Friday, May 16, 2014

Climate Change & Renewables - 2.Seas Rise

One visible effect of climate change is rising sea levels.  This is partly due to the melting of glaciers and partly due to the expansion of water as it warms above 4 degrees Celsius.  

1.  Miami has been hit with more frequent flooding.  The NY Times article here:

has pictures showing the effect of rising sea levels.  More and more frequently, local side streets become streams or ponds as water comes up through the storm drains.  Miami is built on limestone which is relatively porous so the sea just seeps up through the ground coming out of gutters even on a sunny, clear day.  A seawall would make no difference at all.  The mayor of Miami says climate change is a reality he faces in running the city and they need to spend a lot more money making the public drainage system more robust.  I don't know how you would do that.  Sounds like asking for bigger sponges to save the Titanic.  I was chatting with a friend who said Florida gets frequent sink holes when the limestone just collapses.  By 2050, local scientists expect even major highways to start collapsing.  From the article, "County governments estimate that the damages could rise to billions or even trillions of dollars."

Former gov. Jeb Bush refused any comment as did Marco Rubio and the current governor.  Bush and Rubio earlier promoted legislation that would have addressed carbon emissions but both are Republicans and while Bush and Rubio are relatively progressive within the context of the GOP, any hint of admitting to man-made climate change would kill their chances of a presidential nomination according to a FL state professor of Political Science, quoted in the article.

2.  Rising waters around the world are covering low lying islands that have been home to indigenous peoples for centuries.  The NY Times article here:

The article has a lot of very good photographs showing the effects on various places of rising sea levels.  Kiribati is a chain of 33 islands in the Pacific home to about 100,000 people.  It looks to be on track to be all under water by the end of the century as the waters rise at an accelerating rate.  The modest rise of 8-10 inches since 1880 is expected to accelerate to about 3 feet by 2100.  Fiji is also losing land but is not in as dire a position and has offered to accept Kiribati refugees.

Further down the article, we see a chain of 350 islands off of Panama, home to the Kuna native people for thousands of years.  The rising seas are expected to cover all of them in another 20-30 years.

3.  In the same NYT article, there are some winners in all this.  Greenland is seeing the amount of arable land grow, and hopes to gain access to minerals and diamonds that have been covered by glaciers for thousands of years.  They hope for independence from Denmark.  The heavy glacial ice was pushing Greenland down.  As it melts, the land is rising from the sea. From the article "In 2012, satellite observations revealed an“extreme melt event” in which ice melted at or near the surface of 98.6 percent of the ice sheet. The summer melt season has been lengthening as well."

4.  The rise of sea levels is not uniform around the world.  The East Coast of the US is experiencing higher than average rises.  This is causing even mild storms to cause major damage to Boston, NYC, and other ports on the coast.  A USGS report noted: 

"Rates of sea level rise are increasing three-to-four times faster along portions of the U.S. Atlantic Coast than globally, ... Since about 1990, sea-level rise in the 600-mile stretch of coastal zone from Cape Hatteras, N.C. to north of Boston, Mass. -- coined a "hotspot" by scientists -- has increased 2 - 3.7 millimeters per year; the global increase over the same period was 0.6 – 1.0 millimeter per year.   

"...rates of sea level rise in this area are expected to continue increasing.   ...the sea-level rise hotspot is consistent with the slowing of Atlantic Ocean circulation. Models show this change in circulation may be tied to changes in water temperature, salinity and density in the subpolar north Atlantic."  Quoted from:

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