Today, researchers at UC Irvine and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have announced results indicating that glaciers across a large area of West Antarctica have been destabilized and that there is little that will stop their continuing retreat. These glaciers are all that stand between the ocean and a massive basin of ice that sits below sea level. Should the sea invade this basin, we’d be committed to several meters of sea level rise.
Even in the short term, the new findings should increase our estimates for sea level rise by the end of the century, the scientists suggest. But the ongoing process of retreat and destabilization will mean that the area will contribute to rising oceans for centuries.
The press conference announcing these results is ongoing. We will have a significant update on this story later today.
Scientist: ‘Miami, as We Know It Today, Is Doomed. It’s Not a Question of If. It’s a Question of When.’
Jeff Goodell has a must-read piece in Rolling Stone, “Goodbye, Miami: By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin.”
Goodell has talked to many of the leading experts on Miami including Harold Wanless, chair of University of Miami’s geological sciences, department, source of the headline quote. The reason climate change dooms Miami is a combination of sea level rise, the inevitability of ever more severe storms and storm surges — and its fateful, fatal geology and topology, which puts “more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise”:
South Florida has two big problems. The first is its remarkably flat topography. Half the area that surrounds Miami is less than five feet above sea level. Its highest natural elevation, a limestone ridge that runs from Palm Beach to just south of the city, averages a scant 12 feet. With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won’t just come in from the east - because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades.
Even worse, South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. “Imagine Swiss cheese, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like,” says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Last week, a much-discussed new paper in the journal Nature seemed to suggest to some that we needn’t worry too much about the melting of Greenland, the mile-thick mass of ice at the top of the globe. The research found that the Greenland ice sheet seems to have survived a previous warm period in Earth’s history—the Eemian period, some 126,000 years ago—without vanishing (although it did melt considerably).
But Ohio State University glaciologist Jason Box isn’t buying it.
At Monday’s Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, DC, Box, who has visited Greenland 23 times to track its changing climate, explained that we’ve already pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide 40 percent beyond Eemian levels. What’s more, levels of atmospheric methane are a dramatic 240 percent higher—both with no signs of stopping. “There is no analogue for that in the ice record,” Box said.
And that’s not all. The present mass scale human burning of trees and vegetation for clearing land and building fires, plus our pumping of aerosols into the atmosphere from human pollution, weren’t happening during the Eemian. These human activities are darkening Greenland’s icy surface, and weakening its ability to bounce incoming sunlight back away from the planet. Instead, more light is absorbed, leading to more melting, in a classic feedback process that is hard to slow down.
“These giants are awake,” said Box of Greenland’s rumbling glaciers, “and they seem to have a bit of a hangover.”
Expect more water to lap at your shores. That’s the take-home message from two studies out this week that look at the latest data on sea level rise due to climate change.
The first shows that current projections for the end of the century may seriously underestimate the rise in global sea levels. The other, on the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, looks at just how much of the water stored up there has been moving into the oceans.
Both demonstrate that global warming is a real and imminent threat.
It’s well established that, in the years to come, increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the air will cause the climate to change, thereby leading to the ice caps melting at an accelerated rate and worldwide sea level rise. A new scientific finding, though, points at a troubling, entirely separate direct effect of carbon on ice—one that has nothing to do with warming at all.
As documented in a study published yesterday in the Journal of Physics D, researchers from MIT have discovered that merely being in the presence of increased concentrations of carbon dioxide causes ice to significantly weaken, with reduced material strength and fracture toughness, regardless of temperature. With enough carbon dioxide in the air, this alone could make glaciers more likely to split and fracture. Add in the fact that global temperatures will continue to warm—especially around the poles—and the combination of these two factors could mean that the ice caps will melt at even faster rates than experts have previously projected.
“If ice caps and glaciers were to continue to crack and break into pieces, their surface area that is exposed to air would be significantly increased, which could lead to accelerated melting and much reduced coverage area on the earth,” said the study’s lead author, Markus Buehler. “The consequences of these changes remain to be explored by the experts, but they might contribute to changes of the global climate.”
Nearly 4 million people across the United States, from Los Angeles to much of the East Coast, live in homes more prone to flooding from rising seas fueled by global warming, according to a new method of looking at flood risk published in two scientific papers.
The cities that have the most people living within three feet (one meter) of high tide — the projected sea level rise by the year 2100 made by many scientists and computer models — are in Florida, Louisiana, and New York. New York City, often not thought of as a city prone to flooding, has 141,000 people at risk, which is second only to New Orleans’ 284,000. The two big Southeast Florida counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, have 312,000 people at risk combined.
All told, 3.7 million people live in homes within three feet of high tide. More than 500 US cities have at least 10 percent of the population at increased risk, the studies said.
“Southeast Florida is definitely the highest density of population that’s really on low coastal land that’s really most at risk,” said lead author Ben Strauss, a scientist at Climate Central. Climate Central is a New Jersey-based group of scientists and journalists who do research about climate change.
The studies look at people who live in homes within three feet of high tide, whereas old studies looked just at elevation above sea level, according to work published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research and an accompanying report by Climate Central. That’s an important distinction because using high tide is more accurate for flooding impacts, said study co-author Jonathan Overpeck, a scientist at the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment. And when the new way of looking at risk is factored in, the outlook looks worse, Overpeck said.
“It’s shocking to see how large the impacts could be, particularly in southern Florida and Louisiana, but much of the coastal U.S. will share in the serious pain,” Overpeck said.
Irene-like storms of the future would put a third of New York City streets under water and flood many of the tunnels leading into Manhattan in under an hour because of climate change, a new state government report warns Wednesday.
“The risks and the impacts are huge,” said Art deGaetano, a climate scientist at Cornell University and lead author of the ClimAID study. “Clearly areas of the city that are currently inhabited will be uninhabitable with the rising of the sea.”
But we don’t have to worry about this until way, way into the future, right?
The report, commisioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said the effects of sea level rise and changing weather patterns would be felt as early as the next decade.
By the mid-2020s, sea level rise around Manhattan and Long Island could be up to 10 inches, assuming the rapid melting of polar sea ice continues. By 2050, sea-rise could reach 2.5ft and more than 4.5ft by 2080 under the same conditions.
The report, which was two years in the making, was intended to help the New York state government take steps now to get people out of harm’s way - and factor climate change into long-term planning to protect transport, water and sewage systems.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was so concerned that he went on to commission an even more detailed study of the city after receiving early briefings on the report.
That makes him an outlier among his fellow Republicans, who blocked funds for creating a new climate service in budget negotiations in Congress this week.
Durr hurr! If we take away funding from climate change research, it won’t happen! Derp.
DeGaetano said climate change would force governments to begin rethinking infrastructure. Most of New York City’s power plants, water treatment plants, and sewage systems are right at sea level.
City planners are also going to have to help people adapt. More than half a million people live in the New York flood plain, and, as the report noted, a significant portion of them are African American and Latinos.
Oh…maybe that’s why the GOP is like the honey badger and doesn’t give a shit :/
And floods are not the only potential danger of climate change. The report notes that New York could face average annual temperature rises of up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of this century and by as much as 9 degrees by 2080.
In summer months, this could subject New Yorkers to power shortages and the risk of black-outs because of the extra need for air conditioning. Those without air conditioning - or who can not afford the higher electricity bills - would be at greater risk of heat stroke.
Those hotter conditions would have effects right across the state, playing havoc with New York state’s wine and agricultural industries. Spruce and Fir trees would disappear form the Catskills and West Hudson River Valley, dairy cows would suffer heat stress, and popular apple varieties would decline, the report said.
Climate change = hell and high water. Much sooner that most people expect.
Climate change deniers always blather about the models being inaccurate, and in this case, they were - underestimating the consequences of AGW. Funny how we never hear talk about the consequences of ignoring that possibility.
Ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland has accelerated over the last 20 years, research shows, and will soon become the biggest driver of sea level rise…Writing in Geophysical Research Letters, the team says ice loss here is speeding up faster than models predict.
That’s 39 years from now. Have kids? Are you around 50 years old yourself, or younger?
If these increases persist, water from the two polar ice sheets could have added 15cm (5.9 inches) to the average global sea level by 2050.
Yet the GOP is more than happy to gut funding for NASA’s climate change research. Even though it’s happening now, faster than expected, and jeopardizing America’s national security.
The second dataset comes from Nasa’s Grace mission, which uses twin satellites to measure variations in the Earth’s gravitational pull…Ice loss causes a fractional reduction in gravity at that point on the Earth’s surface.
This is why humanity can’t have nice things.
UPDATE: turns out rising seas and flooding aren’t the only consequences from melting glaciers: Retreating Glaciers Spur Alaskan Earthquakes
As glaciers melt they lighten the load on the Earth’s crust. Tectonic plates, that are mobile pieces of the Earth’s crust, can then move more freely…The weight of a large glacier on top of these active earthquake areas can help keep things stable. But, as the glaciers melt and their load on the plate lessens, there is a greater likelihood of an earthquake happening to relieve the large strain underneath.