Greenland’s ice in motion…

29 03 2014

Mark Cochrane seems to be joining the camp of concerned scientists who are worried about the escalating rate of melt in Greenland……  the problem with tipping points of course is that there is no data to show they are coming, and only become obvious in the rear vision mirror…… so here’s another guest post from mark, hot on the heels of Ocean acidification feedback causes increased warming


Regional warming in Greenland is not currently well incorporated into global climate models. The long and short of this being that the melting of the ice in Greenland is proceeding at a pace more rapid than are generally appreciated. A recent study (Khan et al. 2014) shows that, in addition to the known speed up of glacial streams in the west and southeast of Greenland, a monstrous ice stream in the northeast, 600 km long, that drains 16% of the Greenland ice has recently begun moving and accelerating in the last decade.

Figure 1 Changes in surface elevations obtained using ICESat, ATM, LVIS and ENVISAT data. Ice surface elevation change rates in m/yr
from April 2003 to April 2006 (a), April 2006 to April 2009 (b) and April 2009 to April 2012 (c). (sorry for the low quality figure – the original from the paper didn’t show up in the post even though it was on my screen!)
At the areas in yellow are dropping and the red one are dropping very fast. The average ice-sheet-wide loss from Greenland has increased from 172.4 (+/- 21.7 Gt/yr) during April 2003-2006 to 359.8 (+/- 28.9 Gt/yr) during April 2009-2012. This represents more than a doubling in the last 6 years.

Just how big is that? A single gigatonne of ice is a block 1km on a side.

That cubic kilometre of ice yields 1 billion cubic metres. The current melt rate from Greenland is about 360 GT/yr. To put that in some sort of perspective, Greenland is disgorging water at an equivalent of 70% of the Mississippi river flow rate, but with the rate in increased melting, it could likely be 1.5 times the Mississippi outflow by 2018.

The take home message is that sea levels will continue to rise faster than the current predictions.

Ocean acidification feedback causes increased warming

27 03 2014

Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane

Another guest post from Mark Cochrane…… who continues bringing bad news after a few months of more research.

I’ve posted before on the “other CO2 problem”, namely ocean acidification but up until recently, ocean acidification and greenhouse gas-related warming of the planet have been seen as problematic but separate processes happening due to our fossil fuel-related binge of carbon emissions.

For those who don’t know, ocean acidification arises when CO2 is forced into ocean waters, sort of like in your soda or beer. We increase atmospheric concentrations of CO2, this forces some of the gas into solution in the ocean surface layer. The carbon dioxide then reacts with water molecules to form carbonic acid.

Acidity is measured in units of pH. The ocean’s pH has fallen by a little more than 0.1 pH units since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution which doesn’t sound terribly impressive but the scale is logarithmic, meaning that changes are exponential in terms of their magnitude. You might have some idea of what that means if you think in terms of the Richter scale of earthquake intensity which is also logarithmic, with each additional 1.0 meaning 10 times the shaking magnitude and 31.6 times the energy release. Back to the ocean pH, that measly 0.11 change equates to a 30% increase in the global ocean’s acidity levels.

That is a very significant change in such a short time for organisms like oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton. If we continue on the path of “Business as Usual” carbon emissions then we will make the ocean’s surface waters 150% more acidic by the end of the century. Nothing like this has been seen for more than 20 million years. This is what those acidity levels will do to current organisms living in the oceans.

Where this impacts the global climate is by messing up the oceanic sulfur cycle. Phytoplankton release something called DMS (dimethyl sulfide). DMS goes into the atmosphere above the oceans and forms cloud condensation nuclei (CCNs). In layman’s terms, the DMS seeds low level clouds over the oceans. These clouds act to reflect a portion of the sunlight from the Earth and thereby cool the planet.

So what we have is the following chain of events. Continued CO2 emissions raise atmospheric CO2 levels which in turn raise aqueous CO2 levels in the oceans. This then lowers the ocean’s pH (increased acidity) which stresses or kills phytoplankton. Less phytoplankton results in less DMS. Less DMS yields less clouds over the oceans. Less clouds means more sunlight warms the oceans and hence the exacerbates global climate change. Multiple experiments in sea water exclosures (mesocosms) have verified this impact. Which leads us to this recent scientific finding:

Global warming amplified by reduced sulphur fluxes as a result of ocean acidification

Global DMS emissions decrease by about 18(±3)% in 2100 compared with pre-industrial times as a result of the combined effects of ocean acidification and climate change. The reduced DMS emissions induce a significant additional radiative forcing, of which 83% is attributed to the impact of ocean acidification, tantamount to an equilibrium temperature response between 0.23 and 0.48K. Our results indicate that ocean acidification has the potential to exacerbate anthropogenic warming through a mechanism that is not considered at present in projections of future climate change.  (Six et al. 2013)

For those who don’t know 0.23-0.48 K (Kelvin) is the same as 0.23-0.48 C (Celsius).

This is yet another positive feedback that will likely make the rate of climate changes more rapid than current values given in global climate models. Those who have an issue with models should understand that if the models are ‘wrong’, they are at least as likely to be understating the rate of climate change as overstating it. The impacts of the rapid acidification though will be the real problem for life in the oceans. Eventually life in the oceans would adapt to the higher acidity but it is happening so fast that evolution cannot keep pace. There will be serious consequences for all life because of this on any time scale significant to human societies.

Carbon bubble toil and trouble

27 03 2014

There has been of late quite a few articles on the blogosphere about the potential for a Carbon bubble.  A bubble about to burst.  That this will occur is utterly undeniable, but the outcomes featured by different writers are a bit off the mark in my opinion……

First, let me start with Paul Gilding.  I have a lot of time for Paul.  I’ve even published some of his writings here; but his optimism often leaves me flabbergasted…….

In Carbon Crash Solar Dawn, published in Cockatoo Chronicles 

I think it’s time to call it. Renewables and associated storage, transport and digital technologies are so rapidly disrupting whole industries’ business models they are pushing the fossil fuel industry towards inevitable collapse.

Some of you will struggle with that statement. Most people accept the idea that fossil fuels are all powerful – that the industry controls governments and it will take many decades to force them out of our economy. Fortunately, the fossil fuel industry suffers the same delusion.


Paul Gilding

I don’t think the oil industry is under any such delusion.  Unable to make a profit with oil floundering around $100 a barrel, a price the market forces on them to accept, that industry is taking to selling its assets to prop up its bottom line, even borrowing money to pay shareholders’ dividends….

The only idea I struggle with Paul, is that “renewables, electric cars and associated technologies build the momentum needed to make their takeover unstoppable“.

Take here in Australia for instance; the coal fired power lobby has twisted the politicians’ arms (I don’t think much twisting was required either…) to thwart any further growth in the development of renewables.  In Queensland where I still live, the Newman government has indicated that the paltry 8c feed in tariff that the poor beggars who installed PVs on their roofs after the frankly overgenerous 44c feed in tariff was terminated, will become a zero FiT after July 1.  We who are on the overgenerous 44c FiT are ‘safe’ (until TSHTF that is – then all bets are off), because we are on a contract that lasts until 2028….. but everyone else misses out.  Why are they doing this?  It’s all explained very well here on The Conversation, but basically it’s to protect the dinosaur industries’ shareholders.  There’s no way they are borrowing to pay their shareholders like Shell had to do….  Money rules, and f*** you the consumer.

Paul also further writes:

I think it’s important to always start with a reminder of the underlying context. As I argued in my book The Great Disruption, dramatic economic change is not a choice we get to make it, but an inevitable result of physical science. This is because business as usual, with results like ever increasing resource constraint or a global temperature increase of 4 degrees or more, would trigger economic and social collapse. So the only realistic outcomes are such a collapse or an economic transformation that prevents it, with timing the only big unknown. I argued transformation was far more likely and, to my delight, that’s what we see emerging around us today – even faster than I expected.

In parallel, we are also seeing the physical impacts of climate change and resource constraint accelerating. This is triggering physical, economic and geopolitical responses – from melting arctic ice and spiking food prices to the Arab Spring and the war in Syria. (See here for further on that.) The goods news in this growing hard evidence is that the risk of collapse is being acknowledged by more mainstream analysts. Examples include this commentary by investment legend Jeremy Grantham and a recent NASA funded study explained here by Nafeez Ahmed. So the underlying driver – if we don’t change in a good way, we’ll change in a very bad way – is gathering acceptance.

Hang on……..  is he saying the Arab Spring is about people demanding “renewables, electric cars and associated technologies”?  Because collapse is exactly what is happening in Egypt and Syria.  Collapse does not begin in boardrooms, it begins in the streets when people run out of food, water, and petrol….

And where is the debt problem mentioned in this “dramatic economic change“?  How exactly will the “renewables, electric cars and associated technologies” be paid for?  More growth?  Has he never heard the saying “the best way to get out of a hole is by not digging any deeper”?

Over at Nature Climate Change, I found this too……

…major players in the financial markets are becoming increasingly uneasy about the extent of the impact of future climate policies on power companies. A supposition — fostered by the Carbon Tracker Initiative — is that fossil fuels may be nowhere near as profitable in the future as they have been so far. This is not simply because the costs of prospecting and drilling for oil, for example, are increasing, or that the fossil fuel resources that give the oil, coal and natural gas companies their value are about to run out — they are not. The problem is more that a large portion — perhaps as much as 80 per cent — of these reserves will have to be left untouched if society has any chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2 °C this century.

So, pray tell, what will we build the new energy system with…?  Let me remind you of just how many resources it takes to build wind turbines… or a solar thermal power plant

Paul ends his article with:

So, as I see it, the game is up for fossil fuels. Their decline is well underway and it won’t be a gentle one. Of course they won’t just be gone in few years but once the market and policy makers understand what’s happening, it will become self-reinforcing and accelerate rapidly. Markets come into their own in situations like this. They rarely initiate change, but once they’re racing down the hill, it’s time to jump on board or get out of the way. It’s an ugly and brutal process for those involved, but it gets the job done quickly.

When that occurs, we may find that those forecasts by myself and others like Tony Seba from Stanford University, that the oil, coal and gas companies will be all but obsolete by 2030, might turn out to be conservative after all. Interesting times indeed.

Yes, it is game over.  But not for the fossil fuel industries alone.  When they go down, everyone goes down.  Even the central bankers, to whom the global debt which has soared more than 40 percent to $100 trillion since the first signs of the financial crisis, will go down….. why do so few people see the big picture…….?  For someone who claims to understand the “inevitable result of physical science” as the driver of economic change, Paul truly puzzles me.


25 03 2014

Technology is moving apace……  Damnthematrix now has its own youtube channel……..  Why you ask?  Well, here I was sitting at my laptop with the ABC TV news channel on, something rare as I almost never have the TV on if it’s not dark, when this amazing piece of news came on:  we’re saved; a new oil field has been tapped in central Australia, and it’s even producing twice as much oil as was anticipated.  A whole 764 barrels a day.  No dear reader, it is seven hundred and sixty four.  Not seven hundred and sixty four  thousand, just seven hundred and sixty four……….  enough to feed Australia’s insatiable thirst for the stuff for, wait for it……  SEVENTY FIVE SECONDS!  Appropriately enough, this well is called Surprise #1

So I found an internet video of this momentous news, downloaded it, and then uploaded it to my new channel so I can share it with you all.  Amazing is it not, that just an hour or so from publishing It is not a shale revolution, it is a retirement party, this appears as groundbreaking news….. we really are scraping the bottom of the barrel.



It is not a shale revolution, it is a retirement party

25 03 2014

martensonheadshotThe Oil Revolution is Dead Wrong

Over at Chris Martenson’s website, Peak Prosperity, there’s a podcast of an interview he did with Richard Heinberg, now on youtube… I’ve downloaded this, and listen to it in the ute from an SD card.  Ah, the beauties of modern technology.

It’s fascinating listening to these two men, both of whom were instrumental in my understanding of our looming predicaments.  It’s also interesting that it was Richard’s first book written in 2003 on Peak Oil, The Party’s Over, that got Chris going on communicating his beliefs that the end was nigh at what was then Chris Martenson dot com where the Crash Course was born.  If you haven’t done the Crash Course yet, make some time and do it soon.  Like NOW!!

From the transcript of the interview…..

“…the big news right now is that the industry needs prices higher than the economy will allow, as you just heinbergoutlined. So we are seeing the major oil companies cutting back on capital expenditure in upstream projects, which will undoubtedly have an impact a year or two down the line in terms of lower oil production. That is why I think that Campbell and Laherrère were right on in saying 2015, 2016 maybe, we will also start to see the rapid increase of production from the Bakken and the Eagle Ford here in the US start to flatten out. And probably within a year or two after that, we will see a commencement of a rapid decline.

So you know, on a net basis, taking all those things into account, I think we are probably pretty likely to see global oil production start to head south in the next year or two.

But this change in capital expenditure by the majors, that is a new story. You know, just a couple of years ago, they needed oil prices around $100 a barrel in order to justify upstream investments. That is no longer true. Now they need something like $120 a barrel but the economy cannot stand prices that high. So you know, if the price starts to go up a little bit, then demand just falls back. People start driving less. And so the economy is unable to deliver oil prices to the industry that the industry needs. This is—I think Gail Tverberg is saying this is the beginning of the end. I think she is right.”

“….this is extraordinarily important news and we are just not hearing it really. I mean, you know, the occasional article in the Wall Street Journal. But this is going to impact our entire way of life.”

“……the Department of Transportation in Texas did this analysis and said, “Fracking is doing about four billion dollars of damage to our road surfaces and bridges on a yearly basis. These eighty-thousand-pound trucks, of which it might take as many as almost twelve hundred to complete a single well—six hundred if you want to re-frack it—and those twelve hundred trucks weighting eighty thousand pounds filled with sand and water and fracking fluid and who knows what and giant diesels and……drilling rigs and stuff. They are only collecting about a billion dollars in severance tax back to repair the road damage and doing four billion in damage. Who is going to pay that?”

“…the only preparations we see are, frankly, the militarization of police forces around the country and the ubiquitous surveillance. So that is not very confidence-building in terms of our future….. they see that more social unrest is likely as a result of the current trends, so they are preparing for social unrest rather than addressing the trends.”

Interesting day revisited….

24 03 2014

Remember my interesting day at the March in March event in Brisbane…?  Well some interesting and quality footage of the event has turned up if you’re interested……  I’m the bearded dude with a hat at left of the tree at ~ 1 minute 40 seconds……

Collapse Is Very Difficult To Avoid

22 03 2014

simonblackSubmitted by Simon Black of Sovereign Man blog, lifted from Zero Hedge

As any long-time reader of this column knows, we routinely draw from historical lessons to highlight that this time is not different.

Throughout the 18th century, for example, France was the greatest superpower in Europe, if not the world.  But they became complacent, believing that they had some sort of ‘divine right’ to reign supreme, and that they could be as fiscally irresponsible as they liked.  The French government spent money like drunken sailors; they had substantial welfare programs, free hospitals, and grand monuments. They held vast territories overseas, engaged in constant warfare, and even had their own intrusive intelligence service that spied on King and subject alike.

Of course, they couldn’t pay for any of this.

French budget deficits were out of control, and they resorted to going heavily into debt and rapidly debasing their currency.

Stop me when this sounds familiar.

The French economy ultimately failed, bringing with it a 26-year period of hyperinflation, civil war, military conquest, and genocide.

History is full of examples, from ancient Mesopotamia to the Soviet Union, which show that whenever societies reach unsustainable levels of resource consumption and allocation, they collapse.  I’ve been writing about this for years, and the idea is now hitting mainstream.

A recent research paper funded by NASA highlights this same premise.

According to the authors:

    “Collapses of even advanced civilizations have occurred many times in the past five thousand years, and they were frequently followed by centuries of population and cultural decline and economic regression.”

The results of their experiments show that some of the very clear trends which exist today– unsustainable resource consumption, and economic stratification that favors the elite– can very easily result in collapse.  In fact, they write that “collapse is very difficult to avoid and requires major policy changes.”

This isn’t exactly good news.

But here’s the thing– between massive debts, deficits, money printing, war, resource depletion, etc., our modern society seems riddled with these risks.  And history certainly shows that dominant powers are always changing.

Empires rise and fall. The global monetary system is always changing. The prevailing social contract is always changing.

But there is one FAR greater trend across history that supercedes all of the rest… and that trend is the RISE of humanity.

Human beings are fundamentally tool creators. We take problems and turn them into opportunities. We find solutions. We adapt and overcome.

The world is not coming to an end. It’s going to reset. There’s a huge difference between the two.

Think about the system that we’re living under.  A tiny elite has total control of the money supply. They wield intrusive spy networks and weapons of mass destruction. The can confiscate the wealth of others in their sole discretion. They can indebt unborn generations.  Curiously, these are the same people who are so incompetent they can’t put a website together.  It’s not working. And just about everyone knows it.  We’re taught growing up that ‘We the People’ have the power to affect radical change in the voting booth. But this is another fairy tale.

Voting only changes the players. It doesn’t change the game.

Technology is one major game changer. The technology exists today to completely revolutionize the way we live and govern ourselves.  Today’s system is just a 19th century model applied to a 21st century society. I mean– a room full of men making decisions about how much money to print? It’s so antiquated it’s almost comical.

But given that the majority of Western governments borrow money just to pay interest on money they’ve already borrowed, it’s obvious the current game is almost finished.

When it ends, there will be a reset… potentially a tumultuous one.  This is why you want to have a plan B, and why you don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket.  After all, why bother working so hard if everything you’ve ever achieved or provided for your children is tied up in a country with dismal fundamentals?

If you agree with me, then feel free to share this article with your friends below so they also can get a plan B in place. They’ll be glad they did.