Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade

On February 10, 2017, 18:00 UTC it is forecast to be 0.1°C or 32.1°F at the North Pole, i.e. above the temperature at which

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water freezes. The temperature at the North Pole is forecast to be 30°C or 54°F warmer than 1979-2000, on Feb 10, 2017, 18:00 UTC, as shown on the Climate Reanalyzer image on the right.

This high temperature is expected as a result of strong winds blowing warm air from the North Atlantic into the Arctic.

The forecast below, run on February 4, 2017, shows that winds as fast as 157 km/h or 98 mph were expected to hit the North Atlantic on February 6, 2017, 06:00 UTC, producing waves as high as 16.34 m or 53.6 ft.

A later forecast shows waves as high as 17.18 m or 54.6 ft, as illustrated by the image below.

While the actual wave height and wind speed may not turn out to be as extreme as such forecasts, the images do illustrate the horrific amounts of energy contained in these storms.

Stronger storms go hand in hand with warmer oceans. The image below shows that on February 4, 2017, at a spot off the coast of Japan marked by green circle, the ocean was 19.1°C or 34.4°F warmer than 1981-2011.

The decreasing difference in temperature between the Equator and the North Pole causes changes to the jet stream, in turn causing warmer air and warmer water to get pushed from the North Atlantic into the Arctic.

The image below shows that on February 8, 2017, the water at a spot near Svalbard (marked by the green circle) was 12.8°C or 55.1°F, i.e. 11.9°C or 21.4°F warmer than 1981-2011.

Warmer water flowing into the Arctic Ocean in turn increases the strength of further feedbacks that are accelerating warming in the Arctic. Altogether, these feedbacks and further warming elements could trigger a huge abrupt rise in global temperature making that extinction of many species, including humans, could be less than one decade away.

Without action, we are facing extinction at unprecedented scale. In many respects, we are already in the sixth mass extinction of Earth’s history. Up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species became extinct when temperatures rose by 8 °C (14 °F) during the Permian-Triassic extinction, or the Great Dying, 252 million years ago.

During the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred 55 million years ago, global temperatures rose as rapidly as by 5°C in ~13 years, according to a study by Wright et al. A recent study by researchers led by Zebee concludes that the present anthropogenic carbon release rate is unprecedented during the past 66 million years. Back in history, the highest carbon release rates of the past 66 million years occurred during the PETM. Yet, the maximum sustained PETM carbon release rate was less than 1.1 Pg C per year, the study by Zebee et al. found. By contrast, a recent annual carbon release rate from anthropogenic sources was ~10 Pg C (2014). The study by Zebee et al. therefore concludes that future ecosystem disruptions are likely to exceed the – by comparison – relatively limited extinctions observed at the PETM.

An earlier study by researchers led by De Vos had already concluded that current extinction rates are 1,000 times higher than natural background rates of extinction and future rates are likely to be 10,000 times higher.

Links:

• Estimating the normal background rate of species extinction, De Vos et al. (2015)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25159086

• Anthropogenic carbon release rate unprecedented during the past 66 million years, by Zebee et al. (2016)
http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v9/n4/full/ngeo2681.html

• Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, Wright et al. (2013)
http://www.pnas.org/content/110/40/15908.full?sid=58b79a3f-8a05-485b-8051-481809c87076

 

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