The bold black line at the top of the image below, adapted from Climate Reanalyzer, shows extremely high sea surface temperatures up to September 13, 2023, much higher than in any previous year on record.
The image below, created with NASA data, shows why these extremely high sea surface temperatures are so worrying. The image shows monthly mean global surface temperature anomalies (open ocean) vs 1901-1930. The ochre trend, based on January 1900-August 2023 data, indicates the latent heat tipping point was crossed in 2021 and the seafloor methane tipping point could be crossed in 2033. The red trend, based on August 2008-August 2023 data and better reflecting variables such as El Niño, indicates that the seafloor methane tipping point could be crossed late 2023. Data show the seafloor methane tipping point was reached in August 2023.
The latent heat tipping point is estimated to correspond with a sea surface temperature anomaly of 1°C above the long term average, 1901-1930 on the above image, as discussed in earlier posts such as this one.
Sea ice constitutes a latent heat buffer, consuming incoming heat as it melts. While the ice is melting, all energy (at 334 J/g) goes into changing ice into water and the temperature remains at 0°C (273.15K or 32 °F). Once all ice has turned into water, all subsequent energy goes into heating up the water, and will do so at 4.18 J/g for every 1°C the temperature of the water rises.
|[ The Latent Heat Buffer ]|
Crossing of the seafloor methane tipping point will occur later than crossing of the latent heat tipping point, i.e. the seafloor methane tipping point corresponds with a higher ocean temperature anomaly, estimated to correspond with a sea surface temperature anomaly of 1.35°C above the long term average.
The danger is that additional heat will destabilize hydrates in these sediments, leading to explosive eruptions of methane, as its volume increases 160 to 180-fold when leaving the hydrates, and resulting in huge eruptions of methane both from the destabilizing hydrates and from methane that is present in the form of free gas underneath the hydrates.
|[ from earlier post, click on images to enlarge ]|
The above image, from an earlier post, illustrates that warnings have been given before about the danger of these two tipping points getting crossed in the Arctic. In the above image, the trends are based on annual sea surface temperature data for the Northern Hemisphere. The seafloor methane tipping point is estimated to correspond with ocean temperature anomalies reaching 1.35°C above the long term average.
|[ Latent heat loss, feedback #14 on the Feedbacks page ]
Further adding to the danger is that destabilization of methane hydrates can cause huge amounts of methane to erupt with great force from the seafloor in the form of plumes. Consequently, little of the methane can be broken down in the water by microbes, while there is very little hydroxyl in the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean to break down the methane that enters the atmosphere.
|[ click on images to enlarge ]|
Note the high levels over the Beaufort Sea and elsewhere over the Arctic Ocean, as well as high levels recorded over oceans in the Southern Hemisphere.
• Climate Reanalyzer – daily sea surface temperature
• NASA – GISS Surface Temperature Analysis
• NOAA – Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, United States
• NOAA – MetOp satellite records
• NOAA – N20 satellite records
• Two Tipping Points
• Sea surface temperature at record high
• Record high North Atlantic sea surface temperature
• Latent Heat
• The Threat of Global Warming causing Near-Term Human Extinction
• Transforming Society
• Climate Emergency Declaration