Massive Nonlinearity In Climate Now Obvious, And Why

If one thinks about it, much of life as we know it depends upon Earth’s white, icy poles. The temperature of Earth depends upon said polar regions. The poles, as long as they are covered with snow, reflect much sunlight back towards space. That’s why the poles are white: because they are reflectors. Remove the poles’ whiteness, and Earth will absorb much more sunlight, her average temperature will shoot up, and then the Earth’s albedo will decrease further (Whiteness = Albedo, in Latin).

This is already happening, the effect is self-feeding, and, thus, nonlinear (nonlinear means self-feeding; the master nonlinear effect is the exponential, which grows proportional to itself). The exponential derangement of the climate is already apparent in two ways:

  1. the temperatures in the Arctic have climbed at a rate up to five or even ten times faster than anywhere else (as local whiteness, albedo, disappear).
  2. at some point, one expects the global temperature to do the same, and exit the linear regime. This is exactly what one has observed in the last half a dozen years, as temperatures have shot up. Also the main warming system of the biosphere, El Nino, seems to be running for the second year in a row (it used to run only every seven years, or so). 

So we are leaving the linear rise in the greenhouse effects, to enter a faster, nonlinear phase.

This should not surprise anybody. Look at the CO2 graph, superimposed on a picture of Earth’s atmosphere (contemplate how thin it is!) The CO2 concentration is already massively nonlinear, and it is the main driver of climate, thus climate’s behavior can only be so.

That graph should be meditated upon. First put it on all the wall each decision maker looks the most at. Yes, horizontally, that’s half a million years…

Reality is even worse, as the graph above does not take into account other gases which have an even stronger greenhouse effect, individually than CO2, sometimes by a factor of thousands of times, per unit of mass, and which are all man-made. Nor CH4, methane, related to cattle bowels and decaying permafrost or warmed-up, exploding methane clathrates, in the preceding graph, although its greenhouse effect is huge.

CO2 concentrations are the highest since Homo Sapiens evolved. Also the change of greenhouse gas concentrations is the most brutal ever since at least 17 million years ago (when the Columbia LIP, Large Igneous Province, occurred, and, presumably, vast amounts of CO2 were injected in the atmosphere).

During the last high CO2 concentration, 110,000 years ago, although said concentrations were much less than now, average temperature got a bit higher than now (one Celsius). Sea level was at least seven meters higher. So as much is baked in, for sure. (Much of Florida and many countries, will then become shallow seas; Florida’s porous limestone will make it difficult to stop the sea.)

The nonlinear collapse of whiteness on Earth (“Earth albedo”) is apparent in the sudden collapse of the ice-covered regions in both the Arctic and the Antarctic, this last season 2016–2017. Clearly, linear graphs can’t be extended anymore, as far as spaceship Earth is concerned. Tickling the dragon by the tail works for a while, until one gets scorched!

Patrice Ayme’


Tags: , ,

15 Responses to “Massive Nonlinearity In Climate Now Obvious, And Why”

  1. Paul Handover Says:

    Patrice, for reasons I am not entirely clear it has been a while since I dipped into here. Possibly the recent loss of Casey and Paloma.

    Anyway, I do hope to take some time out to read your last few posts. But I am drawn to reflecting on the back of this post that maybe society has become so complex, with so many competing issues at so many levels, that the global co-operation now required to draw us back from the brink of the destruction of a viable planet for 99% of species presently living will not happen.

    It’s beyond humankind “drinking in the last chance saloon”, the lights are starting to go out.

    Or do you think that an excessively despondent point-of-view?


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Paul: Glad to see you back! Sorry about your losses.
      As I tried to explain to Hazxan, the pursuit of civilization is all about smarts. We have to rise smarts to a higher level. It’s not just smart, it’s moral.
      Rising smarts is the opposite of despondency, and it’s the most human way. And if it means war, so be it.


      • Paul Handover Says:

        But what’s your expectation that this will happen?


        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          The rise of reason, or the rise of war, or both?
          We have been in a period of calm and fast rise of a new old superpower, China.
          There is an obvious parallel with Europe post 1815, when Prussia rose very fast (and China seems to be duplicating Prussia deliberately). A difference, though, is that the democracies know what happened, so they, and especially the US, have NOT let their guard down as much (although it is down; even US forces are much weaker than they look on paper…)

          Anyway, I am optimistic about the rise of reason. Dominique Deux who used to comment here, said, in his last comment that, fundamentally, I was an optimist. Like it was a sin. Apparenly I was so optimistic that I viewed Trump as a better choice than Clinton and her cortege of corruptocrats… I got immensely pessimistic 8 years ago, when I saw Obama and family turn to the very dark side: there was a potential to do really great progress, on so many things, and it was turned into smoke and mirrors, while the corrupt ones filled their pockets…

          On the pessimistic side, I notice that, the Democrats, justifying my terminology of Demoncrats, have strictly nothing to propose for progress, they are a full FAKE LEFT (I have zillions of proposals found in essays, 8 years old or more, from Medicare For All, to Fin Trans Tax, etc…). But I have known this forever. Or, at least, 8 years…

          I notice Amazon just announced they will pay tax as the law requires: bezos is scared of Trump. He was not scared of Obama…. Actually Obama never said anything against Bezos…


  2. picard578 Says:

    Technologically advanced civilization is inherently self-destructive, because human intelligence advances at far slower pace than technology does. It is not a question of if human civilization will destroy itself, only a question of when. But as I recall, surge in global temperature might well be the result of methane. Because several things happened at the same time: boom in industrial production, boom in human population and boom in cattle industry. And IIRC, it all happened around 1950. So farts may well be more dangerous than cars.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      The relationship between tech, civilization, intelligence, progress, democracy and plutocracy is complex. I wrote hundreds, maybe even thousands of pages on the subject, often guided by an historical example, or more. Here is an example:

      There are general rules, but history went along completely different logics.
      The secret of the West is that, ever since the rebirth of civilization on a better basis by the Franks in the Fifth Century, a virtuous ecology was established. The Franks succeeded to seize the best of the Greco-Roman civilization and the Christian impulse, and confederate it, not hesitating to use maximal violence if need be.

      The Greco-Romans did not avoid collapse because their plutocracy destroyed the needed intellectual capability that would have given birth to the needed tech (lack of which was tied to slavery…)

      The methane situation looms heavily. For unknown reason, CH4 stagnated around and after 2000 CE. But now it’s back in full fling. It could explode on us, with giant tsunamis, anytime… Farts from cows are amusing, farts from deep sea methane ice, or melting tundra, much less so…


      • picard578 Says:

        Problem is that we may, at any moment if we haven’t already, enter self-sustaining downward spiral thanks to methane deposits under the Siberian ice. As I wrote, civilization is inherently self-destructive…

        West has abandoned its own soul, discarding humanism for materialism, which is really just another fascist system of though, except everything is ruled by impetus of profit. Money is the new God.


        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Not just money, raw power on other people, is the new god. Same as the Golden Calf in the Bible. I saw this when I was next to Obama. The power is extravagant, the allure of it, irresistible.


        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          It has been known, for years, that shallow CH4 deposits below the Siberian seas are bubbling up. At some point, this is all going to go massively nonlinear… Indeed.


  3. ianmillerblog Says:

    I consider the climate changes to be examples of hysteresis. When the heat inflow gets greater than outflow, the first response is to melt ice, so there is not much in the way of temperature increase – and that happens away from the poles. But once significant ice melting takes place and the ocean water can no longer get at the ice so easily, the temperatures or storm intensities will change very significantly and very quickly. What we see now is only the start of the upward curve. It will, of course, eventually reach new equilibrium point, and it will be just as hard to bring it back down, at least initially.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hi Ian! I am not too clear at what “hysteresis” is supposed to mean. A delay, an action behind, espcecially, as in a thermostat: cutting off power when too hot, turning it back on when too cold…
      You are right about a new equilibrium, someday, but not soon. It even has a name already: the JURASSIC! Like in Jura Sick… In the Jura mountains, in France were found all these fossils, in the limestone…
      We have baked in 5 degrees of warming, that’s indeed as hot as the Jurassic got. And the hydrocarbon output is only getting greater, as everybody wants to get on the shale oil gravy train…

      To bring it down, we will need giant thermonuclear fusion reactors, for the terraforming… The high CO2 will last millennia… Anyway, a vast science experiment under way…


  4. Rishrac Says:

    Rishrac: Patrice, the dubious nature of CAGW is in question when it comes to co2. The reasons are too many too list here. However, it is not incumbent upon a skeptic to define what caused a previous time period that was warmer without increased co2 levels. There have also been periods when it was colder. Neither of those periods have been addressed in context. Overall, the last 20 years has been anything but catastrophic, in spite of pronouncements of this storm being stronger or hottest year ever. The models and predictions don’t match reality. Its more than a coincidence that some of the research done on here matches exactly the work of a Chinese mathematician 1,000 years ago ( actually, now is more exact) and goes beyond it in scope. .
    I’m still going for changes in the sun that affect climate. Why? Because that is the evidence that we have. The affects may not necessarily be a direct result of lower TSI. At least to me, the recent year long quiet of the sun that resulted in lower global temperatures, reinforced that idea. That was a year, I wonder what would happen if the sun went quiet for 40 or 50 years .


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Rishrac: Thanks for the answer. I do agree that the Sun’s activity causes changes of Earth temperature changes. And I have long written about this:
      And yet indeed…
      March 31, 2017 at 5:19 pm
      There is no other plausible explanation for the Little Ice Age, or the Middle Age Warming Period, except for variation in the Sun’s output. The Little Ice Age corresponded to the Maunder Minimum in sun spots, indicative of lower convection, thus activity, in the upper layers of the sun.

      It is indeed very valuable to make back-modelling of preceding warming episodes (which seem to occur every 1,000 years or so). It is indeed likely those fluctuations, in the last 7,000 years, were caused by the Sun.

      However considering the orbital warming (“Milankovitch” cycles; actually a theory more than a century older than that), some other models predict a cooling, which would have been prevented by increased methane from cattle herding (humans made it so that there would be more cattle, less rabbits). CH4 is much more efficient a greenhouse gas than CO2.

      The hottest year, globally, including the ocean surface atmospheric temperature was 2016, and, before that, 2015. It is true that the Sun was quieter in recent decades. However a solar scientist I know smirks that will probably not last…

      As my 2009 paper referred above shows, the increasing warming of recent decades occurred in spite of the increasing quietness of the Sun.

      CAGW, Catastrophic Anthropogenic Greenhouse Warming, is around the corner. It may well start with a tsunami somewhere, induced by a methane hydrates slide somewhere (as happened with the Storegga slides, off Norway, 8,200 years ago)… Otherwise the high density of CO2 will be enough to register year after year of higher temperatures. Notice that El Nino seems already on its way back, after just a year without, another indication of CAGW… Also notice both Arctic and Antarctic ice covers reached minimum maximum and minimum minimum, respectively, a few weeks ago. At some point, the warming will quit its linear regime, and become wildly nonlinear.


      • Stephen Wilde Says:

        Stephen Wilde says:
        March 31, 2017 at 5:43 pm
        Your problem is that no climate changes have been observed beyond those to be expected from solar variations. Although the sun has been quieter during cycle 24 it is correct that cooling proper has not yet begun but according to satellite data the previous warming trend has come to a halt.
        The warmth of 2016 and 2015 is statistically insignificant compared to that of 1998.


      • Oldbrew Says:

        Patrice says: ‘As my 2009 paper referred above shows, the increasing warming of recent decades occurred in spite of the increasing quietness of the Sun.’

        Again – thermal inertia. Plus a recent large El Nino, which may turn out to be the ocean expelling surplus heat to balance with a less active sun.


What do you think? Please join the debate! The simplest questions are often the deepest!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: