Global Climate Change 8/07/2023


What’s this article about, and why is the date in the title important?

As I write this, the average climate for our WHOLE PLANET is changing so freaking fast we can see visibly measurable changes in the averages from one day to the next!

The sudden speed up of changes in several climate indicators at the same time suggests that we may be crossing a critical tipping point in the complex interactions of important temperature related feedbacks controlling the behavior of Earth’s Climate System, as shown in the Featured Image. The speed-up is highlighted by the fact that the average air temperature 2 meters above the surface of our planet is at an all time record (and especially in the satellite era beginning in 1979). These changes will affect the whole 8,000,000,000+ humans and alive today along with all other life on the planet. The charts and maps presented here graphically illustrate measurements of important climate variables up to the last 1 to 4 days.

Fig. 1. ClimateReanalyzer’s Time Series plotting of Earth’s global average temperature at 2 meters above the surface from the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS) version 2 (April 2011 – present) and CFS Reanalysis (January 1979 – March 2011). CFS/CFSR is a numerical climate/weather modeling framework that ingests surface, radiosonde, and satellite observations to estimate the state of the atmosphere at hourly time resolution onward from 1 January 1979. The horizontal gridcell resolution is 0.5°x0.5° (~ 55km at 45°N). The time series chart displays area-weighted means for the selected domain. For example, if World is selected, then each daily temperature value on the chart represents the average of all gridcells 90°S–90°N, 0–360°E and accounts for the convergence of longitudes at the poles. Hide or display individual time series by clicking the year below the chart

The time gap between the instants of measurement depicted in the plots and charts and when they were printed are due to time delays between:

  • automatically recording millions of readings from hundreds of thousands of networked physical sensors and more millions of readings from remote sensors on a plethora of artificial satellites whizzing around our revolving planet several times a day (“Intensity of observation”, below, illustrates just how comprehensive the sensor network is);
  • accumulating and assembling the recorded data over the world-wide communications network;
  • proofing, processing and tabulating the received data on the world’s largest supercomputers; reanalyzing and plotting the observations in the form of charts and graphs comprehensible to humans;
  • publishing and publishing these outputs onto the public web, where they are accessible to anyone with a computer and the knowledge to find and understand the representations.

Based on the most recent measurements, the ongoing climate changes are accelerating in directions and speeds that will inevitably be lethal to the human and many other species within another century, more or less, if the changes are not stopped and reversed. These changes are a direct consequence of an unplanned experiment that humans began around 1½ centuries ago to burn geologically significant quantities of fossil carbon (e.g., coal, oil, ‘natural’ gas) into usable energy and greenhouse gases trapping an ever growing proportion of the total solar energy striking Planet Earth.

However, some of the combustion energy released by burning fossil carbon has also fueled an exponential growth of knowledge and technology able to produce the I am showing here. These plots provide the evidence our experiment is changing our global climate system to a state that will have existentially catastrophic consequences for Earth’s complex forms of life. This Hellish state is known as “Hothouse Earth“.

This fact that we now have the tools to actually see the evidence of our likely doom gives me some hope that our still exponentially improving technology may also provide us with the ability to stop further damage caused by our rogue experiment and repair enough of the damage already caused, to allow our species to continue evolving into the foreseeable future.

This raises the unavoidable and fraught question: Do we humans have the political will and capability to marshal and mobilize our technologies to engineer solutions that will allow us to avoid the abyss? This is the single most important issue facing the world today. If we don’t solve it, no other issue matters because — before long — no one will be left to worry about it.

Problematically, the world’s governments are dominated by puppets of the fossil fuel industry and related interests. They are doing as much as they can to PREVENT, DELAY, or MINIMIZE any actions that might hamper fossil fuel’s greed and short term interests for the world to burn yet more fuel. Hoping that we humans can solve this single, most important issue, VoteClimateOne is working to revolutionize our governments by replacing or changing parliamentary puppets to prioritize actions to solve the climate crisis first. Also, I am writing articles such as this to demonstrate and explain why this revolution is so urgent and necessary.

To demonstrate just how rapidly we are currently moving down the road to doom in what will be Earth’s Hothouse Hell, this article will be updated at least once a week until there is evidence of a downward trend to safer readings.

Measuring progress towards existential catastrophe on Hothouse Earth

Ocean measurements are critical

Because most humans live on continental land masses, immersed in the atmosphere, most climatologists are primarily concerned with what goes on in the atmosphere. However, because water covers some 70% of our planet’s surface and because of water’s physical properties, around 90% of the excess solar energy striking Earth is absorbed in the World Ocean. Heat is then transported around the planet in currents and is available to be released to drive climate. See below for explanations of how the major heat engines driving Earth’s Climate System interact and work.

Fig. 2. Growing heat content held by our warming Ocean Current to Feb. 2023 (NOAA data)

Because these climate ‘engines’ are complex dynamical systems with many interacting components, where the interactions are often non-linear and sometimes even chaotic (in a mathematical sense their behavior is inherently unpredictable to any statistically define degree. Positive feedbacks in such systems can be potentially destructive because they lead to exponentially growing changes that lead to system breakdown (because infinity is impossible in the real world). Mathematical modeling of the interactions of small sets of variables can provide an appreciation of how such breakdowns may occur. Systems engineering as practiced in large defence engineering projects is based around a MilStd known as Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) to identify such kinds of failure modes in order to engineer system solutions mitigate or totally avoid circumstances where they might arise.

The charts and maps below show how some measures of the behavior of Global Climate System have been behaving over the last few months and days. I consider these to be critical because they are likely to be evolved in the kinds of positive feedbacks that can grow exponentially to cause systems failure or collapse.

A definition

Many of the charts represent values of particular variables averaged over the surface of the whole Earth (or some specified region) at a specified point or interval of time. Most maps use colors to indicate the value of a specified variable at a specified point or averaged over an interval of time. In most such cases these measures are presented in the form of “anomalies”. An anomaly is the difference between the particular measurement and the long-term ‘baseline’ average for that measure on that day or interval of the year. For example, the graph immediately below uses a 30 year average (from 1971-2000) for its baseline average. Anomaly plots are particularly useful to highlight changes taking place over time.

Critical variables

Global sea-surface temperature

The global sea surface temperature anomaly broke into all-time record for the day of the year around 15 March, and by the end of March it was an all time record high since 1981, 0.1 °C above the previous record set on 6 March 2015. This value is so extreme, that along with other variables noted below it suggests that the average rate of global warming observed over the last few decades may be shifting into a new regime where the rate of ocean-surface warming is skyrocketing. As at 29 June it is still 0.2 °C above the previous record for that date – with an uptick after 4 days of downward trend).

Fig. 3a. This chart provides time series visualizations of daily mean Sea Surface Temperature (SST) up to 4 July from NOAA Optimum Interpolation SST (OISST) version 2.1. OISST is a 0.25°x0.25° gridded dataset that provides estimates of temperature based on a blend of satellite, ship, and buoy observations. The datset spans 1 January 1982 to present with a 1 to 2-day lag from the current day. Data are preliminary for about two weeks until a finalized product is posted by NOAA. This status is identified on the maps by “[preliminary]” appearing in the title, and applies to the time series as well. SST anomalies, which are included in the OISST dataset, are based on 1971–2000 climatology. The time series chart displays area-weighted means for the selected domain. For example, if World 60S-60N is selected, then each daily SST value on the chart represents the average of all ocean gridcells between 60°S and 60°N across all longitudes, and accounts for the convergence of longitudes at the poles. Hide or display individual time series by clicking the year below the chart; Hide All and Show All buttons are at the chart lower right. The map can be switched between SST and SST anomaly by clicking the toggle button at the map top-left. A sea ice mask is applied to the SST and anomaly maps for gridcells where ice concentration is >= 50%
Fig. 3b. Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies
Fig. 3c. Sea Surface Temperatures. ClimateReanalyzer’s SST current SST data can be accessed here.

The North Atlantic still has a fever on 4 July. Warmer than usual water flooding up around southern Greenland right up to the edge of the melting sea-ice, with what looks like cold fresh meltwater flowing out of Baffin Bay along the west side.

Note that the ocean surface temperature is 5 °C right up to the edge of the sea ice, with warmer water than that intruding nearly as far as the ice front in Baffin Bay. Cooler water may be flowing out close to the Canadian shoreline. There is no sign in either of the SST maps of ‘cool spots’ which are thought to be the sources of the ‘salty cold water’ forming the deep water branches of the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic. In fact, the ocean in these areas seems to be 10-15 °C. Northern Hemisphere ice extents are low for the date but not yet near record lows, unlike the South!

Fig. 4a. Record Sea Surface temperature in North Atlantic for Jul 4.
Fig 4b. Sea Surface Temperature distribution in North Atlantic.

Sea ice

Around the same time the global average sea-surface temperature began to skyrocket, the rate of sea-ice formation around Antarctica slowed — as would be expected if the surrounding ocean was becoming progressively warmer than has ever before been the case for this time of the year.

Fig. 5a. Time series showing he full annual cycle of the melting and freezing of sea ice around Antarctica from Jan 1979 up to 3 July. Seaice.visuals.Earth.
Fig 5b. Time series showing daily anomalies in the extent of sea ice around Antarctica from Jan 1979 up to 3 July highlighting the substantial slowing of freezing. Note differences in scale to 5a.

Sea ice extent anomaly is strongest in the Weddell and Bellingshausen Sea region. With the Indian Ocean region also showing what looks like the beginning of a strong deviation. The illustration is from the article from the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership that discusses the significance of the anomaly.

Fig. 6. Monthly anomalies in Antarctic sea-ice concentration for early June 2023, showing more negative than positive anomalies. Note colour bar (deep red is -70%), and lack of sea ice in Bellingshausen Sea (arrowed). Even though Antarctica is in mid-freeze season, Bellingshausen Sea is almost at summer sea-ice levels. (Source: see also Polar View.

Sea ice extent anomaly is strongest in the Weddell Sea (area above the Antarctic Peninsula) and Bellingshausen Sea region (indicated by the arrow above). With the Indian Ocean region also showing what looks like the beginning of a strong deviation. See especially the article from the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership that discusses the significance of the anomaly.

Fig. 7. Color-coded animation displaying the last 2 weeks of the daily sea ice concentrations Sea ice concentration is the percent areal coverage of ice within the data element (grid cell) in the Southern Hemisphere. These images use data from the AMSR-E/AMSR2 Unified Level-3 12.5 km product. The different shades of gray over land indicate the land elevation with the lightest gray being the highest elevation.

This graphic from NASA Earth Science’s Current State of Sea Ice Cover shows the slow rate of ice formation around Antarctica. The almost complete absence of ice in the Bellingshausen Sea is remarkable. There is also significant open water within the extent of the sea ice.

See also:

Is all this part of an early warning that a tipping point is being approached…. Or is it the real thing?

Fig. 8. Based on graphic from Zach Labe

So far, melting of the Arctic sea ice has not been particularly exceptional. With regard to sea-ice at both poles, it is also important to consider thickness and volume. Ice that is only a meter or two thick is accumulated in the winter when there is no solar heating (sun largely or completely below the horizon) is normally only a year old. Solid ice reflects most of the solar energy heating it. However, the thinner the ice is, the faster it can melt as it begins to heat under the summer sun and possibly even rain(!), to say nothing of warm currents from the tropics. Around the North Pole, all of the bluish and purple ice shown in the map here can disappear fairly quickly as summer continues to leave open ocean to absorb most of the solar energy striking it that will delay freezing in the following winter. (Danish Arctic Research Institution’s Polar Portal).

Fig. 9. Thickness of Arctic Sea Ice on 5 July 2023. Note the Danish Polar Portal provides an animated time series of changes from 1 Jan 2004.

Jet streams

Fig. 10a. Jet streams in the Southern Hemisphere.
Fig. 10b. Jet streams in the Northern Hemisphere
Fig. 10c. Global distribution of jet streams.

Jet streams are the atmospheric equivalents to major ocean currents that influence all of the other weather systems on the planet to keep them moving latitudinally around the planet. They are driven by temperature differences between the tropical and polar regions of the Earth and Coreolus effects as winds blow towards or away from the poles. Where the temperature differs strongly between poles and equator the jet streams are well organized with high winds. As temperature differences decrease so do the wind speeds, and the streams begin to slowly meander until they may become quite chaotic. Winds less than 60 kt are not considered to be jet streams. At present (as shown in Fig 8b, there are virtually NO jet streams at all in the Northern Hemisphere, and the winds that do exist are completely chaotic — a highly unusual situation. This leaves major heat domes and cold patches basically motionless, facilitating the buildup of record temperatures.

See: Nature Climate Change, Lenton (2011) Early warning of climate tipping points.

Continental effects

Fig. 11. The taiga is found throughout the high northern latitudes, between the tundra and the temperate forest, from about 50°N to 70°N, but with considerable regional variation. (Wikipedia).

Some of the greatest impacts of the disrupted jet stream system are seen over the boreal/taiga forest zones of North America and Eurasia. Arctic tundra and much of the taiga is underlain by carbon rich peat and peaty permafrost soils that are thought to contain at least 2x more carbon than the current amount of carbon in our atmosphere. Depending on circumstances, significant amounts of that carbon can be released in the form of methane, that has more than 80x the greenhouse potential of CO2 over the first 20 years of emission (20x over 100 years).

Fig. 12. By the end of June Canadian wildfires mainly in boreal forests have burned more area before the fire season is half over than in the previous record for a full year in 1989. Phys Org (30 June 2023). As at 6 July 8.782,952 have burned (Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre).

Wildfires not only release the carbon contained in burned forests and tundra, but they can also burn the carbon rich peat soils. furthermore, burning off insulating vegetation and surface litter exposes permafrost to melting and release of CO2 and methane from frozen hydrates.

If the burning releases more greenhouse emissions than can readily be recaptured by re-vegetating forests. These emissions may more than replace any emissions humans cut — providing positive feedback to drive global temperatures still higher. This is one of several crucial tipping points associated with stopping the thermohaline circulation.

Intensity of observation

A hint to how little you can trust claims of reality denying trolls, puppets, and the like, is provided by the number monitoring points that physically monitor the atmosphere at those locations around the surface of the planet we live on used PER DAY.

Atmospheric monitoring

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) for the charts plotted on 6 July 2023 as shown below are based on measurements from 92,702 locations. Note 1: this map does not NOT include ocean monitoring points. Note 2: The DATA COLLECTED EVERY DAY by this web of sensors is available to, used, and interpreted by several different national and institutional climate monitoring centers. In other words, the conclusions are cross checked between different centers many times over. The charts above depict scientific facts, not hunches and personal opinions. For more detail on how the accuracy of the observations is controlled see ECMWF’s Monitoring of the observing system.

Fig. 13. This chart maps the type and location of 92,702 separate observations used on 6 July 2023 between 3:00 and 9:00 PM for 6 hourly data coverage used by the ECMWF data assimilation system (4DVAR). Each plot shows the available data for a family of observations. The current day’s chart can be downloaded here. SYNOP refers to encoded information collected and transmitted every 6 hours by more than 7600 manned and unmanned meteorological stations and more than 2500 mobile stations around the world and is used for weather forecasting and climatic statistics. SHIP METAR is a format for reporting weather information. A METAR weather report is predominantly used by aircraft pilots, and by meteorologists, who use aggregated METAR information to assist in weather forecasting.

Oceanographic monitoring


Argo floats profiles physical properties of the surrounding water, minimally ocean temperature, salinity, pressure (i.e., depth). Each float operates on a 10 day cycle, spending most of the cycle ‘resting’ at an intermediate depth. On the 10th day it sinks to a specified depth and begins recording inputs from its sensors as it floats up to the surface. The standard float sinks to a depth of 2 km (2,000 m) and records all the way up to the surface, where it then determines its GPS position to within a few meters and messages a passing relay satellite with its location and profile data before sinking to its resting depth waiting for the next profile position. As shown on the world map here, for June 2023, shows the locations of 3849 profiles received over the month. Of these ~1,400 recorded the profile from 2 km deep in the ocean to the surface. Some floats are designed to sink to the bottom and thus record a profile for the full depth of the ocean. A few include several additional sensors to levels for things like acidity, oxygen, nitrate, light level, and some more I don’t recognize. The Argo system is really quite amazing.

Some even have ice sensors allowing them to operate even in ice-covered waters by warning if they might be fatally damaged by striking ice overhead. For these, if they sense ice, they’ll record the profile in memory, and drop back and rest until the next cycle (which may again prevent surfacing). These interrupted cycles will keep repeating until the float can safely surface — in which case all of the aborted profiles will be messaged to the satellite relay along with the current one (better late than never!)

Fig. 14. For the latest data see Ocean Ops dashboard

And then there is a plethora of other ocean sensor systems. The full gamut of them shown next. The various different types are named in the legend. Collectively, on 26 June 2023, the ocean sensing system measuring in-situ variables includes 7973 ‘platforms’ (including the different kinds of Argo Floats) and results from 104 ‘cruises’ of ships ranging from specialized oceanographic vessels to fishing boats. Some of these non-Argo systems also record partial or complete (i.e., to the bottom) profiles.

Almost all of the data collected from the range of sensors is freely accessible via the public World Wide Web.

Fig. 15.

Satellite remote sensing systems

As if the plethora of physical systems for directly measuring weather and climate is not enough. There is now a cloud of satellite-based remote sensing systems buzzing around our planet, making literally millions of observations every day of critical weather and climate variables. NASA EarthData’s What is remote sensing? gives a high level overview of some of the capabilities of these systems. You can be assured that the measurements made by the earth-based and space-based sensing systems are carefully cross calibrated to ensure the various systems are all working together towards a common view of the actual physical reality.

Major heat engine domains of the Earth System

Dynamic changes in the Universe through time are driven by spontaneous flows and transformations of energy from ‘sources’ at high potential to entropy and ‘sinks’ at lower potentials (e.g., water flowing down a hill). This flux can be used to drive other processes through a system of coupled interactions forming a thermodynamic system or heat engine. As governed by the universal physical Laws of Thermodynamics (especially the Second Law), as long as there is a potential difference between source and sink, the flux of energy between them will continue to spontaneously flow through the system/heat engine as long as long as the system’s net entropy production remains positive.

The ‘Earth System’ includes all the shell-like layered components of the planet from the edge of outer space to its center. The three main ones concerning us here from inside out are the geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The biosphere formed in the interface between atmosphere and geosphere (on the planetary scale) is a microscopically thin turbulent layer of carbonaceous macromolecules and water combined with other elements and molecules exhibiting the properties of life. We humans form part of that biosphere.

The heat engines described here circulate masses of matter that transport heat energy from place to place within the Earth System.


The geosphere comprises Planet Earth’s, solid (‘rocky’) components. The geosphere’s heat engine is based on the geologically slow process of plate tectonics that drives continental drift.

Fig. 16. Geological heat engine at work. Mantle convection may be the main driver behind plate tectonics. Image via University of Sydney.

The plate tectonics engine is driven by the slow radioactive decay of unstable isotopes of elements such as potassium, uranium and thorium remaining from the formation of Earth some 4.5 billion years ago.

Enough heat has and is being generated by this decay to melt the planet’s core and heat and expand the overlying mantle rocks enough to make them less dense and plastic enough for them to form convection cells like you see in a pan of nearly boiling water. Hotter and less dense rocks float up towards Earth’s harder crust and spread out (carrying surface crust and even lighter continental rocks, i.e., ‘plates’) to become cool enough for gravitational force to pull the solidified plates back towards the molten core in subduction zones that also form oceanic trenches.

Heat transported from radioactive decay is released into the hydrosphere and atmosphere from conduction through the crust + hot springs and geysers; by molten basalt lava coming to the surface in oceanic and terrestrial spreading (‘rift zones’); and volcanoes associated with localized ‘hot spots of rising magma or with the rift zones. Lavas associated with the latter type of volcanoes are formed of lighter, lower melting point rocks forming a scum on top of the denser crustal rocks of the drifting plates.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Thermohaline_circulation.svg

Earth’s hydrosphere is the thin film of water between the geosphere and atmosphere forming the salty Ocean covering around 70% of the planetary surface along with lakes and streams of generally nearly salt-free water serving as feeding tendrils draining water condensed from the land. The hydrosphere also includes a solid component of ice and a gaseous component of vapor. These components have very different properties compared to water and each other.

The liquid component of the hydrospheric heat engine absorbs solar energy in the form of heat warming volumes of water, in the form of latent heat of fusion (i.e., melting of ice) absorbing about 80 cal/gm of ice melted, and latent of vaporization (i.e., turning liquid water into an atmospheric gas) absorbing about 540 cal/gm of water vaporized (6.75 times as much energy as required to melt the gm of ice). The heat absorbed becomes ‘latent’ in that the energy transforms the state from liquid to solid or from liquid to gas without changing the measurable or feel-able (i.e., ‘sensible’) temperature of the mass. When the water vapor condenses or the water freezes, of course the latent energies are released in the form of sensible heat.

Basically, the hydrospheric heat engine is driven by the absorption of excess amounts solar radiation (the source) in equatorial, tropical, and subtropical regions of the planet that is mainly carried by ocean currents towards the polar and sub-polar regions where the an excess of heat energy released from water and freezing ice is carried away from the planet in the form of long-wave infrared radiation to the cold sink of outer space. Many different local, regional, and global ocean currents are involved in moving energy around the planetary sphere. Proportionately, a small amount of geothermal heat energy is absorbed from the geospheric heat engine by water, and larger amounts of heat are exchanged with the atmospheric heat engine(s) in a variety of ways.

Water has some very peculiar properties that play very important roles in the climate system and biospheric systems, especially around the freezing point. Most materials contract and become denser as they cool. This is also true for pure water, down to a temperature of 4 °C when it begins to expand and become less dense until it begins to freeze. Ice at 0°C is even lighter such that it easily floats. This is because water molecules are shaped like boomerangs with the oxygen atom at the apex and the two hydrogen atoms sticking out at angles. When they are warmer they jitter around in a relatively random way, such that warming makes the molecules jitter faster and further, while as they cool the jitter slows and they come closer such that a given number of molecules take up less space. As the jitter slows further at and below 4 °C, molecules tend to spread out some to form a quasi crystalline structure approaching that of ice where they are more or less locked into that structure, where the solid water is significantly lighter than the liquid. The presence of dissolved salts and minerals depresses the freezing temperature. As as ice freezes, crystallization of the water also tends to concentrate and expel dissolved minerals and gases in extra-cold plumes of particularly dense and very cold salty water (i.e., brine) — cold enough that tubes of ice may form from the less salty water around the brine.

Water is also a god solvent, able to carry substantial amounts of gases, (e.g., oxygen, CO2, methane – CH4), salts, carbonates, nitrates, sulfates, metal ions, etc). The ocean carries a lot of salt – enough to play an important role in the ocean circulation system. Oxygen and CO2 play essential roles in living systems, CO2 and carbonates play important roles in interactions between water, the Geosphere and the atmosphere. CO2 and methane in the atmosphere, along with water vapor, are the most important greenhouse gases, etc…..

Fig. 17. A summary of the path of the thermohaline circulation. Blue paths represent deep-water currents, while red paths represent surface currents. This map shows the pattern of thermohaline circulation also known as “meridional overturning circulation”. This collection of currents is responsible for the large-scale exchange of water masses in the ocean, including providing oxygen to the deep ocean. The entire circulation pattern takes ~2000 year. Wikipedia

The principal current system driving ocean heat transport is known as the ‘thermohaline circulation‘. Basically, seawater is warmed in the equatorial, tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It also increases in density due to the evaporation of water vapor into the atmosphere. However, parcels of water are kept hot enough that thermal expansion more than compensates for the densification from becoming saltier. However, as currents carry the hot, salty surface water further towards the poles, the water begins to cool until the warm salty water carrying a full load of oxygen becomes dense enough around 4 °C to sink through layers of still warmish but less salty water, carrying a full load of oxygen down to the bottom of the ocean. The salt in this descending water is diluted by mixing with relatively fresh ice water from terrestrial runoffs, melting glacial and sea ice, etc sourced from zones even closer to the poles than where the dense salty water normally sinks.

The main source of power that drives the thermohaline circulation heat engine is the conversion gravitational potential energy in the sinking masses of water as they sink to the ocean floor this sinking helps to pull surface waters into the ‘sinkhole’. Further assists to the circulation are provided by prevailing atmospheric winds pushing surface waters away from continental shores, pulling up cold, deoxygenated, CO2 and mineral rich deep waters to the surface where they fertilize the blooms of micro-algae that add more oxygen and feed the whole food chains of larger organisms in the oceans.


Fig. 18. (top) Plan and (bottom) cross-section schematic view representations of the general circulation of the atmosphere. Three main circulations exist between the equator and poles due to solar heating and Earth’s rotation: 1) Hadley cell – Low-latitude air moves toward the equator. Due to solar heating, air near the equator rises vertically and moves poleward in the upper atmosphere. 2) Ferrel cell – A midlatitude mean atmospheric circulation cell. In this cell, the air flows poleward and eastward near the surface and equatorward and westward at higher levels. 3) Polar cell – Air rises, diverges, and travels toward the poles. Once over the poles, the air sinks, forming the polar highs. At the surface, air diverges outward from the polar highs. Surface winds in the polar cell are easterly (polar easterlies). A high pressure band is located at about 30° N/S latitude, leading to dry/hot weather due to descending air motion (subtropical dry zones are indicated in orange in the schematic views). Expanding tropics (indicted by orange arrows) are associated with a poleward shift of the subtropical dry zones. A low pressure band is found at 50°–60° N/S, with rainy and stormy weather in relation to the polar jet stream bands of strong westerly wind in the upper levels of the atmosphere. From Wikipedia Hadley Cell.

The atmosphere includes the gaseous components of Earth’s global heat engine. The transport and transfer of heat energy and the Coriolis effect are the major drivers. The major sources of heat are direct conduction of sensible heat across the atmosphere : ocean/land interface, the conversion of latent heat into sensible heat through the evaporation and condensation of water vapor (mainly from the oceans), and direct solar heating (note: because the atmosphere is largely transparent to most radiation, most solar energy is not captured by the atmosphere itself.)

The diagram here shows how the transport of heat from the Earth’s surface to the top of the atmosphere where it radiates away as infrared to the heat sink of outer space organizes the wind systems into three major cycles. Note that the moisture laden warm air cools as it rises and releases a lot more energy as the water vapor condenses into rain or hail to keep the rising air warmer for longer.


The  Biosphere (“Life”) – the totality of the living components of the planetary sphere, generally residing in the interface between the Atmophere and the Geosphere/Hydrosphere, where living things are characterized by their capacity to self-organize, self-regulate, and self-reproduce their properties of life through time.

The “Engine of Life” is predominantly driven by the complexly catalyzed formation of high energy chemical bonds from the capture of solar radiant or activation energy from redox reactions to combine oxygen and carbon to produce high energy carbohydrates used or ‘burned’ to fuel all kinds of metabolic activities and processes in living things. Living components of the Earth System have and depend for their continued survival and reproduction on their capacity to catalyze all kinds of energy transformations within and between the other Earth Systems. Over time the Engine of Life has profoundly affected the other planetary spheres.

Over evolutionary time the emergence and evolution Life has affected major global transformations involving many aspects of Earth’s other subsystems. Evolutionary processes are complexly dynamic and many of them include many potentially powerful positive feedbacks able to drive changes at exponential rates. All life can evolve genetically to live under a wide variety of environmental conditions over multi generational time scales due to natural selection at the genetic level. 

A few species and humans in particular, can evolve culturally at intra-generational timescales to drive changes at exponentially explosive rates to the extent that WE are literally threatening all complex life on the planet with global mass extinction – quite possibly within two or three of our own generations! 

Interpersonal competition to gain ever more personal power from the burning of globally significant quantities of  fossil carbon in less than a century that was accumulated in the geosphere over millions of years by life processes has destabilized Earth’s Climate System. TODAY, we seem to be in the midst of flipping the global climate system from the Glacial-Interglacial Cycle most life has adapted genetically to live under, to the Hothouse Earth regime that very few organisms will be able to survive in without hundreds or thousands of generations or more of genetic adaptation. SEE FEATURED IMAGE!

Posted by William P. Hall

Some call me a 'climate scientist'. I'm not. What I am is an 'Earth systems generalist'. Born in 1939, I grew up with passionate interests in both science and engineering. I learned to read from my father's university textbooks in geology and paleontology, and dreamed of building nuclear powered starships. Living on a yacht in Southern California I grew up surrounded by (and often immersed in) marine and estuarine ecosystems while my father worked in the aerospace engineering industry. After studying university physics for three years, dyslexia with numbers convinced me to change my focus to biology. I completed university as an evolutionary biologist (PhD Harvard, 1973). My principal research project involved understanding how species' genetic systems regulated the evolution and speciation of North America's largest and most widespread lizard genus. Then for several years as an academic biologist I taught a range of university subjects as diverse as systematics, biogeography, cytogenetics, comparative anatomy and marine biology. In Australia, from 1980, I was involved in various activities around the emerging and rapidly evolving microcomputing technologies culminating in 2 years involvement in the computerization of the emerging Bank of Melbourne. In 1990 I joined a startup engineering company that had just won the contract to build a new generation of 10 frigates for Australia and New Zealand. In 2007 I retired from the head office of Tenix Defence, then Australia's largest defence engineering contractor, after a 17½ year career as a documentation and knowledge management systems analyst and designer. At Tenix I reported to the R&D manager under the GM Engineering, and worked closely with support and systems engineers on the ANZAC Ship Project to solve documentation and engineering change management issues that risked the project 100s of millions of dollars in cost and years of schedule overruns. All 10 ships had been delivered on time, on budget to happy customers against the fixed-price and fixed schedule contract. Before, during, and after these two main gigs I also did a lot of other things that contribute to my general understanding of complex dynamical systems involving multiple components with non-linear and sometimes chaotically interacting components; e.g., 'Earth systems'. Earth's Climate System is the global heat engine driven by the transport and conversions of energy between the incoming solar radiation striking the planet, and the infrared radiation of heat away from the planet to the cold dark universe. As Climate Sentinel News Editor, my task is to identify and understand quirks and problems in the operation of this complex heat engine that threaten human existence, and explain to our readers how they can help to solve some of the critical issues that are threatening their own existence.

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