Transition Update: Climate, Sea Level, and Weather

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million for the first time in 3 million years:

     Climate Milestone: Earth’s CO2 Level Passes 400 ppm

But something even more important might be emerging. For years, there have been some who predicted that when the Arctic sea ice melted, that the tremendous quantities of methane stored in the Arctic sea floor above Russia and North America would begin to be released into the atmosphere. The process would become an escalating feedback loop where the retracting ice reflected less sunshine back into space, the open water absorbed more sunlight, heating the water, forcing the ice to retract further, etc. Then the increasingly warming water would warm the sea floor, releasing the methane frozen there.

The methane release is considered to be important in the extreme because, as a greenhouse gas, methane is said to be twenty times more influential than carbon dioxide; and the amount of methane stored in the Arctic is said to have more heat-producing capacity than all of the other fossil fuels combined. Whether that quantity claim is perfectly accurate or not, it is agreed that there’s a lot of methane there.

The release of the methane would then accelerate the feedback loop by rapidly warming the atmosphere so that ultimately people would be calculating sea level rise in meters per decade rather than centimeters.

Now a multi-nation task force claims that there has been a dramatic increase in methane emissions in the Arctic. They say the process has recently escalated beyond their expectations. They believe a runaway feedback loop has likely begun and that the arctic could see an ice-free Summer by 2015 rather than the more generally-accepted predictions that this would not happen till sometime between 2030 and 2050.

Here’s an image showing, from left to right, the average minimum sea ice from 1979-2000; the previous record minimum set in 2007; and the new record set in 2012, from this link:


This gives an indication of the trend, though that trend also includes a persistent and significant thinning of the ice as well, which is not pictured.

Over the last year, those who monitor Arctic methane using aircraft flyovers say that large plumes of methane, some as wide as a kilometer, can be detected above both open Arctic sea water and cracks in the sea ice. This is a new development. Previously, only small plumes could be detected, and typically only near the Siberian coast where methane was escaping from melting permafrost on land. Strong methane emissions from the ocean floor can be seen in the 19 minute video Arctic Methane: Why The Sea Ice Matters. The video does an excellent job of explaining a lot of this and notes that, like many other places on the planet (see What is the Transition? Part 1), the Arctic is seeing an increase in seismic activity that could contribute to additional methane releases.

More can be read about this topic here.

These folks are also studying how changes in the Arctic are causing or contributing to global weather extremes. While I was writing the What is the Transition series, one of the largest storms ever seen developed in the Atlantic, stretching from Canada to Portugal, Greenland to the Caribbean:

     Incredible North Atlantic storm spans Atlantic Ocean, coast to coast


Because there was no human body count, the mainstream media ignored it, so few heard about this late-March megastorm. It did contribute to unusually wintry weather in the UK, killing many animals there.

Saturn also had a mega-storm, so some of the energies we are encountering are likely related to our Solar System, not just our planet:

     First Images of Giant Hurricane Swallowing Saturn

Back on Earth, the flooding from storms just keeps on coming:

     Update: ‘Tsunami of rain’ hits Buenos Aires – Death toll rises to 54 as millions left without power and water – Event was ‘deluge without historical precedent’

     Texas floods as up to seven inches of rain falls after storms hit much of the South

     Flash floods kill 16 in Saudi Arabia after heaviest rainfall in 25 years

     Evacuations ordered as flooding hits eastern France

     Nearly a foot of rain falls in Jackson County, Mississippi

     Death toll from north Afghanistan flash flooding rises to 20

     Record flooding threatens Midwest, Mississippi river

And John Stevanovic continues to produce monthly video summaries of weather extremes, earth changes, meteors, and so forth. I do not agree with his “end of the world” belief—as stated previously, I think we are in a major transition that will ultimately result in better times for humanity—but John’s videos do show compelling evidence of the accelerating turbulence that is contributing to the change we are experiencing:

     Extreme weather events and Earth Changes in March 2013

     Extreme weather events and Earth Changes, April 2013

And if you are reading this in mid-May, 2013, you might wish to check in daily with Sunspot AR1748 has already thrown off four X-class solar flares. Luckily, the CMEs (coronal mass ejections) from those flares have not been sent directly toward Earth, but the rotation of the Sun is bringing AR1748 into more direct alignment with the Earth in the coming days. Images of the four X-class flares are here.

Transition Update: Extreme Stress in the Animal Kingdom

Forests precede civilizations…deserts follow them.
–Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand, 1768-1848

What is the effect of acceleration in the animal kingdom? What is the Transition? Part 3 showed a chart of the acceleration, the parabolic rise, of species extinction. And while that level of abstraction is important to grasp, seeing the details is another matter. The following articles, collected from the web over just the last four weeks, help to bring home the reality of the current stresses on the animal kingdom. Mass deaths are happening across the world, across many species. These incidents show that we’ve gone way beyond the proverbial “canary in the coal mine.” This is not business as usual.

Animals are suffering from direct poisoning by pesticides and fungicides, direct exploitation by people, habitat destruction, severe storms, weather pattern changes, pollution, cell phone tower disruption of the magnetic spectrum used by animals for navigation, ocean acidification, etc etc. But many cases remain inexplicable, even after investigations.

     Worst-ever right whale die-off continues to puzzle

Scientists still don’t know why hundreds of baby southern right whales are turning up dead around Patagonia…

     32 swans found dead at New Lake, Dunganaghy, Ireland

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine told Donegal Now that … it was still too early to say what had caused the multiple deaths.

     One-Third of U.S. Honeybee colonies died last winter, threatening food supply

Nearly one in three commercial honeybee colonies in the United States died or disappeared last winter, an unsustainable decline that threatens the nation’s food supply.

Multiple factors – pesticides, fungicides, parasites, viruses and malnutrition – are believed to cause the losses, which were officially announced today by a consortium of academic researchers, beekeepers and Department of Agriculture scientists.

     German lake full of dead carp baffles officials

Volunteers have pulled 25 tonnes of dead carp out of a lake in eastern Germany – there are so many, locals are running out of boats. Regional officials have admitted they are baffled – only carp seem to be dying in the lake.

     3 more dolphins die in Indian River Lagoon

Biologists removed three more dead bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon Monday, bringing this year’s total lagoon bottlenose body count to at least 30.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration already has declared the 100 or so manatee deaths in the lagoon since mid-2012 an Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Event. The declaration triggers NOAA’s own formal investigation. The federal agency is examining whether the dolphin and manatee deaths might be connected.

     Hundreds of dead fish wash up on Beaver Lake

It’s estimated that more than 7,000 pounds of dead fish – mostly catfish, sunfish and bass – have been taken out of Beaver Lake. But what caused this unusually large fish kill is still a mystery.

     Thousands of dead fish reported in Indian River Lagoon in southern St. Lucie County, Florida

Tony DiChristofaro of Stuart, said he saw “thousands and thousands of dead fish coming ashore” about 2 p.m. Thursday as he was walking along the lagoon beach.

DiChristofaro said the dead fish extended along the shoreline for about a mile.

     More than 1000 birds now dead as result of coastal chemical spill in UK

The substance has been identified as polyisobutene (PIB) by researchers at Plymouth University. It is the second time in just three months that PIB has killed hundreds of seabirds in the South West.

     Video: Thousands of dead jelly fish at Umargam Beach

Seen in April 2013 there were thousands of dead jelly fish seen on sea beach of Umargam.

     Big freeze – UK livestock death toll hits 100,000

English, Scottish and Welsh sheep losses in April were 50% higher than April 2012 costing 35,000 extra lives

Welsh cattle losses in April were more than double 2012’s equivalent to almost 2,700 head

Cattle losses in England and Scotland in April were about a quarter more than 2012 (23% and 25% to 13,800 and 9,700 head respectively)

Cattle losses for England, Scotland and Wales were up 34% and more than 7,000.

     Central Africa elephant population down 62% in 10 years

Poaching on an “industrial” scale has slashed the elephant population in the countries of central Africa by nearly two-thirds…

     Weather changes impact migrating birds

Experts say there has been an increase in the number of migratory birds falling from the sky in the region.

     Health defects found in fish exposed to Deepwater Horizon oil spill, three years later

With researchers from Louisiana and South Carolina, the scientists found that Gulf killifish embryos exposed to sediments from oiled locations in 2010 and 2011 show developmental abnormalities, including heart defects, delayed hatching and reduced hatching success. The killifish is an environmental indicator species, or a “canary in the coal mine,” used to predict broader exposures and health risks.

     Dead dolphins and shrimp with no eyes found after BP clean-up

Hundreds of beached dolphin carcasses, shrimp with no eyes, contaminated fish, ancient corals caked in oil and some seriously unwell people are among the legacies that scientists are still uncovering in the wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill.

     Cocktail of multiple pressures combine to threaten the world’s pollinating insects

     Mysterious dead fish at Eagles Mere Lake, Pennsylvania

     Dead birds “falling from the sky” in Port Arthur, Texas neighborhood

     Hundreds of birds die of starvation after spring snowstorm in Colorado

     Manatee deaths at Indian River Lagoon, Florida: Questions abound in mysterious deaths of manatees, pelicans

     Minnesota man watches as waxwings began ‘dropping out of the sky’

     Hawaii: Kaua’i coral disease worsening, says doctor

     100 dolphins wash up on Italian coast after being hit by killer strain of measles

     Storm kills 10 thousand birds in Jhenidah, Bangladesh

     Wales: Worry over marsh horses ‘dropping dead like flies’

     Update: More than 12,000 birds crashed in Utah’s Dugway proving grounds

     Australia: Oyster crop hit by unknown disease

     Enduring winter tough on migratory birds in Great Plains

     China’s Animal Apocalypse Spreads To Dogs

     238 pigs and 89 dogs “suddenly dead” in Chinese village

     Sea lion strandings climb, scientists still stumped

     Australia: Another fish kill stinks out Wonnerup

     Snow storm: Sheep death toll reaches 20,000 in Northern Ireland

     Bird jams: Long winter sends migratory flocks into tailspin in Germany

     Over 100 dead birds found in Danville & Pittsylvania County

Different species of birds found dead in Trinidad shortly after mysterious mass vulture deaths

     Peru: 10 Dolphins found dead in northern beaches

     150 Black vultures mysteriously die in Chaguaramas, Trinidad

     Rare birds killed off after migration north sees them face freezing temperatures back in UK

     Over 8,000 dead sheep removed from Northern Ireland farms following record Spring snowfall

     Mass death of multiple sea creatures along east coast of UK

     ‘Tonnes’ of dead fish found on Swedish lake

     Video of grieving pink dolphin mother underscores plight of disappearing species

“There were about four or five dolphins in the water and it seemed at first as if they were trying to get hold of something and support it,” said Ho Tak-ching, 34, a guide with Hong Kong Dolphinwatch. “It really wasn’t normal behaviour.”

The dolphins were trying to help a mother support the body of her dead calf and stop it slipping below the water’s surface.

Grieving and unable to accept their calves’ deaths, the mother dolphins will spend up to two weeks trying to keep them on the surface of the water, exhausting themselves and going without food as other dolphins rally to help them.

The events above were from just one month. It seems more than likely that there are many, many more incidents that are unseen and unreported. And of course it’s true that our physical bodies are subject to many of the same stresses plaguing the animals. But hey, as long as lots of people are shopping, things must be fine.