Friday, March 27, 2009

Mapping Sea-Level Rise

All the melting going on the Arctic has some researchers wondering what the world's coastlines would look like if, say, all of Greenland's ice were to melt, or all of Antarctica's. No expert expects either of these scenarios to happen anytime soon, certainly not in the next century. But as a kind of visual thought experiment, the late Bill Haxby of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University created the striking graphics we present below. In these images, see how the coastlines of four regions—the mid-Atlantic U.S. states, Florida, northern Europe, and Southeast Asia—would change if the planet's seas rose 17 feet and 170 feet, respectively.
Why did Haxby choose these two figures? Well, according to Dr. James White (see Ask the Expert), estimates on how much sea levels would rise given certain major ice sheets melting vary depending on the assumption made about rebound of land once the ice disappears, and on the fact that some ice is below sea level. But given these variables, White says, current widely accepted estimates include sea-level rises of about 23 feet if all of Greenland's ice vanished (or about 20 feet if West Antarctica's ice sheet disintegrated), and about 180 feet if the great ice dome of East Antarctica melted away.
So Haxby was being conservative, but as you'll see, the results are unsettling enough. For good measure, Haxby also threw in sea levels 400 feet lower than they are today, showing how coastlines would have looked 20,000 years ago at the height of the Ice Age.—Peter Tyson

See more Global Warming Scenarios

Go to NOVA's Extreme Ice

Glaciers Around The Globe Continue To Melt At High Rates

ScienceDaily — Glaciers around the globe continue to melt at high rates. Tentative figures for the year 2007, of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, indicate a further loss of average ice thickness of roughly 0.67 meter water equivalent (m w.e.). Some glaciers in the European Alps lost up to 2.5 m w.e. The new still tentative data of more than 80 glaciers confirm the global trend of fast ice loss since 1980. Glaciers with long-term observation series (30 glaciers in 9 mountain ranges) have experienced a reduction in total thickness of more than 11 m w.e. until 2007. The average annual ice loss during 1980-1999 was roughly 0.3 m w.e. per year. Since 2000, this rate has increased to about 0.7 m w.e. per year.

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New York Flood Risk to Grow as Weaker Currents Raise Sea Level

March 16 (Bloomberg) -- The Big Apple faces a greater flood risk over the next century as weaker Atlantic currents raise sea levels on the U.S. East Coast by more than in London or Tokyo.
Global warming will alter Atlantic Ocean circulation in a way that will move more water to New York by 2100, Florida State University-led scientists said in a study in Nature Geoscience today. Including the expansion of water as it warms, the total gain may be 51 centimeters (20 inches), they said, not counting effects of melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

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Worst Floods in Nearly 50 Years Hit Namibia, Neighboring Countries

Parts of southern and southwestern Africa are seeing the worst flooding in about 50 years. Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected and are in desperate need of emergency supplies.
One of the worst affected countries is Namibia. Matthew Cochrane of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies spoke to VOA from one of the many flooded towns in Namibia.
"I'm in a little town called Schuckmansberg, which is normally on the Namibian side of the Zambezi River in the Caprivi Strip, which is up in the northeast. But now the only way to access this town is to drive across the border in Zambia, drive along the Zambia side of the river and then catch a boat up for about half an hour to reach this island. It's now totally surrounded by water," he says.

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Obama cites North Dakota floods in call for climate change action

President Obama says potentially historic flood levels in North Dakota are a clear example of why steps need to be taken to stop global warming. Heavy rain and blizzards have caused eight rivers in the state to swell to flood levels and emergency management officials are warily watching the Red River, which could surpass record levels late this week.
"If you look at the flooding that's going on right now in North Dakota and you say to yourself, 'If you see an increase of two degrees, what does that do, in terms of the situation there?'" Obama told reporters at the White House Monday. "That indicates the degree to which we have to take this seriously."
Waters in the Red River were 33 feet this morning, according to CNN. That’s 15 feet above flood stage, and close to the record 41.1 feet set in April 1897, according to the network. The river could exceed those levels by Friday or Saturday, officials say.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Michelle Obama To Plant White House Edible Garden

by Bridgette Steffen: Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II-era Victory Garden was a shining example to Americans that they could grow their own food. And now Michelle Obama is following in her footsteps, taking up the cause by planting an 1,100 square foot edible garden on the South Lawn of the White House. Her hope is to educate children about locally grown food, inspiring them to eat healthier and encourage their families and community to follow suit.
Petitions for an organic garden at the White House have been circulating for some time now. The new edible garden will have over 55 varieties of fruits and vegetables, as chosen by the White House Kitchen Staff. According to assistant head chef, Sam Kass, the cost of the organic seeds and mulch was only $200. They will plant tomatoes, tomatillos, cilantro, various lettuces, spinach, swiss chard, collards, kale, arugula, berries, herbs, including anise hyssop and Thai basil (there will not be any beets though as President Obama does not like them). Also present will be two hives for honey and a compost pile.
First lady Obama, along with 23 fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School, will begin the garden by digging up the soil, then planting and eventually harvesting the vegetables. The White House Kitchen Staff is looking forward to planning their meals around the vegetables that are in season. Food grown in the garden will be used as ingredients for family meals as well as state dinners and other official events.

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Three Lessons We Still Haven't Learned 20 Years After the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

by J.S. McDougall
It's hard to argue that there's a more lasting and clear example of the destructive force that unchecked corporate greed has on our environment and communities than the Exxon Valdez oil spill that devastated Alaska's Prince William Sound 20 years ago today. Then, like now, we are hopelessly addicted to carbon-based fuels. Oil and coal have exposed our Achilles heel to the Fates, and we tempt them every day that we do not aggressively transition to low-energy lives and sustainable fuel sources. We don't need a power-shift in this civilization as much as we need a power-down.
Take a 10 minute break today, on the anniversary of one of the most tragic--and still unresolved--environmental disasters of our modern energy age, from Twittering, emailing, blogging, IM'ing, Facebooking, and other forms of frantic networking (except in case of emergency) to reflect on the three lessons that we may already intellectually know as individuals, but as a civilization we have yet to learn -- and consider applying them to more recent, larger environmental disasters.
1. Big Energy Means Big Energy Corporations. The video below was shot just four days after the Exxon Valdez dumped between 11 and 38 million gallons of crude oil into the formerly pristine waters of Prince William Sound. The high school gym where this was filmed is packed with the fishermen and women who are just beginning to realize that their lives and livelihoods have been destroyed. Listen to the Exxon representative explain that this oil spill is "a bit of good luck" for the community.
Corporations with allegiance only to profits will never have allegiance to communities. To rid the world of energy corporations that terrorize our communities and natural world, we must stop giving them business by decentralizing our power supply, forming community power co-ops, and taking back control of our fuel sources.

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Healing the bias of 2012

by Angelika Whitecliff

Conjecture about our near future is gaining momentum because of a very specific catalytic date: December 21, 2012. The ancient Mayans had a great civilization and astronomers who were able to calculate an astonishingly accurate, intricate astronomical calendar that lasted tens of thousands of years. It mysteriously concludes on December 21, 2012, thus creating waves of speculation. Yet many indigenous cultures around the world, including Native American, tell of the arrival of the Golden Age, one in which humanity evolves to its next level exemplified by harmonious and conscious relationships with the planet and with cosmic ancestors who will reintroduce themselves. In contradiction, there are new and old doomsday prophecy’s that ignore ideas of a new beginning to instead warn of inevitable collapse and disaster. Many wonder how to reconcile these contradictory viewpoints, and how to most wisely proceed into a future mined with falling financial markets, corporate corruption and global climate change.

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As climate changes, is water the new oil?

WASHINGTON, March 22 (Reuters) - If water is the new oil, is blue the new green? Translation: if water is now the kind of precious commodity that oil became in the 20th century, should delivery of clean water be the same sort of powerful political force as the environmental movement in an age of climate change? And, in another sense of green, is there money to be made in a time of water scarcity? The answer to both questions, according to environmental activists watching a global forum on water, is yes. The week-long meeting in Istanbul ends Sunday, which is International World Water Day, an annual United Nations event that began in 1993 to focus attention on sustainable management of fresh water resources. The yearly observance recognizes water as an absolute human need: people can live as much as 30 days without food but only seven without water. How long can a person live without oil? More than a billion people lack access to clean water, and 2.5 billion are without water for sanitation, with 80 percent of all disease borne by dirty water. This may seem ironic, since Earth is literally a blue planet when seen from space -- most of it is covered in water. But what humans need is water that is fresh and clean, and most of Earth's water is salty or dirty.

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Earthquakes pose major threat to Delta levees, report finds

"When Delta islands flood, seawater is drawn toward intakes for water supply projects that serve parts of the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California."

By Mike Taugher, Contra Costa Times

The odds are even that a major earthquake or flood will take out 30 or more Delta islands sometime in the next 25 years, with most of the threat coming from earthquakes, the most comprehensive assessment ever on the Delta's levees concludes.
The report, the first phase of a $13 million study on Delta levees, finds widespread flooding on 30 or more islands is all but inevitable in the next 100 years — a finding that carries major implications for one of California's most important sources of water for 23 million residents and the health of the West Coast's largest estuary.
"Under business as usual practices, the Delta region as it exists today is unsustainable," the report concluded.

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Great Lakes ice declining despite cold

CLEVELAND, March 23 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say ice cover on the Great Lakes has declined 30 percent since the 1970s, despite weather cycles that temper the overall warming.
Scientists at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., say the heavy ice cover this year shows natural weather systems play a role in the Great Lakes system, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Monday.
"We are seeing the impact of global warming here in the Great Lakes -- but the natural variability is at least as large a factor," Jia Wang, an ice research climatologist at the laboratory, told the newspaper.
Researchers said ice on the Great Lakes is forming later in the fall and dissipating earlier in spring, even when taking into account annual fluctuation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

California panel urges 'immediate action' to protect against rising sea levels

"Global warming is projected to cause ocean levels to rise 55 inches or more by the end of the century. Report recommends phased abandonment of coastal areas and moving state infrastructure inland."

By Margot Roosevelt

As California officials see it, global warming is happening so there's no time to waste in figuring out what to do.California's interagency Climate Action Team on Wednesday issued the first of 40 reports on impacts and adaptation, outlining what the state's residents must do to deal with the floods, erosion and other effects expected from rising sea levels.

Hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars of Golden State infrastructure and property would be at risk if ocean levels rose 55 inches by the end of the century, as computer models suggest, according to the report.

The group floated several radical proposals: limit coastal development in areas at risk from sea rise; consider phased abandonment of certain areas; halt federally subsidized insurance for property likely to be inundated; and require coastal structures to be built to adapt to climate change.

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