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Carbon Dioxide; What is Earth's Point of No Return?
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Carbon Dioxide; What is Earth's Point of No Return?

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by Alexander E. MacDonald

by Alexander E. MacDonald
Director, NOAA ESRL

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Carbon Dioxide; What is Earth's Point of No Return? Carbon Dioxide; What is Earth's Point of No Return? Presentation Transcript

  • Carbon Dioxide: What is Earth’s Point of No Return ? SEAS Seminar February 2, 2009 Alexander E. MacDonald Director, NOAA ESRL
  • TALK SUMMARY * The earth is being driven rapidly to a new climate state. * In the first half of the 21 st century, humans actions will determine earth’s climate for the next thousand years. * We cannot rule out large and dangerous climate changes. * Prudence suggests stopping global CO2 short of the “point of no return”.
  • TALK SUMMARY * The earth is being driven rapidly to a new climate state. * In the first half of the 21 st century, humans actions will determine earth’s climate for the next thousand years. * We cannot rule out large and dangerous climate changes. * Prudence suggests stopping global CO2 short of the “point of no return”.
  • The World Has Warmed Widespread warming has occurred. Globally averaged, the planet is about 0.75°C warmer than it was in 1860, based upon dozens of high-quality long records using thermometers worldwide, including land and ocean. IPCC WG1 (2007) Slide courtesy of Susan Solomon
  • The World Is Still Warm (post-IPCC 2007) Short-term variations (e.g., volcanoes, El Nino/La Nina in some years) don’t change the global ‘big picture.’ From www.realclimate.org Slide courtesy of Susan Solomon La Nina
  • What About 2008? • Recently: Relatively cool in the Americas (due to La Nina in Pacific ocean) but warm elsewhere. • 2008: likely to be in the top ten globally warmest years. (NCDC, UKMO, others) NASA GISS analysis Temperature Change Compared to the Average for 1951-1980 Slide courtesy of Susan Solomon
  • Rising atmospheric temperature Rising sea level Reduction in NH snow cover
    • And……
    • Atmospheric water vapor increasing
    • Glaciers retreating
    • Arctic sea ice extent decreasing
    • Extreme temperatures increasing
    • ………… .
    Warming is Unequivocal Many Changes Signal A Warming World IPCC WG1 (2007) Slide courtesy of Susan Solomon
  • Human Drivers of Climate Change: Unprecedented CARBON DIOXIDE • A critical greenhouse gas • Dramatic increase in industrial era, ‘forcing’ climate change • Higher concentration than for more than 600,000 years IPCC WG1 (2007) Slide courtesy of Susan Solomon
  • Observations Are Humans Responsible? IPCC (2007): “ Most of global warming of past 50 years very likely (odds 9 out of 10) due to human increases in greenhouse gases” IPCC WG1 (2007) Volcanoes: proof of principle that forcing changes climate. GHG increases dominate forcing and climate changes of past 50 years. Slide courtesy of Susan Solomon Agung Chichon Pinatubo Natural forcings only Natural and human effects
  • Anthropogenic warming is likely discernible on all inhabited continents Global land warming more than global ocean. Are Humans Responsible? IPCC WG1 (2007) Slide courtesy of Susan Solomon
  • TALK SUMMARY * The earth is being driven rapidly to a new climate state. * In the first half of the 21 st century, humans actions will determine earth’s climate for the next thousand years. * We cannot rule out large and dangerous climate changes. * Prudence suggests stopping global CO2 short of the “point of no return”.
  • Mauna Loa De-Seasonalized Post-Industrial Carbon Dioxide Observations (278 ppm pre-industrial subtracted) 2 X CO 2 Exponential Increase: Doubling Time = 32 years 2 X CO 2 = 2 x 278 ppm = 556 ppm Year at 556 ppm ~ 2050
  •  
  • About 40 - 45% of added CO2 will stay in the atmosphere for millennia. Archer and Brovkin, Climate Change (2008), 90:283.
  • Model projection for 2100 Continents Warm 50% more than oceans
  • IPCC AR4 Projected Patterns of Precipitation Changes 2007
    • Summer and Winter
  • TALK SUMMARY * The earth is being driven rapidly to a new climate state. * In the first half of the 21 st century, humans actions will determine earth’s climate for the next thousand years. * We cannot rule out large and dangerous climate changes. * Prudence suggests stopping global CO2 short of the “point of no return”.
  • Roe and Baker make the argument for a tail of large sensitivity to climate forcing. SCIENCE, Oct 26, 07
    • Rowe and Baker point out that climate change feedbacks can reinforce each other to generate very large sensitivity – the fat tail of very large temperature change.
    • Examples of climate change feedbacks:
    • Carbon release due to warming,
    • Ice-albedo feedback,
    • Water vapor feedback,
    • Clouds, etc.
  • The “FAT TAIL”
  • There are large amounts of carbon in the Arctic that could be released in a rapidly warming world.
  • Carbon Tracker Carbon Tracker movie showing CO2 anomolies in summer 2004. Blue – less CO2 Red – more CO2
  • TALK SUMMARY * The earth is being driven rapidly to a new climate state. * In the first half of the 21 st century, humans actions will determine earth’s climate for the next thousand years. * We cannot rule out large and dangerous climate changes. * Prudence suggests stopping global CO2 short of the “point of no return”.
  • Earth System models will allow improved prediction of long term climate.
  • Ocean Acidification As the CO 2 content of the atmosphere increases much of it dissolves into the ocean causing the pH to drop or, acidity to increase. The acidity of the ocean already increased by 25% since 1850 and it could increase by 100% to 150 % by 2100.
  • Ocean Acidification
    • CO 2 is corrosive to the shells and skeletons of many marine organisms:
    http://www.biol.tsukuba.ac.jp/~inouye Photo: Missouri Botanical Gardens Corals Calcareous plankton
  • A Global Carbon Mitigation Program to Stop CO2 Growth Short of a Doubling Would be Difficult. $102/tC $19/tC $10/tC $4/tC From Climate Change Science Program report.
  • Questions . . . . [email_address]