace the surface water flowing towards the poles in tropical and temperate areas.

Wikipedia: Thermohaline circulation (THC) is a part of the large-scale ocean circulation that is driven by global density gradients created by surface heat and freshwater fluxes.

However, as global average temperatures rise and more heat is trapped in the ocean evaporation everywhere puts more moisture into the air that falls as rain in tropical and subtropical areas, diluting the warmer ocean surface waters. In polar and sub-polar areas the increased moisture greatly increasing the runoff from the land from rain and melting snow and ice, that further dilutes the increasingly diluted ocean surface water flowing into polar regions from tropical and subtropical areas.

The result is that the thermohaline conveyors driving the major ocean currents are probably being choked and possibly being completely stopped by masses of water that are too hot and dilute to sink. Even worse, the warm dilute water washing against the ice sheets and glaciers reaching the ocean melts ice at an increasing rate making the surface waters even fresher.

On 26 May, 2023 we are seeing an all-time low extent of sea ice since the satellite record began in 1979.

Denmark’s Polar Portal (below) shows the melting of the multi-year Arctic sea ice from its winter peak in June 2004 until now. [Click the picture to load the live site, scroll up to to see the “Sea Ice Thickness and Volume” title. Note the grey slider bar below the map. Click the “Animate Monthly” to load the animation — which will take some time to download the data. You may use the slider to scroll through the series of monthly maps, or you can control buttons below the slider to start and stop the animation or step back or forward one month at a time. The red color represents multi-year ice around 4 meters thick, lavender to blue ice is single year ice less than about 1.5 m thick.]

Note, there is an interesting but deadly physical twist here: As water temperature drops below 4 °C cold/freezing fresh water floats on top of warmer relatively salty water, and freezes-over in the winter at higher temperatures than saltier water. Paradoxically, floating ice and snow accumulating on the surface actually insulates the lower layer of warm salty water from further cooling, where the winter surface temperature may be 20-50 °C below freezing. However, the fronts of large glaciers flowing into the ocean may be grounded hundreds of meters below sea level or floating on even deeper warm water(!). This means they will still be melting rapidly from the bottom up even in the dead of winter when fresh water is freezing. The ice melt dilutes the polar oceans even more – so say nothing of raising sea levels that will, in turn, lead to the floating of glacier fronts, exposing even more areas to melting.

What is happening as I write this warning?

If you follow the threads and commentary attached to these tweets here, the links show what was happening a week ago.

The following Guardian articles highlight the existential risk we are facing.

Melting ice around Antarctica could cause a 40% slowdown of a global deep ocean current by 2050 if current greenhouse gas emissions continue, according to researchers. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images / from the article

Graham Redfearn – 30/03/2023 in The Guardian

Melting Antarctic ice predicted to cause rapid slowdown of deep ocean current by 2050

New research by Australian scientists suggests 40% slowdown in just three decades could alter world’s climate for centuries.

[Actually, the data presented here suggests that as of the last three months or so this stoppage has already begun!]

Melting ice around Antarctica will cause a rapid slowdown of a major global deep ocean current by 2050 that could alter the world’s climate for centuries and accelerate sea level rise, according to scientists behind new research.

The research suggests if greenhouse gas emissions continue at today’s levels, the current in the deepest parts of the ocean could slow down by 40% in only three decades.

This, the scientists said, could generate a cascade of impacts that could push up sea levels, alter weather patterns and starve marine life of a vital source of nutrients.

Read the complete article….
Antarctica’s Larsen B ice shelf. There has never been less ice around the continent than there was last week. Photograph: staphy/Getty Images/iStockphoto / from the article

Graham Redfearn – 05/03/2023 in The Guardian

‘Everyone should be concerned’: Antarctic sea ice reaches lowest levels ever recorded

With the continent holding enough ice to raise sea levels by many metres if it was to melt, polar scientists are scrambling for answers.

For 44 years, satellites have helped scientists track how much ice is floating on the ocean around Antarctica’s 18,000km coastline.

The continent’s fringing waters witness a massive shift each year, with sea ice peaking at about 18m sq km each September before dropping to just above 2m sq km by February.

But across those four decades of satellite observations, there has never been less ice around the continent than there was last week.

“We are seeing less ice everywhere. It’s a circumpolar event.”

In the southern hemisphere summer of 2022, the amount of sea ice dropped to 1.92m sq km on 25 February – an all-time low based on satellite observations that started in 1979.

Read the complete article….
Melting ice in Antarctica has affected a key global ocean current, research suggests. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images / from the article

Donna Lu – 26/05/2023 in The Guardian

Slowing ocean current caused by melting Antarctic ice could have drastic climate impact, study says

The Southern Ocean overturning circulation has ebbed 30% since the 90s, CSIRO scientist claims, leading to higher sea levels and changing weather.

A major global deep ocean current has slowed down by approximately 30% since the 1990s as a result of melting Antarctic ice, which could have critical consequences for Earth’s climate patterns and sea levels, new research suggests.

Known as the Southern Ocean overturning circulation, the global circulation system plays a key role in influencing the Earth’s climate, including rainfall and warming patterns. It also determines how much heat and carbon dioxide the oceans store.

Scientists warn that its slowdown could have drastic impacts, including increasing sea levels, altering weather patterns and depriving marine ecosystems of vital nutrients.

Read the complete article….

Markus Noll – 23/05/2023 in EarthArXiv

Exponential life-threatening rise of the global temperature

Global temperatures are rising. This paper demonstrates for the first time that the global temperature increase has not been linear but is exponential with a doubling time of about 25 years. Both the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the combustion of fossil fuels and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have also risen exponentially, with a similar doubling time. The exponential trajectories of rising global temperature, carbon dioxide emission, and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration support the idea that all three are entirely man-made. This analysis shows that during the past 70 years, the increasing use of fossil fuels results more from human activities than population growth, and that reducing the use of fossil fuels by 7.6% each year, the “7.6%-scenario”, can prevent annual global temperatures from surpassing pre-industrial temperatures by 1.6°C, a critical threshold to sustaining life on Earth.

Read the complete article….

Driven by exponentially increasing global temperatures, this process is also very likely to be accelerating at an exponential rate (doubling time of about 25 years).

Or worse!

What I think we are seeing in this data is that we have crossed a chaotically discontinuous ‘tipping point’. Prior to March 12, the thermohaline circulation was slowing as surface waters were gradually becoming warmer and more dilute, and thus less dense, decreasing the sinking rate of the cooling warm salty water that was driving the circulation. Around March 12, the surface waters actually became less dense than the deeper waters and thus stopped sinking at all to begin piling up in the polar regions where they would increase the rate of ice melting to be diluted still further.

With no sinking water to keep the the thermohaline circulation working, it has effectively been jammed and we are now in a totally new climate regime that is likely to get a lot hotter, a lot faster.

If this isn’t a climate emergency, I don’t know what is.

As at May 30, the heat anomaly is still growing. The average surface temperature of the World Ocean is a good 0.2 °C hotter than it has been on this day since the satellite records began in 1979; and it is only 0.1 °C cooler than the hottest temperature ever recorded in this era for any time of the year.

Featured Image

Figure from “Will a Super El Niño materialize like in 1997 and 2015? What will that mean for global Sea Surface Temperatures? And for global and regional weather extremes?” This seems to be answered by

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

A warming ocean will take its revenge on us

Around 90% of the extra heat trapped by the greenhouse layer warms our Ocean to slow rising temperatures. We’ll pay the price.

The climate scientist, Bill McKibben reminded me of this fact in his regular newsletter, The Crucial Years, in his 18 May post, Maybe we should have called this planet ‘Ocean’. His post on ocean warming begins with an earlier version of the graphic here from ClimateReanalizer. These are updated daily, so the record here is only a day or two behind the current reality:

The page provides time series and map visualizations of daily mean Sea Surface Temperature (SST) from the NOAA Optimum Interpolation SST (OISST) dataset version 2.1. OISST is a 0.25°x0.25° gridded dataset that estimates temperatures based on a blend of satellite, ship, and buoy observations. The OISST data product includes SST anomalies based on 1971–2000 climatology from NOAA. The datset spans 1 January 1982 to present with a 1 to 2-day lag from the current day. OISST files are preliminary for about two weeks until a finalized product file is posted by NOAA. This status is identified on the maps with “[preliminary]” showing in the title, and applies to the time series as well. The time series chart displays area-weighted means of the selected domain. For example, if World 60S-60N is selected, then the SST values shown are area-wieghted means for all ocean gridcells between 60°S and 60°N across all longitudes.

Something very troubling is happening on and under the 70 percent of the planet’s surface covered by salt water. We pay far more attention to the air temperature, because we can feel it (and there’s lots to pay attention to, with record temps across Asia, Canada and the Pacific Northwest) but the truly scary numbers from this spring are showing up in the ocean.

If you look at the top chart above , you can see “anomaly” defined. [His chart was for 11 May. Mine, here, is the temperature on 19 May.]That’s the averaged surface temperature of the earth’s oceans, and beginning in mid-March it was suddenly very much hotter than we’ve measured before. In big datasets for big phenomena, change should be small—that’s how statistics work, and that’s why the rest of the graph looks like a plate of spaghetti. That big wide open gap up there between 2023 and the next hottest year (2016) is the kind of thing that freaks scientists out because they’re not quite sure what it means. Except trouble. [My emphasis]

… A little-noticed [but quite important] recent study headed by Katrina von Schuckmann found that “over the past 15 years, the Earth has accumulated almost as much heat as it did in the previous 45 years,” and that 89 percent of that heat has ended up in the seas. That would be terrifying on its own, but coming right now it’s even scarier. That’s because, after six years dipping in and out of La Nina cooling cycles, the earth seems about to enter a strong El Nino phase, with hot water in the Pacific. El Nino heat on top of already record warm oceans will equal—well, havoc, but of exactly what variety can’t be predicted.

Read the complete article….

McKibben’s second graphic (the up to date version is my “Featured Image”) shows a global plot of temperature anomalies (also compared to the same 1971-1980 baseline) for every ¼° – ¼° square of ocean surface. “Area weighting” is applied because ¼° of latitude (the width of the ‘square) becomes much narrower as either pole is approached, reducing the physical surface area encompassed by the lines on the globe.

Earth’s oceans cover around 70% of the globe’s surface. Despite the 2nd or 3rd week of record breaking heat, wildfires and drought in western North America extending from California through the western 2/5ths of North America into the Arctic Ocean and a second belt in northern Eurasia extending from Scandinavia and Finland to western Siberia, the ocean temperatures are relatively even more extreme. And, in fact, the crazy heat in the warming oceans may be the driving force behind the record land temperatures — and may well be triggering what is likely to be the most extreme El Niño event yet in the climate change record.

In any event, this data doesn’t just freak me out. It suggests that the door to Earth’s Hothouse Hell is beginning to open to suck us in.

Is this data reliable enough to support action?

Where the climate record is concerned, From the beginning of the satellite era, our oceanic temperature record is very good indeed, and not just because satellite remote sensing measures virtually every square degree of most of the globe every day, but the satellites’ measurements are calibrated every day against the ‘ground truth’ measurements from many hundreds of Argo floats surfacing each day from their 9-10 days probing the ocean depths. The graphic below shows the physical locations sampled by Argo floats over the previous month. Added to these are more detailed measurements collected by fleets of oceanographic ships and a few special moored buoys that continuously record measurements from the ocean surface to the abyssal ocean bottom.

Supercomputers amalgamate the raw input data and assemble the kinds of human readable outputs that you and I can understand at a glance. Thanks to the exponential growth of measuring technologies and data processing power the accuracy and detail of our scientific understanding of climate and weather extends far beyond anything we could know in past decades.

How is all the additional heat in the warming ocean likely to affect the planet we live on?

Melting ice

As the atmosphere and oceans absorb more solar energy, some of this excess energy will inevitably be absorbed melting ice in the cooler regions of the planet where ice has existed more-or-less in an equilibrium state, e.g., in the form of glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice. The energy drives the equilibrium states towards more water and less ice.

One very obvious measure of ice melting is the rapidly shrinking area of the Earth’s surface covered by sea ice around the N and S Poles. Since the beginning of the satellite era this has been able to be measured accurately. The Australian Antarctic Program Partnership and the ARC Australian Centre for Excellence in Antarctic Science’s 2023 Science Briefing: On Thin Ice explains what is happening around our local polar ocean

The graphics below show the daily extents of sea ice over both polar oceans since the beginning of the satellite era in 1979 as plotted by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center‘s interactive Charctic application.

Record minimums or maximums are updated annually. Therefore, a newly-set record may not be reflected in the chart until after the annual update.
View additional years by clicking the dates in the legend.
Roll your cursor over the line to see daily sea ice extent values.
Zoom in to any area on the chart by clicking and dragging your mouse.
To see a corresponding daily sea ice concentration image, click on a line in the chart. Sea ice extent is derived from sea ice concentration. Images are not available for the average or standard deviation.
When reusing Charctic images or data, please credit “National Snow and Ice Data Center.”
Currently, some functions do not work in Internet Explorer. We recommend using a different browser.
For more information about the data, see About Charctic data.
If you have questions or problems, please contact NSIDC User Services at [email protected].

What is currently happening in the Antarctic Ocean is also freakish and worrisome!

Rising sea levels

Of course, all the melt water released by melting ice has to go somewhere — i.e., adding to the volume of the World Ocean. As this wasn’t enough, as water warms it also expands to raise the sea levels even more. The graph below from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, plots the rising tide of the swelling ocean since 1993 through June 2022. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate.Gov site’s Climate Change: Global Sea Level also plots the rise, and considers its implications in more detail.

The Conversation’s May 17 article, Global warming to bring record hot year by 2028 – probably our first above 1.5°C limit, looks at these facts and warns us that the time to act is NOW! CSIRO’s State of the Climate/Oceans covers most of the trends I have discussed here and more…

Daily change in global mean sea level, as measured by satellite altimetry, from January 1993 to June 2022 (solid line), the associated uncertainty at 90% confidence level (shading) and the trend (dashed line). The data have been adjusted for glacial isostatic adjustment and have been corrected for the TOPEX-A instrumental drift during 1993–1998. Data source: CMEMS Ocean Monitoring Indicator based on the C3S sea level product. Credit: C3S/ECMWF/CMEMS.

Help! We’re sliding down the slope to Earth’s Hothouse Hell! Sound the sirens and mobilize for WW III against global warming and the existential climate crisis!

As is usual for the UN’s climate pronouncements driven by the UN’s IPCC findings that absolutely establish the dangers we face from global warming/heating, even this klaxon warning understates and downplays the magnitude of the crisis we face.

If we fail to mobilize genuinely effective action over the next decade to stop and reverse the warming crisis, our families will have their lives shortened due to increasing climate catastrophes and we will have condemned our entire species to death in Earth’s 6th global mass extinction within a century or two. We don’t have time to take more election cycles to elect new governments. Our existing governments must wake up, smell the smoke, and immediately begin acting to put out the fire before it destroys us all. If you are in government, read Guterres’ message in mind. YOU must act now!

Press Release


16 May 2023

Planet Hurtling towards Hell of Global Heating, Secretary-General Warns Austrian World Summit, Urging Immediate Emissions Cuts, Fair Climate Funding

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the seventh Austrian World Summit, in Vienna today:

I thank the Austrian Government and Arnold Schwarzenegger for this opportunity.  The climate crisis can feel overwhelming.  Disasters and dangers are already mounting, with the poor and marginalized suffering the most, as we hurtle towards the hell of 2.8°C of global heating by the end of the century.

But, amidst all this, I urge you to remember one vital fact:  limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C remains possible.  That is the clear message from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  But, it requires a quantum leap in climate action around the world.

To achieve this, I have proposed an Acceleration Agenda.  This urges all Governments to hit fast-forward on their net-zero deadlines, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in the light of national circumstances.  It asks leaders of developed countries to commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040 — as Austria has done.  And leaders in emerging economies to do so as close as possible to 2050.

The Acceleration Agenda also urges all countries to step up their climate action, now.  The road map is clear:  phasing out of coal by 2030 in OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries and 2040 in all others; net-zero electricity generation by 2035 in developed countries, and 2040 elsewhere; no more licensing or funding of new fossil-fuel projects; no more subsidizing fossil fuels; and no more fake offsets, which do nothing to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, but which are still being used to justify fossil-fuel expansion today.

We can only reach net zero if we make real and immediate emissions cuts.  If we embrace transparency and accountability.  Relying on carbon credits, shadow markets, or murky accounting means one thing:  failure.  That is why I have asked CEOs to present clear net-zero transition plans, in line with the credibility standard presented by my high-level expert group on net-zero pledges.

And the Acceleration Agenda urges business and Governments to work together to decarbonize vital sectors — from shipping, aviation and steel, to cement, aluminium and agriculture.  This should include interim targets for each sector to pave the way to net zero by 2050.

The Acceleration Agenda also calls for climate justice, including overhauling the priorities and business models of multilateral development banks, so that trillions of dollars in private finance flow to the green economy.

Developed countries must also make good on their financial commitments to developing countries.  And they must operationalize the loss and damage fund, and replenish the Green Climate Fund.  I commend Austria for increasing its pledge to the Green Climate Fund by 23 per cent and urge others to deliver their fair share.

On climate, we have all the tools we need to get the job done. But, if we waste time, we will be out of time.  Let’s accelerate action, now.  Thank you.

Featured Image

Note that about half the surface of Earth’s Ocean is a good 2 °C hotter than the baseline average temperature for this day of the year

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.