Seas Are Rising: Navy Norfolk In the Know

Coastal flooding has already become such a severe problem that Norfolk is spending millions to raise streets and improve drainage. Truly protecting the city could cost as much as $1 billion, money that Norfolk officials say they do not have. Norfolk’s mayor, Paul Fraim, made headlines a couple of years ago by acknowledging that some areas might eventually have to be abandoned.

Up and down the Eastern Seaboard, municipal planners want to know: How bad are things going to get, and how fast?

Sea Level Rise

Even if the global sea level rises only eight more inches by 2050, a moderate forecast, the Rutgers group foresees relative increases of 14 inches at bedrock locations like the Battery, and 15 inches along the New Jersey coastal plain, where the sediments are compressing. By 2100, they calculate, a global ocean rise of 28 inches would produce increases of 36 inches at the Battery and 39 inches on the coastal plain.

These numbers are profoundly threatening, and among the American public, the impulse toward denial is still strong. But in towns like Norfolk — where neighborhoods are already flooding repeatedly even in the absence of storms, and where some homes have become unsaleable — people are starting to pay attention.

“In the last couple or three years, there’s really been a change,” said William A. Stiles Jr., head of Wetlands Watch, a Norfolk environmental group. “What you get now is people saying, ‘I’m tired of driving through salt water on my way to work, and I need some solutions.’ ”

NY Times Science

So what, wondering minds want to know, is the Norfolk area Congressman, Scott Rigell (Va-2) doing about this?  Just about nada…here are some links to point the way.

Sea Levels of the Past Returning…tomorrow…

From Peter Sinclair says “Please do watch this one. I do think it’s one of my better ones.”

Miami: Going Down

From Rolling Stone: Not a pretty tune…

You would never know it from looking at Miami today. Rivers of money are flowing in from Latin America, Europe and beyond, new upscale shopping malls are opening, and the skyline is crowded with construction cranes. But the unavoidable truth is that sea levels are rising and Miami is on its way to becoming an American Atlantis. It may be another century before the city is completely underwater (though some more-pessimistic­ scientists predict it could be much sooner), but life in the vibrant metropolis of 5.5 million people will begin to dissolve much quicker, most likely within a few decades. The rising waters will destroy Miami slowly, by seeping into wiring, roads, building foundations and drinking-water supplies – and quickly, by increasing the destructive power of hurricanes. “Miami, as we know it today, is doomed,” says Harold Wanless, the chairman of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. “It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”

…The latest research, including an assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suggests that sea level could rise more than six feet by the end of the century. James Hansen, the godfather of global-warming science, has argued that it could increase as high as 16 feet by then – and Wanless believes that it could continue rising a foot each decade after that. “With six feet of sea-level rise, South Florida is toast,” says Tom Gustafson, a former Florida speaker of the House and a climate-change-policy advocate. Even if we cut carbon pollution overnight, it won’t save us. Ohio State glaciologist Jason Box has said he believes we already have 70 feet of sea-level rise baked into the system.

Read more at Rolling Stone

To look at what such rises would mean, here is a NY Times interactive….  <
With a rise of only 5 feet, Miami is 20% flooded, Miami Beach 94%.


Sea Level Rise: Up, Up and Away!

Sea levels, after several thousand years of little or no change, began to rise steadily in the early 1900s, trailing the Industrial Revolution and the increased use of fossil fuels by decades.  Projections for future rise vary from difficult to catastrophic.  A report released on Friday, June 22, 2010 by the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, has occasioned  a spate of articles, with only a few making it to the front pages.  SF Chronicle: David Perlman; Newser;  AFP;  NY Times (using AP)

The West Coast papers emphasize the difference in expected sea level rise in the California of the San Andreas fault, and the California north of Cape Mendocino, Oregon and Washington which rides up over the subsiding Juan de Fuca ocean plate.

For the California coast south of Cape Mendocino, the committee projects that sea level will rise 4–30 cm [1.6″-11.8″] by 2030 relative to 2000, 12–61 cm [4.7″- 24″] by 2050, and 42–167 cm [16.5″ – 65.7″] by 2100. For the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts north of Cape Mendocino, sea level is projected to change between -4 cm (sea-level fall) and +23 cm by 2030, -3 cm and +48 cm by 2050, and 10–143 cm by 2100.

 On the East Coast attention is focused on a 600 mile “hot spot from Cape Hatteras to Boston where a second report, from the U.S. Geological Service, says the sea is rising 3-4 times faster than the global average.

In absolute figures, sea levels on this stretch of coast have climbed by between 2 and 3.7 millimetres per year since 1980, whereas the global increase over the same period was 0.6–1.0 millimetres per year.

The existence of the hotspot is consistent with the measured slowing of Atlantic Ocean circulation, which may be tied to changes in water temperature, salinity and density in the subpolar north of the ocean.

The researchers predicted that by 2100, sea levels in the hotspot would rise by between 20 and 29 centimetres above the global increase, which most oceanographers predict will be about one metre.

The meat of the NRC report is here:

Sea-level change is one of the most visible consequences of changes in the Earth’s climate.
A warming climate causes global sea level to rise principally by (1) warming the oceans, which
causes sea water to expand, increasing ocean volume, and (2) melting land ice, which transfers
water to the ocean. Tide gage and satellite observations show that global sea level has risen an
average of about 1.7 mm yr over the 20th century (Bindoff et al., 2007), which is a significant
increase over rates of sea-level rise during the past few millennia (Shennan and Horton, 2002;
Gehrels et al., 2004). Projections suggest that sea level will continue to rise in the future (Figure
1.1). However, the rate at which sea level is changing varies from place to place and with time.
Along the west coast of the United States, sea level is influenced by changes in global mean sea
level as well as by regional changes in ocean circulation and climate patterns such as El Niño;
gravitational and deformational effects of ice age and modern ice mass changes; and uplift or
subsidence along the coast. The relative importance of these factors in any given area determines
whether the local sea level will rise or fall and how fast it will change.

FIGURE 1.1 Estimated, observed, and projected global sea-level rise from 1800 to 2100. The pre-1900 record is based on geological evidence, and the observed record is from tide gages (red line) and satellite altimetry (blue line). Example projections of sea-level rise to 2100 are from IPCC (2007) global climate models (pink shaded area) and semi-empirical methods (gray shaded area; Rahmstorf, 2007). SOURCES: Adapted from Shum et al. (2008), Willis et al. (2010), and Shum and Kuo (2011)

The report was requested by ten state and federal agencies including 4 in California (see ix of the report) which want the best information for planning purposes — unlike the North Carolina Senate which recently passed a bill regulating which measurements were to be used in calculating sea-rise.  [It appears that the scorn storm breached the walls of idiocy and the bill has now been re-written, having been resoundingly rejected by the NC House.]

Here’s a handy little map device to drill down to your back yard and see how sea level rise might affect you (This is a linear plot, so it doesn’t take in the variances reported on above.  Interesting nevertheless.]