Chinese Plot Continues. As 2016 Wraps, Another Record Looms

November 16, 2016


Graph here is from Gavin Schmidt of NASA, showing current average global temperatures, including October, with a prediction for how 2016 will end up.
2014 and 2015 were records, 2015 by a long way – which was more or less expected due to the very large super El Nino event in 2015-16.

But scientists have generally been expecting a deceleration as we move into more of a La Nina phase, where we expect more heat to get sucked into oceans, and atmospheric temps to level off.  Instead what we are seeing is another record that may be as much hotter in 2016 as 2015 was above ’14.



Residents of the Alaskan city of Barrow (due to change its name to Utqiaġvik on 1 December) would normally be looking out across a frozen harbour by now, but this year the sea is reluctant to freeze.

Barrow’s average temperature for October 2016 was a balmy -1C, significantly warmer than the long-term average of around -8C. And over the North Pole the air has been a full 10C warmer than average of late.

Much of the reason for these warm temperatures and the sluggish rate of sea-ice formation is the exceptional summer sea-ice melt that occurred this year. By 10 September the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that Arctic sea-ice had shrunk to an area of just 4.14m square kilometres – tying with 2007 for second lowest sea-ice extent on record, and some 740,000 square kilometres short of the record set in 2012.

The rapid melting of this ice earlier in the season gave plenty of time for the surface waters of the Beaufort, Chuckchi, Barents and Kara Seas to warm up, and it is these warm waters, combined with persistently warm dry weather blowing up from the south, that have boosted air temperatures and slowed the progress of fresh sea-ice formation.

Summer sea-ice has been diminishing for a number of years in this region now, and research recently published in Nature Climate Change indicates that this change may be responsible for shunting the Arctic polar vortex towards the Eurasian continent during winter. The resulting change in atmospheric circulation patterns may be causing a cooler end to winter over parts of the Eurasian and North American continents.



18 Responses to “Chinese Plot Continues. As 2016 Wraps, Another Record Looms”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    I am a great fan of Edward Tufte and his ideas about “the visual display of quantitative information” (the title of his best-known book).

    The two graphs in this post are excellent, both for how well they “display he info” and for the shot across the bow they provide. Is it necessary to point out that if things don’t change, we are going to pass the 1.5 degree mark by 2020 and 2.0 before 2030? Is it necessary to point out that the “anomalous spike” is occurring in the Arctic, the “canary in the coal mine” for global warming?

    Tipping points, anyone? Is the methane bomb next?

    • otter17 Says:

      I imagine a little stick man standing atop the 2016 data point peering down into the valley as a light-hearted addition to the visual display. “Wow, would you look down there at 1998?”. “Our global temperatures used to be all the way down there in the 1800s?!?!”.

    • otter17 Says:

      As far as the 2020 timeline for 1.5 degree and 2030 for 2 degree mark, hopefully not. We would be on a VERY fast track for 2030 to be 1.5 degrees, with 2 degrees at 2050, right? That would already be an acceleration of IPCC temp rise rates per decade.

      I mean, may as well start working on the bucket list if the future holds 1.5deg by 2020 and 2deg by 2030. Either that, or cross our fingers that the sulfate aerosol injection in the upper atmosphere works.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “As far as the 2020 timeline for 1.5 degree and 2030 for 2 degree mark, hopefully not”. The key word there is “hopefully”. Look at the graphs and “project” the data—it is easy to lose hope.

        I am always harping on how bright sided it is to project emissions declines, market penetration of RE, numbers of electric cars, and what’s going on in Denmark as a sign of “hopefulness”. All are predicated on the big IF, and I am not ashamed to borrow that tactic, the difference being that IF the “hopeful” targets are not met, we will likely survive a bit longer—-IF the trends in these two graphs continues, WE ARE F**KED, plain and simple.

        I.m too old to worry much about accelerating my bucket list, but I worry a lot about whether my grandchildren will ever have a chance to have one.

        And yes, the “yellow sky” will be one of the first geoengineering “fixes” we attempt—-cheap, quick, and likely to succeed (at first). Perhaps it will buy us enough time for Elon Musk and Cruz-Trump’s NASA to move the human race to Mars.

        • otter17 Says:

          Right, and I am under no illusions that the low-ball temp rise scenarios will come to pass or that the permafrost and methane clathrates won’t be additional hurdles to solve this century or this earlier half of the century. I am not bright-siding the research that our temperature rise even after a successful stabilization will likely lead to the Great Plains of the USA changing over to desert or the Mediterranean basin undergoing the same transformation. Yes, there are some things that are legitimately labeled as “we screwed up”, but we don’t know for sure that a tipping point is passed yet in overall temp rise projections.

          My only assumption is a practical one, take the middle scenario of projections as our most likely one, and form our actions around avoiding that scenario with a good deal of margin to spare. Obviously, having fallback plans in case some acceleration occurs is smart, but not necessarily as our primary plan.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            You are showing some bright-sidedness and even denial in this and your 11/17 9:13 comment.

            It is “practical” to take the middle scenario and have fallback plans, but…. “not necessarily as our primary plan”?

            Considering that things climate-wise seem to be going worse than projected and we are getting surprised much more often by “spikes” and “anomalies”, we need to err on the side of overshoot—-and then we can breathe a sigh of relief if it turns out that we have succeeded but overdone it a bit.

            We don’t know for sure a tipping point has been passed? A huge logic fail there, since by definition, passing a tipping point means it has occurred, and it is far more likely that we can keep it from happening than reverse it once it occurs.

            Please tell us what the “fallback plan” is for dealing with an ice-free Arctic Ocean that reduces the albedo to the point that the water and atmosphere in the far north heat up far more rapidly, which causes more rapid disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet and melting of permafrost and sub sea clathrates, leading to massive methane release, which multiplies the GHG effect—-a massive interlocking web of positive feedback mechanisms that can lead to nowhere but CAGW.

          • otter17 Says:

            As to the tipping point, yes, totally agreed that everything in our power ought to be done to prevent such a point from being reached in the first place. It is not a logical fallacy to claim that we don’t know if we are there or passed right now or if that point is 10 years out. That is just the state of the science.

            The world’s people must keep and extend our gains (and hopefully accelerating soon), efforts to reduce GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. I apologize if some of my wording previously would appear to suggest that humanity hold back in some way, not giving as much effort as can be mustered.

            The fallback plan is geo-engineering, it appears. Depending on how humanity responds with reducing GHG emissions and how Earth responds with feedbacks, would determine how aggressively such actions are pursued.

            I think so far as what to do about our current situation, we would be in very similar agreement. As far as what the projections will shake out to be for global temperature rise, we would be in similar agreement. The only small sticking point for me would be that the new upper-range estimates are probably not to be taken as the new certainty scenario. They bump up the most likely scenario into the upper range, for sure. The scenario you describe is certainly a possibility that we shouldn’t as a species be tempting to come to pass, for sure.

          • otter17 Says:

            “Perhaps it will buy us enough time for Elon Musk and Cruz-Trump’s NASA to move the human race to Mars.”

            I think I have read you have been critical of “moving” options in the past. Just making sure this is sarcasm, yes?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I am seldom able to make any sort of a comment about Musk without being sarcastic. His Mars BS is a distraction from what we need to do here on Earth to save the species and the biosphere. There is no Plan(et) B, period, and Musk’s (sort of) successes with cars and batteries give his Mars BS too much credibility among the ignorant.

            I am NEVER able to think of Cruz or comment about him without being sarcastic and nasty (although there’s a small chance that he might have turned out to be a better choice for president than the pussy-grabber). Cruz would gut NASA’s earth study programs and divert resources to the idiotic manned deep space exploration programs so beloved by the aerospace contractors (aka his donors) in TX and elsewhere.

          • otter17 Says:

            Hah, right on. It surprises me how even some folks with technical and engineering backgrounds can be impressed by some of Musk’s showmanship ideas. I mean, sure, he did pretty well for yourself on a few ventures, but that doesn’t mean he can make anything happen by willing it. Plus, for me the immorality of wasting resources on manned Mars ventures when such funding could be going towards our issues on our ready-made planet, it doesn’t sit well.

            And of course, Cruz gets no love from… anyone, except his fanbase he had for a while there in the primaries. His fans really should reconsider a guy that ends up doing phone calls for a campaign that insulted his wife and claimed his dad was in on the JFK assassination. I mean, is partisanship worth more than a spine or family respect? Did he ever ask for an apology from Trump at least in private? Yeesh, what weirdness.

      • That sulphate injection will lead to the death of the oceans and unimagineable hurt.
        Look up the Canfield Ocean, a player in so many extinction events, especially in high CO2/Methane and anoxic oceans.

        High H2S atmospheric levels are deadly to all life forms and that plus the H2S from the Canfield oceans and the toxic algae that will be produced and carried by the hurricanes and typhoons over the land and into our fresh water storage.

        Anyone that tries to do it should be shot on the spot as a terrorist

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Maybe they really should be “shot on the spot” (I like that USMC mentality of “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out”), but the fact is that SRM via “sulphur injection” is likely to work for a while—-remember Mount Pinatubo?

          Maybe we can attach tracking devices to all thei ankles so that we can track them down and shoot them when the bad things you suggest do occur later?

          I myself am partial to building a huge mirror at the L1 LaGrange Point to reflect some of the sun’s rays away from earth. Rumor has it that Elon Musk is chomping at the bit to build the necessary rockets, and might even forget about Mars for a while if he had a new venture to not make money on.

        • otter17 Says:

          For sure, as I understand it the aerosols injection is allegedly in the stratosphere and that they stay there for long periods. From my limited knowledge of the chemistry involved, I did not think that H2S would be produced. Is there a scientific or IPCC source that has covered the process involved, or modeling, demonstrating the risk you have described?

          I am not advocating any given geo-engineering if at all possible. I just mentioned an example that gets some mention in climate circles. All I am saying is that such a fast global warming scenario as 1.5C by 2020 and 2C by 2030 would almost make one of the geo-eng options a necessity. We haven’t really tested any of them, and all have possible side-effects that make some experts weary of them.

          Our most likely scenario is fortunately a somewhat lower rise rate, which would help buy time to avert more warming and possibly reduce our temptation to pursue geo-engineering.

  2. indy222 Says:

    Another reminder: Vaks et al. 2013 found that by +1.5C above pre-Industrial, in the last interglacial, the entire Arctic permafrost was able to melt. There’s no way we can avoid that, at this point.

    I’m enraged at the happy-talk policy people, called out by Kevin Anderson, for the placating message narrowly focused on this little positive thing or that, out of context of the real truth of things. The message is – don’t panic, don’t worry, we’re on the path, soon it’ll be “mission accomplished”, etc, and above all DON’T even THINK about changing the political / economic system.

  3. Glen Koehler Says:

    otter17 – IPCC projections for the trend our emissions are currently following (best match is RCP8.5 scenario), the expected temperature response includes rapid increase in rate of temperature increase for each subsequent decade. In that scenario we reach 2C over preindustrial by ca. 2043.

    Morevover, November 2016 paper by Tobias Friedrich in Sci. Adv. estimates that temperature sensitivity to increasing CO2 may be substantially higher than IPCC estimate, resulting in their estimate of 2C arriving ca. 2032. So far observations more closely follow IPCC estimate, but that may not last.

    Richardson, Cowtan, Hawkins, & Stolpe in a July 2016 article point out that using recent observed temperatures may result in artificially low temperature sensitivity estimate due to the effect of aerosols on suppressing temperatures. Without particulate matter pollution, observed temperatures, and sensitivity estimates would be higher.

    All of this (as with most other climate science studies) points to faster, sooner, warmer, worse rather than the other way. Anybody that thinks IPCC is alarmist has it wrong. The IPPC projections for global temperature, sea level, Arctic sea ice decline, and western U.S. drought at least (and probably others), are being revealed as underestimates by recent observations and research.

    indy222 – Actually, Vaks et al. 2013 found that at +1.5C above preindustrial permafrost UP to 60 degrees N was able to thaw, not the entire Arctic. But your point is well taken, there’s a whole lot of carbon tied up in the permafrost (twice as much as the entire atmosphere), and if start letting it loose all bets are off. And since we are really already committed to exceeding 1.5C, to some extent that will happen. But none of these things are yes/no. on/off, but matters of degree, rate, and timing.

    Peter – 2016 was expeced to be warm because of 2015-2016 El Nino. It is the year following a fall-winter El Nino that has the highest annual average temperature, e.g. 1997-1998 El Nino resulted in blow-out (for the time, would be a cool year now!) temperatures in 1998. This is due to a roughly 4 month lag between sea El Nino surface temperature (Foster and Rahmstorf, 2011; using ONI 3.4 area for those who like specifics) and global average temperature. 2015 jump was probably in response to the 2014 El Nino that failed to go full cycle.

    That said, your point that 2016 is a shocker still applies. The 2015-2016 combined two year increase above previous record high global average surface temperature (as measured by NASA GISS) will be about 0.26C (vs. previous title holder 2010). For the 1997-1998 El Nino (considered to be a monster event at the time), the two year increase over the previous record temperature was 0.18C. Even with La Nina underway (though looks to be a mild and probably short-lived one, vs. the intense one that followed 1998), I’m wondering what global temps will do in 2017. If they KEEP going up, then it’s really bucket list time.

    So, yes, we are hurdling towards a world of hurt. Failure to act and leaving this legacy for current youth would be beyond immoral. Due to 10-30 year lag in CO2-temperature response, more damage is already unavoidable.

    But while dwindling, there is hope and possibilty. The worst commitments have not yet been made. We can still reduce the damage with sane, focused, comprehensive, and intense response. A good thing about climate change is that we can see it happening before it happens. With 7.5 billion people on the planet, multiple systems were bound to fail. This one (climate) at least is somewhat forseeable. We are on notice that we better make this world really great with clean energy (which addresses a lot of other problems besode climate) are we headed for hell. Or as World Bank so poetically put (describing a +4C world), conditions “incompatible with an organized global society.” Which sounds to me like banker talk for Mad Max.

    For some good news, check out recent Joe Romm video on the amazing advances in energy

    • Glen Koehler Says:

      ugh typos, “or we are headed for hell”

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Mainly just testing since WordPress went crazy on me and spit me out, and I’m trying to log back on.. While I’m here, I will agree with you that “we are hurdling towards a world of hurt”. To bad we’re failing to clear even the lowest hurdles and are losing the race.

    • otter17 Says:

      “Morevover, November 2016 paper by Tobias Friedrich in Sci. Adv. estimates that temperature sensitivity to increasing CO2 may be substantially higher than IPCC estimate, resulting in their estimate of 2C arriving ca. 2032. So far observations more closely follow IPCC estimate, but that may not last.”

      Thank you, Glen. This conversation has stoked my motivation to read that very research, of which I have only read about indirectly so far. And dumboldguy, you very well might be nearly spot-on in your statement of 1.5C by end of decade and 2C by 2030.

      My only point is that we have to take into account that the higher-end scenario may not quite come to pass and that gives some ground to those that would advocate slower efforts or (crazily) none. Then again, if we still have as significant a denial problem in 2020 or 2030 as we do now, might as well hang it up, eh? I suppose as long as we strike the balancing act that keeps the maximum amount of effort to reduce GHGs that humanity can muster, that is the best that can be done.

      “Even with La Nina underway (though looks to be a mild and probably short-lived one, vs. the intense one that followed 1998), I’m wondering what global temps will do in 2017. If they KEEP going up, then it’s really bucket list time.”

      Yes, something to keep very close watch. In the mean time, we in the USA have a lot of action ahead of us to convince our elected leadership to step away from the opposite path, or at the least divert some intense research efforts into something that would lessen the problem, like filtering carbon from the atmosphere.

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