Sea-levels

Feb 10th 2017

From Wordsworth’s gardens to the south’s white cliffs and salmon rivers in Wales, climate change is wrecking historic sites, finds report

Cottages at Birling Gap were once one of seven properties. The fifth pebble-dash end-of-terrace was demolished in March 2014. Tuesday 7 February 2017 10.47 GMTFirst published on Tuesday 7 February 2017 06.01 GMT

Climate change is already wrecking some of Britain’s most significant sites, from Wordsworth’s gardens in Cumbria to the white cliffs on England’s south coast, according to a new report.

Floods and erosion are damaging historic places, while warmer temperatures are seeing salmon vanishing from famous rivers and birds no longer visiting important wetlands.

The report was produced by climate experts at Leeds University and the Climate Coalition, a group of 130 organisations including the RSPB, National Trust, WWF and the Women’s Institute.

“Climate change often seems like a distant existential threat [but] this report shows it is already impacting upon some of our most treasured and special places around the UK,” said Prof Piers Forster of Leeds University.

 “It is clear our winters are generally getting warmer and wetter, storms are increasing in intensity and rainfall is becoming heavier. Climate change is not only coming home – it has arrived,” Forster said. It is also already affecting everyday places such as churches, sports grounds, farms and beaches, he said.

Wordsworth House and Garden in Cockermouth, where the romantic poet William Wordsworth was born in 1770 and learned his love of nature, was seriously damaged by two recent flooding events linked to a changing climate.

In November 2009, torrential rain caused £500,000 of damage, sweeping away gates and walls that had survived since the 1690s. Floods inundated the site again during Storm Desmond in December 2015. “When I saw the damage the floods had caused in 2009 I was shocked and it took almost three years to repair the garden,” said the house’s head gardener, Amanda Thackeray. “Then after all that hard work to see the devastation from flooding in 2015 was very upsetting.”

William Wordsworth’s gardens in Cockermouth, Cumbria, before and after the 2015 floods.

A century-long record shows the UK is experiencing more intense heavy rainfall during winter. Researchers can also use climate models to reveal the influence of global warming on some extreme events and have found the UK’s record December rainfall in 2015 was made 50-75% more likely by climate change. Another study found Storm Desmond was 40% more likely to have occurred because of the human activities that release greenhouse gases, such as burning fossil fuels.

Birling Gap is part of the world famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs on England’s south coast and over the last 50 years, about 67cm of cliff is eroded each year. But during the winter storms of 2013-2014, the equivalent of seven years of erosion occurred in just two months.

“The succession of storms provided a stark warning that coastal ‘defence’ as the only response to managing coastal change looks increasingly less plausible,” said Phil Dyke, coastal adviser at the National Trust. “We must learn how to adapt.”

Existing buildings at Birling Gap are being lost and new buildings will be designed to be easier to move back as the cliff disappears. Scientists know that climate change is driving up sea levels and increasing the likelihood of more intense storms, meaning the rate of erosion is likely to rise.

 Cracks have appeared in Birling Gap chalk cliffs in East Sussex due to erosion. Photograph: Peter Cripps/Alamy Stock Photo

Rising temperatures are also affecting wildlife, including in the famous salmon rivers, the Wye and Usk, where otters and kingfishers also live. December is peak spawning time for salmon in Wales, but recent winters have been exceptionally warm.

“After eliminating other potential causes such as disease and lack of adults, we have come to the conclusion that the exceptionally high water temperatures of November and December 2016 are the reason for the disastrous salmon fry numbers this year,” said Simon Evans, chief executive of the Wye & Usk Foundation.

2015 was little better, with young salmon found at just 17 sites out of 142, when they usually would be expected at 108 areas. Research has shown salmon populations across the Wye catchment fell by 50% from 1985-2004, despite cuts in water pollution. But stream temperatures have risen by up to 1C in that time, leaving researchers to conclude that climate change is a key factor in plummeting salmon numbers.

Slimbridge wetlands in Gloucestershire is one of the UK’s most important bird sites, hosting 200 species from all over the world, but is also seeing changes as the climate warms. Numbers of migratory white-fronted geese have fallen by 98% in the last 30 years due to warmer weather further north.

Geoff Hilton, at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust said the shrinking flocks could have knock-on effects on the wetland habitat: “These are quite big changes ecologically. If you suddenly lose thousands of geese from a wetland, there are bound to be big effects on that wetland.”

 Numbers of migratory white-fronted geese have fallen 98% in the last 30 years due to climate change. Photograph: Alamy

Warmer conditions have also meant water primrose, an alien invader to the UK, has grown aggressively in wide, dense mats and is seriously damaging native plants and fish. However, warmer winters have seen little egret numbers visiting Slimbridge increasing from just eight in the 1990s to 30 in 2013.

Other sites being ruined by climate change, according to the new report, include a famous riverside pub on Manchester’s river Irwell, the Mark Addy, which has not re-opened after the 2015 winter floods and the historic clubhouse at Corbridgecricket club in Northumberland, now demolished after the same floods.

The report also warns that the 5,000-year-old neolithic village at Skara Brae on Orkney, revealed after a great storm in 1850 stripped away grass and sand, could be destroyed in future as violent storms become more common.

Feb 3rd 2017

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BEFORE THE STORM

A Vulnerable Community Braces for the Impacts of Sea Level Rise Experts warn that the flooding exacerbated by climate change will disproportionately impact low-lying, low-income communities. In the Wilmington, Delaware neighborhood of Southbridge, residents are determined to build up their flood defenses and to stand their ground. BY BRUCE STUTZ  JANUARY 30, 2017Facebook Twitter EmailWilmington, Delaware’s Southbridge neighborhood is an enclave of South Wilmington, a low-lying peninsula separated from the city’s main streets by a looping meander of the Christina River just before it empties into Delaware Bay. A phragmites-choked wetland, long used as an illegal dump, forms the neighborhood’s western border. Former industrial sites — looming and sometimes contaminated eyesores — surround it. As industry abandoned the Wilmington waterfront following World War II, Southbridge became a majority African-American community facing economic, social, and — not least of all — environmental challenges.The neighborhood’s brick row houses stand on land only three to four feet above sea level. At mean high tide, the Christina River is five feet above sea level. What keeps the river out of the neighborhood is a system of tide gates, simple cast iron flaps that look like large old oven doors, installed some 100 years ago as part of Wilmington’s combined sewer system. But a hundred years ago, sea level at Wilmington — located along a tidal stretch of the Delaware River — was eight to nine inches lower than it is today. And so that aging flood-control system now fails during times of extreme tidal surges, filling Southbridge’s streets with water.The question for Southbridge and for many low-lying coastal communities, particularly those in lower-income areas, is what will happen in the coming decades as sea level rise accelerates — increasing globally, many scientists forecast, by three to six feet this century. As Rob Young, director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, notes, U.S. cities such as Miami Beach — already experiencing increased flooding — will be prepared to spend huge sums to protect billions of dollars in coastal property. But what of neighborhoods like Southbridge?Southbridge’s vulnerability to steadily rising seas was vividly illustrated around the time of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Bryan Lennon, assistant director of Wilmington’s Water Division, points out that there was no flooding at all during the hurricane itself. But a week or so later, a brief rain, followed by an extreme tidal surge up Delaware Bay and into the Christina, left the neighborhood’s streets flooded and impassable, the water pressure so strong beneath the streets that it lifted iron sewer plates.Marie Reed, president of the Southbridge Civic Association, grew up in the neighborhood and recalls, “When it rained you never slept, and my father would say, ‘Come on everybody, let’s go.’ And that meant you went into the basement with buckets.”Civic leader Marie Reed says residents have had to evacuate the Southbridge neighborhood three times since 2006. PETER TOBIA/YALE E360Now, says Reed, the flooding events have become more frequent and intense. “It can take only a brief rain, sometimes just 15 minutes can bring flooding,” says Reed. “It comes bubbling up from the ground.” She points out that the unrelieved flatness of the neighborhood — made up largely of short streets flanked by two-story homes — leaves no high places to retreat to. “There just isn’t anywhere to go,” she says. “We’ve had to evacuate three times since 2006.”To make her point, Reed opens a video file on her phone that was taken last July after a “mild rain.” The video pans along on a street near the railroad tracks that run along the southern edge of Southbridge. The street is flooded, and when a car passes it creates a wave that courses toward the camera. A fire truck goes through, and the water is far up its wheel wells. “Sometimes it’s so bad here that we have to have police cars directing traffic,” says Reed. “It affects everyone trying to to get to work and get home.” The periodic flooding also means that residents are plagued by problems such as mold in their homes and mosquitoes breeding in puddles created by the receding water.As sea level rises and changes in climate bring increases in precipitation and in the frequency and intensity of storms, the kind of flooding that has plagued Southbridge will become chronic and sometimes catastrophic, coastal experts say. Sea level globally rose by some 8 inches over the last 100 years. In the last thirty years, however, that rate has increased significantly, a trend linked to climate change as ice sheets and glaciers melt and warmer ocean waters expand. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), during most of the 20th century, sea levels were rising at 0.6 inches per decade. Since 1993, however, sea level has been rising at 1.2 inches per decade.Future sea level increases are expected to accelerate, and they will not be the same everywhere. The mid-Atlantic will be at the high end of sea level rise, NOAA says. The 2014 National Climate Assessment forecast that as sea level increases, “Populations in the current 1-in-100-year coastal flood zone … will experience more frequent flooding, and populations that have historically fallen outside the 1-in-100-year flood zone will find themselves in that zone.”The report also concludes that sea level increases will inordinately affect the region’s “most disadvantaged populations.” That’s because, historically, communities of color were often relegated to low-lying, flood-prone lands, whose lower value also made them more affordable to lower-income groups.A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that a 5-inch increase in sea level by 2030 would triple the number of high-tide floods in roughly two-thirds of Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal communities. “By 2030, several New Jersey locations can expect to average 80 to 130 tidal floods per year,” the study said. “And places such as Annapolis, Maryland, where sea level has risen 3 inches since 1990, and Washington, D.C., can expect to average 150-200 tidal floods each year.”A cell phone photo shows flooding at A and Buttonwood Streets in Southbridge in April 2014. LEAH KACANDACities like Savannah, Georgia; Cambridge, Maryland; and Charleston, South Carolina, will see floods on normal high tides by 2030, according to the study. In 1970, for example, Charleston averaged six tidal floods a year. Since then, sea level has risen more than 5 inches. Charleston now experiences more than two-dozen tidal floods annually. By 2045, riding another foot or more of sea level rise, Charleston could average 180 tidal floods a year.The non-profit group Climate Central found that “more than a quarter of the major roads in the Gulf Coast region are on lands less than 4 feet in elevation.” An EPA study estimated that by 2100 sea level rise alone will have caused some $5 trillion in coastal property damages if no adaptation measures are adopted.In Delaware, Southbridge is hardly alone in facing a rising threat of flooding: 62,000 acres of land in the state, containing 20,000 houses and 428 miles of road, lie less than five feet above the mean high-tide mark.All of this saltwater flooding takes its toll on storm and wastewater systems, threatens freshwater sources, damages roads and homes, and disrupts community and business life. The flooding will only be compounded by higher and more frequent storm surges and by changing weather patterns that federal scientists say will produce more extreme downpours.Using its National Coastal Property Model, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that by 2100 some 1.6 million people living along the coasts will be affected by flooding due simply to sea level rise. By superimposing on that map a map of coastal areas where the residents are, the EPA found “that many socially disadvantaged Americans living in coastal areas are very likely to be disproportionately affected by SLR (sea level rise).” The EPA’s map shows entire regions where the seas will encroach upon poorer coastal communities that are “much more likely to be abandoned than protected.”Sea level threatens small communities along both shores of Delaware Bay. On the New Jersey side, rural Cumberland County, once the center of fishing, oyster, and canning industries, is now one of that state’s poorest counties and is facing a receding shoreline with few resources for protection. Saving these bay-shore communities would be expensive, and with their dwindling populations, these areas have little political clout. Southbridge – faced with what seemed like a slow extinction through neglect, and flooding that would only bring further economic decline – has been fighting back.“Southbridge is only 1.6 square miles with a population of 2,000, but the community has a long history of civic activism,” said Marvin Thomas, the former president of the Southbridge Civic Association. For years the community had documented its problems and presented them to one city administration after another: Tide gates that didn’t close or that hung by a thread or were tied up with rope; drainage swales and storm grates filled with sediment.“But documentation never brought action from the city, state, or federal government,” said Thomas. “We were told it would be too expensive.”The causes for Southbridge’s flooding are rooted in its location and in a century-old engineering scheme. In South Wilmington the tide gates close when the tide rises. Storm and wastewater is diverted into sewers that carry it to the city treatment plant — unless rain overloads the system, in which case the overflow spills untreated out the floodgates into the Christina and downstream to the Delaware. Should the system overflow at the same time that the floodgates are shut against a high tide or a storm-related tidal surge, the storm and wastewater becomes trapped. The system backs up. The combined sewer overflow accumulates in the low-lying streets, bubbles up out of catchment basins and worst of all, comes pouring out of basement drains in Southbridge homes. Southbridge’s older row houses, such as these along the 1000 block of A Street, are especially vulnerable, with basements flooding during heavy rains. PETER TOBIA/YALE E360In 2004, Southbridge saw its chance to solve its flooding problems. Wilmington was developing a long-term plan to comply with revised federal stormwater permit regulations. It had to improve its combined sewer overflow capture rate from 72 to 85 percent.Meanwhile, on the far side of the wetland landfill that bordered their community, Southbridge residents saw development coming to a new, gentrifying Christina River waterfront. Southbridge didn’t want to be left out. Working with the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the community was able to get NOAA to fund a study to plan not only for flood control, but for the community’s economic growth and its part in Wilmington’s future.A decade and many community meetings later — with federal, state, and local funding, as well as involvement from local and national environmental groups —the $24 million South Wilmington Wetlands Park project is about to begin.Under the project, the 100-year-old plumbing will be reengineered. Thirty-six acres of combined storm and sanitary sewers will be separated. The storm sewer overflow will run into an expanded and redesigned wetland where, until it’s released into the Christina, it will supply water for a 30-some acre “wetlands park.” This award-winning urban greenspace design will feature a tidal channel that meanders among a range of designed habitats and plant communities, from marshland, to shrub meadow, to upland forest. A boardwalk that traverses the park will connect Southbridge with the gentrifying riverfront to the west.While Bryan Lennon of the Wilmington Water Distrct says that it’s first and foremost a flood control project that will improve water quality in the Christina and Delaware rivers, the community fully expects it to improve its quality of life. As a safer and flood-resilient neighborhood adjacent to a large central park, Southbridge will, it’s hoped, attract new investments, jobs, and housing.“This has been a community-driven effort from the time it began,” says Thomas. “We are taking care that efforts will be made to not uproot present residents. This will put a positive focus on a community that has not been looked upon positively for a number of years.”Questions remain. Studies are ongoing with regard to the transport of contaminants from surrounding brownfield sites. If extreme rain events increase beyond even the new capacity, another pumping station may have to be added to the system. And perhaps most important is whether rising sea levels will eventually outflank the new Southbridge defenses. A 4-foot rise in sea level by the end of the century would, on an average high tide, leave much of South Wilmington flooded, even with the park project.“It concerns me,” says Marie Reed. Everyone, she says, is aware of the predictions for sea level rise. “But this is a start.” For now, she said, residents are mainly concerned about putting an end to the flooding that has plagued Southbridge for decades.Victor Perez, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, has been conducting surveys in the Southbridge community on residents’ perceptions of the risks of climate change and sea level rise. While the wetlands park plan may be an elegant adaptation to flood control, he questions whether it may ultimately be maladaptive for climate change, a stopgap plan that by century’s end might no longer function as envisioned. As Southbridge and other communities look for protection from flooding and rising seas, are they just forestalling the inevitable?“We have to be aware that the future will look very different from today,” said Susan Love, who heads DNREC’s climate and sustainability section. And she agrees that “if we’re not designing for future conditions — in placement of structures and infrastructure — we’re doing a disservice.”But Love, who has worked for more than a decade with Thomas and the community, insists that “retreat is not an option.” As Marie Reed points out, not only is South Wilmington a bastion of African-American history and culture, but it’s also Wilmington’s “last frontier,” with still-undeveloped land that, once the flooding is dealt with, has great economic potential. City planner Leah Kacanda and Bryan Lennon, of Wilmington's Water Division, walk into a wetlands area that will soon be part of a new park and natural flood mitigation project. PETER TOBIA/YALE E360In this, Southbridge may differ from many poorer coastal communities pressured by sea level rise. Delaware, as Love points out, is also a state with only 57 municipalities and 950,000 people. Ninety percent of the state’s coastal zone is protected and undeveloped. “Our management decisions are to allow natural coastal processes to occur, and as sea level rises, allow wetlands to migrate inland,” she says. So she feels an obligation to protect those remaining small and vulnerable coastal populations. While scientists can make projections for long-term sea level rise, governments have difficulty making long-term plans. “We’re not set up to do that in the United States,” said Young of Western Carolina University. “The political cycle is two to four years, eight years max.”He can understand the kind of effort undertaken in Southbridge.“Charleston has an absolutely booming economy,” says Young. “If you have to invest $20 to $30 million to help storm water problems that will enable the city to function well the next 10 years, it’s probably worth the money. But if you think that’s all you have to do … ”He says it often comes down to making a cost/benefit analysis, adding, “In Miami you can justify anything … The problem is that we don’t have a national vision for when and where we should be spending federal dollars along the coast.”Wilmington has engaged the consulting firm of ARCADIS, North America to look into dealing with future sea level rise. Based in the Netherlands, its U.S.-based national director for Flood Risk and Resiliency is Edgar Westerhof. From his work with the City of Boston and other communities in the U.S., Westerhof says he’s learned that engineers can benefit from listening to the community. The lesson he hopes U.S. cities will learn from his Netherlands home is that “flood control is not just an end in itself, but must become a part of the economic life of the community.”Securing Southbridge’s future may, however, depend upon bigger flood control projects. “The [U.S.] Army Corps of Engineers once had a plan to build a seawall around South Wilmington,” says Love. “We’re now only beginning to think about it again.”Facebook Twitter EmailBruce Stutz writes on science, nature, and the environment. A former editor-in-chief of Natural History, he is a contributing editor to OnEarth. He has written for the New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, Discover and Audubon. He is the author of Natural Lives, Modern Times and Chasing Spring, An American Journey Through a Changing Season.

Dec 16th 2016

The Arctic region is continuing to warm up more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet, which is also expected to mark its hottest year in modern times.

Climate scientists say the reasons for the rising heat include the burning of fossil fuels that emit heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, southerly winds that pushed hot air from the mid-latitudes northward, as well as the El Nino ocean warming trend, which ended mid-year.

The Arctic's annual air temperature over land was 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 degrees Celsius) higher than in 1900, the report said.

The sea surface temperature in the peak summer month of August 2016 reached nine degrees Fahrenheit (five degrees Celsius) above the average for 1982-2010 in the Barents and Chukchi seas and off the east and west coasts of Greenland.

"Warm air and ocean temperatures in the fall led to a record-breaking delay in fall freeze-up," Perovich said, noting that the Arctic sea ice minimum from mid-October to late November was the lowest since the satellite record began in 1979.

It was also 28 percent less than the average for 1981-2010 in October.

Scientists added a section to the report about noteworthy records set in October and November 2016, even though that extended beyond the report's typical time span.

- On thin ice -

More of the ice that freezes in the Arctic winter is thin, made of only a single year's worth of freeze rather than thicker, more resistant ice built up over multiple years.

In 1985, almost half (45 percent) of Arctic sea ice was called "multi-year ice."

Now, just 22 percent of the Arctic is covered in multi-year ice. The rest is first-year ice.

In Greenland, the ice sheet continued to shrink and lose mass as it has every year since 2002, when satellite measurements began.

Melting also started early in Greenland last year, the second earliest in the 37-year record of observations, and close to the record set in 2012.

- Record-low snow -

The springtime snow cover in the North American Arctic hit a record low in May, when it fell below 1.5 million square miles (four million square kilometers) for the first time since satellite observations began in 1967.

This melting, combined with retreating sea ice, has allowed more sunlight to penetrate the ocean's upper layers, stimulating widespread algae blooms.

 

The Arctic's people and animals are also suffering from the climate changes.

Ocean acidification is adding new stress for ocean creatures that need calcium carbonate to build shells, affecting people in the region who rely on fish for food.

And small mammals known as shrews are increasingly becoming infected with parasites that were once known to infect shorebirds, suggesting a northerly shift of some species.

The Arctic could be free of summer ice by the 2040s, Perovich said, adding that the changing temperatures are already affecting people who live in the region.

Asked by reporters if the report was tailored to the current political environment in the United States -- with President-elect Donald Trump declaring climate change a Chinese hoax and preparing a cabinet that will include climate change deniers -- Mathis said no.

"This is the best possible science that we can do," he said. "It is beyond reproach."

Nov 25th 2016

Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report. “[These developments] also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”

Climate tipping points occur when a natural system, such as the polar ice cap, undergoes sudden or overwhelming change that has a profound effect on surrounding ecosystems, often irreversible.

In the Arctic, the tipping points identified in the new report, published on Friday, include: growth in vegetation on tundra, which replaces reflective snow and ice with darker vegetation, thus absorbing more heat; higher releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the tundra as it warms; shifts in snow distribution that warm the ocean, resulting in altered climate patterns as far away as Asia, where the monsoon could be effected; and the collapse of some key Arctic fisheries, with knock-on effects on ocean ecosystems around the globe.

The research, compiled by 11 organisations including the Arctic Council and six universities, comes at a critical time, not only because of the current Arctic temperature rises but in political terms. 

Aides to the US president-elect, Donald Trump, this week unveiled plans to remove the budget for climate change science currently used by Nasa and other US federal agencies for projects such as examining Arctic changes, and to spend it instead on space exploration.

“That would be a huge mistake,” said Carson, noting that much more research needs to be done on polar tipping points before we can understand the true dangers, let alone hope to tackle them. “It would be like ripping out the aeroplane’s cockpit instruments while you are in mid-flight.”

He added: “These are very serious problems, very serious changes are happening, but they are still poorly understood. We need more research to understand them. A lot of the major science is done by the US.”

Scientists have speculated for some years that so-called feedback mechanisms – by which the warming of one area or type of landscape has knock-on effects for whole ecosystems – could suddenly take hold and change the dynamics of Arctic ice melting from a relatively slow to a fast-moving phenomenon with unpredictable and potentially irreversible consequences for global warming. For instance, when sea ice shrinks it leaves areas of dark ocean that absorb more heat than the reflective ice, which in turn causes further shrinkage, and so on in a spiral.

The Arctic ice cap helps to cool sea and air temperatures, by reflecting much of the sun’s radiation back into space, and acting as a global cooler when winds and ocean currents swirl over and under it. It has long been known to play a key part of the global climate system, but the difficulty and expense of close monitoring have meant that scientists have only in recent years been able to make detailed assessments.

The report, billed as the first comprehensive study of ecosystems and societies in the region, found: “The potential effects of Arctic regime shifts [or tipping points] on the rest of the world are substantial, yet poorly understood. Human-driven climate change greatly increases the risk of Arctic regime shifts, so reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to reducing this risk.”

The authors also warned that people living in and near the Arctic would be badly affected, and called for communities to be provided with equipment and skills to survive. They took evidence from a variety of settlements in the region, finding many signs of stark changes already under way.

Joel Clement, co-chair of the project and director of the office of policy analysis at the US Department of the Interior, said: “This groundbreaking report is an unprecedented effort to gain insight from what is happening on the ground. The findings are foundational to a more informed, coordinated response to building resilience across the region.”

Sea-levels are rising

This situation is being made worse by the rising sea- levels caused by global warming, as the temperature of the sea increases the volume of the water gets greater and we see this as a general rise in sea- levels, we have seen modest increases and these have caused  many problems in low-lying land masses with some islands disappearing altogether.

And in many places it is already necessary to strengthen the sea defenses to meet occasional extreme conditions.

It is not difficult to imagine the devastation that will be caused in years to come if the forecasts of future rises  in sea-levels are anything like correct, you should consider this and plan ahead now, if you are planning to build or buy your future dwelling make sure you consider the elevation and the possibility of future flooding when this happens.

A tidal surge is how we describe a situation where the normal tide is much higher than expected due to the wind and weather conditions in the catchment area, low atmospheric pressure will cause the surface of the sea to be higher than normal, this is a normal fact of nature but if it coincides with strong onshore winds then the breaking waves can be much higher than normal.

When you consider the damage caused by recent hurricanes and cyclones on the coastal areas, now try to imagine the devastation in years to come when the sea level is considerably higher, extreme forecasts talk not in inches with several feet and in some cases metres.

We really must do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint to protect the environment, we must not let big business or politics get in the way, they encourage climate sceptics to serve their own ends, you could compare the sceptics to the old flat earth believers,  there are no true sceptics anyone with half a brain and no ulterior motive has to believe that we are at fault.

If you live in a coastal area you can protect yourself and your family by carefully watching the weather forecasts and listening to the local news, you may get warnings from the local police or civil defense issued by radio or television.

Fortunately with modern communication systems these dangerous situations can be monitored easily and warnings issued by local government, civil defense, police, local radio and television.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is at risk from rising sea levels. Credit: Dave/Flickr Creative Commons/CC BY 2.0

Sea level rise is a critical global issue affecting millions across our planet. A new Web portal developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, gives researchers, decision makers and the public alike a resource to stay up to date with the latest developments and scientific findings in this rapidly advancing field of study.The portal, "Sea Level Change: Observations from Space," is online at:https://sealevel.nasa.gov/The portal's key features include:-- "Understanding Sea Level," a summary of decades of scientific research that has shaped our knowledge of sea level rise: its causes, including a warming, expanding ocean and melting ice on land; projections of future sea level rise; and ways in which humanity might adapt, largely drawn from NASA data.-- An interactive data analysis tool, launching in mid-2016, that will allow direct access to NASA datasets on sea level. Users will be able to manipulate these datasets to automatically generate charts, graphs and maps of sea surface height, temperature and other factors. The analysis tool will also allow users to make forecasts of future conditions, as well as "hindcasts" -- retroactive calculations of past trends and conditions.-- News highlights and feature stories with strong visual elements that explore the findings of sea level researchers in detail.-- An extensive library of published papers on sea level-related topics, hyperlinked to individual citations throughout "Understanding Sea Level."-- A multimedia section with dynamic still and video imagery, and a glossary of sea level terms.-- A "frequently asked questions" section maintained by sea level scientists. Users can submit questions to scientists and data managers.The website is optimized for most mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets."Sea Level Change: Observations from Space" is managed by a team led by JPL scientist Carmen Boening. The team is part of the NASA Sea Level Change Team research group."With sea levels rising globally, as observed by satellites over the past decades, sea level change is a hot topic in climate research," Boening said. "This new tool provides a NASA resource for researchers and a wealth of information for members of the public seeking a deeper understanding of sea level change."For more information on NASA's Earth science activities, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/earthandhttp://climate.nasa.gov

Sea levels

If the West Antarctic ice sheet was to melt in response to increasing global temperatures, sea levels could swamp coastal towns and cities around the world. 

That's the warning from Scottish researchers who have plotted how the ice sheet is expected to respond to global warming. 

In particular, they claim that loss of ice in West Antarctica caused by a warming ocean could raise sea levels by a staggering 10ft (3 metres). 

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the University of Edinburgh were able to gauge how levels of ice covering the land have changed over hundreds of thousands of years. They did so by studying peaks protruding through ice on the Atlantic flank of Antarctica (pictured)

In the first study of its kind, researchers were able to gauge how levels of ice covering the land have changed over hundreds of thousands of years. 

They did this by studying peaks protruding through ice in the Ellsworth Mountains, on the Atlantic flank of Antarctica.

The team assessed changes on slopes at various heights on the mountainside, which indicate levels previously reached by the ice sheet. 

Rising sea levels could destroy many of the nesting sites used by endangered sea turtles around the world, a new study has warned.

Researchers have found that as coastal nesting sites become flooded with sea water more often, many turtle populations will struggle to produce sufficient young.

They found that green turtles on Raine Island on the Great Barrier Reef, are now regularly being swamped with sea water.

This is leading to just 10 per cent of the eggs hatching into turtles, while in other parts of the world usually around 90 per cent of eggs hatch.

The researchers found that eggs submerged in sea water for up to six hours had a far reduced chance of hatching as the embryos struggled to get enough oxygen to survive. 

They also mapped the distribution of boulders on the mountainside, which were deposited by melting glaciers. 

Chemical technology - known as exposure dating - showed how long rocks had been exposed to the atmosphere, and their age.

Their results indicate that during previous warm periods, a substantial amount of ice would have been lost from the West Antarctic ice sheet by ocean melting, but it would not have melted entirely. 

This suggests ice would have been lost from areas below sea level, but not on upland areas.

The study shows that parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet have existed continuously for at least 1.4 million years.

However, if global temperatures continue to rise, causing the oceans to become warmer, then a substantial amount of ice could be lost from the sheet. 

This could see sea levels rise by as much as 10ft (3 metres).  

Dr Andrew Hein, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, joint leader of the study, said: 'Our findings narrow the margin of uncertainty around the likely impact of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on sea level rise. 

The team assessed changes on slopes at various heights on the mountainside in the Ellsworth Mountain range, which indicate levels previously reached by the ice sheet. They also mapped the distribution of boulders on the mountainside, which were deposited by melting glaciers

Their results indicate that during previous warm periods, a substantial amount of ice would have been lost from the West Antarctic (pictured) ice sheet by ocean melting, but it would not have melted entirely. If global temperatures continue to rise, causing the oceans to become warmer, sea levels rise by 10ft (3 metres)

'This remains a troubling forecast since all signs suggest the ice from West Antarctica could disappear relatively quickly.'

Professor John Woodward of the University of Northumbria, who co-led the study, said: 'It is possible that the ice sheet has passed the point of no return and, if so, the big question is how much will go and how much will sea levels rise.'

The study, published in Nature Communications, was carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh with Northumbria University and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre.  

Professor John Woodward of the University of Northumbria, who co-led the study, said: 'It is possible that the ice sheet has passed the point of no return and, if so, the big question is how much will go and how much will sea levels rise.' Researchers involved in the study are pictured in West Antarctica

Last year, researchers revealed more than 400 US cities could be obliterated by rising sea levels, and they created an interactive map to reveal the full extent of the crisis. The interactive map looks at various different post-2100 sea levels that could change in this century. This could spell the end for Miami and New Orleans

It builds on similar predictions made by Dr James Hansen, Nasa's former chief climate scientist who is now based at Columbia University in New York.

Dr Hansen, along with 16 other experts recently warned ice sheets are melting 10 times faster than believed. 

He explained that just 2°C of warming could be 'highly dangerous'. 

Last year, researchers revealed more than 400 US cities could be obliterated by rising sea levels, and they created an interactive map to reveal the full extent of the crisis. 

The interactive map looks at various different post-2100 sea levels that could change in this century. This could spell the end for Miami and New Orleans, for example.

Climate change experts have released a map of the world revealing how prepared different countries are to cope with the effects of climate change (shown above).

In the map 192 countries are ranked by their ‘vulnerability’ and ‘readiness’, producing an overall score on their fate, ranging from bad (zero) to excellent (100).

The results reveal that Scandinavian countries and the UK are among the most likely to survive - but areas of sub-Saharan Africa will be hardest hit.

They took into account location, terrain, pollution rates and national resources when calculating which countries would be most affected.

Countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark score well on the scale.

But places like Central America, Africa and India all appear at risk from natural disaster - and are poorly equipped to cope, said The Eco Experts.

Jon Whiting, of The Eco Experts warned: ‘Hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, droughts and flooding are all real dangers for some of these areas, and this is compounded by a lack of national strategy to counteract the effects.’

Burundi, Chad, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo produced some of the lowest scores, meaning these countries will be the biggest victims of weather disasters. 

 

Feb 23rd 2016

Had it not been for climate change, global sea levels would have risen by less than half the amount they did in the 20th century — and may even have fallen. Instead, the seas rose faster during those 100 years than in any of the previous 27 centuries, according to a Rutgers University-led study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences February 22. And as oceans continue to rise, we can expect more flooding on the U.S. East Coast, they warned.

Global sea levels rose by about 5.5 inches from 1900 to 2000, the study found. Around the world, average temperatures have risen nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s. Last year marked the hottest year on record, surpassing only 2014 as the second hottest. Without global warming, the team led by Robert Kopp estimates ocean levels would have risen by only 2.75 inches during the 20th century, if at all. (From 1000 to 1400 when the planet cooled by about .4 degrees Fahrenheit, ocean levels took about a three-inch dip.) Looking ahead, we can expect sea levels to rise another 1.7 to 4.3 feet in the 21st century as global temperatures continue to increase due to climate change, according to Kopp, an associate professor in Rutgers University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Climate change can cause sea level rise in two ways, reports the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Massachusetts-based non-profit science advocacy group. First, as the global temperature rises, so do ocean temperatures. That in turn causes seawater to expand, just the opposite of how it contracts when frozen. When the warmer water expands, it finds itself trapped within a basin bounded by the continents, with nowhere to go but up. Another factor adding water to the oceans is melting land ice. When glaciers or polar ice sheets melt, water is released into the oceans.  

It’s difficult to arrive at global sea level rise when data is recorded at particular locations. For this study, researchers devised a new statistical approach, allowing them to extrapolate global significance from regional records. With collaborators at Tufts University, the team worked with a data set of geological sea-level indicators from marshes, coral atolls and archaeological sites that spanned the last 3,000 years and represented 24 locations around the world. The analysis also tapped 66 tide-gauge records from the last 300 years. It was the largest and most detailed data set on sea levels yet to be analysed in this way.

As geologists, we can reconstruct how sea level changed at a particular site, and progress in the last 10 years has allowed us to do so with ever more detail and resolution,” says Andrew Kemp, an assistant professor of earth and ocean sciences at Tufts University. “Gathering together and standardizing these reconstructions gave us a chance to look at what they had in common and where they differed, both of which can tell us about the causes of past, present and future sea-level change."

To calculate the likely sea-level change in a scenario with no global warming, Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research used the study's global sea-level reconstruction to estimate how temperatures relate to the rate of sea-level change. Based on this relationship, the study found that, without global warming, 20th century global sea-level change would have been somewhere between a decrease of 1.2 inches and a rise of 2.8 inches. The study also found that it's very likely global sea level will rise by 1.7 to 4.3 feet in the 21st century if the world continues to rely heavily upon fossil fuels. Phasing out fossil fuels will reduce that to between 0.8 and 2.0 feet.

A companion report published by Climate Central — an independent organization of scientists and journalists reporting on climate science — found that more than half of the 8,000 coastal nuisance floods (those which lead to public inconveniences such as road closures) recorded since 1950 would not have occurred without sea level rise due to global warming.

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