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. (https://neo.gsfc.nasa.gov/view.php?datasetId=CERES_NETFLUX_M)
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 – https://twitter.com/Sophiemcneill/status/1759174092597715078: 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 https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/. 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 – https://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/. 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.”- https://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/2024/02/10/on-this-weeks-record-high-co2-readings-at-mauna-loa/. See also: https://twitter.com/MarkTrewick1/status/1757096995653579202

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. – https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/about.html

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 – https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/gl_trend.html
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. – https://argo.ucsd.edu/about/ 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 (seaice.visuals.earth). 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 (seaice.visuals.earth).

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: https://news.stanford.edu/2024/02/05/stable-parts-east-antarctica-ice-may-close-melting/; 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. (https://www.aviso.altimetry.fr/en/data/products/ocean-indicators-products/mean-sea-level.html)
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 https://uns.eumetsat.int/ ).
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. https://twitter.com/accuweather/status/1766932084961235072. 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 – https://www.grida.no/resources/5219; Feedbacks associated with albedo changes – https://www.grida.no/resources/5261. 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) – https://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php. 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 (https://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n_anomaly.uk.php).

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 – Encyclopedia.com, 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 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAVgd5XsvbE&t=130swatch 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 https://twitter.com/LeonSimons8/status/1668612887949217792. 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.

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.