Canadian glaciers have become a major contributor to sea level change


Click to enlargeNASA/John Sonntag

❝ Ice loss from Canada’s Arctic glaciers has transformed them into a major contributor to sea level change, new research by University of California, Irvine glaciologists has found.

From 2005 to 2015, surface melt off ice caps and glaciers of the Queen Elizabeth Islands grew by an astonishing 900 percent, from an average of three gigatons to 30 gigatons per year, according to results published…in the journal Environmental Research Letters

❝ The team found that in the past decade, overall ice mass declined markedly, turning the region into a major contributor to sea level change. Canada holds 25 percent of all Arctic ice, second only to Greenland…

❝ The Canadian ice cap has glaciers on the move into the Arctic Ocean, Baffin Bay and Nares Strait. The researchers used satellite data and a regional climate model to tally the “balance” of total gain and loss each year, and the reasons why. Because of the huge number of glaciers terminating in area marine basins, they expected that discharge into the sea caused by tide water hitting approaching glacier fronts would be the primary cause.

In fact, they determined that until 2005, the ice loss was caused about equally by two factors: calving icebergs from glacier fronts into the ocean accounted for 52 percent, and melting on glacier surfaces exposed to air contributed 48 percent. But since then, as atmospheric temperatures have steadily climbed, surface melt now accounts for 90 percent.

❝ Lead author Romain Millan said that in recent years ice discharge was only a major component in a few basins, and that even rapid, short term increases from these ice fields only had a minor impact on the long-term trend.

Millan added, “We identified meltwater runoff as the major contributor to these ice fields’ mass loss in recent years…

Just keeping y’all up-to-date, folks. Climate change deniers won’t spend any of their bought-and-paid-for time checking scientific study. Folks with a real interest in real science enjoy the practice.

Climate scientists predict accelerating sea level rise

One of the great things about science is that it allows you to make predictions. Three top climate scientists just made a very bold prediction regarding sea level rise; we should know in a few years if they are correct…

For instance, the oceans are rising. We know that’s indisputable. Measurements taken from physical gauges and from satellites confirm sea level rise. The cause of the rise is more complex…

The three ways we know sea levels are rising are from physical tide gauges, from satellites that measure the water height, and from satellites that measure where ice is stored across the globe. While tide gauge measurements go back many years, they only measure water levels at their location. Many tide gauges have to be in place to get an accurate sense of what is happening globally.

Satellites, on the other hand, are much more capable of taking global measurements. The problem with satellites is they have only been taking measurements since approximately 1993 (not nearly as long as tide gauges). So scientists try to combine these two measurements to get a long-term and global picture of what is really happening.

A very recent paper published in Nature has evaluated the history of sea level rise, and what they find is really interesting…Using satellite data, the authors found little evidence of an acceleration. However, they show that this is because the satellites began measuring in 1993, right after a large volcanic eruption (Mount Pinatubo). This eruption temporarily reduced global warming because particles from the eruption blocked sunlight. Just by coincidence, the timing of the satellites and the eruption has affected the water rise so that it appears to be linear. Had the eruption not occurred, the rate would have increased.

This allows the scientists to make a prediction:

barring another major volcanic eruption, a detectable acceleration is likely to emerge from the noise of internal climate variability in the coming decade.

This means that the authors will be able to statistically observe an increase, even though the Earth experiences natural changes that may mask any increase.

…Dr. Fasullo…told me:

This article shows that the acceleration of sea level rise is real and ongoing. It is also an example of how climate models can play a key role in both the interpretation of observations and the prediction of near-future climate.

While only time will tell if they are right, I’d put my money on the scientists.

I’ll second that emotion.

Climate refugees in the Lower 48


Click to enlargeGuardian/Charlie Varley
“Used to be all you could see was trees and woods”

Wenceslaus Billiot, an 88-year-old native of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, remembers growing up on a much different island than the two-mile sliver of his ancestral home that remains today.

“When I was a kid I used to do trapping in the back,” he said, gesturing towards the back of the small, one-story house that stands elevated on stilts to escape the floods that roll in from the bayou after nearly every storm. “You could walk for a long time. Now, nothing but water.”

The back balcony overlooks a vast expanse of water leading to Terrebonne Bay and, further, the Gulf of Mexico – that now lies in his backyard.

Billiot and his equally sprightly 91-year-old wife, Denecia Naquin, are among the last remaining residents of this island, which has lost 98% of its land and most of its population to coastal erosion and rising sea levels since 1955. The population, which peaked at around 400, is now down to around 85…

As in other areas of southern Louisiana, the loss of once-vast tracts of marshland and trees has left the island exposed to hurricanes and frequent flooding has stripped the land, made farming impossible and forced residents into an annual ritual of rebuilding.

The couple, like nearly everyone on the island, belong to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, and can trace their roots to the early 1800s when Native Americans fleeing forced relocation under the Indian Removal Act first settled the island. The tribe was quickly intertwined with the local French Cajun influence, which can still be heard in the lilting accent of Billiot and Naquin’s generation…

Now, with new federal funding, the Isle de Jean Charles tribe will be part of the first program in the lower 48 states to address an entire community’s resettlement needs due to climate change and increased natural disasters.

In January the tribe was awarded $52m for resettlement from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as part of its $1bn Natural Disaster Resiliency Competition. The money will fund a new sustainably designed development to provide housing to up to 400 tribe members on a new plot inland. Planning is in the early stages, but officials hope to choose a site likely somewhere north of Houma, the closest city, later this year.

The project will be watched closely as a testing ground for the resettlement of whole communities – culturally sensitive ones, in particular – as the effects of climate change begin to be felt more acutely along the coasts of North America and indigenous communities in Alaska face similar prospects of disappearing land…

Louisiana has one of the fastest rates of land loss in the country, due to the twin problems of land loss and sea level rise. Since the 1930s, the state has lost nearly 2,000 square miles of land, equivalent to roughly one football field every 45 minutes.

“The land is sinking for a variety of reasons,” said Alex Kolker, a professor of earth sciences at Tulane University. Natural land loss has been compounded by the thousands of canals dredged by oil and gas companies drilling in the area and levees built along the Mississippi River have stopped the natural process of sediment that would otherwise replenish coastal land. “Climate change is becoming a big issue,” he said, and the increasing rate of sea level rise could soon overtake the rate of land loss, which has historically been greater.

In the future, a lot of the rest of the world could look like what Louisiana looks like now, Kolker added.

RTFA. Please. Lots of detail about the lives of ordinary people disrupted by climate change. The wealthy, even the upper middle class already afford the mobility characteristic of much of American population. The keyword being “afford”. They can pick up and move.

For the rest, in a political culture infected with science-deniers for the usual reasons, disaster like this is something that rolls inevitably towards destruction of your community and its culture.

Animated map shows how sea-level rise will swallow Trump’s Florida property

Oh, the irony. Observe the GIF above, which illustrates how one of Donald “Donnie Boy” Trump’s properties will be affected by rising sea levels in South Florida. The map is part of a great series BuzzFeed created with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The kicker, of course, is that Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change. Speaking with Bill O’Reilly last year, Trump referred to the Paris climate talks as “ridiculous,” and called climate change “a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money.”

Trump, it seems, knows nothing of science…Although [Trump’s] buildings may remain just above sea level, access will likely be a problem by the end of the century, as much of the surrounding area disappears beneath the waves.

“Even though a certain property might be sort of dry, there’s going to be absolutely no way of getting to it,” says Billy Brooks, a geospatial analyst at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management…

Regardless of the timing, one thing is clear: If these very real threats to Donald Trump’s own fortune can’t make the man change his mind, clearly, it can’t be changed at all.

Changing Trump’s mind presumes reasoned rational processes. Opportunism is the only reason for anything Trump does or says.

Coastal conservatives need new places to hide their heads – Sea level rising faster


Click to enlarge — this ain’t the future, this is Miami in June 2014

Ocean levels on Earth have risen an average of three inches in the last 23 years, and could rise an additional three feet in the next century, according to an interdisciplinary NASA team charged with measuring changing sea levels.

Scientists from NASA Wednesday presented satellite data gathered since 1992 that measured ocean levels rising at an average of 3 millimeters per year. The findings pointed to thermal expansion caused by warming ocean temperatures, as well as melting ice sheets and glaciers, as the reasons for the rise — and scientists warned that the rate at which sea levels are climbing is accelerating.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made a comprehensive assessment of rising sea levels in 2013, with climate experts stating that oceans would rise from one to three feet by the end of the century.

But NASA said Wednesday that satellite data gathered since then has shown that sea levels will climb to the higher end of that range, though it will be difficult to predict exactly how long it will take to reach that level.

Along with partners from French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has been tracking changing sea levels and the melting of ice sheets and glaciers using satellites equipped with highly sensitive instruments.

Mike Freilich, director of NASA’s earth science division in Washington, explained that the satellites were so accurate that they would be able to detect the movement of a dime lying on the ground from 40,000 feet above it.

The scientists said that melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have been contributing to rising sea levels sooner and more significantly than they had anticipated…

Sea levels don’t rise uniformly across the planet, and in some places — particularly on the West coast of the U.S. — they are actually declining due to natural cycles of ocean currents. The scientists expect sea levels in those regions to catch up, and perhaps to exceed global average sea levels.

People need to understand that the planet is not only changing, it’s changed,” said NASA scientist Tom Wagner…

Researchers noted that with the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melting, it will be difficult for scientists to predict when sea levels will rise as a result because they have never actually witnessed the collapse of an ice sheet.

This will not bother the folks who not only never witnessed a conversation with a burning bush – they can’t find scientific record of such an occurrence. But, they still believe.

The same cultural rejection of science and scientific research that justifies superstition makes it easy to place the fate of future generations in the hands of politicians who make the same noises as your grandparents. And that’s true whether your rationale is defined in terms of ideology, religion or just something your favorite demagogue said, last Thursday on the radio.

Climate study is scary as ever – but, James Hansen still has hope


Click to enlarge — Hurricane Isaac storm surge greater than Hurricane Katrina — Lt. Conrad H. Franz

When James Hansen speaks, climate hawks listen. Hansen was legendary during his long career as NASA’s chief climatologist for being ahead of the curve on seeing the threat of catastrophic climate change. Now he teaches at Columbia University, and he has more bad news to deliver. According to a study conducted by Hansen and 16 coauthors, being published this week in the European Geophysical Union’s open-access journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, the effects of even moderate warming on sea-level rise are worse than previously believed.

Hansen and his colleagues combined analysis of the historical record with modeling and current observation and found that the rate of oceanic ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica may exceed our expectations. As InsideClimate News explains, the scientists “analyzed how an influx of cold freshwater from the planet’s melting ice sheets will disrupt the ocean’s circulation … They concluded the influx of freshwater from melting ice sheets in modern times would essentially shut down the ocean’s circulation, causing cool water to stay in the Earth’s polar regions and equatorial water to warm up even faster.”

“The cooling mechanism is cut off, so it’s melting ice shelves,” Hansen explained in an interview with Grist. “It’s a really dangerous situation where you get melting that causes more melting.”…

The bottom line, as Slate’s Eric Holthaus writes, is that “glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea-level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.” A sea-level rise of 10 feet would inundate parts of major cities from New York to Shanghai…

Hansen, despite his reputation for doomsaying, remains hopeful about the prospects for fending off the worst of climate change. The biggest emitting nations are not pledging to cut emissions enough to even keep warming below 2C, but Hansen says a gradually rising global carbon fee could change that. It could force emissions to drop several percentage points per year and hold us down to 1.5C in warming. To get this outcome from the messy global climate treaty process would be fantastic, but it is highly unlikely. Hansen sort of admits this, but holds out hope nonetheless.

“I don’t think it’s impossible that you could get key players to agree to the concept of an international carbon fee,” he says. “It’s not going to happen with 190 countries sitting around a table. It’s going to happen with key players negotiating directly either at Paris or in the years ahead.” Specifically, Hansen imagines that the world’s two biggest economies and biggest carbon emitters, the U.S. and China, would negotiate a carbon fee bilaterally and then use their global buying power to force all of their trading partners to join.

People who actually read and study agree. At least economists who earn a living in the world of business and finance – as well as academia. I happened to see Peter Orszag on Bloomberg Surveillance, the other morning, and he was working at advancing the Hansen solution as practical and possible. Hoping against hope that reasonable leaders of industrial nations might engage in bilateral negotiations and treaties to force the reduction in atmospheric carbon.

No, he didn’t hold out any hope for the United States offering world leadership unless anti-science conservatives were absent from both houses of Congress and the White House. Poisonally, I don’t think Americans are well-enough informed or yet free enough of medieval hobgoblins to bring about that quality of change.

Sea levels to rise 2.3 metres per degree of global warming

Sea levels could rise by 2.3 metres for each degree Celsius that global temperatures increase and they will remain high for centuries to come, according to a new study by the leading climate research institute…

Anders Levermann said his study for the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research was the first to examine evidence from climate history and combine it with computer simulations of contributing factors to long-term sea-level increases: thermal expansion of oceans, the melting of mountain glaciers and the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets…

Sea levels rose by 17cm last century and the rate has accelerated to more than 3mm a year, according to the IPCC. A third of the current rise is from Antarctica and Greenland…

“In the past there was some uncertainty and people haven’t known by how much,” Levermann said. “We’re saying now, taking everything we know, that we’ve got a robust estimate of 2.3 meters of rising sea per degree of warming.”

David Vaughan, head of the Ice2sea project to narrow down uncertainties about how melting ice will swell the oceans, has said sea levels would rise by between 16.5 and 69 cm under a scenario of moderate global warming this century.

Vaughan told Reuters the biggest impact rising seas will have is that storms will be more destructive in the near future.

“It’s not about chasing people up the beach or the changing shape of coastlines,” he said. “The big issue is how the storms will damage our coasts and how often they occur. That’ll increase even with small levels of sea rise in coming decades.”

“Continuous sea-level rise is something we cannot avoid unless global temperatures go down again,” Levermann said. “Our results indicate that major adaptation at our coastlines will be necessary. It’s likely that some currently populated regions can’t be protected in the long run.”

The worst of the climate change deniers are the know-nothings. They have zero knowledge of the topic so their arguments rely on volume more than topicality. The most insidious. The science groupies who have learned at least to make their non-science and overt lies sound somewhat reasonable – to the ignoranuses in the first group.

I spent two years debating, examining, studying the topic at the turn of the millenium. I’ve since stayed current with the work coming from the researchers who best explained the processes at play – to my satisfaction. The Max Planck Institute – fortunately offers a great deal of their published work in English.

For day-by-day, month-by-month resources, I heartily recommend the folks noted over on the right of this page at RealClimate.

Land rises after Ice Age melt – oceans rise from climate change


Sheep graze in a field that was a harbor in the 15th Century

A Stone Age camp that used to be by the shore is now 200 km from the Baltic Sea. Sheep graze on what was the seabed in the 15th century. And Sweden’s port of Lulea risks getting too shallow for ships…

The uplift of almost a centimeter a year, one of the highest rates in the world, is part of a continuing geological rebound since the end of the Ice Age removed a vast ice sheet from regions around the Arctic Circle.

In the Lulea region just south of the Arctic Circle, mostly flat with pine forests and where the sea freezes in winter, tracts of land have emerged, leaving some Stone Age, Viking and Medieval sites inland.

That puts human settlements gradually out of harm’s way from sea flooding, unlike low-lying islands from Tuvalu to Kiribati or cities from New York to Shanghai. Facebook is investing in a new data center in Lulea on land that was once on the seabed….

Lulea’s old town, with a 15th century church and bright red-painted wooden houses, was originally built on an island for safety when it was as an outpost of the then Swedish-Finnish Kingdom to counter Russian influence near the Arctic Circle.

Now the village is high and dry, out of sight of the sea. Sheep graze on a field in what used to be the port. In one spot, Sweden’s coastline has risen about 300 meters since the Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago.

Many places, from North Carolina to Australia, have struggled with sea level rise amid property developers’ fears that it could wipe billions of dollars off values if coastal areas are re-defined as flood zones.

Up in the north where land is rising most…there won’t be any problems this century,” said Thomas Hammarklint of the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, since land rise would cancel out sea rise of up to a meter.

But he said that Stockholm, for instance, and areas in south and western Sweden where land is rising less fast might suffer.

The Earth provides us with an endless dialectic of change. We can use our skills as an adaptive species changing our own ways perhaps easier than trying to modify the landscape. Perhaps not.

Rise of sea level on the United States’ East Coast accelerating faster than oceans in other parts of the world


Last house on Holland Island, MD – where 360 people used to live

Sea level rise on the U.S. East Coast has accelerated much faster than in other parts of the world—roughly three to four times the global average…Calling the heavily populated region a sea level rise hot spot, researchers warn that cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore could face a more flood-prone future.

Sea levels worldwide are expected to rise as global warming melts ice and causes water to expand. Those levels, though, are expected to vary from place to place, due to factors such as ocean currents, differences in seawater temperature and saltiness, and the Earth’s shape…Now it seems scientists have pinpointed just such a variance.

Analyzing tide-level data from much of North America, U.S. Geological Survey scientists unexpectedly found that sea levels in the 1,000-kilometer stretch of coast from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to the Boston area climbed by about 2 to 3.8 millimeters a year, on average, between 1950 and 2009.

Global sea level rise averaged about 0.6 to 1 millimeter annually over the same period.

“If you talk with residents of this hot spot area in their 70s or 80s who’ve lived there all their lives, they’ll tell you water is coming higher now in winter storms than it ever did before,” said study co-author Peter Howd, an oceanographer contracted with the USGS…”We’re now finally getting to the point where we can measure their observations with our highfalutin scientific instruments.”

At New York City, the team extrapolated, sea levels could rise by 20 to 29 centimeters by 2100 — in addition to the roughly 1 meter of average sea level rise expected worldwide by then…For residents of New York and cities up and down the eastern seaboard, those numbers should become a lot more than ink on paper.

“The first thing people will see from this is an increase over the next few decades in the low-level coastal flooding that occurs now with wintertime storms,” Howd said…”Eventually you’ll see coastal flooding events three to four times a year instead of once every three to four years…”

“This could be part of a natural cycle maybe 100 to 200 years long. Or not,” study co-author Howd said. “We need more data over years to help build climate models and greater understanding.”

As you might automagically presume, the response from conservative legislatures is to pass laws which will tell the water to stop rising. North Carolina has a bill in the hopper to ban the use of the latest science and improved methods to base forecasts on these changes. As noted in the article, this is “human nature trying to outwit Mother Nature, and Mother Nature usually wins that battle of wits.”

In the case of climate deniers, we face half-wits.

Perry flunkies purge science from report on Texas environment

Officials in Rick Perry’s home state of Texas have set off a scientists’ revolt after purging mentions of climate change and sea-level rise from what was supposed to be a landmark environmental report. The scientists said they were disowning the report on the state of Galveston Bay because of political interference and censorship from Perry appointees at the state’s environmental agency.

By academic standards, the protest amounts to the beginnings of a rebellion: every single scientist associated with the 200-page report has demanded their names be struck from the document. “None of us can be party to scientific censorship so we would all have our names removed,” said Jim Lester, a co-author of the report and vice-president of the Houston Advanced Research Centre…

However, Perry, in his run for the Republican nomination, has elevated denial of science, from climate change to evolution, to an art form. He opposes any regulation of industry, and has repeatedly challenged the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Texas is the only state to refuse to sign on to the federal government’s new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. “I like to tell people we live in a state of denial in the state of Texas,” said John Anderson, an oceanography at Rice University, and author of the chapter targeted by the government censors…

Officials even deleted a reference to the sea level at Galveston Bay rising five times faster than the long-term average – 3mm a year compared to .5mm a year – which Anderson noted was a scientific fact. “They just simply went through and summarily struck out any reference to climate change, any reference to sea level rise, any reference to human influence – it was edited or eliminated,” said Anderson. “That’s not scientific review that’s just straight forward censorship.”

The barbarian cohort of politicians catering to every whim of the Oil Patch Boys is nothing new to anyone who lives within 600 miles of the Permian Basin. That they are marching towards full control of the Republican Party in concert with the flat-earthers of the Tea Party isn’t a surprise either.

The sad bit is that – like the groundswell that floated Mussolini into history like a turd floating on a garbage-filled tide – anger and despair over a Congress populated with do-nothings may fuel their replacement with know-nothings.

The foolishness of born-again libertarians is compounded not only by ignorance and a fear of educated folk – censorship once again comes into play as thoroughly as xenophobia and bigotry.