Friday, March 22, 2013

Arctic Ice Breaks Up in Beaufort Sea

The NOAA image below gives an update on the temperature anomaly over Greenland, as earlier discussed in the post including Huge patches of warm air over the Arctic.

Below a NOAA animation showing a 30-day loop (up to March 19, 2013) of analyzed 200-hPa heights and anomalies. An eleven-day mean, centered on the date indicated in the title, of 200-hPa heights and anomalies from the NCEP Climate Data Assimilation System (CDAS), is shown for the first 25 days of the animation. 10-, 9-, 8-, 7-, and 6-day running means are shown for the last 5 days, respectively. Contour interval for heights is 120 m, anomalies are indicated by shading. Anomalies are departures from the 1979-95 daily base period means.

As discussed in earlier posts (see below), changes to the jet stream are making extreme weather events increasingly likely to occur, which spells bad news for the sea ice.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Huge patches of warm air over the Arctic

Over the past month or so, huge patches with temperature anomalies of over 20 degrees Celsius have been forming over the Arctic.

The three images below show such patches stretch out from Svalbard to Novaya Zemlya (top), north of Eastern Siberia (middle) and over West Greenland and Baffin Bay (bottom).

How these patches with warm air developed is further illustrated by the animation below, which goes from February 12, 2013, to March 18, 2013.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tipping Points

Aaron Franklin
By Aaron Franklin

Tipping point one: Complete global deglaciation. 

This looks like it happened in the last Interglacial 120 000 yrs ago.

The Arctic Sea ice went completely. Most if not all of Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets went too. Theres 30m above current sea level ancient beaches all around the world proving that.

With recent observations of coastlines receding by Thermokarst/coastal erosion (wave action and warm water melt the coastal land permafrost layer, accelerated by thermokarst lakes drilling with warm water through the coastal tundra permafrost) in Siberia, Alaska, and Nth Canada by up to 200m, mostly in the last 10yrs, and accelerating...

Example of Coastal Thermokarst lakes on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf coastline:

Pan around, Zoom in, its quite scary.

I think its fair to say that most, if not all of the ESAS, and most of other arctic basin continental shelves may have been created by this process in that last interglacial.

International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean - from:
Evidence for this is that there is only traces left of glacial channels carved into the edges of the continental shelves around Norway, Greenland, Nth Canadian Archipelago, and Svalbard.

Shelves in these places are flat, 40-100m below sealevel, flat, the glacial channels mostly filled with sediments from the eroded coasts. Some of this erosion has happened in the last 10 thousand years around Norway, Greenland, and to a lesser extent Nth Canadian Archipelago, and Svalbard.

But its unlikely that prior to mans intervention, that much coastal permafrost got melted in the ESAS, because the surface seawater stayed -1.8C to 0C probably up until the last 30 years.

The reason the arctic shelves, and particularly the ESAS are the most dangerous pieces of geology on the planet is, that while they have been frozen for at least the last 90 000 years. They have been collecting methane produced by baking oil shale layers, subducted under the edges of the continents, mostly as water-methane crystal hydrates in their bottom layers.

If this happens under land permafrost, its more porous and there isn't enough pressure for hydrates to be stable. Under not frozen submarine shelves the temperature isn't low enough for hydrate stability.

Now, Earths vulnerable Carbon stores are:

Carbon in the Arctic

500 Gton C organic
1000 Gton C hydrate
700 Gton C free methane
total: 2200 Gton C

+other submarine arctic permafrost:
2200/0.8=2750 Gton C

+1700Gt in land permafrost= 4450 Gton C

A large part of this is Vulnerable to being lost rapidly into the Ocean/Atmosphere system if the Arctic defrosts, polar ocean warms, heavy rainfalls hit the Tundras.

Carbon in soils and Living Biomass:

Total organic C in soil and living biomass is approx: 1000 Gton C living + 1500 Gton soil.

= 2500Gton C

A large part of this is Vulnerable to being lost rapidly into the Ocean/Atmosphere system if the Arctic defrosts, Global weather systems change, Rainforests and/or peat deposits burn, desertification and/or heavy rainfalls hit the Tropical, Temperate, Boreal forests.

So tha'ts the vulnerable surface Carbon stores. Total about 7000 billion tons of carbon.

There's never been this much in the history of planet earth, that we know of.

Carbon in Deep sea Clathrates:

estimates range from 5000 Gton C to 78000 Gton C

A large part of this is Vulnerable to being lost into the Ocean/Atmosphere system if the oceans warm a few degrees, reaching the bottom in a few hundred to a few thousand years, causing the stability to be lost.

There's never been this much in the history of planet Earth, that we know of.

Now if Mankind hadn't got in the way by dumping 500 Gton C of Organic carbon from soil and living biomass into the Ocean-Atmosphere system before the Industrial revolution, and most particularly by dumping a further 500 Gton C of fossil fuels there as well since, what might have happened is this:

The Arctic sea ice would have gone slowly, over a period of centuries, and the Arctic shelf methane would have fizzed off slow enough to be all converted into CO2, without raising methane and its product ozone levels in the atmosphere significantly.

The Weather patterns wouldn't have changed much so the tundras wouldn't have melted fast, and the prospect of heavy rain there wouldn't be looming. The ecosystems would have had time to shift the boreal forests north onto the tundras as they slowly got wetter. The frozen Tundra peats would have been stabilised by roots, and the tundra permafrost methane, would have fizzed off slowly, all safely converted to CO2 and a little organic carbon/nitrogen would have been decomposed into safe CO2 and soil Nitrates.

The Release of CO2 would have been slow enough for the biological ocean system to bury it on the sea bottom, the 300 year duration of carbonate/silicate weathering getting it on the way to safe limestones, and clays.

We probably would have been up for a hundred odd million years of no ice on the planet. Subduction techtonics around the polar shelves would have gradually broken off the ESAS etc, and a lot of the ex-permafrost peats, turning them thru submarine landslides into polar basin sediments. As that happened slowly, the carbon would have all been buried and turned to stone. The CO2 would have stayed high enough throughout this time to keep the planet ice free.

Eventually in maybe 100 million years the earth might have gone back into a glaciation.

Image from: (click to enlarge)

Instead, Mankind got in the Way. 

Now we have today this:

Adapted by Aaron Franklin from image at Wikipedia - radiative forcing
This chart showing the present day situation, the effect of an extra 4.5 Gton C methane in the atmosphere, and the tipping point line for "super-greenhouse/Anoxic ocean" mass extinction events like the end Permian 252 million years ago, and the more recent PETM 56 million years ago. About 20 of those we know about in earths history. 

Unfortunately it doesn't stop there. 

It looks like Nature has conspired to set up a perfect Eco-Geospheric beartrap, that we have sprung by slamming together a WHOLE LOT of tipping points into such a short space of time that what we have probably done is created a perfect planetary environmental storm, and lined ourselves up for, in a few decades from now THIS:

And with water vapour feedback kicking in, the Megacyclones kicking vast quantities of warm moist air high into the stratosphere, warming it from -40C to well above Zero.... 

It doesn't look like stopping there. 

The good news though is that we have all the knowledge now, just in time, and all the tools to stop it quickly and relatively easily. Provided we act within the next few months. 

If we don't, We might have no chance whatsoever of stopping this cascade of tipping points.

Record Methane in Arctic early March 2013

The image below, produced by Dr. Leonid Yurganov, shows methane levels for the first ten days of March 2013.

Methane levels for this period are at record highs in the Barents and Norwegian Seas, i.e. the highest levels ever recorded by IASI, which is is short for Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer, a Fourier transform spectrometer on board the European EUMETSAT Metop satellite that has supplied data since 2007.

The record levels are indicated on the image below at the top right, while the geographical location of the four domains distinguished in the image are illustrated on the image further below.

The image at the top of this post displays average methane levels for the period March 1 to 10, 2013, at 600 mb. On individual days and on specific locations, methane levels could be much higher, as illustrated by the NOAA image below showing methane levels reaching a high of 2237 ppb on March 6, 2013, at 742 mb. The empty image further below is added to help distinguish land contours.

The earlier post Dramatic increase in methane in the Arctic in January 2013 showed that high methane levels lined up closely with the contours of land and sea ice. The same is the case for the record levels of methane in early March, as illustrated by the animation below.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The worst-case and - unfortunately - looking almost certain to happen scenario

Aaron Franklin
By Aaron Franklin

I have asked for the world leading climate and arctic scientists I have been working with at AMEG, and Arctic-News to review this, and if they don't agree with any part or the end conclusion to please inform me immediately.

As yet no-one has come forward, with any criticisms whatsoever, only agreement that this is what we are very likely facing.

If we don't act very fast and the Arctic sea ice goes...

Up till now the sea ice, and the pool of low salinity meltwater left on the surface of the arctic ocean from it melting has blocked the warm Gulf stream from getting any further than the strip of coast with a shallow continental shelf seabed, around the north of Europe and western Russia as far as the islands and peninsulars that jut north from the west Siberian coast.

High salinity, warm gulfstream water of tropical origin does not mix freely with cold low density low salinity meltwater. It mixes and sinks in a sheet current at the boundary between these two bodies of water.

This has not caused any big problems so far as it has been happening along a fairly short boundary above shallow continental shelf and the downwards mixed flow is slowed by flowing over the the shelf before it sinks into the deep polar basin.

However... the meltpool on top of the Arctic ocean has been getting smaller every year and if we let the gulf stream get any further than it has to date then it will most likely continue all the way along the east Siberian coast, combine with the warm bering strait inflow, encircle the whole polar basin. Or at least most of it, if there is still enough multi-year sea-ice damming up against the west coast of the north Canadian archipelago to stop it getting to the extreme Canadian side of the arctic ocean.

There probably isn't enough multiyear seaice left to do this anyway and it won't make any differency to the overall outcome anyway, which is....

Encouraged by the anti-clockwise, low level Arctic atmospheric wind vortex (the low pressure system that is usually in place over the nth pole) the gulf-stream loop will accelerate, forming a mixing vortex (whirlpool), first sucking down any remaining surface meltwater pool to deep polar ocean, along a long circular front above the deep polar basin.

As this is happening the Gulf stream and Bering strait warm water inputs will accelerate dragging ever warmer water in, and the entire Arctic ocean near surface region will flood with warm high salinity water at up to 12C or even higher.

This will eliminate any chance of the arctic ocean refreezing in winter. And:

The average 12C temperatures of the upper layer of the polar ocean will be sending a big thermal pulse down through the East Siberian Arctic Shelf and other shallow submarine permafrosts in the arctic. This pulse propagating fast through liquid water in cracks and methane eruption vents. The hydrate layers containing over 1000 billion tons C of methane at the bottoms of these permafrosts will be destabilising, bottom up, when that thermal pulse pins them between itself and rising geothermal heat.

The ESAS and other Arctic shelf Methane Hydrate reefs will be fizzing like an alka-seltzer in a glass of warm water, and the wind-turbulated open water will mean lots of that methane getting into the atmosphere and spiking global warming.

As the sun has set for the north polar winter at this point, the northern Alaskan, Siberian, and Canadian tundras will cool rapidly as usual. But this time the warm surface of the polar ocean will be releasing water vapour and this warm low density air/water vapour mixture will rise, accelerating the polar low into a very deep arctic storm system, very likely far stronger than any we've ever seen.

This will erupt warm water vapour bearing air high into the troposphere, and stratosphere above the pole and this will suck in the cold air from over Alaskan, Siberian, and Canadian tundras, drawing in air from further south and causing heavy winter rainfall rather than light snowfall. (usually in winter polar highs are dominant and descending cold dry air from these flows out over the Alaskan, Siberian, and Canadian tundras).

The tundra permafrosts will now be drenched in large volume rainfalls. The warm lakes and bogs all over them will be drilling through the permafrost, and lots of the around 1700 billion tons C of organic carbon locked up in the land permafrost will be flooding into the Arctic Ocean from Siberia, Alaska and North Canada. And getting sucked down the polar plughole. Lots will be getting released into the air as methane and carbon dioxide, and spiking global warming.

The donut-shaped circulation pattern sitting like a crown over the Arctic circle will start drawing down stratospheric air from further south.

Sometime soon, very probably in the nest northern summer monsoon season...

-At this point the extra methane, ozone, water vapour, and the loss of sea ice reflecting sunlight back into space will together be producing about 3x present day global warming effect.


The jetstreams that are formed by warm moist air rising from the equator, dumping that moisture as heavy tropical rain in the tropics usually descend in the subtropical desert belts that circle the globe. They like cogs intermeshing will connect with the polar donut, drawing the summer monsoon north over the subtropical desert belts and building rapidly to tropical rainfall levels over the worlds deserts.

The dry descending air from the equatorial and north polar origin tropospheric flows and jetstreams will turn the temporate zones of the northern hemisphere into deserts in one year.

The ex tundra boglands will start to dry out. Its been learnt that when you thaw and soak permafrost peats, waking up the frozen bacteria. Then drain them....

-Significant quantities of Nitrous Oxide (N2O) start being emitted. Another "super-greenhouse" gas, with its own special radiative absorption band.

-With even more water vapour, more methane, more N2O, more ozone being produced by the methane, less SO2 forming clouds because methane destroys it....

Global warming will start to spike very high.

What happens maybe very quickly now is that an equatorial origin jetstream will either detach from its mode of descending at the new temporate zone deserts and form a new anticyclone most probably over greenland, or the anticyclone from that jetstream will migrate north from the subpolar tundras over North Canada.

Either way this special anticyclone with a very big future, will winch its way around the polar low in the new easterly "tradewinds belt" where the tundras and boreal forests are now. It will probably end up over the Beaufort sea, north of Alaska and recruiting more stratospheric jetstreams of Equatorial origin, quickly grow in strength. It will start a new clockwise ocean surface vortex in the Beaufort sea region, and if any iceflows and cold meltwater are still trapped against the west coast of the Canadian Archipelago.....

They will get sucked into this new clockwise vortex and it will love feeding on them and growing just like in the first anticlockwise vortex described above.

The new polar super anticyclone will out compete the previous polar super cyclone by one by one recruiting all the equatorial and tropical origin jetstreams, and become a, for any relevance to us, permanent, extremely powerful anticyclone over the whole polar ocean.

The new clockwise polar ocean vortex will be accelerated by the clockwise anticyclonic low atmospheric vortex. There will likely be lots of Glacier calved icebergs from Greenland, stuck against the west coast of the Canadian Archipelago. It will love gobbling, melting, and feeding on those.

It will steal the deep subduction from, and outcompete and swallow the previous anticlockwise polar ocean vortex.

Powering up this vast whirlpool, will suck in ever increasing flows of Atlantic and Pacific water, flooding the Arctic ocean with more and more tropical water. It will shovel more and more warm surface water like a wedge into a new intermediate temperature, high salinity layer, building between the tidal mixed zone and the surface mixed layer .

This intermediate layer is said to be the mechanism that produces anoxic oceans in past super-greenhouse/ anoxic ocean events. And this will happen fast because....

The tundra permafrosts will be seasonal deserts, but much warmer now. In summer they will be drenched by tropical temperature and volume rainfalls, hammered by cold fronts, supercell storms and tornados spitting off the high lattitude Megacyclones. The warm lakes and bogs all over them will be drilling through the permafrost, and more of the around 1700 billion tons C of organic carbon currently locked up in the land permafrost will be flooding into the arctic ocean from Siberia, Alaska and Nth Canada. And getting sucked down the polar plughole. More methane and CO2 will be making it into the atmosphere

In winter the ex tundras will dry out. Releasing yet more N2O and CO2.

Global Warming will spike through the roof.


The by now over 20 degrees Celsius temperatures of the upper layer of the polar ocean will be sending a massive thermal pulse down through the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) and other shallow submarine permafrosts in the arctic. This pulse propagating fast through liquid water in cracks and methane eruption vents. The hydrate layers containing over 1000 billion tons C of methane at the bottoms of these permafrosts will destabilise fast, bottom up, when that thermal pulse hits them. Quite possible the pressure building up under these shelves, most particularly the ESAS will shatter them and release most of the hydrate methane, free methane, and undecomposed organic carbon, they are holding very fast indeed. Best estimate around 2750 billion tons C total in shallow submarine arctic permafrosts.

Kinda like a warm well shook champagne bottle when you pop the cork.

Lots of this methane will hit the atmosphere.

With even more water vapour, more methane, more N2O, more ozone being produced by the methane, less SO2 forming clouds because methane destroys it....

Ballpark Chart for near filling of all relevant Radiative Absorption bands

We'll have a greenhouse effect like the earth has not seen before in its 4.5 billion years of existence.

What REALLY concerns me looking at this chart is how much it would take going from this point to the Tipping Point for the Venus syndrome.

The situation in this chart would lead to a lot more stratospheric water vapour feedback. That could start to run away until the equatorial oceans boil, and there's no stopping things from there.

Lots of methane will get sucked down the Arctic plughole into the new anoxic intermediate ocean layer.

Archer 2007 states that 1000 billion tons C of methane (and/or other dissolved organic carbon) is sufficient to remove all oxygen from the worlds oceans. That won't take long.
  • The polar ocean vortex might eventually stop. The momentum in ocean circulation, both deep and in surface gyres, combined with wind driven surface currents won't let this happen fast.
  •  In maybe 300-1000yrs a second even larger methane release will occur, as the heat from the surface reaches the deep sea bed. The deep sea Methane hydrates are estimated as between 5000 and 78 000 billion tons C of methane. That will not be nice at all, but there may be nothing left but bacteria well before then anyhow.
  •  The tropical/subtropical origin MegaCyclones to polar Mega AntiCyclone jetstreams with low atmosphere return system will most probably stick around for at least 100 000 years. 
  • The previous anoxic supergreenhouse/anoxic ocean events did have stalled ocean circulation, and the only way that they could have had 27C polar ocean temps like they did is by the Equatorial-Polar jetstream circulation mode described above. 
  • The most serious previously, the end-permian had no polar basin, oceanic/ atmosphere circulation, turbine pump "beartrap" for the planetary eco-geosphere to put its foot in. Neither did the PETM and Elmo supergreenhouse/anoxic ocean events, the most serious of the last 100+ million years, the polar basin was landlocked for those. 
  • Never before could the earth have had as much polar permafrost methane and carbon as it does now. 
I hope this explains to everyone the urgency and seriousness of the current situation, and why we need to act with overwhelming force to stop the arctic sea-ice going this year.

If we don't act fast now all this could very well unfold unstoppably in the next year or two. Can't see it taking much longer than 10 or 20 at the most.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Greatest War Ever

Introduction - Highest Urgency and Priority for Australia

Aaron Franklin
By Aaron Franklin

Hello everyone,

I hope this report is helpful in understanding the current very serious situation. Its an attempt to present it in a way that's accessible to all.

There should be no other priorities until this is dealt with.

Every one should acquaint themselves with the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) and its Strategic plan, at:

Lots of good up to date information can be found at , most of the reports there should be compulsory reading for all.

For Australia, as no other world governments appear to be taking notice or action yet, we should lead by example.

The first and most urgent actions we can do are:
  • Get all appropriate Naval vessels en route to the north Pacific and our military engineers preparing seawater mist spraying equipment to be flown to meet them when they get there to meet the dawning Arctic spring. This is for whats called "cloud brightening" and has been trialed and proven already. This produces bright white clouds that reflect sunlight back into space, rather than heating seawater.

    Cooling the waters in the Bering strait region before they invade the arctic basin, and melt the East Siberian Ice Shelf Icepack, is probably achievable with our resources.

    With likely a similar amount of methane, from all winter seafloor hydrates fizzing, trapped under the ESAS sea-ice as is in the Earth's atmosphere right now, this would be a major victory.

    AMEG can advise on the logistics and the best nozzle design and spraying systems currently available.

  • Start fitting out our Airforce high altitude capable airliners with bladdertanks that the Airforce already has for Helicopter range extension, and mist spraying gear for Stratospheric SO2 enhancement. This creates high altitude cloud condensation and also reflects sunlight back into space.

    It is a natural process via volcanoes - e.g./ the Pinatubo eruption put enough SO2 into the global stratosphere to stall global warming for 2 years in 1980, and via Di-methyl-sulphide released by oceanic phytoplankton.

    The loss of over half the oceanic phytoplankton in the southern ocean over the last 100yrs is definately a factor in the runaway melt, and highest local warming on the planet that West Antarctica has been experiencing in recent decades.

    Also burning dirty coal and ship bunker fuel, that releases SO2 has been worldwide shielding us from half the effect of Anthropogenic Greenhouse Agents to date.

    While the Arctic needs a SO2 veil most urgently, we will need to do this worldwide as we drop dirty coal, and the Antarctic summer could really use some help too. So allocation of the Airforce jets to this for the next few decades anyway is very appropriate. 

The IPCC has seriously dropped the ball on climate change and no further attention should be paid to any of their predictions for the following reasons:
  • The Arctic sea-ice models used for the predictions they are still making and planning to present in the IPCC5 report due out 2014 but wikileaked a month ago, are based on linear extrapolations (same loss of area each year) of seaice AREA trends 1980-2001. Since 2001 even sea ice area has been in an exponential summer crash. Whats far more important than sea ice area is sea ice volume. Up till 2003 the only ice thickness measurements available were from nuclear submarines taking Arctic Scientists like Peter Wadhams on several trips a year to sonar scan the thickness of the icepack from below. Since 2003 there has been high resolution radar satellite imaging of the entire arctic ice-cap giving a full dataset.

  • The 1971-2003 sonar data was not a complete imaging of the whole icecap so modeling the total was required. This is being seized on by the the IPCC as a fantasy to protect their cherished belief that their old ice-area models are valid.

  • The IPCC5 report is going to say(if they don't wake up and change it), things like: "minimum summer sea-ice area is predicted to be down by 35% on 1980-2001 levels by 2035". That would require quite a large recovery of the arctic sea ice from where it is now, since its already some 50% down in minimum summer area from 1980-2001 levels.

  • IPCC models on warming global temperatures are still not including any of the many feedbacks (eg/ accelerating release in the arctic of methane, CO2, and NO2) that have been for some years now accelerating the rate of warming. Actual data in recent years has warming rates far above the curves of IPCC models.

  • IPCC reports are edited before release by "special interest groups" like big oil.

Please excuse the war metaphors used in the following. Its very valid to call for an international war effort as AMEG are, and this report is going out to multiple recipients, including web forums for mobilisation of public opinion to assist Government and enviro group action and trying to rev everyone up appropriately.

The Greatest War Ever!

Hopefully the greatest war there will ever need to be.

A call to arms, lessons from the history of mankind and all life on earth, and some much needed moral boosting.

The Arctic Methane Emergency Group are very right to name this War. This group, founded by the head of Arctic studies at Cambridge University Peter Wadhams, contains some of the most informed and reputable, scientists in the world climate science community. Their guts in speaking out loud and clear needs to be respected with our attention and actions.

Its the greatest war ever in every sense of the word great. Great as in huge, great as in fabulous. It must unite all peoples, creeds and indeed life on this planet behind the common cause of saving life on earth from now almost inevitable, and unimaginably huge suffering mayhem and death.

The only question is how soon we all acknowledge this war and how soon we all consider ourselves drafted to our clear duty in it. If this does not happen fast then this war will become unwinnable.

In this war our weapons are not guns and bombs, not nukes and tanks. We must fight it tooth and claw, but in this war our teeth are our knowledge and our claws are our technology.

Its a war that humankind and the planets bio-geosphere have already been fighting for several thousand years without us humans even realising it.

The Chinese say that every problem is a mix of danger and opportunity. Lets appreciate, both the danger and the opportunity.

A Reconnaissance of the Battlefield.

Even before the industrial revolution a battle in this war raged for 2000 years. On one side of this battle, the side against the survival of complex life on this planet was the invention of monocultural large scale agriculture and its associated deforestation. This weapon of mass destruction was massively deployed by the Roman Empire, then spread worldwide by western European culture. It resulted in the dumping of a slow burning 500 Gigaton C-bomb on the planetry oceans and atmosphere by the reduction of organic carbon content of the worlds soils from 2000 gigatons Carbon to 1500 gigatons Carbon.

(In the language of eco-climatology tons C or tons carbon means the total mass of the carbon atoms in the CO2, methane or other organic carbon molecules being described)

This C bomb, released slowly as it was, went down the Arctic plug-hole, and has been hiding in the deep oceans for a millennia.  Now studies in the southern ocean showing CO2 being net released not absorbed have revealed its coming back up.

Until the 16th century AD not all humans were on the side of evil in this battle. Its now known that the peoples of Amazonia were fighting for the planet. The first European explorers at that time to sail up the Amazon reported that the banks of the great river and its tributaries were lined with urban communities of up to 50 thousand people. These great geo-engineers transformed the Amazon basin with great canal systems connecting the river valleys 2000 km from Venezuela to Paraguay. They dug artificial rectangular basins up to 20 km long for floating hydroponic gardens of corn, potatoes and tomatoes.

Their greatest geo-engineering feat though was to transform 10 percent of the land area of the Amazon basin from rain leached infertile soil to Terra Preta (spanish for "black earth") by layering biochar in the ground from pyrolysis of their domestic wastes and other biomass. This miracle soil maintains fertillity for thousands of years, sequesters moisture, beneficial bacteria and fresh organic carbon from jungle humus far better than any other soil on the planet. The carbon they were sequestering was offsetting that being released from soils across the Atlantic.

Their heritage from conserving and nurturing their ecologies is, though threatened and diminished by us now, the richest and most diverse ecosystem on the planet.

Then in the unintended by mortals, yet biggest act of bio-warfare ever, the diseases introduced by those 16th century European explorers demolished that civilisation and many others throughout the Americas, and in a century their sustainable wood based infrastructure rotted away almost without trace.

NOW we get to honour their memory and their legacy of permacultural wizardry by transforming the stripped soils of the world to Terra Preta as they did.

We must at this point have no doubt whatsoever about the seriousness of the consequences in the contract with our Earth that we have stupidly signed all life on the planet up for.

It seems we have initiated the Earths emergency carbon burial response. This means a rapid transition to what is called in paleoclimatology a super-greenhouse earth and an anoxic ocean event.
  • This means ocean temperatures rising to over 40C in the tropics and over 27C at the poles.

  • Super-cyclones so powerful we cannot even imagine rage all year round from the equator to the poles.

  • The deep Oceans lose all oxygen and become stagnant and dominated by anerobic bacteria, producing hydrogen sulphide that poisons animal and plant life on the land and in the oceans.

  • The surfaces of the oceans become colonised by photosynthesising green and purple sulphur chemistry bacteria that slowly over a period of hundreds of thousands to millions of years bury the overburden of carbon dioxide as ocean floor sediments.

These emergency buried sediments are the origin of all the worlds oil and gas shale layers.

We have been grossly disrespecting the suffering and sacrifice of complex life that happened in these periods by digging that carbon back up and putting it back in the oceans and atmosphere.

The best known and most serious so far of these super-greenhouse events is the end-permian mass extinction of 252 million years ago. This event resulted in the extinction of 96% of marine species and 75% of land ones. It was the only known mass extinction of insects and ocean acidification wiped out all corals (todays corals took many tens of millions of years to evolve from sea-anemonies after that) and nearly all creatures with skeletons and shells from the oceans.

The "tipping point" that initiated the end permian and some twenty other more minor super-greenhouse/anoxic ocean events, that have been well studied is thought to be CO2 levels reaching around 1000ppm. This may sound like a lot compared to current levels approaching 400ppm but its not. There are two reasons for this:
  1. Firstly, the CO2 thermal absorption frequency band (the range of thermal electromagnetic frequencies that are absorbed by CO2) is already nearly saturated, and an extra 600ppm has a smaller extra effect than it appears to uninformed scrutiny.
  2. Secondly, the extra effect of far more powerful greenhouse agents such as methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon smog, tropospheric ozone, halocarbons (each with their own seperate thermal absorption bands) that we have put in the atmosphere, likely has us past that 1000ppm CO2 equivalent threshold already.
Furthermore, the Arctic Sea ice volume is in a very clear exponential collapse, as is clearly illustrated by the PIOMASS study. Strongly predicted to be completely gone in September within the next three years and completely gone for six months of the summer/autumn by 2020.

Image from ArctischePinguin
Image from ArctischePinguin

-This will, through sunlight being absorbed by the arctic ocean rather than reflected back into space by sea-ice, double the warming effect currently being experienced from greenhouse agents alone.

- On top of this the latent heat of thawing being absorbed by polar ice melt has been offsetting by 25% the worldwide warming effect of greenhouse agents and when its gone this additional effect will accelerate arctic warming.

- The warm gulf stream will also colonise the entire Arctic ocean further accelerating Arctic warming.

The Arctic defrosting cannot be allowed to happen.

Arctic land and shallow submarine permafrosts are storing about 5000 billion tons C of organic carbon, mostly as methane. Compared to the 234 billion tons C of CO2 added by us over the last 200 years, and less than 5 billion tons C of methane currently in the atmosphere, this is a colossal amount.

About 2.5 billion tons C of methane per year was estimated as being released from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) alone by Shakova's study from 2005-2008, caused by warming to date. It has increased since then there and throughout the Arctic.

The imminent defrosting of the arctic will cause rapidly accelerating release of a large part of the 5000 billion ton C total and the rapid warming of the entire planet by a global average of 5 to 10 degrees celsius within a few decades.
The chart below shows the current situation, and the situation should another 4.5 GtonC methane be released over the present 4.5 GtonC methane in the atmosphere, totalling the effects of greenhouse and aerosol agents.

As can be seen the earth is likely in Super-Greenhouse Anoxic Ocean mode already.

Adapted by Aaron Franklin from image at Wikipedia - radiative forcing

There are reasons why this situation could be more serious than the end permian mass extinction:
  • The geography of the time had all the earths continents pressed together into the supercontinent Pangaea, with only one small icecap perched on the end of it. This means it is implausible that there could have been as much organic carbon stored in polar permafrost as today.

  • There were shallow inland seas that were not as vunerable to anoxia as the world ocean and may have allowed some marine life refuges.

  • The vast interior of Pangaea would have allowed land animals and plants some refuge from the fierce cyclones and colossal rainfalls near the coast. Today the dispersed and more coastally exposed landmasses would not allow this.

  • The injection of CO2 from the Siberian traps flood basalt eruption and the initial warming of about 5C happened over up to 5000 years allowing some geographic migration of land animals and plants to cooler latitudes. Today the damaged ecologies we have and the far more rapid onset of the event would make this far less possible.

  • Onset of the anoxic ocean event in the end permian probably happened after the initial 5000 year period and was most probably caused by methane from dissociating deep ocean methane hydrates as the deep ocean warmed. This also causing an additional 5C global warming. Methane hydrate deposits in the deep ocean today are most likely more extensive, estimates ranging from 5 000-78 000 billion tons C, and the secondary carbon pulse from them could start 300-1000 years from now. Today we have a serious prospect of a double anoxic initiation, the first from shallow and land organic carbon stores and the second from the deep ocean hydrates.

  • The Sun is some 20% hotter than it was then.

  • The transition from a world where substantial ice-caps reflect a lot of sunlight back into space to one without them will likely result in a more extreme temperature jump than at the end of the Permian age.

There is a serious risk that if we let it happen, the coming event will remove all multicelled life from planet Earth.

What must be done.

Its now brutally clear that no safe atmospheric CO2 ppm above the 280ppm maximums of the last few million years exists for Earth today. It's way too late for us to simply wind down our fossil fuel use or even to abrubtly cease it. We have to with the most immediate urgency deploy all the measures AMEG are suggesting and any more that we can think up to delay the Arctic crisis. We can be sure that until CO2 is back to near 280ppm and other powerful greenhouse agents are vastly reduced, delaying the Arctic C-bomb is all that we are doing.

Until we are back to a 280ppm of CO2 and global warming potential equivalent of other agents, not only must we drop all fossil fuels like the red hot coal that they are, it must be all hands to the carbon pumps.

For one thing this means bio-charing and reforesting with diverse ecologies across the globe. The grazing animals don't all have to go, they will be far happier grazing clearings and under trees with summer shade and not wading in bogs all winter.

The most promising carbon pump down scheme is Ocean fertilisation. To some extent this can be viewed as Ocean ecosystem restoration. Its now known that the photosynthesising, base of the foodchain productivity of the Oceans has dropped about 40% in the last century. Due to this and our brutalising of the biodiversity and total mass of fish stocks the Oceans ecosystems badly need to be nursed back to health.

Since we've let things get so far without acting, we now have the necessity and in fact opportunity and privilege of creating fertile new ecology in the around 80% of the deep Ocean areas that are called "desolate zones" because there is currently almost no life in them whatsoever. In some parts of these desolate zones the only thing that is stopping productivity is trace amounts of iron, but now we must fertilise also the larger desolate areas with other nutrients also.

Our teeth and claws for doing all this are fortunately well developed at this point and becoming more developed every day. Some of the carbon pumped down by ocean fertilisation will go to the deep ocean and sea-floor.

Some of it we need to harvest, mostly as krill, for biofuel for our existing cars and carbon-negative powerplant conversions with the byproduct of this being bio-char for our soil replenishment/land carbon sequestration. And as food to replace displaced agriculture.

The long game.

When we are back to a (relatively) safe 280ppm CO2 and have also dealt with other greenhouse agents we will have time to draw breath and make an important decision. Whether to stop there or keep going, coaxing the planet back into another Glacial age over the next 1 or a few thousand years. The pattern of the last million years or so has been revealed, of glacial ages about 80-90 thousand years alternating with interglacials like the last 10 thousand years, usually lasting 10-20 thousand years. It was once thought that the earth was about ready to return naturally to another glacial period. Its now believed that orbital forcing -cycles of the earths axis tilting relative to the sun, maximum/minimum distance from the sun in annual orbit etc will be weak for the next 50000 years, making it unlikely that the earth will return to the happier and much safer times of a glacial period naturally for that long.

Its a widespread but false belief that "Ice ages" or glacial periods as is the correct term, are a tough time for humans on earth. Its true that northern areas of Europe and North America, the south of South America, and New Zealand are covered by Ice sheets and dry and windswept tundras. But even now most humans live in more equatorial regions, now uncomfortably hot, wet and stormy near the equator, and vast subtropical deserts like in the Sahara, middle east, Chille/Bolivia and Australia. In interglacials these are comfortable temperate areas with mild consistant rainfall and rich life on the land. Vast fertile continental shelves rise out of the sea, in the Caribean, connecting from Asia to Tasmania, between the middle east and India, extending massively the subcontinental plateaus of the nth island of New Zealand of New Caledonia and Easter Island . The coral atolls of the Pacific, Carribean, and Indian ocean become huge fertile plains with narrow entrances to deep inland harbours through 300ft high coral barrier walls that surround them. The Oceans have far higher and more widely distributed productivity than today, fertillised by 50x more windblown dust than now, glacial loess from the tundras circling the globe in subglacial lattitudes. Theres much evidence come to light in recent decades that the last glacial epoch was a time of great human civilisations that spanned the whole globe. Megalithic roads and ruins have been discovered under the sea in the Mediterranian, near India, between Yonaguni and Okinawa, inside Australias great barrier reef, throughout the pacific islands and in the Carribean. A ring of Moai circles Easter island beneath the waves. Mitochondrial DNA groups that track the female lineage show the fingerprint of a civilisation spanning equatorial lattitudes from the east coast of India, through southeast Asia, right across the Pacific as far south as New Zealand and on the west coast of nth, central, and sth America. Conversely the male y-chromosome DNA groups show almost only the traces of central Asian invaders conquering those areas in several waves over the last 12 thousand years or so. The global distributions of Coconuts and Bananas, both of which don't survive more than a few days in the sea, and their distant relationship from natural ancestral forms suggests humans were global traders in ancient glacial times.

We would be well advised to keep pumping down CO2 to the 90-180ppm of a glacial epoch and bunker the Arctic C-bomb in a deep freeze.

Provided we can maintain our technology till thats done, we might consider the east Siberian Arctic shelf as possibly the most dangerous geologic feature there has ever been for life on this planet, and suffer its existence no longer.

With the luxury of being able to see gradual injections of carbon into the bio-geosphere as something to expand biodiversity and biomass on the planet at that time, we might think its wise to blast the ESAS off bit by bit into the depths of the arctic basin over a period of centuries.

We cannot know if we might still have the knowledge and technology to recognise and deal with another Arctic crisis like the present one at some time in the near or distant future. Not disposing of the ESAS could threaten earths life again some day.

The longer game.

In my opinion there could be no higher calling for an intelligent species like ourselves than to spread the miracle of diverse life to other planets. This job for the future is one, assuming we're still around, we'll one day have to face.

The claws of our telescopes and spectrometers, some time ago taught us of the life cycles of suns. Ours is destined to slowly get hotter and one day within the next few billion years our Earth will suffer a stupendous runaway greenhouse effect. As once happened on Venus, how long ago we don't know, our oceans will boil. The greenhouse effect of that water vapour will feed back on itself until surface pressures are about 1000 times current from an atmosphere 1000km thick. The land beneath will glow a dull red, scorched by temperatures of 600C. There is suggestions that Venus may once have nurtured a biosphere. Our laser inteferometry has detected particles the size and shape of those green and purple sulphur chemistry photosynthesising bacteria that proliferated in super-greenhouse Earth Oceans, in the sulphuric acid cloud tops 1000km above Venus's surface. In those cloudtops temperature and pressure are simular to Earths surface today. Some suggest that these extremophile bacteria blew frozen on the solar wind to Earth, and got life started here.

Our next potential home is probably Mars. Mars needs lots of work to be a lasting stable paradise for a diverse bio-sphere, so we should probably get started fairly soon. Its good that we are learning whats needed for managing a planetry eco-geosphere now.

There's hints on Mars of how it can be done.

There appears to be no question that Mars had a thick atmosphere and lots of liquid water on its surface within a few tens of thousands of years ago. Also a working magnetic engine at its core as recently as 50 thousand years ago, providing a magnetic field to protect it from the radiation of cosmic rays and the solar wind. All that may have come about as the result of two giant comets striking squarely the north and south poles of Mars a few million years ago. They left the two biggest impact craters in the solar system, 2000 and 2500km across, likely adding water and melting Mar's core to kickstart its magnetic engine. The volcanism that was stimulated would have given mars its atmosphere.

Most likely mars is too small to keep an earthlike atmosphere and oceans for a useful period so we'll have to harvest the asteroid belt, and pepper its surface to build mass, with large asteroids of rock, iron/nickel, hydrogen/carbon/nitrogen/oxygen, and ice composition. The asteroid belt is a perfect resource for this. Something like this happened to Earth in the "late great bombardment" something like half a billion years after the collision of two planets that formed the Earth-Luna system, not long after the Suns nuclear furnace first sparked into life. The late great bombardment was responsible for most of the moons craters, and most of earths water. We'd be best to build a moon much like Earths for Mars too. From the asteroid belt. Or steal one from Jupiter. Lunar tides in oceans are great for stirring up life, and tides in planetry mantles knead them to help keep them molten and magnetic engines running.

Once Mars has settled down from that bashing, those purple and green, sulphur chemistry, photosynthesising extremophiles can be seeded there. To convert the CO2 and sulphuric acid atmosphere to breathable oxygen.

From there its all easy.

The longest game.

The Sun will continue growing bigger and hotter, destined eventually to swell its surface past the current orbits of Venus, Earth and Mars. Even mighty Jupiter will eventually fall in and be consumed by the red giant Sol. As that happens we'll have to migrate outwards, spreading life to the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. These giants all have many great moons for us to help life take root on some almost as big as earth. Some already look like earth did several times in lifes history here. Covered entirely with crusts of ice, salty oceans beneath heated by tidal forces and rocky cores containing radioactive potassium and uranium. Some think that life may already have got started there, as ecologies fueled by sulphur chemistry rather than photosynthesis. This type of life exists on earth in the deep ocean trench volcanic zones.

When the Sun has finished growing it will suffer a violent transformation. It will collapse rapidly to become a tiny red dwarf. This fierce little mother will be, like our nearest neighbor Proxima Centauri, an ancient solar system whose lifecycle has ended, whats known as a flare star. Her energy output will oscilate wildly and colossal flares and coronal mass ejections would scorch with radiation any planet we put near enough her to be warmed.

But we could help her give birth.

Orcas, Pluto, Haumea, Quaoar, Makemake, 2007 OR10, Eris, Sedna are known variously as ice dwarf planets, plutoids or trans-neptunian planetoids.

Balls of frozen water, methane and ammonia with rocky cores, diameters of up to 2350km, its currently estimated that thousands of these exist. It would be easy to nudge these bodies into trajectories that use a gravitational slingshot from neptune. This can easily shoot them out of the solar system at escape velocities that would get them to nearby stars with potential for life to be spawned. We could be doing this as early as when we first start renovating Mars. Artificial intelligence systems could fertilise virgin planets so that they are ready for complex ecologies long before the Sol system dies. Sedna is already near escape velocity, only visiting near Neptune every 10,000 years, she spends most of her time in the Oort cloud which extends nearly a lightyear from earth, a quarter of the way to the 3 star Centauri system.

The outer Oort cloud is believed to contain several trillion individual objects larger than 1 km and many billions with diameters above 20 km. The inner Oort cloud is modelled as having 10-100 times as many as the outer.

Plenty of cosmic eggs for the spawning.

In the end the proponents of fecund universe theory might be right.

Maybe once its got started, life becomes more and more complex, gathering knowledge and technology until before the universe its housed in winds down and dies, life has aquired the means of spawning new universes. With laws of physics tuned for even more interesting life to develop. Maybe its already happened. I hope one day we'll be around to know.

Related Posts by Aaron Franklin:
- An integrated systems plan for 10 year carbon pumpdown to 280ppm
- Supersonic and high velocity Subsonic Saltwater and Freshwater Cloud Making Cannons