Sea Level Rise-Why Worry Now?

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, Sustainable Living, W2O Blog | No Comments
Photo by Noelle Anderson

Photo by Noelle Anderson

Is sea level rise something we need to be concerned about right now? If you look at the data from the Union of Concerned Scientists, it seems far off somehow yet, we are seeing the water rise and cities and towns are talking about mitigation to protect vulnerable property. So what is going on? What action can we take?

Sea level rise, caused by human induced climate change, amplifies the effects of tidal height and storm surge associated with all coastal storms. A storm doesn’t need to be “super” to cause significant damage. Most people remember Hurricane Sandy. The iconic images of the massive storm taken by satellite; the bent and twisted frame of the drowned roller coaster sitting placidly in the surf just off the Jersey Shore; the flooded tunnels of the New York City subway system and lower Manhattan are hard to forget. Similarly, we shudder at the memory of New Orleans residents clinging to their roofs awaiting rescue by helicopters during Hurricane Katrina. Yet, we also tend to dismiss such happenings as anomalies. We call them “super storms “ or “100-year storms” and unless we were directly impacted, go on with our lives.

Because of warming seas from human induced climate change, scientists warn that 100-year storms are becoming more frequent. Coastal flood advisories and flood watches due to “astronomical tides” were in effect recently in locations from Key West to Maine, including Boston, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and other cities in between. In the southern part of Florida, a third night of flooding closed roads, flooded sidewalks and led to some of the most extensive tidal flooding they’d ever witnessed. Charlestown has seen consecutive days with road closure due to flooding and lives were lost due to rising waters. Last month’s king tide saw alligators swimming in flooded streets.

One constant piece of this phenomenon, the monthly ebb & flow of the tide, is just doing what it does, albeit with an extra kick when there is a king tide. With sea level rise, the highest tides are only getting higher, due to the thermal expansion caused by the increasing warm air and water and the flooding they bring is getting more frequent. Regardless of whether you live along the coast or in the nation’s heartland, the impact will be both economic and geographic.

Many of our most populous metropolitan areas are located where the ocean meets the land. In fact more than 100 million people live in coastal counties. These counties produce 42 percent of the US economy’s GDP. Besides being financial, military and government centers, these areas are home to the largest ports in our country. A quick glance at the list of the top five ports in the continental US, illustrates the vulnerabilities. They are located in Louisiana, Texas, New York/New Jersey, and account for billions of metric tons in movement of goods, both exports and imports, annually. In the past decade, each one has been impacted by a significant meteorological event, either Sandy or Katrina, and is located in a low-lying area impacted by tidal flooding and sea level rise.

When storms arrive, airports, cargo ports and financial centers close halting the movement of goods and people, slowing the economy and impacting people’s livelihoods. When land is washed away or homes and businesses are destroyed by floodwater, people’s life savings are threatened; they may be left homeless and jobless. These impacts will be more frequent as sea levels rise and storms become stronger.

What can we as ordinary citizens do to help prepare and protect our family, communities, and our society for sea level rise?

  • Be educated. By learning all that we can about climate change and sea level rise, we can support efforts to stem the tide.
  • Be prepared. Make sure our families are ready for a big storm by having a plan and the necessary items on hand to make sure we stay safe.
  • Be inspired to take action. Support legislation that demands action on climate change and reduce your own carbon footprint. Having a home energy audit is a great place to start!

Join us for Boston Waters Rising on October 29th and learn more!

Today’s blog contributor is W2O board member Dianne Brown

Terms Defined

Storm Surge occurs when the winds from coastal storms push water inland. It occurs at all tide levels, but causes the most damage at high tides and king tides. In other words, the higher the water level at the time of the surge, the more water will be pushed inland, resulting in greater flooding. The greater the flooding, the longer it will last, simply because the water will take longer to drain away. The longer the flooding lasts the more human suffering and economic damage it will inflict.

A King Tide The height of a tide is controlled by the gravitational pull of the moon on the earth, which varies during the month, as the moon waxes and wanes. The tide is highest when we have a full moon or a new moon. A king tide occurs several times during the year when the moon’s elliptical orbit brings it closest to the Earth at the same time the Earth’s elliptical orbit brings it closest to the sun.

Sea Level Rise is an increase in the level of our oceans, relative to the land. It is generally measured in three ways: satellite data, tide gauges, and land benchmarks. Sea level rise is occurring because of two phenomena – the absorption of additional heat in our atmosphere by the ocean and the melting of land ice (glaciers & ice sheets). Although scientific estimates vary about the amount of sea level rise we will experience, due to uncertain rates of land ice melt, climate scientists all agree that globally seas have risen an average of 8 inches since 1880 and that they will continue to rise from their present level.

 

Water Rising: Our Planet; Your Actions

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog | No Comments
Photo: George Steinmetz

Photo: George Steinmetz

W2O’s event Water Rising: The Impact on Humanity, was a huge success. The Imax was nearly full; our luncheon sold out. Union of Concerned Scientist Senior Analyst Erika Spanger-Siegfried’s explanation of the science of warming oceans inspired conversations about the affects of sea level rise across the globe. The juxtaposition of what actions rich and poor nations are taking to mitigate and prepare for rising seas was clearly shown in George Steinmetz’s moving photography. But success for W2O is measured by what happens after you leave our events. Are you taking the message home to your family and communities? Educating to inspire action is our mission!

Please take a look at the action card, given to each attendee at our event, and consider how you can help reduce emission that have ramifications close to home and as far away as Kiribati, the island nation and home to our event guest Ambassador Baaro.

Han_W20_Apr9_-10

photo credit: Li Han

Founder and Chair of W2O, Barbara Burgess says, “Now is the time to take action to protect our blue planet.” Join W2O, “like us” on Facebook to make sure that you are up to date on all of our events, and tell a friend about what you are doing today to take action on this important issue. Thank you for joining with us to make our blue planet sustainable!

Sea Level Rise-Tools of the Tide

By | Events, In the News, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog | No Comments

Sitting in the ocean means experiencing waves, changes in temperature, variations of color, textures between your toes, the giving over to the motion that gently (and sometimes not so gently) propels you in directions that you have little control over. Witnessing the tides-sometimes “oh so low” and often “oh! too high” is astonishing in it extremes. How can we measure something so alive and ever changing?

“If you could take planet Earth and move it out into deep space so that the sun, moons and other planets did not affect it and there were no temperature variations worldwide, then everything would settle down like a still pond. Rain and wind would stop, and so would the rivers. Then you could measure sea level accurately. If you did this, the level of the ocean’s water projected across the entire planet would be called the geoid.” This is the reality from a simple web search on measuring sea level rise from WikiHow.

MacMillan Arctic Expedition in 1926. Original photo NOAA Photo Library.

MacMillan Arctic Expedition in 1926. Original photo NOAA Photo Library.

Clearly measuring sea level rise is not an easy or exact science because of all of the variables that our dynamic, powerful beautiful ocean embodies. To complicate issues, when measuring sea level rise scientist must include movement of the land in and around the water. “Because the heights of both the land and the water are changing, the land-water interface can vary spatially and temporally and must be defined over time. Depending on the rates of vertical land motion relative to changes in sea level, observed local sea level trends may differ greatly from the average rate of global sea level rise, and vary widely from one location to the next,” according to NOAA. There are graphs, assessments, and a slew of documents from prestigious institutions, some confusing and some, thank god, worth reading for their simplicity and clarity.

For a very long time, sea level rise was measured with a tidal gauge, a simple tool that works by measuring the height of water relative to a fixed point on land. Today satellite equipment has taken over but fancy equipment doesn’t mean that data can ignore the variables that make sea level rise so difficult to predict. The important fact is, that data over a long period of time tells us that the sea is rising and that without cuts in emissions, it will keep rising with catastrophic results to many coastal communities across the globe.

Women Working for Oceans invites you to explore sea level rise at Water Rising: The Impact on Humanity on April 6th. National Geographic Photographer, George Steinmetz, will take the audience on a photographic look at how sea level rise affects coastal communities, rich and poor, around the world. Erika Spanger-Seigfried, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, will review the basic concept behind warming oceans, rising sea levels and human’s contribution to this critical global issue.

To read more about sea level rise, here are some websites that are easy to understand and thoughtful in their presentation. At Skeptical Science, you can even choose “basic” or “intermediate” language around the topic of sea level rise. Yale Universities report by Nicola Jones reviews data and questions what we really do know about sea level rise covering topics of long and short-term trends in data, melting polar ice sheets and governmental reports. Contributor to the article and sea level researcher at the University of Texas, Don Chambers, adds “I always tell people if they live under 3 feet above sea level, they should be worried about the next 100 years,” says Chambers. “We probably can adapt to a certain extent. The problem is that we’re not planning for it.”

 

:http://e360.yale.edu/feature/rising_waters_how_fast_and_how_far_will_sea_levels_rise/2702/

http://www.skepticalscience.com/sea-level-rise-predictions.htm

NOAA Photo: Morgan McHugh

NOAA Photo: Morgan McHugh