Dire situation gets even more dire

By |2023-02-04T07:39:16+00:00February 4th, 2023|

Sea ice extent is very low at both poles at the moment, and the outlook is that the situation is getting even worse.

Around Antarctica, sea ice extent was 2.23 million km² on February 2, 2023. Later in February this year, extent looks set to go below the 1.924 million km² all-time record low reached on February 25, 2022.

Arctic sea ice extent was 13.676 km² on February 1 , 2023, the second-lowest extent on record for the time of year, as illustrated by the image below.

As the above image indicates, over the next few days Arctic sea ice extent looks set to reach an all-time record low for the time of year.

Conditions are dire
This means that Antarctic sea ice could reach an all-time record low extent later this month, while at the same time Arctic sea ice could be at a record low extent for the time of year.
Furthermore, emissions keep rising, ocean heat and greenhouse gas levels keep rising and extreme weather events are getting ever more extreme. Keep in mind that carbon dioxide reaches its maximum warming some 10 years after emission, so we haven’t yet been hit by the full wrath of carbon dixode pollution.  
Furthermore, an earlier analysis concludes that we have already exceeded the 2°C threshold set at the Paris Agreement in 2015. 
These dire conditions spell bad news regarding the temperature rise over the coming years. On top of these dire conditions, there are a number of circumstances, feedbacks and further developments that make the outlook even more dire.
Circumstances that make the situation even more dire

Firstly, as illustrated by the image on the right, adapted from NOAA, we’re moving into an El Niño.

It looks like it’s going to be a very strong El Niño, given that we’ve been in a La Niña for such a long time. 

Moving from the bottom of a La Niña to the peak of a strong El Niño could make a difference of more than half a degree Celsius, as illustrated by the image below.
[ from earlier post, adapted from NOAA ]
Secondly, sunspots look set to reach a very high maximum by July 2025, as illustrated by the next two images on the right, adapted from NOAA.

Observed values for January 2023 are already well above the maximum values that NOAA predicted to be reached in July 2025. If this trend continues, the rise in sunspots forcing from May 2020 to July 2025 may well make a difference of more than 0.25°C, a recent analysis found.

Thirdly, the 2022 Tonga submarine volcano eruption did add a huge amount of water vapor to the atmosphere. 
Since water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas, this is further contributing to speed up the temperature rise. 
2023 study calculates that the submarine volcano eruption near Tonga in January 2022, as also discussed at facebook, will have a warming effect of 0.12 Watts/m² over the next few years.
Feedbacks and developments making things worse
Then, there are a multitude of feedbacks and further developments that could strongly deteriorate the situation even further.
On top of the water vapor added by the Tonga eruption, there are several feedbacks causing more water vapor to get added to the atmosphere, as discussed at Moistening Atmosphere.  

Further feedbacks include additional greenhouse gas release such as methane from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean and methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from rapidly thawing permafrost on land.

Some developments could make things even worse. As discussed in earlier posts such as this one and this one, the upcoming temperature rise on land on the Northern Hemisphere could be so high that it will cause much traffic, transport and industrial activity to grind to a halt, resulting in a reduction in cooling aerosols that are currently masking the full wrath of global warming.

Falling away of this aerosol masking effect could cause a huge temperature rise, while there could be an additional temperature rise due to an increase in warming aerosols and gases as a result of more biomass and waste burning and forest fires.

A huge temperature rise could therefore unfold soon, causing the clouds tipping point to be crossed that on its own could result in further rise of 8°C. Meanwhile, humans are likely to go extinct with a rise of 3°C, as illustrated by the image below, from an analysis discussed in an earlier post.

The dire situation we’re in looks set to get even more dire, calling for comprehensive and effective action, as described in the Climate Plan.


• NSIDC – Chartic interactive sea ice graph

• Climate Reanalyzer – sea ice based on NSIDC index V3

• Extinction

• Pre-industrial

• NOAA – Solar cycle progression
• Sunspots

• Tonga eruption increases chance of temporary surface temperature anomaly above 1.5 °C – by Stuart Jenkins et al.

• Moistening Atmosphere
• Methane keeps rising
• A huge temperature rise threatens to unfold soon

• The Clouds Feedback and the Clouds Tipping Point