Climate in action

16,000 years ago, Iceland was in the grip of ice. The sea was 100 meters lower than it is now, and the land extended far beyond the current coast. But too little benefit. The island was covered in an icecap which extended well beyond the current coast. At its peak (21.5 thousands years ago) the ice may have been 1500 meters thick (some say 2000 meters). In the west, the peak extent was as far as 100 km from the current coast. The edge was around the location where the shelf around Iceland reaches 200 meter depth. The outer parts of the ice were floating on the freezing-cold Atlantic ocean.

2500 years later, Iceland was unrecognizable. The ice had withdrawn from the coast and covered only the central regions. Sea levels had risen but were still below modern levels. Volcanoes erupted on the newly exposed coastal regions, perhaps surprised by the rapidity of the change. This was the time when the big glaciers over Canada and Europe were melting, and the sea had rising by some 50 meters over 1500 years. The sea also had warmed. The floating ice shelf very quickly disintegrated and the ice had withdrawn to the central regions of Iceland. Tundra vegetation was becoming established. It was a new land.

Patton et al. 2017, Earth-Science Reviews, Vol 166, Pages 223-245

The warmer period did not last. It was followed by the cold Younger Dryas, which suddenly plunged Iceland back into the ice age. Between 13,000 and 12,000 years ago, the ice extended back to the coast, although it remained well within the earlier limits. After 12,000 BP, the glaciers again retreated, but only by about 20% over the next 800 years. After that, the retreat speeded up and over some 2500 years the glaciers disintegrated.

By now the glaciers were limited to the higher mountains (invariably volcanic) only. The ice did not disappear entirely, as indicated by the fact that Katla’s eruptions during this time produced subglacial tephra. But again the good times came to an end, and by 5000 BP the glaciers began to grow again. There was a growth spurt between 2500 and 2000 years ago, and then more extensive growth during the little ice age, from 1300 to 1800 AD. But that too did not last. And now, in our age of modernity we are again in a phase of rapid melting; the predictions are that Iceland’s glaciers will almost entirely disappear in the next 200 years, something that didn’t happen even during the glacial minimum 5000 years ago. As a sign of the times, the Okjökull glacier died in 2014. Perhaps the country will soon need to find a new name.

The history of Iceland shows that major changes can happen fast. The first major retreat of the ice was around 21 thousand years ago. At this tine, over a period of only 750 years, Iceland’s ice age glaciers contributed 50 cm to sea level rise. 15 thousand years ago there was a second phase where the glaciers halved within a 1000 years. And a thousand years (one millennium) is not long: it is less than the period during which Iceland has been inhabited. There have been changes within the past millennium too. The Vikings came when the ice was still subdued: some areas they settled later became uninhabitable as the ice advanced. Some farms were overrun. But these changes were not as rapid as has happened in the past. This is the cycle of the ice: it grows slow but melts fast. Advancing glaciers give you time. Retreating glaciers change the world almost instantly.

The percentage impacts of sea level rise on agricultural land: Chi-Chung Chen, 2012, Climatic Change, Vol. 110, pp. 543-560

And the world today is not like yesterday. The climate is changing faster than it has for many millennia. What happened in Iceland 15,000 years ago, is happening in Greenland today. If Greenland would do an Iceland, and see a complete and rapid collapse of its glacier, sea level would rise by 7 meters. Only 5% of the world’s population lives within 5 meters of sea level, but this still means that half a billion people would be submerged. All harbours would be lost, obviously. The USA would lose 3% of its farmland; Vietnam would lose 23%. It is not only the wealthy ocean-view villas that are at risk from Greenland.

Global warming and sea level rise are happening fast. The world of 2020 is already notably different from that of 2010; even the change is changing. But is it a crisis? Or is it relevant for a distant future but are the reports of our impending demise overblown? What does science say about the future?

Recently, people have pointed out potential climate tipping points: points of no return beyond which changes become rapid and irreversible – at least on our time scales. As the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said last week, “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon. It is in sight and hurtling toward us.” Are those tipping points real? Was the sudden collapse of Iceland’s glaciers such a tipping point, induced by the warming seas? And have we already tipped the balance? This post will discuss some of those proposed tipping points. Don’t expect answers: this is about the questions.

Seven climate tipping points

Ice collapse

Ice sheets are inherently unstable. The top tends to be too cold to melt, sticking up as high as the proverbial mountains. But ice can flow, and just like a mountain made out of syrup, glaciers spread out over time and become lower. New snow is needed every year to keep the ice cap as high as it was. If the ice cap begins to lower, either from melt or from lack of snow, the temperature at the top begins to increase. For every 100 meter lowering, temperatures go up by 1 C. Once the top of the ice cap begins to melt, the process quickly accelerates, and becomes unstoppable.

Russell’s Glacier, Greenland

Ice sheets have two more vulnerabilities. The bottom of an ice cap is at zero degrees C, and water can collect there. This lubricates the flow down the hill. If more melt water reaches down there, it can speed up the flow down-hill. If the outer edge forms a floating ice shelf, it is liable to melting by the sea water underneath. A warming sea attacks the shelf from below. An ice shelf can disintegrate within just a few years. And because that removes a lot of weight, it allows the glacier behind, which formed the shelf, to speed up.

So glaciers can disappear fast. In contrast, forming a glacier takes a long time, because it cannot grow faster than the amount of snow that falls per year. (A point in case is modern Iceland: the glaciers are mainly along the south coast even though this is the warmer region: this is where the precipitation is highest. The colder northern part is much drier.)

So there is a strong case that there is a tipping point for glaciers. The fact that Iceland’s glacier collapsed so quickly at the end of the ice age, and did not fully reform during the Younger Dryas, stems from that. But what is the tipping point, and what would happen when it is reached?

For Greenland’s ice, the tipping point is around 1.5 C of warming. That much warming is already unavoidable, and there is a strong case that Greenland’s glacier is doomed. But this doom takes time. At 1.5 C, it would still take 10,000 years for the process to unfolds. At 2C, it might take 1000 years. Greenland’s ice will add 7 meters to our sea level, but it will not happen instantly.

There are on-going discussions about the fate of Antarctica’s ice. The West Antarctic ice sheet is largely grounded below sea level, because its weight has depressed the land by that much. That makes it vulnerable. Some models indicate that it has already passed its tipping point, caused by the rising and warming seas. That will add another 3 meters to sea level, but again not instantly.

There are probably three separate tipping points, one for Greenland, once for West Antarctica and one for the much more robust ice sheet of East Antarctica. The latter seems safe for now. Greenland is doomed, but looking at the past suggests that Greenland will need time to melt. The main ice sheet is vulnerable only from above. West Antarctica is a different matter. Long ago, Iceland’s ice collapsed in part due to sea level rise. Between 14.7 and 14.3 BP, a 400-year period, global sea level rose by 40 mm per year, or 4 meters per century. This lifted the near-shore ice and disintegrated it, within only a few hundred years. Current sea level rise is around 5 mm per year, having doubled since 1990. This is still much less than what attacked Iceland – but West Antarctica is both larger and more vulnerable.

So over a millennium, the coast is toast. But if we do push West Antarctica over the edge, a 3-meter flood could come faster than expected, although it is still unlikely to happen this century. This tipping point is a danger – the question is when, not if.

Sea ice

During the 17th century, sea ice was a common occurrence around Iceland. The northern coast could sometimes be ice-bound until June, and at times sea ice reached the southern coast. Nowadays the sea ice normally stays well away to the north. This is due to rapid warming of the sea in the region. The warm Atlantic current has pushed the cold waters further north, and the sea is now several degrees warmer than it used to be.

Sea ice at Iceland

This local effect can’t be extrapolated to the rest of the Arctic. But sea ice is fragile. It survives the summer because it is so thick. Once it melts from below, the thickness is no longer sufficient and it can very suddenly and unexpectedly break up. Models indicate that the shift to an ice-free Arctic summer happens around 2 C of warming. Once this happens, the water warms further because sunlight gets absorbed in the water rather than reflected by the ice. This tipping point is probably unavoidable already. A commercial pilot a few years ago showed me pictures of the North Pole, taken on his New York – Hong Kong route. He was shocked by how broken the ice was. This was in May, when just a few years earlier this would have been solidly frozen. Now there is open water at the pole.

Does it matter? There will be ecological changes where some animals will suffer and some will do well. The main effect may be local warming, with much warmer summers around the Arctic. That sounds like a good thing. But it will affect the surrounding land, and will for instance accelerate ice melt in Greenland. And there is the disappearance of the permafrost in Alaska, Canada and Siberia.


This brings us to the next tipping point. When will the permafrost go? Across the north, permafrost is retreating, down into the earth and north towards the pole. The melt leaves a damaged landscape, with features similar to sink holes. This is a fragile land at the best of times; removing its foundations while soaking the upper layers is a recipe for subsidence. (One group has warned of the risk of defrosted ancient bacteria causing epidemics. That is silly. It is unlikely to the extreme and there are far better sources for new diseases available.)

Subsidence from permafrost melt

But would the permafrost count as a tipping point? It is not irreversible – lower the temperature and the land will refreeze. Also, once melted the land will become vegetated, and over time the damaged landscape will fix itself. However, the risk is in what lays beneath. The frozen tundra has locked in CO2 and methane, and the melt releases these relics. CO2 emissions from the permafrost are probably dwarfed by what we put out ourselves. But methane is a different matter. It is a powerful, albeit short-lived greenhouse gas. Worldwide emissions are rising and we are not fully sure why. Melting permafrost may be a contributor. The methane concentration has more than doubled since pre-industrial days and is expected to double again by 2100. Still, methane accounts for ‘only’ 20% of current warming. Methane lasts for about a decade in the atmosphere. Over that period, it enhances all other effects of global warming – including the melting of the permafrost. So there is some ‘tipping point’ where the process become self-sustaining. However, there isn’t a clear sudden onset, the changes are mainly along the outer areas of the permafrost regions, and CO2 contributes much more to the warming. The effect is real and significant, and needs to be included in climate models, but as a ‘tipping point’ it seems overstated.

Methane concentrations in the arctic


Three further aspects related to the living world have been mentioned as tipping points. The first is the boreal forest, the band of trees circling the world which is better known as the taiga. It covers 10% of the world surface and contains half of all remaining wilderness area. It is at risk from two factors, insect infestations killing the trees and fires killing the forests, making use of the newly deaded wood. Recent summers saw tremendous fires in the Siberian taiga (often caused by people). The fires put CO2 into the atmosphere. To put that in context: the taiga contains twice as much carbon as the world’s tropical forests, much of it in the soil underneath its feet. (This is in contrast to the tropical forests where the soil is carbon poor and almost all the carbon is in the trees.) It has been called the carbon that the world forgot. The permafrost and the taiga are closely linked and overlap, but the taiga covers a much larger area than the tundra permafrost.

In the past, the boreal forest acted as a carbon sink: it took up more carbon than it put into the atmosphere. But as temperatures are rising, the boreal forests are changing and are becoming a net carbon source. The ‘tipping point’ is where it becomes a net source of carbon, and it may happen as early as the 2020’s. But it is a gradual change, and the precise time at which this point is reached is less important. The importance lies in the size of the carbon reservoir that it acts on.

Kronotsky volcano in the taiga of Kamchatska

The second one is the Amazon rain forest. This forest is often considered doomed. The forest is dependent on the seasonal rains, and these are being replaced by droughts. It is plausible that much of the Amazon will cease to be a rain forest. From the point of the biosphere this is a crucial change, as so many of the world’s life forms are here and much will not survive. But the models do not predict that the entire rain forest would be lost. The core region with its two rainy seasons per year seems safe. But especially the southern areas, with one rainy season, are at risk. There is a back story here. The risks to these areas were already obtained from IPCC models 12 years ago. At the time it was ridiculed by the skeptics as misleading – the Sunday Times at the front of the queue. However, these were indeed the regions affected by major fires this year, caused by drought – just as had been predicted. I must have missed the apology from the Sunday Times.

How do you find your way out of a forest in Iceland? Stand up.
Iceland has rain forest, just not the tropical variety.

The forest is to some degree self-sustaining: the frequent rain showers are fed by water evaporated by the trees themselves. Remove the trees, and the rain will only fall once and rivers will quickly carry the water off to the Atlantic ocean. There is indeed a tipping point here: remove enough trees, and the lessening of the rains will kill off the rest. The tipping point appears to fall around 30-40% of deforestation; we are half-way there. It will impact the world’s of life’s diversity. Beetle-dom will never be the same. The link to global climate is clear for the southern regions. For the core of the Amazon basin it is not clear-cut: the tipping point appears to be mostly about the deforestation rather than temperatures. This is not unlimited: too much heat will kill off any forest. But less extreme warming may have more complex effects.

It is worth pointing out that the tropical rain forests are comparatively recent. They formed after the ice age. Their fragility may therefore not be such a surprise.

The third case is that of the coral reefs, the rain forests of the oceans. Here the effect is crystal clear: coral bleaching is already killing much of the coral. Ocean heat waves kill the symbiotic algae on which the corals depend. It leaves the coral ghostly white, and starving as the link to 80% of its food supply is lost. 29% of the Great Barrier Reef has been lost to bleaching. (Sometimes it seems that the Australian government, not quite the most green in the world, would prefer the whole thing to be gone). If the bleachings occur more frequently than new coral can grow, the reef does not recover. Before 2010, the Great Barrier Reef was in balance, with regrowth keeping up with the occasional bleaching events. But this is the case no longer, and we can say that for Australia, this tipping point was reached in 2010.

Lophelia pertusa, cold-water coral species, living off the east and south coast at depths of a few hundred meters. Source:

This tipping point may not be a permanent one. There are coral reefs in hot waters in the Persian Gulf, and so reefs in principle could re-establish themselves from these species. This may require our helping hand. But ocean heat waves are not the only risk factor to the coral reefs. Ocean acidification makes reefs chemically unstable, and their calcium skeletons will dissolve into the acidic water. This tipping point may be reached in 50 years. Acidification may be the most serious threat and it seems hard to avoid. The bottom line is that if you still need to see a coral reef (it really is a wonderful experience, if you get to see an undamaged one!), you’d better hurry.

We will give the IPCC the last word, in their 2019 report. They have high confidence that ‘critical thresholds for some ecosystems (e.g. kelp forests, coral reefs) will be reached at relatively low levels of future global warming‘.

Ocean circulation

This saviour of Iceland is also the dark horse of our warming world. In the Atlantic ocean, warm, salty waters from the tropics are carried north by currents such as the Gulf stream; in the north Atlantic these waters cool and sink, and flow along the ocean floor, back to the tropics. In the process it creates the biggest waterfall in the world in the Denmark Strait. The Denmark Strait cataract is 150 kilometers wide, plunges 3.5 kilometers down, and carries 5 million cubic meters of water per second. And no one will ever see it in action. The warmth released by the sinking waters is the sole reason why Iceland isn’t still under a kilometer of ice. The strength of this so-called Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has varied over time. It has slowed down by about 15% since the 1950’s. The cause of this is not known but a possibility is the increase of fresh water entering the northern oceans, coming from glacial melt. The fresh water forms a low-salt layer which floats on top, and slows the cooling and sinking of the warm currents which now flow underneath. At the same time this would also warm the Arctic oceans, and contribute to the collapse of the sea ice.

running AMOC at Iceland

The possibility has been raised that the AMOC may collapse entirely under global warming , which would be a major escalation of climate change. The physics of the collapse is plausible: the mechanisms work, and the question is only whether they are strong enough to induce collapse. If it does happen, in theory, Iceland could plunge back into a Younger Dryas – in fact the dominant model for the cause of the Younger Dryas is exactly that. This is a different tipping point, as it would tip part of the world back into a much colder past. This experiment has never been tried under current CO2 levels. As a scientist I am highly curious as to which of the two would win, the oceanic cooling or the CO2 warming. (My gut feeling is that CO2 would largely compensate for the oceanic cooling, at least for Europe, but winters would be freezing and stormy) (which they aren’t now). It would safeguard Greenland, and it would slow sea level rise. But this comes at the cost of losing Iceland – and Western Antarctica would remain at high risk.

Although cessation of the Gulf stream is often described as the biggest risk of global warming, it is a slow process and we are likely to loose our coast line well before AMOC can help us. But by the 24th century it becomes more likely. The IPCC (2019) writes: ‘By 2300, an AMOC collapse is as likely as not for high emission pathway and very unlikely for lower ones […] Nevertheless, the human impact of these physical changes have not been sufficiently quantified and there are considerable knowledge gaps in adaptation responses to a substantial AMOC weakening’. For the 21st century, they consider a sudden collapse as very unlikely. This appears to be one tipping point that can be avoided, and if we let it happen we only have ourselves to blame.

Lessons from Iceland

Iceland has always been at the forefront of our battle with climate. It lies at the border of the polar and Atlantic climates, a border which has been pushed far north by the Atlantic ocean currents. Any small change either in those currents or in the world’s climate, puts Iceland solidly on one side or the other. During the ice age, it single-handedly maintained one of the world’s major glaciers, with the size of France. It lost much of this within only a thousand years – twice. From Iceland we have learned how quickly a glacier can disintegrate. The Vikings found a green and fertile land, but within a few centuries they had used up the thin post-ice-age soils, and also saw the ice and jokulhaups encroach. They saw sea ice arrive from the north and they lost the sea route to the Greenland colony to the ice. But in recent years the warmth has returned, the sea has warmed by several degrees and the newly expanded ice caps are now on the brink of collapse. Sadly, the soil remains fragile.

In Iceland we can see what could happen in our rapidly warming world. Some of the tipping points are real, and some are overstated although still representing a real change to our world. Further sea level rise seems inevitable and anyone living within 1 meter of sea level may want to be cautious about a long-term mortgage. Which path we follow is still up to us. At the moment we are on a track that will give in excess of 5 C warming by the end of the century, but that can still be limited. But not by in-action.

And as always, volcanoes have the final word. We have not had a significant eruption since before 1900. That cannot last. One day the skies will darken again and a mountain will be lost. Just wait. And waiting is what Iceland does best. After both glacial collapses, 22,000 and 15,000 years ago, a phase with large eruptions followed. How much of this was pent-up pressure released by the melting ice, and how much was decompression melt and came later, is up for discussion. But now the glaciers are melting and the experiment is repeated – again. Some time, Antarctica will re-erupt too. But first, Iceland will have its turn. Katla is ready – and waiting.

Albert, December 2019

Katla, 1918

114 thoughts on “Climate in action

  1. This, Albert, is a splendid summary. Thank you!

    AMOC and the Younger Dryas, and the recent fears of the AMOC being overturned and stopped along with all the doom scenarios the papers love. It is one of my interests..

    I read extensively about this, and my understanding was that the Younger Dryas came about due to the collapse of ice dams as North America warmed, flooding the north Atlantic with huge amounts of fresh water. This effectively swamped the AMOC and pushed back the warming phase, bringing a sharp return into the cold Younger Dryas.

    Now, I know much science has been done since my study, but I do find it very difficult to equate the present slow, year-by-year melting of Greenland ice and the polar fringes as having the same effect as the giant floods leading to the Younger Dryas. And I feel the observed slowing of 15% to be the sort of impact I would expect, unlike the doom-laden scenario of that daft film, “The Day After Tomorrow”.

    My opinion is the AMOC is perfectly safe, despite the general loss of ice in the area. The doom-laden scenarios much loved by certain newspapers and their ilk are fanciful. And additionally investigators should concentrate on the likelihood that the AMOC will extend further north before sinking due to the warming in the Arctic. This would possibly have warming and ocean current effects on the Norwegian coasts and the Baltic, not least to say in the general polar Atlantic part of the north hemisphere.

    I am aware there are the impactor theories for the Younger Dryas. But I think the jury really is still out on that.

    No doubt I shall be taken to task for my dodgy opinions! (Hello Ms Thunberg…)

    I really enjoyed having such a concise article to read from an expert. Thanks!

    • I also praised you for this amazing article, Albert.

      Clive, I agree with you. Young Dryas started with a colossal flooding event, not a long-term gradual melting, so the dynamics are very different. So I tend to think that a collapse of the circulation will not happen, but as a scientist I am highly curious about this.

      Also (and I know this is highly controversial), there might have been an impact event around that time, which triggered massive climate change. There seems to be a fair share of evidence and studies confirming that the impact did indeed happened. Whether it triggered the Young Dryas it’s less clear.

      Having said this, we are heading towards a challenging century of unpredictable climate, climate discussion, social unrest, discussions about geoengineering, agriculture and the forests,etc.

  2. Thank you Albert. Sadly the world has really forgotten the real problem which is gross world overpopulation, and although the growth may level out in 30 years, I would not bet on it. The second problem is that individual and governments invariably deal with today’s problem whilst paying lip service to tomorrow, so the developing world will continue to provide power and electricity to its populations today even if the only way they can afford to do this is by burning their (often huge) coal reserves. The developed world will do its bit up until it results in a significant drop in living standards, and in the UK, at least, that may not be so far away.

    I am forced to conclude that far from slowing, world CO2 production will increase, possibly at an increasing rate.

    IMHO the biggest potential ‘bomb’ is if methane hydrates start liberating vast amounts of methane resulting in significant temperature rises triggering further release from tundra and subsea sources, which I am led to believe are quite close to this point anyway.

    I am still unclear why our climate ever comes out of an ice age or, once removed, it ever returns to it. None of the suggested mechanisms, orbital mechanics (circa 3%) or vulcanism really seems to be the right order of magnitude to overcome 30% re-radiation from the ice-age snowcap. The only one I can’t rule out (due any evidence either way) is that the sun is a long-period variable star, and the time taken for a pulse of energy from the core, ~100kY, is roughly the gap between interglacials.

    A small question for Albert. Years ago one of the physics questions was to estimate the half life of various gases in the atmosphere for their loss into space. I remember it was critically dependent on the molecular weight but I forget the relationship. I imagine Albert has access to the … OK Jean’s Escape. So methane is destroyed by oxidation, not by leaving the atmosphere.

    • Jeans escape is not important on Earth. It acts only in the hotter exosphere (ionosphere level) and there only hydrogen is really affected. It is a bit more important on Mars, and is the reason the Moon has no atmosphere. Methane is removed mainly by oxidization. Regarding the timing of the ice ages, that is actually well understood, including the 100,000 and 41,000 periods. It is related to the orbit of the Earth and has nothing to do with the Sun. The same models showed why there had been slow cooling since the middle holocene and showed we were on the brink of the next ice age. The drying out of the Sahara over the past 5000 years comes out of the same models.

      The IPCC defines a ‘collapse’ of the AMOC as a reduction by 80% or more. That seems very unlikely for now. A reduction by 40% is not impossible. It is indeed not a Younger Dryas situation, although one can argue that doubling CO2 within a few decades should count as a shock which is just as severe as dumping half an ice age of fresh water into the Atlantic ocean. It is not wise to carry out risky experiments on your own house.

      • The correlation between solar irradiation, caused by changes in the orbital changes, fits only partly with the Antarctica temperature, in the graphs above.

        Whilst it is one of the important variables, there must be another important variable, second only in influence.

        The interglacial periods seem to be triggered only once every 100.000 years rather than shorter periods. However, once the conditions return to ice age, there are a couple of warmer spells before the deep minimum just before the sharp start of another interglacial.

        • That’s my view, particularly as the date and latitude have been carefully selected. Pick december and -65deg and you may get a completely different picture. From what I remember the TOTAL solar input due to orbital cycles is of the order of a few percent. If that’s enough for a major swing, and bearing in mind CO2 levels will continue to rise for the forseeable future, we are in for some pretty big ecological changes pretty quickly. Given most of the world is doing little to reduce CO2 levels, rather the reverse in fact there is little we in the UK, or even democracies can actually do. Certainly if we want to get re-elected.

          • That is not fair. The difference is 20% in solar power and that is a lot. Why July? Because that is when snow decides whether it is permanent or not. First, snow only melts when temperatures get above freezing. So the changes from below to above zero hurt, but changes say from -10 to -8 make no real difference. Add to this that solar power in winter is small, and so a change of 20% makes little difference. Why this latitude? Because this is where the major glaciers begin to grow.

            What you mention as the total solar power seems to be the seasonal variation due to the elliptical orbit of the earth. At the moment, in January we get 3.5% more and in July 3.5% less than for the average distance to the sun. But that benefits the south, as 7% of summer is a lot and 7% of winter not much. So the south gets that much more energy over the year. Rewind the clock 13,000 years and it was the north that benefitted – and this is when the glaciers melted a lot. And yes, the climate is that sensitive, because of the reflective nature of snow. Once snow builds up, it becomes self-enforcing, which again is why the plot focussed on the area of yes/no permanent snow cover.

            There are several orbital cycles, of which at the moment the 100,000 year one is dominant. But a million years ago, the dominant one was the 41,000 year cycle. It is not well understood why this change happened. Some climate sensitivity changed, and it may have to do with ocean currents. Go further back than a million years and the climate was stable against these cycles, though overall pretty cold. Climate sensitivity varies. At the moment we live in a time where the sensitivity is quite pronounced. But that ice ages are related to Milankovitch cycles is well understood. As is the fact that it doesn’t work as well in the south, because the ice age feedback with snow cover is a northern-hemisphere phenomenon. The south does not have enough high latitude land for it to work. In fact, had that been different, ice ages would probably not happen as such because one hemisphere compensates for the other one.

        • There was recently a paper published that theorised that dust accumulation was the trigger for deglaciation. So the shift to longer glacial periods was simply due to the normal 40k cycle being unable to trigger deglaciation until sufficient dust had accumulated in the ice.

  3. We humans relase astonishing ammounts of carbon dioxide. In 200 years from now we maybe ( almost 1800 ppm ) and back in Eocenes greenhouse

    China and the Western World are the largest CO2 emitters.

    Iceland will become a subtropical paradise in the future
    Basicaly the Northen Canary Islands, if we humans continues with our greenhouse emissions

    • Data places China as greatest emitter at 30% and rising rapidly! Talk about them building coal power stations instead of closing them down.
      US tops as the second as 15%.
      EU is 9%, then India at 6%, Russia at 5%, Japan 3%
      Many countries around the world emit 1% or less.

      Its also important to keep in mind that even if halt our emissions to zero suddenly (by some magic miracle), the CO2 would still stay 100 years in the atmosphere, so we need something massive to capture that CO2 back into the soil. That is some form of widespread regenerative agriculture and reforestation, where carbon is fixed back into the soil.

      However I noted that most carbon came from great depth, not from a mere couple meters in the soil layer. So the above strategy is risky if the forest would burn or die.

      I have a feeling that we already passed a tipping point, which explains why things seemed to have accelerated. We see methane already bubbling in the Arctic Ocean (not good!). We see severe heatwaves never seen before in Africa, Europe, South America, Australia. Its everywhere. We see new phenomena, like the 5 tropical systems that formed at same time in the Indian Ocean earlier this week. Things are getting hectic.

      • Iceland will become subtropical year 2200 ?
        If our mammoth emissions dont stop ?

        • Business as usual scenarios point towards a 5C warming by 2100. Current trend of more towards 3.5-4C if cuts are not strengthened dramatically.

          Supposing such scenarios, Iceland may experience an increase in annual temperature average from the current 5C to 12C (warming is much more dramatic in the Arctic than elsewhere). An average 12C is the average temperature of Paris, so Iceland would become fully temperate, and evening leaning towards Mediterranean climate by the end of the century.

          Continuing such scenario, Iceland could trend towards a annual temperature of 16C by 2200, short of being tropical, but more subtropical like the Azores.

          This is assuming that 1) severe cuts or geoengineering does not happen, and 2) the collapse of gulf stream

          Because even a 3C warming entails dramatic world changes, I do think that mankind will attempt dramatic measures in the next 20-30 years, such as severe cuts and quite likely geoengineering by starting sustained spraying sulfur in the stratosphere, which is highly controversial and even dangerous to the ozone layer and unforeseeable changes in precipitation.

          There is a high unknown and I think its going to be politics in the US and China that will ultimately decide what happens.

  4. Thank you Albert for this comprehensive history of climate change.

    Several points occur to me:

    1 – There was a rapid inundation when Doggerland was submerged, and petrified peat forests remain in the sea clay around our coats, along with stories of armies drowned, of gate keepers failing to lock the gates to city walls, and these stories show that this was within local historical memory. It has been shown that scarring off Newfoundland shows how massive ice walls lifted to allow an inland sea, over Canada and North America, to release its waters into the North Atlantic. The loss of these waters also impacted communities in America which lost their water.

    This is a risk with Antarctica, especially if volcanic heat warms the land inland.

    2 – There is evidence of temperate climate where the Sahara now covers the land. Civilizations flourished when the land there was suitable for growing crops, where there was plentiful rainfall, and mixed vegetation. It has gone. Desert has covered the land.

    Today Australia is burning all the way from New South Wales up to tropical Queenslan. The forest fires are joining up. The cities are under thick smog and sunlight cannot get through. Particulates from these fires have been detected in South America. They continue to burn. And summer is just beginning. Borneo burns. The Amazon burns. These forests are irreplaceable. All life is lost, the entire ecosystem, and the people who once lived there and tended the trees.

    3 – The Tundra is melting and strange holes have appeared in Siberia. A mound raises, and then pops, leaving a deep hole a hundred feet or so deep, which slowly fills with water. This is risky for nomadic people who have lived on the frozen lands with their herds for millennia.

    4 – Pollution is killing the coral. The Great Barrier Reef is being killed by run off from coal polluted rivers, and industrial chemical pollution. It can recover if the pollution stops. Dead zones in the ocean kill the bottom of the food chain. This affects all the creatures who depend on each other to survive.

    5 – The Gulf Stream is slowing. It brings warmth to East Coast America, and Western Europe and Iceland, from the great rivers of South America. The Amazon and the Orinoco. Climate change may not just be global warming. If the currents change direction.

    The children and young people understand that this change is happening now and that it will affect their futures. We need to stop killing the planet. Burning rainforests to plant palm oil for our diesel fuel has to stop. Coal pollution has to stop. Killing entire ecosystems has to stop. Plastics must be phased out completely. We have the technology. It is time to clean up our mess.

    • As a young person I do indeed blame all the past generations for all this colossal mess that have created, out of sheer ignorance. And I also have my own responsibility for the mess, though my footprint is far lower than the average, because I choose a simple and environmentally minded lifestyle.

      I see my future sabotaged by the previous generations, which only lived for the moment, without caring about what the future of their children would be – my parents are perfect examples of this careless lack of thought about the consequences of the impact of their actions in the future

      I grew up with the promises were of a bright golden age of capitalism. Yet last decade shows us just increasing unemployment, a difficult economy, social unrest and the perils of climate change starting to hit us. And the forecast does not look good.

      Sorry but I do not believe in most of the old ideology of capitalism or religions. It hasn’t serve us. I am not saying that we should trash our current system. No. We should instead severely transform it. We need to recreate our system so that is serve us as a species and the future generations. This important bit has been missing.

      Capitalism is based in growth. Permanent growth can’t happen in our planet of finite resources. So, we need to invent a new system. Its possibly our greatest challenge ever.

      • And sorry for my rank, it is not meant to be personal to anyone specific. I just mean we need to get a grip and change. Otherwise, there is going to be violence. People get violent when their survival gets threatened. Its not a time to be conceptual of ideological actually or argue whether someone is right or wrong, instead its a time to practically come up with solid solutions that work for the sustainability of our future civilization, by not being afraid of challenging the existing order and political system.

        • There is a lot that is positive and constructive coming together now. If only the world can have Bernie and Corbyn leading it out of this imminent calamity then cleaning up our mess can be prioritised as it needs to be. The tools are there if we want to use them. The choice is ours

        • I am probably “one of those parents” generation, now at the age of 60. I certainly get blamed for a lot of the world’s ills by my daughter! 🙂

          Right through to my late 20s, the general assumption was that the world was already heading into the next glaciation. Winters (in the UK) were tough particularly the one of 1963. It was not a “we are doomed” feeling, but I’d look at my home city and wonder what it would be like under a mile of ice once again. I particularly remember reading the science researching the speedy onset of glaciation within 100 years – in one glacial period, though I cannot recall which of the glaciations it was. So there was a background assumption it was already on its way.

          Quite apart from which the ever-present daily threat of being burnt to a crisp in a sudden nuclear war between the USA and the USSR also rather concentrated the mind.

          It was perhaps at the start of my 30s that the whole ‘global warming’ thing reared its head, and even then a lot of us remained oblivious to it.

          You see, no-one had put anything into UK education about it. No-one ever considered it. Not even the very early CO2 research made it into our education system. In geography we were too busy learning about glaciation and the new plate tectonics. So, we grew up unaware. I don’t think many of us were even really aware of the quantity of rubbish we produced. But then, back in the 1960s and 1970s most packaging was cardboard, glass and tin.

          So, by 30, being interested in the weather, I read the increasing climate research like an enthusiast and the shock of it all was staggering. And after this, shock after shock dropped as we began to understand how our lifestyles were ruining the world. It was an eye-opener.

          I’m glad to say our generation have changed a great deal (so far as I can see).

          But yes, Irpsit. You are quite correct. I think we were blind to it all. If I can’t apologise, at least feel reassured we do as much as we can these days to limit our impact.

          And our children blame us for all the world’s ills!

        • In my opinion, solving it will require everyone to work together. Saying that China is the main problem ignores the fact that we per person emits just as much. Blaming the US is also counter productive: they are the most likely place where the technical solutions will be developed.

          The biggest danger is our divisions, and I am concerned where people actively try to foster divisions. That can only end one way. Our current leaders come from the swinging sixties – that turned out to be perhaps the most self-centred generation we have yet produced. Some overshoot in the battle against authority was perhaps to be expected. The young people will need to find a better way.

        • Yes Clive, thanks for your sharing 🙂 When I said I blame the previous generations for the mess we inherit I do not mean the fact that your generation was not aware of climate change, but instead about the fact that humans are generally oblivious that their actions have indeed consequences for the planet.

          I can have pick the nuclear weapons example. Why did we even vote for politicians that support this sort of stuff? And why did we raise children that voted and supported this? This is our human failure.

          Another example, we created an ever expanding civilization, by always building houses, streets and farmhouse, and cutting down forests. We did this for millennia never thinking that this HAS a consequence for the planet.

          Another example, we mine millions of tons of rare elements to build smartphones and electrical cars, but at what environmental cost and carbon footprint cost?

          Or we created a system of farming that includes cancer-causing chemicals, whilst we could instead focus in developing food growing systems that are less harmful for the environmental and our health.

          We never seem to question the impact of our actions. This is the problem. We do not seem to ever question nor challenge the negative and far-reaching impact of our thoughts and actions, even if subtle.

          We like to create technology and employ it, but we do not question its impact. Only after the problem is already created. Perhaps we should…

          It’s has been so reckless and unintelligent.

          This has been going on for several centuries at least.

        • Irpsit you are right. As resources get more and more limited people will fight over them, We see it in the middle east where populations have grown immensely and unemployment is the norm. This will probably spread particularly when the inevitable harvest failure (ie -30%) worldwide happens, as it must. It will not be pretty at all. It may end western society, it may well end western tolerance.

      • Irpsit, believe me you would not wish to live in a pre industrial or even early (low energy use) industrial society unless you were one of the very few wealthy people. No pensions, no healthcare in fact no social services at all. Much of what we like about modern society is due to the profligate use of cheap energy.

        We did our bit to bring you freedom and prosperity, now you have to deal with it as best you can. Blaming ancestors for where we are helps not one jot. Sadly the world is largely ruled by dictators outside the west, and they will do what they please.

    • “The Gulf Stream is slowing. It brings warmth to East Coast America, and Western Europe and Iceland, from the great rivers of South America.”
      Begging your pardon, but doesn’t the warmth of the Gulf Stream come from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean?

      • The Carribbean is on the route – yes – but it is a shallow sea. Ocean currents are driven from the rivers that flow into them – including the great Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico

  5. There’s been an eruption at White Island. Reasonably spectacular but not out of the ordinary:

    However, there may be casualties – there was a group of maybe 10 or so people showing on the webcam on the crater rim on the floor 13 minutes before the eruption, and about 3 minutes before they were visible on their way back – but obviously still very close. The prevailing wind was away from them, but it was violent enough to disable a couple of the webcams.

    • Correction: The prevailing wind was away from them (it wasn’t).
      NZ PM has had a press conference:
      “Police search and rescue are supporting the emergency management crews,” she said.
      “At this stage, we believe 100 people were on or around the island.
      “Some of these people are unaccounted for.
      “This is evolving at this stage … obviously it does appear to be a very significant issue.”

  6. Latest volcanic news: White Island volcano eruption: Plumes of smoke, reports of injuries in Bay of Plenty. An eruption began on White Island at 2.15pm, and the eruption still goes on atm.

    • Note that the reported injuries appear to be to visitors to the island – not on the mainland.

        • Lots of monitoring but these kind of phreatic eruptions give no warning. I am surprised though that people were allowed on the crater floor. This is not the first incidence at White Island, although probably the worst.

          • Here’s a screenshot of the RSAM/SSAM monitoring.
            There was a small quake, then a sharp fall in activity about 24 hours before the eruption. I think I read that steam activity in vents increased.
            I’m surprised that cruise ship passengers were on the island.

          • A similar phreatic explosion happened in October 2013. Only reason it didn’t cause a disaster that time was because it happened during night time when no tourists were on the island.

            The 2014 phreatic explosion that killed 57 people at Ontake, Japan, also happened without any warning, despite being in a well monitored area.

            Phreatic blasts are sneaky killers. They happen when superheated water flashes into steam in a big explosion. There is no magma that has to break a path through the rock and that means there are no earthquakes there to give a warning.

          • It seems some 50 people were on the island and the papers mentioned that 18 were rescued. If both numbers are correct, the number of casualties will go up.

            Volcanoes make fascinating tourism. But there has to be a safety control. Accidents can happen and sometimes explosions are completely unexpected, leaving no one to blame. In this case, the risks were known and clear. But it seems that no one was in charge of enforcing safety, as this volcano is privately owned.

        • The alert level was raised to 2 (1 below active eruption) weeks ago. Seems silly being near an active volcano at that level.

  7. Great work Albert.

    One small thing though. The corals shown in the picture are australian shallow water acropora.

      • Thanks for spotting that! One of the things I like about VC is its active community, always willing to chip in and help out. I have changed the image in the post to the species you suggested. The original image came from a feature in Icelandreview on its coral reefs. There was no indication the image wasn’t from that reef. In the small print it did say ‘from a previous expedition by the team’, but somehow forgot to mention that that expedition had been to Australia! Easy mistake to make – the two are so alike..

        • One positive regarding the deep-water species of coral, is the lack of symbiotic relationship to an algae. Bleaching occurs when species like acropora expel their zooxanthellae because they get over-productive. It is a last resort not to get burned by oxygen. It leaves them very vulnerable.
          Deepwater species are a least safe from bleacing. But i fear the northern deepwater refs could suffer a lot from the effects of increased meltwater.

  8. Thanks Albert for this really interesting post. (and all the other top of the topics posts you have contributed). Need to read this one several times to take in all the info and concepts new to me!

  9. Here is a highly relevant paper to Iceland glaciers.
    Estimated 3deg C colder now than 5000 years ago (Iceland local climate)

    And here is the manufactured human warming for Iceland.

    Greenland is not going anywhere, It has lost 0.4% of it ice since 1900 and sits on concave stratigraphy so it cannot slide off.

    • Maybe you want to read the papers before you post them. The 3 deg refers to the 1960-1990 average which is now approaching 50 years ago. Warming in Iceland since 1990 is at a rate of about 0.5 C per decade. If you are interested in the climate of Iceland, read the IMO, rather than accusing them of scientific fraud. There is a starting point at

      For Greenland, your starting point of 1900 is chosen to hide the reality. Let’s look at current data. Greenland lost 0.1% of its ice between March 2002 and September 2012. Melt has accelerated since, but let’s take this number. That gives a melting time of 10,000 years which agrees with the number in the post. Warm further, and the melting rate increases rapidly.

    • The data for Iceland is available:

      Your claim of manufactured data is ridicule. its public data.
      And there are also non-governmental Icelandic records.

      During the little ice age, there were no records but temperatures were quite low for quite a long duration. The annual average temperature in Reykjavik was indeed warm in the 1930s and 1940s, when the records start, around 4.5-5.5C, kept like that during the 1950s and cooled down progressively during the 1960s until the 1980s, with averages around 3.5-4.5C (1C lower) and then warmed rapidly being 5.5-6.0 the past two decades (1.5C warmer).

      Its clear that Iceland was cooling for several decades last century (which sparked the fears of a coming ice age) and rapidly warmed in the past 20 years.

      Iceland temperature records only show regional trends, not global trends.
      They are affected by the jet stream, Atlantic oceanic currents, dynamics occurring in the north pole and Greenland, differences between the poles and the tropical latitudes…

      • Aerosols likely caused the cooling during the rapid industrialization of 1940-1980 (smog). By then, this was fixed and CO2 has been the dominant factor.

        But cars still release SO2 and airplanes in the atmosphere cool the climate too.
        Remove those (by leaving only coal [power stations and farming as CO2/CH4 sources) and the warming will be even more pronounced.

        Lower solar activity is likely not to change much this pattern of global warming, other than causing colder winters at a regional level, in Europe.

        We have the next 20 years to observe what happens and draw new conclusions.

        • Farming is net CO2 neutral, almost by definition. Ruminants do produce some methane but so do soils (although in aerobic soils much is oxidised there) and of course so would wild ruminants were there no people.

          Farming could be completely energy neutral (certainly for cereals and combinable crops) as it takes the energy of about 220 ac of oil (alone) produced by an oilseed rape crop to produce all the energy for a 1000ac arable farm producing (typically) about 3000T of cereals and 180T of high protein rapemeal and the straw produced at the same time (approx 800-1500T). This includes energy for producing fertilisers, making and powering the tractors etc etc. Having poultry or pig enterprises would be less efficient but providing the feed set inside these limits would be carbon neutral.

          For information the dry matter produced as roots left in the soil for these crops is typically estimated to be the same below ground as above (certainly including leaves and rape straw or about 4000T say 3500T dry mayyer which, given manures are typically 15% dry matter, a return of organic matter to the soil per year equivalent to about 20,000T manure or 20T/ac, on every acre which is far far higher than organic systems use, even if they could obtain it, which they cannot.

          I’m not very clear here. I don’t really mean carbon neutral above, its always carbon positive, what I mean is that it would require no exogenous energy source at all to produce the above (the oil being used to provide all the power and fertiliser).

          PS To Albert. The Haber process is highly exothermic and the heat is at circa 330C so the ‘waste’ heat generally powers a power station. It was said that the ICI plant powered the entire (Billingham?) chemical site electricity from the ‘surplus’ energy.

  10. great post Albert – and great comments from a bunch of others too – I learnt a chunk about milankovitch cycles, the amoc, the younger dryas flood.

    Minor rant coming (apologies): Phasing out plastics (including clothing fibres) seems like it has become necessary (I was going to say ‘will be’ – but that seems a bit slow) – and moving from fossil fuels to more renewable (electric) sources is obviously on the cards – but we need more pumped storage (like dinorwig) – or we will start getting a big problem lithium mining pollutants. I’m sure there are other solutions – but even the use cars as batteries solution still needs lots of cars – and that’s probably not sustainable long term. We need to stop throwing stuff away – and only manufacture recyclable/reusable/renewable. I guess asteroid mining for resources kicks the problem down the road for a few thousand years – but even then we need to think about the future generations not just our current convenience.

    minor rant over for now

    White island (terrible sad loss of volcanoholics and other innocent bystanders) – phreatic eruptions are so unpredictable – is there going to be an article on the impact of the eruption on the system there? If the phreatic eruption removes enough rock to cause decompression melting how long would that take to think about causing an eruption of its own – are we looking at 6 months – or 10 years or longer again ?

    • I’m not sure its still true but reuse (as in glass milk bottles) does not count as recycling so countries/business tend to move to products that can be recycled rather than re-used to gain green points.

  11. Sadly, these CO2 & Methane levels remind me of the fuss over the Antarctic Ozone hole.A couple of braw over-wintering Brits from the BAS and their neo-Victorian instruments were recording absurdly low ozone levels and rising UV. They were laughed at. Didn’t help that NASA satellites were NOT seeing such.

    Nah, nah, nothing to see here, move along…

    Then a US electronics enthusiast (Forrest Mims?) devised an inexpensive UV sensor that contradicted NASA’s UV findings and, by proxy, the ozone results. Turned out that the satellites’ ground-software was auto-rejecting those low ozone levels as wonky data.
    IIRC, when NASA dredged their archives for the raw data, that proved an excellent match for the BAS results…
    Double Oops.
    Downside, CFCs had to go. For ‘blowing’ foam, no big deal, unless insulation on Space Shuttles’ SRBs. For fridges, wary re-engineering. For medicinal inhalers, Pharma claimed longest possible ‘essential’ deferment while, very reluctantly, switching to CHFCs & co. These were expected to be a short-term, ‘buy-time’ fix. Instead, Pharma planning cycle locked such in as ‘permanent’. It came back to bite them…

    And, yes, we’d seen since 1987 that our employers’ long-term plans were simply re-arranging deck-chairs on the Titanic. But, they’d a lot of ‘sunk costs’, were not prepared to switch to a completely different, ‘sustainable’ tech such as ‘Bag in Can’. Would have meant buying-in or licensing such premium stuff..
    { Shrugs… }

    Our site did try the laser-pierced tablet route. Their US rivals claimed these elegant, osmotic, salt-filled pills dispensed TOO MUCH UNHEALTHY SALT, were DANGEROUS. Re-formulating & re-licensing with a benign ‘rehydration’ mix of Sodium & Potassium Chloride would have been much too expensive. Seems no-one had thought of building that option into the original application…
    Disclosure: My employers were caught by both inhaler & laser-pills, our site’s subsequent down-sizing letting me retire early.

    Excuse near-rant: Dire ‘Man Cold’ kept me awake much of last night, and our Boss Cat is helping me type between randomly re-arranging my pending tray…

  12. New Zealand surprise eruption: well, people need to be aware of how active and likely is a volcano to erupt before hiking on its crater. A volcano with steam activity should be considered dangerous as should any frequent erupters.

    If the level of activity increases, then the level of danger is even higher. Like it happened at White Island since last week.

    But I understand the thrill and being oblivious in the moment. I had this happening to me when I entered Mt Bromo caldera despite being banned in early 2016, days after the eruption terminated. I engaged with a serious risk because the volcano could have well re-erupted again in a more violent way and without any warning.

    Volcanoes can be dormant and pretty much inactive. Without geothermal activty, long since last eruption and without earthquakes. Those are rather safe to hike. One example: Snaefellsjokull in Iceland or Kilimanjaro.

    Others may erupt in soon but we would expect plenty earthquakes beforehand, so whilst risky the risk is minor. Examples: Vesuvius or Tambora or Eyjafjallajokull. These are probably somehow safe to visit, unless a sudden period of earthquakes start.

    All other volcanoes listed below are probably dangerous to visit.

    In some volcanoes, I imagine that a sudden small eruption could happen without warning, due to their recent and unpredictable activity. One example that comes to my mind is Mt Rinjani. And perhaps even Lake Taupo. My story with Rinjani: I was thinking hiking it a few years ago, this would have been just weeks before its sudden minor eruption. I didn’t hiked it. I had correct judgement that Rinjani is a dangerous volcano to visit, even if tourist is open.

    Some volcanoes are clearly dangerous. There are no doubts about them. These are very active and therefore downright dangerous to visit even if they enter a short dormant phase. I wouldn’t hike those: Example: Etna, Krakatoa, Mt Bromo (as mentioned), Dukono, Agung. Don’t hike them unless you are willing to face a significant risk to your life. Instead assume you are visiting an erupting volcano, even if it’s not.

    Also dangerous also volcanoes that although dormant are exhibiting signs of recent unrest. They should also be avoided at all cost. Examples: Hekla, Oraehajokull, Katla, and maybe its the case with White Island. And I would add Askja to the group too. They are especially dangerous if they show geothermal activity, signs that magma is near the surface. Those are what I call the 50% change of erupting kind of volcanoes.

    But even dormant volcanoes with geothermal activity and without unrest can be dangerous. Those ones may seem safe at first, because they are long dormant, but their vigorous geothermal activity, makes me suspicious, even with the lack of earthquakes. These are pretty hard to discern whether they are safe or dangerous to visit. This includes Ijen in Indonesia, Campe Flegrei in Italy, Torfajokull. Nonetheless I would assume a volcano like these, like Krafla or Yellowstone would be unlikely to erupt in soon. But for example Hofsjokull exhibit a minor geothermal flood some years ago, and another, Kverfjoll (also in Iceland), had a phreatic explosion some years ago, without any warning. Mount Ontake in Japan is another example. This shows that any geothermal activity adds an element of danger, even in absence of earthquakes.

    • White Island has a problem all its own; the fact that, unlike almost every other live volcano on Earth (I only know of one other possibly in this situation) it is privately owned, and tourist trips to what would otherwise be an awkward-to-reach island are arranged with the proprietor.


    New Zealand volcano: ‘No sign of life’ after White Island eruption

    Reconnaissance flights over New Zealand’s White Island volcano have not identified any survivors there after Monday’s eruption, police say.

    About 50 people are thought to have been touring the uninhabited island. At least five died and 23 were rescued, some critically ill with burn injuries.

    Police believe anyone who could have been found alive was evacuated.

    Rescuers have been unable to search the island because of the risk of new eruptions, and it is now dark.

    Tourists were seen walking inside the crater of White Island volcano moments before it erupted.

    “Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island,” the latest police update says.

    • Jan Lindsay, a professor at the University of Auckland, said White Island was “persistently active in the sense that it has a very active hydrothermal system”.

      Rather than having lots of eruptions involving magma, she said this meant it saw periodic ash explosions and had lakes “churning over with gases”.

      “The spectacular thing about White Island is that there is so much gas coming out of the volcano and lots of minerals crystallising,” said Ben Kennedy, a professor of physical volcanology at the University of Canterbury.

      “What that also means is that there are minerals crystallising deeper down and creating blockages – that allows pressure to build, and the volcano needs to periodically clear its throat.”

      He said there had been six small eruptions in the past eight years, but that on previous occasions there had been no tourists on the island “mostly due to the time or weather conditions”.

      • I’m surprised they allowed tourists to be in the crater.
        That island was very active perhaps 20 years ago. You could see it from the airplane coming into Auckland.

        • As I understand it, White Island is private property and it isn’t so easy for the authorities to shut it down. No doubt there will be questions asked about the responsibility (or lack of it) of the owners.

          • They can’t shut it down. But they can arrest the owners for mass murder.
            This might well happen.

            I think there will be a long court case happening…

  14. Thank you Albert. I admire the way you write down so many issues in a very readable piece.

    My view has been put in by some members here already, I am with Irpsit on many things he writes. I am not an optimist, future generations will have to adapt to rapid changes. The human kind is very smart, so there is hope, hey! One huge disadvantage: we aren’t very good at long term planning, to add to the things said above….

    Until some hundreds years ago mankind was doing quite well concerning biodiversity. Extensive farming led to high biodiversity in a varied landscape.
    When a change in nature is made, nature adapts. Species vanish, others take their place. Even ‘major incidents’ causing massive extinction, lead to explosions of new species. So no worries there … 🙂

    How will nature adapt, react to higher temperatures, more moisture?
    If people had not that much influence by all what they tend tot do, bogs and marshes had a great future I think.

    • As a Biologist I can say that global warming is not as much as a trouble and a threat to life as is all damaging things we are doing to the planet at the same time.

      First, we are doing a LOT of habitat fragmentation. This never happened before. Species were always allowed to spread freely and without so many borders, other than mountain ranges, large rivers and oceans. Now, we have widespread buildings, large cities, roads everywhere, farmland everywhere. This changes the albedo of the planet.

      Second, we have removed a HUGE amount of topsoil, causing further habitat degradation.

      Third, we have caused mass deforestation. Again, by its own this would have happened naturally in certain radical changes, like an ice age event or an impact event.

      Fourth, we have released on a widespread manner, toxic chemicals, such as herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, radioactive elements (which would never be concentrated naturally as it is now), leftovers from mining, etc. This is a serious danger to life. Insects disappearing are a very concerning development. On radioactive release: nukes are a new thing for the planet. When has that happened before on Earth’s history? As far as I am aware, never!

      Fifth, we also have changed the composition of the atmosphere. In ways that have never happened before. Obviously high levels of CH4 and CO2 are nothing new in Earth history, but there are other polluted chemicals in the atmosphere which are a first time in Earth’s history. Also the sudden release of CO2 and CH4 as it happens now, has only happened in natural disasters such as methane clathrate events or worldwide fires triggered by impact events.

      Sixth, we are also changing the genome of many species, in ways we do not fully understand yet.

      And seventh, we are releasing vast amounts of other frequencies, radio, microwave, and other high energy forms of electromagnetic radiation. Again, a first time perhaps, except for the occasional galactic burst. This is probably not our greatest concern.

      All these things added together, can well endanger life on Earth, because it is not ONE thing but MANY happening at the same time, and that is what causes mass extinctions.

      We are causing a mass extinction, similar to the ones observed before in Earth’s history. Of course, life will recover eventually, but it will take millions of years, and we might well go under in such event.

      What we are doing is obviously a very stupid to do.

    • Good grief. Keep safe!

      The VC origin story is about an Icelandic sheep which appeared on a volcano webcam while being airborne, carried away by an intense storm.

      • Is it true that Bear Grylls, filming a survival episode in Iceland, found said sheep in a cleft some days after it met its windblown end, and ate some of it raw? Falling violently ill? Or is this an urban myth? !!

        • Apparently true. You or I, we want a woolly jumper we go down the shops; Bear Grylls had to do it the hard way.

        • I was flicking tgrough the channels one evening a few years ago when I came upon what looked like a naked Bear Grylls doing something unspeakable to a dead sheep in Ireland.

          Youtube reminds me, it was just as I recalled

      • How long was there between the sheep flying away and Bear Grylls’s filming that episode? I think it was a lot longer than just a few days… was it months to years?

    • Latest Euro peak gust forecast.

      Yes it says 235 km/hr (146 mph)…

      • During the 5 years I lived in Iceland, I experience several storms with 150kmh winds, and a couple with winds above 200kmh. You wouldn’t believe until you experience it.

        I saw once a tree flying horizontally like a missile right in front of me.
        And I once had to creep for 20minutes on my backyard to get indoors.
        Iceland can certainly experience sometimes hurricane cat 3 winds in mountain tops or out in the sea.

        • I’ve witnessed no flying trees… but I did see a pair of tennis shoes in one, as it floated by (roots and all) in the Adriatic.

        • Having experienced winds like this on Skye in the storm of 2004/5 for 14 hours a year after we moved here I understand. Have you seen screws undoing themselves on hollywood horror films ? Well I experienced this on the bolts holding the sliding bolts on my big lounge doors. I had to replace these one at a time by torchlight (10 day powercut ) while the pressure difference caused water to be forced through the seals around the double glazing to spurt into the room. A nearby residential caravan simply vapourised.


      • I do not want to predict on this one, but one thing is certain; volcanic unrest and activity is increasing. In 3-5 yrs. we’ll know if it coincides with deep solar minimums in general as several studies have demonstrated within +90%. I am fairly sure it will be observed. There is no way high energy particles (cosmic radiation) going straight through our planet has no effect what so ever when it increases. It would defy the laws of physics if it didn’t. Of the 1 000 000+ different particles we have only mapped a few 1 000…. But we DO know particles are entering the planet and exiting on the other side.

        Sustained elevated volcanic activity coincided with low solar activity/high cosmic radiation in the past, so what shold have changed? Several studies even link elevated cosmic radiation with a statistical significant increase in heart related illness.

        Sustained increased volcanic activity +VEI5 is not be something to wish for. We’re not even slightly prepared. Solar panels, windmills, EVs, satellites and globalism (among other things) have made us more vunerable in such a scenario.

        If total daily FL from emissions + days of FL >350 over time were to be mapped and put into a graph we would be able to se the development better.

        • Cosmic rays and other high energy particles do not go through the earth. Cosmic rays are mostly absorbed in the atmosphere, and the muons this generates are absorbed within the top meters of the ground. You are thinking of neutrinos, which can fly un perturbed through a lightyear of lead, but they have low energy. Volcanoes do not respond to solar cycles.

          • You clearly need to update your knowledge on this subject Albert.


            Among others, Japanese studies, The ANITA-project and The Ice Cube project has shown this to be a FACT. At solar minimum cosmic radiation is (now) at +10% as appose to -32,7% at the lowest ever recorded (Oulo). A large difference. Both in high-energy particles at grond level and particles travelling through our planet.

            You’re knowledge on this area is clearly outdated;


            “Given the showers’ directions, the particles that made them must have traveled through more than 5700 kilometers of Earth, the researchers estimate. However, the showers’ large sizes show that the particles must have had energies in excess of 0.5 exa-electron volts—70,000 times higher than the energy achieved with the most powerful particle accelerator. Such extreme energy increases the probability that neutrinos will interact with other matter, so there’s no chance that such a high-energy neutrino could make it through that much rock, the researchers argue in the new paper posted to the arXiv preprint server and submitted to Physical Review D.

            The events are more easily explained by new physics, the researchers say. An ultrahigh-energy cosmic ray on the far side of Earth could have spawned a new type of particle, about 500 times as massive as the proton, that pierced the planet before decaying to produce the upward air shower, they say. A theoretical framework called supersymmetry offers candidates that would do the trick, Fox says. He adds that the interpretation also gets some support from IceCube, a gigantic array of particle detectors sunk into the Antarctic ice, which sees weaker evidence of unusual upward-going events.”

            Let me know if you need more research on this subject. As a sidenote researchers themselves say there is so much knowledge missing conserning our heatsource they even cannot get short-term forecasts in solar activity right. The previous “forecast” said solar activity from SC24 would bottom out ~des.2018. They met again in May 2019 and “decided” it would be between july 2019 (!) and september 2020. Well. It is still deepening and no end is in sight. They have way to little knowledge to give accurate estimates.


            And yet; “Cosmic rays and other high energy particles do not go through the earth.” According to Albert. Not new science.

          • I think I know more about cosmic rays than you do – it is my job! The icecube is a neutrino detector. The particles you refer to create showers in the upper atmosphere. Sure, you can get oddballs signals. But that is not the same as evidence for the kind of particle you want. Too many ways it can be formed including many that have nothing to do with strange particles. The other papers you refer to: the ones on cardiac issues specifically says it is in deep space only (on the moon but not in low earth orbit), showing the protective effect of our atmosphere and magnetic field. The paper on mortality versus cosmic rays is one of the weirdest I have seen and shows nothing (not even the plots they fit) to show that it is correct.

          • I am not sure if more volcanic eruptions correlate or are triggered by lower solar activity. I am not convinced by the data.

            I am more convinced between the correlation between deep solar minima and a cooling of the climate (such as the Little Ice Age).
            In the same way, I am also more convinced in the correlation of cold European winters following deep solar minima, such as 2008-2009. Albeit this effect is minor and regional, not global.

            But let’s explore the correlation between solar activity and large volcanic eruptions:
            During the past 2000 years, we saw the largest volcanic eruptions (that may have VEI7) in years 200 AC, 536, 946, 1258, 1452 and 1465, 1815.

            The Hapete eruption (200AC) ocurred during what might have been a period of high solar activity. This was the largest VEI7 eruption in the past 2000 years.

            The 536 eruption occurred during a period with seemingly normal solar activity. But not sure about this.

            The 946 eruption occurred in what may have been a period of high solar activity.

            No large eruptions occurred during the Oort Minimum.

            The 1258 occurred towards the end of the Medieval solar maximum

            The 1452 eruption occurred during a period of normal solar activity.
            The 1465 eruption occurred during the start of the Sporer minimum.

            No large eruptions occurred during the Maunder Minimum.

            The 1815 eruption occurred during the Dalton Minimum, the others appear to have occurred mostly during periods

            No large eruptions occurred during the Modern Maximum.

            High solar activity maxima without VEI7 eruptions: 1
            VEI7 eruptions during high solar activity: 3
            VEI7 eruptions during average solar activity: 2
            VEI7 eruptions during low solar activity: 2
            Low solar activity mimima without VEI7 eruptions: 2

            The data above shows no correlation between solar activity and large volcanic eruptions.

        • Would a VEI 5 be anything more than a regional problem? No. Even a substantial release of sulfates from a VEI 5 wouldn’t cause more than medium term, minor issues. A VEI 5 is simply not big enough to do anything beyond that unless we are talking about a few, very unusual volcanoes: Vesuvius for example. It wouldn’t be the volcanic eruption per se that would do the beyond-regional damage in those cases, it would be the economic fallout from the destruction of a major city which would do the damage in those cases.

          Would a VEI 6 be anything more than a regional problem? Possibly right at the upper end of VEI 6 it might be. However look at the largest eruption of the 20th century: Novarupta. That was a VEI 6 and what did it do? Killed one person, caused some problems with ash fall on isolated settlements and filled a valley with ignimbrite. Again this shows that even with a VEI 6 the impact is very much dependent on the location of said VEI 6: most VEI 6 eruptions are not inherently able to cause global impact of a serious nature.

          Now when we get to VEI 7 that is where things change. A VEI 7 in almost any part of the world would indeed have global consequences. The sheer amount of sulfates released would likely screw the climate up enough to be very much noticeable. See the Year Without a Summer.

          As for particle and solar physics, please don’t regurgitate pseudo-science that you don’t understand. There is no linkage between cosmic ray flux and cancer because at the levels where the cosmic ray flux varies such exposure is not enough to do anything statistically significant. There is no linkage between solar cycles and volcanic activity. The solar wind does nothing to the planet except make some pretty lights up in the sky, disrupt radio communications a bit and on very rare occasions send everything electrical in the world haywire. That still doesn’t mean it affects volcanoes.

          Your confusion of neutrinos with cosmic rays is evidence enough that you don’t understand what you are talking about. Go and actually learn about the physics involved properly and until you have done so please don’t try and make any claims about those processes.

          • Please let me know where I wrote A VEI5 or A VEI6. You missed my point; Sustained increased >+VEI5 outbreaks. Over a prolonged timeperiod (to emphasize).

            And where did I write cancer?

            cosmic radiation and heart related illness:




            Regarding the rest of your tirade look at the reply to Albert. I substanziate the information with links to science. What did you just do….?

          • Cosmic rays increase death in astronauts. That’s interesting but quite expected. Thankfully it does not seem to affect us on the ground.

            Cosmic rays seem to increase certain types of cloud formation, but this is still a topic with scarce evidence.

            However lower solar activity does allow for an increase in cosmic rays, and because of the change in solar output, it could be linked to period of cooling climate.

            Nonetheless, it may be that our global climate is far more sensitive to high levels of CO2 than changes in solar activity, and therefore high levels of CO2 would result in a hothouse planet, which would be rather immune to periods of low solar activity.

            We will certainly have far more solid knowledge about this in the upcoming decades.

            We have a deep minima in solar activity that has developed since a few decades, and nonetheless the global temperature continues to rise rapidly.

          • Erm, yeah.

            So the first thing you link to specifically talks about astronauts of the Apollo program. How many of them were there? 24. 24 people. Tell me exactly how a sample that small can produce statistically valid results? I should also point out that we have this nice thing called a magnetosphere on the planet. What does that do for us? Well howdy-doody it protects us from charged particle cosmic rays amongst other things. We also have this nice thing called an atmosphere which absorbs a lot of the other stuff the magnetosphere doesn’t deal with.

            What is the cosmic ray radiation dose of an average person in the United States in a given year? 20 to 25 mRem. What is that comparable to? The radiation dose from the potassium in our bodies. What kind of radiation dose is necessary for actual, measurable health effects to occur? 1 Rem pa. How much more is that than the actual cosmic ray radiation dose? Between 40 and 50 times as much as the radiation dose from cosmic rays.

            Now are astronauts and indeed air crew exposed to higher levels of cosmic ray radiation than that? Certainly they are. Astronauts and air crew are NOT the general population. In particular astronauts are so far removed from the general population that any attempt to take studies of their health and to extrapolate them to the general population is ludicrous. Such studies can certainly be used to look at mitigation of risks on long-term space flight as that Pub Med paper you link to does. That Pub Med paper you link to is worthless when talking about health effects of cosmic rays on the general population.

            Turning to the Environmental Research Letters paper and their figures 1 and 2 I certainly see a strong correlation in figure 1 which is hardly surprising since it looks at two related things, namely the number of sunspots and the cosmic ray induced ionisation (CRII as they call it in the paper). The strength of the sun’s magnetic field influences the solar wind and thus the shape of the earth’s magnetosphere and its protective properties. However when I look at figure 2 what do I see? Little more than random scattering of data. From 1954 to 1973 the CRII apparently increased linearly, then it bounced up and down during the period 1973 to 1997 before climbing up until 2007 and then decreasing slightly. If that figure is to be believed they are basing that on 13 data points for the CRII: 13 data points for a period of almost 60 years!!!!! They say in that paper that they set their p value at 0.05. In other words they were working to a 95% significance level. That’s two sigma level of significance, so fairly standard for that sort of paper from what I can tell.

            Now note that they did not rely on data for the CRII flux: they calculated it using a model which factored in the number of sunspots. In the paper they refer to the CRII flux of ion pairs per cm3 per s, with a CRII flux of 1500 ion pairs etc being equivalent to about 0.2 mSv. 1 mSv equals 100 mRem. So 0.2 mSv equals about 20 mRem. That looks remarkably close to the cosmic ray dose for the average person in the United States per annum and also remarkably close to the dose from the potassium in our own bodies. What’s that equivalent to in bananas? Well eating one banana gives a radiation dose of about 0.1 microSv. 0.2 mSv equals 200 microSv. So the CRII dose they are talking about is on the order of eating 2,000 bananas in a year.

            Now I will admit that eating 2,000 bananas in a year would be somewhat excessive. However bananas are not exactly the biggest dose of radiation in the world either. In other words I do not believe that their data tells a particularly compelling story since it is looking for an effect that is so small as to be impossible to separate from the noise.

            Now the third study has an interesting title, “Cosmic rays activity and monthly number of deaths: a correlative study”. At least in this case according to the abstract they appear to rely on actual cosmic ray flux data rather than calculated data. They have the wonderful finding that cosmic ray flux intensity correlates with road traffic accidents! So we’ll all have to have our cosmic ray shields for our cars in the future. Since the paper itself is behind a paywall I can’t really analyse it more fully.

            Now turning to citations for what I have asserted about the threshold model for radiation-based health effects and where I got that does data from:



            Yes they’re Youtube videos, but they are lectures by a professor of nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering so he is a subject-matter expert when it comes to radiation.

            Now when it comes to particles what is it that defines how likely they are to interact with something? Their collisional cross section. What defines the collisional cross section? Particle size plus the particle’s behaviour with respect to the four fundamental forces.Gravity and electromagnetism can be dealt with first. Now of those two electromagnetism is vastly more important than gravity. Why? It is enormously stronger. Think how much of a magnet it takes to counteract the whole gravitational force of the earth. A small bar magnet can counteract the whole gravitational force of the earth and stick an object to it.

            Why are alpha and beta radiation so much less penetrating than neutrons or gamma rays? Both are charged particles. Both thus have vastly greater collisional cross-sections than neutrons and gamma rays. A neutral particle can thus only interact via gravity, the weak force and the strong force. What is it that makes neutrinos so penetrating? They can only interact via the weak force and gravity and they are very low mass.

            Regarding this “new physics” and cosmic rays, these guys are basing that on TWO events. They are assuming that that the polarisation of these particles is from coming through the earth. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Two events and a big assumption does NOT make extraordinary evidence. You know what happens to particles with extremely high rest masses? They decay very, very quickly and thus don’t get very far. Even allowing for relativistic effects there’s no way this claimed 0.5 exa eV particle would penetrate all the way through the earth before decaying. What is the experimental evidence for supersymmetry so far? Pretty much zero.

            As for the claim that volcanoes respond to solar cycles, that is utter tripe. Volcanic unrest is NOT increasing. In fact if anything we are in a very quiet period for volcanic unrest, at least so far as large events are concerned. Elementary particles can certainly be used to map the insides of volcanoes. Muon tomography has been used on Italian volcanoes for example to map the upper parts of their magma plumbing systems. However that is not the same as saying that elementary particles cause volcanoes to erupt which is what the solar cycle hypothesis would require.

            “I do not want to predict on this one, but one thing is certain” is a completely oxymoronic sentence and essentially sums up your post.

          • It really depends on where the VEI 6 volcano is located, and other factors (such as gas emission).

            Lots of sulfur way up high = global climate impact
            Volcano adjacent to major port = death and disruption of commerce
            Volcano adjacent to capital city of small country = same impact as heavy bombing.

            You get the idea.

        • Just a light-hearted thought:

          Don’t forget, when “There is no way high energy particles (cosmic radiation) going straight through our planet has no effect what so ever when it increases”, those particles would also be going through you!

          Personally I have been blissfully unaware of variations in quantities of cosmic rays ripping my body to shreds. So I doubt they’ll have any effect on the planet. 🙂

          On another note, I have been interested in the cosmic ray disintegration / muon splits being the trigger for lightning in thunderstorms. It is an interesting idea but does not properly address the intensity / lack of intensity of various storm systems.

          Interested stuff, cosmic rays. Even more weird are neutrinos.

  15. The most recent news from the White Island eruption:
    The 5 confirmed dead were evacuated from the island alive, but died of injuries.
    8 are unaccounted for on the island – so can be presumed to be dead.
    31 are still in hospital, some with serious burns, some on ventilators due to lung damage.
    3 have been discharged.
    That should be the total of 47 known to be on the island at the time of the eruption. Only 3 are well enough to have been discharged.
    Of those in hospital with serious injuries, it’ll be touch and go for some, serious burns are particularly awful with death from sepsis or respiratory failure days after the injury. From what I can make out, 12 are in critical condition, 8 have been transferred to a hospital further afield, I’m guessing they’re in better shape to be able to be transported that distance. So unfortunately, the death toll may rise in coming days.

    • TV press-call said the NZ burns unit is maxed out, more admissions in one day than rest of year. As soon as stable enough, Oz folk will be air-lifted home…

    • Sadly, another person is now confirmed dead in the hospital, taking the confirmed death count up to six. I also read that some of the victims have up to 90% burns and some also have internal burns to the respiratory system.

  16. There are a couple of investigations underway into the deaths on White Island, one a police inquiry and another by Worksafe. It is hard to see how the owner of White Island and tour operators can avoid being charged with negligence or reckless endangerment resulting in death for allowing tourist visits to continue in a period of heightened risk, irrespective of any legal waivers the dead and injured may have signed.

    • I would assume that the contracts with the tour companies stipulate that those companies are responsible for the safety of their tours.

    • Overall it has been a tragedy.

      I agree, whatever we say about X volcano being relatively safe and Y volcano being relatively dangerous ((in this case White Island, because of being so frequently active), I don’t think it should be up for the thousand of (mindless) tourists to have the responsibility and the need to research whether their tour is safe or not. This is clearly the realm of authorities, island owner and tour operator responsibilities. Which failed here. Therefore, this is why there will be a criminal prosecution of them.

      This has been a very active volcano that has erupted a few times in the last decade without any warning. So the lesson should have been learnt. This is a dangerous volcano and no tours should have ever been permitted there. Doing such for the sake of business is very unethical.

      On the other side, maybe tourists should also be aware that visiting a volcano always involves an element of risk to life (especially the very active ones), and also of reckless tour operators.

      Visiting White Island is like a Russian Roulette.

      • How many tours take tourists into the crater itself of an active volcano? Many of these tourists probably have no concept of the potential risk. They clothes worn often are shorts and a t shirt, but at the same time wearing a respirator. White island in 2012 developed a feature called at the time the spiny dome, a dome or plug of very viscous looking material, my guess these events are being caused by this dome. I recall the volcano is a hybrid of andesite and dacite magma composition, the historic activity has been andesite. What if that dome was/is dacite this alters the risk of this volcano considerably.

          • Yellowstone is thermally active, not active in a volcanic sense, similar comparison would be the geothermal attractions in Rotorua or Taupo, completely different. This is going in close proximity to a crater lake experiencing geyser like activity.Much higher risk.

    • The likely defence to a criminal charge would be the inherent risk of death or injury in many sports and tourism activities, like mountain climbing or motor sports for example. Should alpine guides be held responsible every time a climber is killed at Mt Cook? Should Bernie Ecclestone be charged every time a driver dies in a Grand Prix? Not sure the argument would hold water in this case because tourists have no specialized knowledge or skills to cope with the perceived risk.

  17. Live webcam from north Iceland. What a violent blizzard.

    Try not to spend much time on the link, so not to crash their website.

      • The growth of sea ice is at a typical rate for the time of year and is in no way exceptional (this is a subject that I follow with interest).

        • Sorry. Could have specified better; from the end of november up to date.

          I follow:


          daily. Forecast-data from Ventusky seems to point towards the “gap” closing fast on the Bering-side as the strait is frozen as seen from yesterdays and todays satellitepictures. Going forward the atlantic side has mostly cold forecasts.

          NOT to be mistaken with the broader over time picture. 😉

          • “NOT to be mistaken with the broader over time picture” I totally agree.

        • AtleD, Arctic ice continues second lowest on record.

          Not sure what you mean by “Artic seaice has increased real fast lately btw.”
          Sea ice always increases after September…

    • ATleD, this is considerably stronger than the common Arctic winterstorm. Otherwise the weather office would have not issued a red alert for half of the country (a very unusual situation).

      I lived in Iceland for 5 years, and wind gusts topping 35m/s were of course routine (as well as sustained winds topping 30m/s in a few exposed stations). That’s hurricane category 1. I saw this almost every week or every other week between November and March.

      However with this storm we have seen wind gusts topping 50m/s in a few stations in Iceland (and 35m/s not just in the usual most exposed locations but pretty much all across every station). And sustained winds above 40m/s in also many stations.

      And the top predicted sustained winds have not arrived yet. They will happen sometime this night in south Iceland, and are modeled to exceed 50m/s (180 km/h). That’s hurricane category 3 winds.

      Pressure is 947mb and falling. That’s not rare but still rather unusual.

      This kind of strong winterstorm is not very common and it occurs maybe once every two or three years, usually resulting in damages, whilst most storms do not.

      • You leaved Iceland because of the miserable chilly rainy cold oceanic subpolar climate?
        Iceland may have the worlds most unpleasant climate

        • I live now in Scotland. Not the best climate either.

          I think Iceland has a lively climate. It is great for nature and weather lovers like me. But it is depressing to see storms and snow between September and May, with freezing temperatures, and then a short summer which is sometimes good, but often chilly and rainy and overcast.

          • Always the possibility (for the moment at least) of a cheap off-season to a tropical island somewhere? From either Iceland or scotland (or even england come to that).

      • A similar climate is South Georgia in great Southern Ocean… absolutely awful
        Horribley chilly and humid and stormy…

        Subpolar oceanic climates are less prone to temperature extremes than subarctic climates with continental climates, featuring milder winters than these climates. Subpolar oceanic climates feature max three months of average monthly temperatures that are avarge + 9 °C
        with oceanic climates, none of its average monthly temperatures fall below -4.0 °C

        Souch cold oceanic climates are notoriusly unpleasant.. Iceland and Faroe Islands and Norway northen coast and Aleutian Islands.
        Never ending storms and lack of summer warmth
        No diffrence between summer and winter

      • According to Ventusky sustained winds over land saw highs of 32-33 m/s in northern Iceland today ( late afternoon). Gusts over land were 46-47 m/s. What stationdata do you use?

        This was seen 11. of december 2018 and on February 5. of 2019. Nov. 12 (gusts of 45 m/s). 2012 Reykjavik saw gusts go up to 70 m/s. That sounds terrifying.

        The model from Ventusky says 30-32 m/s sustained wind for a short time tomorrow morning in Southern Iceland.

        In Norway we see the same at some of the costal lighthouses with weatherstations from time to time. We’ve seen newsreports of trees falling and a few roofs ripped off here locally in Norway today. Not an everyday occourance, but nothing unusual either. On average 1-3 times a year probably. This fall gave us zero notable storms up untill today. That is unusual.

        It’s weather. Though severe at times here at the western coast of Norway.;-9.4;4&l=wind-10m Wind for the past hours can be seen for the actual day by going back hourly.

      • At Skálafell station, sustained wind speeds of 55m/s has been measured and gusts up to 71m/s. Scary stuff.

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