[Tide gauges have been used to measure sea level for more than 130 years. Satellite measurements now complement the historical record. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, based on data from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and NOAA)]
For thousands of years, sea level has remained relatively stable and human communities have settled along the planet’s coastlines. But now Earth’s seas are rising. Globally, sea level has risen about eight inches since the beginning of the 20th century and more than two inches in the last 20 years alone. According to the federal National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “all signs suggest that this rise is accelerating”.
Seas around the world have risen an average of nearly 3 inches since 1992, with some locations rising more than 9 inches due to natural variation, according to the latest satellite measurements from NASA and its partners. An intensive research effort now underway, aided by NASA observations and analysis, points to “an unavoidable rise of several feet in the future”.
“Sea level rise is a natural [physical] consequence of the warming of our planet”, states NASA’s press release dated August 26, 2015. “We know this from basic physics. When water heats up, it expands. So when the ocean warms, sea level rises. When ice is exposed to heat, it melts. And when ice on land melts and water runs into the ocean [water from unprecedented ice and snow melt off Antarctica, Greenland, land areas north of permafrost region in Northern Hemisphere, mountainous glaciers receding, worldwide] sea level rises”.
As the ocean has warmed, polar ice has melted, and porous landmasses have subsided, global mean sea level has risen by 8 inches (20 centimeters) since 1870. The rate of sea level rise is faster now than at any time in the past 2,000 years, and that rate has doubled in the past two decades.
While NASA and other agencies continue to monitor the warming of the ocean and changes to the planet’s land masses, the biggest concern is what will happen to the ancient ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, which continue to send out alerts that a warming planet is affecting their stability.
NASA has been recording the height of the ocean surface from space since 1992, recording about 2.9 inches (7.4 centimeters) of sea level rise averaged for all the oceans in that 23 year period.
In 2002, NASA and the German space agency launched the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites, capable of measuring the movement of mass, hence gravity, around Earth at intervals of every 30 days. GRACE has found that earth’s land masses move very little in a month; however, earth’s water masses move through melting, evaporation, precipitation and other processes. GRACE records these movements of water around the planet, while a new NASA network of more than 3,000 floating ocean sensors spread across the entire open ocean supplement that ocean water level data.
Observations from the new NASA ocean level data collection systems have revolutionized scientists’ understanding of contemporary sea level rise and its causes. NASA’s newest release state that: “We know that today’s sea level rise is about one-third the result of the warming of existing ocean water, with the remainder coming from melting land ice”, adding that “currently, regional differences in sea level rise are dominated by the effects of ocean currents and well known cycles, such as the Pacific Ocean’s El Niño phenomenon and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.” But as the ice sheets located closer to the poles of the planet (which receive less direct solar radiation due to the tilting of the planet as it orbits the Sun), and the once “permanent” ice located at higher elevations around the world continues to melt as a direct result of measurably warming temperatures occurring as a direct consequence of a stronger greenhouse effect that is already unnaturally high due to human activities such as fossil fuel burning, deforestation, and paving over the earth’s still green landscape. NASA scientists now predict that the increasing meltwater resulting from the stronger greenhouse effect will overtake the formerly natural causes of regional variations of the ocean water levels and be the most significant contributor to the overall rise in sea level.
The recent advances in observing the world’s frozen regions using satellite measurements from NASA and its participating organizations have allowed scientists to accurately estimate annual ice losses from Greenland and Antarctica. Not only can they now determine how much sea level around the world is changing – as measured by satellite for the past 23 years – but they can also determine how much of the sea level rise is being caused by our warming of the earth’s biosphere, which includes both the atmosphere at or near the surface, the oceans, the land surface, and the biota (plant and animal kingdoms) that all together comprise earth’s biosphere.
GRACE’s record, spanning over the last decade, shows that the ice loss around the planet is now accelerating in Greenland and West Antarctica. The record shows Greenland has shed on average 303 gigatons of ice every year since 2004, while Antarctica has lost on average 118 gigatons of ice per year. Much of Antarctica’s ice loss has been shown to come from West Antarctica’s ice loss. Greenland’s ice loss has accelerated by 31 gigatons of ice per year, every year since 2004, while West Antarctica’s ice loss has accelerated to 28 gigatons per year.
“Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet of sea level rise and probably more,” said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lead of NASA’s new Sea Level Change Team.
The Greenland Ice Sheet, spanning 660,000 square miles (an area almost as big as Alaska), and with a thickness at its highest point of almost 2 miles, has the potential to raise the world’s oceans by more than 20 feet. Situated in the Arctic, which is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, Greenland has been shedding more ice in the summer than it gains back in the winter since 1992.
“In Greenland, everything got warmer at the same time: the air, the ocean surface, the depths of the ocean,” said Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at University of Washington. “We don’t really understand which part of that warming is having the biggest effect on the glaciers.”
What scientists do know is that warming Arctic temperatures – and a darkening surface of the Greenland ice sheet – are causing so much summer melting that it is now the dominant factor in Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise.
NASA has found that Greenland’s summer melt season now lasts 70 days longer than it did in the early 1970s. Every summer, warmer air temperatures cause melt over about half of the surface of the ice sheet – although recently, 2012 saw an extreme event where 97 percent of the ice sheet experienced melt at its top layer.
Greenland’s massive glaciers have sped up, too. Though many of the glaciers in the southeast, west and northwest of the island – an area that experienced quick thinning from 2000 to 2006 – have now slowed down, the melting rate at other areas Greenland’s massive ice sheet has not slowed. A study last year showed that the northeast Greenland ice stream had increased its ice loss rate due to warmer air temperatures.
“The early 2000s was when some big things revealed themselves, such as when we saw the fastest glacier we knew of, the Jakobshavn ice stream in Greenland, double its speed,” said Waleed Abdalati, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, Colorado, and former NASA chief scientist. “The subsequent surprise was that these changes could be sustained for a decade – Jakobshavn is still going fast”, Abdalati said.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers nearly 5.4 million square miles, and area larger than the United States and India combined, and contains enough ice to raise the ocean level by about 190 feet. The Transantarctic Mountains split Antarctica in two major regions: West Antarctica and the much larger East Antarctica.
Though Antarctica’s contribution to sea level rise is still at less than 0.02 inches (0.5 millimeters) per year, several events over the past decade and a half have prompted experts to start warning about the possibility of more rapid changes this century.
The mountainous horn of the continent, the Antarctic Peninsula, gave one of the earliest warnings on the impact of a changing climate in Antarctica when warm air and warmer ocean temperatures led to the dramatically fast breakup of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002. In about a month, 1,250 square miles of floating ice that had been stable for over 10,000 years were gone. In the following years, other ice shelves in the Peninsula, including the last remainder of Larsen B, collapsed, speeding up in the flow of the land lying glaciers that they were buttressing against the warming ocean.
In 2014, two studies focusing on the acceleration of the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica showed that its collapse is currently well underway. And while one of the studies speculated that the demise of the ice overlaying West Antarctica could take as long as 200 to 1,000 years, depending on how rapidly the ocean heats up, both studies concurred that its collapse is already unstoppable, and that when it does collapse, the melt water will add up to 12 feet of sea level rise to the oceans.
The wind is also a factor in determining the timing of West Antarctica’s collapse. The “westerlies”, the winds that spin the ocean waters around Antarctica, are known to have intensified during the last decade, pushing the cold top layer away from the land, and thus allowing the warmer, deeper waters to rise and spill over the border of the continental shelf, flowing all the way back to the base of many of the ice shelves jetting out from the continent. As the ice shelves weaken from underneath, the glaciers behind them are predicted to speed up.
East Antarctica’s massive ice sheet, as vast as the lower continental U.S., remains an unknown in projections of sea level rise. Though it appears to be stable, a recent study on Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest and most rapidly thinning glacier, hints otherwise. Research found two deep troughs that could lead warm ocean water to the base of the glacier and melt it in a similar way to what’s happening to the glaciers in West Antarctica. Other sectors grounded below sea level, such as the Cook Ice Shelf, Ninnis, Mertz and Frost glaciers, have also been found to be losing mass.
For the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which largely rests on a bed that lies below sea level, the main driver of ice loss is the ocean. The waters of the Southern Ocean are layered: on top and at the bottom, the temperatures are frigid, but the middle layer is warm. The westerlies, the winds that spin the ocean waters around Antarctica, have intensified during the last decade, pushing the cold top layer away from the land. This allows the warmer, deeper waters to rise and spill over the border of the continental shelf, flowing all the way back to the base of many ice shelves. As the ice shelves weaken from underneath, the glaciers behind them speed up.
East Antarctica’s massive ice sheet, as vast as the lower continental U.S., remains the main unknown in projections of sea level rise. Though it appears to be stable, a recent study on Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest and most rapidly thinning glacier, hints otherwise. The research found two deep troughs that could lead warm ocean water to the base of the glacier and melt it in a similar way to what’s happening to the glaciers in West Antarctica. Other sectors grounded below sea level, such as the Cook Ice Shelf, Ninnis, Mertz and Frost glaciers, are also losing mass.
Thanks to a Corporation-compliant Mass Media and Press in the United States: the American People, their Representatives in the Congress, and a Majority of State Legislatures and Governors in the U. S. Have Clearly Been Duped by the Many of the Fossil Fuel Dependent Industries and their Lobbyists into Not Taking Global Warming Seriously Enough
Hurricane Katrina, Late August, 2005
According to scientists who have studied and documented the causes and effects of changes in climates at various locations around the world, there has never been a time in Earth’s history during which climates around the world; ocean levels, temperatures, and chemistry; wildlife territorial changes and atmospheric properties have occurred so rapidly and so significantly as to create significant levels of concern to human the world over. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, made up of hundreds of the world’s most respected scientists predicts much more rapid global warming in the coming decades today if we humans collectively continue doing what we have done in the recent past – burning increased amounts of fossil fuels, destroying more and more forests in the name of economic “progress”, and we continue living “high on the hog” under the mantra of “business as usual”.
Volunteer host Esty Dinur of WORT-FM Community Radio Station in Madison, Wisconsin talked with climatologist Michael E. Mann and journalist John H. Richardson on the station’s “A Public Affair” Friday, August 21, 2015, from noon to 1:00 PM.
Dr. Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, and is the director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. He is also the author of more than 180 peer reviewed and edited publications, and has published two books including Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming and The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. He is also a co-founder of the award-winning science website RealClimate.org.
John H. Richardson is a writer and journalist for Esquire Magazine. He has also worked with The Albuquerque Tribune, The Los Angeles Daily News, Premiere Magazine, New York Magazine. He has taught at the Columbia University, the University of New Mexico, and Purchase College. He recently published an article in Esquire Magazine that looks into numerous climatologists’ research and the backlash that they received from various climate change “deniers”.
Today’s politicians in the U.S. Congress, State Legislators and governors’ offices who have continued to downplay the significance of global warming and excessive fossil fuel burning despite what has now become eminent, regrettably, deserve outright shaming, especially by children and those yet to be born into the world of global warming, climate havoc, disruption of plant and animal life, and global economic instability, overpopulation and extinction.
Among many climate scientists, gloom has set in. Things are worse than we think, but they can’t really talk about it.
I sent the following message to President Obama using Greenpeace’s petition letter as a template on Monday, August 17, 2015:
Dear President Obama,
You have declared that “No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” and showed leadership in vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline bill. Why then, would you allow Shell to drill in Arctic waters after a Nature study declared that Arctic Oil MUST be kept in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change?
One solution that has not been paid enough attention to is to reduce the demand for oil by offering the American public financial incentives to annually drive less (miles); avoid flying entirely, and reduce the amount of electricity they use annually in their homes. This proposal would benefit those who don’t add to the greenhouse gas burden on the atmosphere and oceans and cause other forms of pollution related to fossil fuel burning (including the need to drill and ship oil from the Arctic), who are often those in our society who need supplemental income the most to get out of poverty. Make it pay not to pollute! Right now, too many Americans are using the atmosphere as a “free” sewer to deposit their emissions from excessive burning of fossil fuels, often for recreational travel or other forms of entertainment (travel to “away” sporting events …). See proposal at http://www.allthingsenvironmental.com for more information.
Arctic oil must be left in the ground in order to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. The risks are simply too great to allow drilling in this fragile and important ecosystem.
See NASA’s “Vital Signs of the Planet”.
The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed the first federal regulations requiring the nation’s oil and gas industry to cut emissions of wasted methane gas as part of an expanding and increasingly aggressive effort to combat climate change.
In a conference call with reporters, Janet McCabe, the Environmental Protection Agency’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, said the rules were designed to ensure that oil and gas companies reduced waste and sold more natural gas that would otherwise be lost, while protecting the climate and the health of the public. Natural gas and methane are actually one and the same gas; methane is commonly called natural gas when it is captured and burned for energy, generating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as the primary byproduct. When the methane gas is allowed to escape into the atmosphere unburned, it has a much stronger potential to increase the greenhouse gas effect of the atmosphere than the release of an equal amount of CO2 gas.
Ms. McCabe estimated that the proposals — which would require drillers to stop leaks and capture lost gas even in wells intended to extract only oil — would cost the industry up to $420 million to carry out by 2025, but that there would be savings, including reduced waste, of as much as $550 million during that period, bringing a net benefit of as much as $150 million.
The new rules, which were widely expected, are part of a broad push by the Obama administration to cut emissions of planet-warming gases from different sectors of the economy. This month, Mr. Obama unveiled the centerpiece of that plan, a final regulation meant to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and increase to 28 percent the proportion of the nation’s electricity generated by renewable sources like solar and wind.
The administration has proposed rules for methane emissions because methane emissions released to the atmosphere are 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. The administration has set a goal of reducing methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.
The latest proposed regulations are expected to reduce methane emissions by 20 to 30 percent, Ms. McCabe said, getting the administration about halfway to its overall methane reduction target.
Oil and gas companies oppose the proposals, calling them unnecessary and costly, while environmental advocacy groups say they do not go far enough, because they apply mainly to new wells and not most existing ones that already leak methane gas.
Primary Source: The New York Times, August 18, 2015
Two years ago, Calumet in Superior began exploring building a dock to load ships with Canadian and Bakken crude that would be carried across Lake Superior. But Superior refinery manager Kollin Schade said they pulled an air permit application with the state this year. He said falling crude prices have affected potential partners on the project, adding that railroads and pipeline operators have made significant investments to meet demand.
“You’re starting to see more pipelines go from North Dakota to other sources and that provides some opportunities for that locally sourced North Dakota crude to make its way to facilities that most want to use it,” said Schade.
Schade also said the length of the shipping season with a shut-down of shipments for several months during the winter also poses a challenge to securing potential partners.
Bakken oil production has dipped in recent months and is expected to fall for the fifth month in a row, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Enbridge Company is building 12 new pumping station on their Pipeline 61, to pump 1.2 Million barrels per day heavy tar sands across Wisconsin. Wisconsin DNR said EIS not needed.
A coalition of local, state and national organizations led by the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP) released a damaging report and recommendations for reform on the hazardous, uncontrolled growth of industrial dairy pollution and its impact on the residents of Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. “The RAP SHEETS: Industrial Dairies in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin” is the result of more than a year-long investigation of government documents identifying negligent management of industrial dairy concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and a lack of oversight and enforcement by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) as catalysts for skyrocketing pollution that has pushed Kewaunee County to an environmental and public health crisis. The facilities in this report collectively received $14,417,910 of taxpayer-funded subsidies between the years 1995 – 2013.
Partner organizations Family Farm Defenders and Kewaunee CARES joined SRAP to research, publish and provide recommendations for the first-of-its-kind report on the multiple violations, hundreds of manure management failures and a host of operational problems at the 16 large CAFOs operating within Kewaunee County. Reform proposals include reversing the industry-friendly 2004 Livestock Facility Siting Law and reinstating community control over CAFO zoning and construction — an action that would begin to restore Kewaunee County, and save other Wisconsin counties from a similar fate.
Extremly High Temperatures Along with High DewPoint Temperatures Leading to Higher Death Tolls from Heat Waves
Climate change is literally killing us. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s [NRDC’s] “Killer Summer Heat” report, more than 150,000 Americans could die by the end of this century due to the excessive heat caused by climate change. And that estimate only covers America’s top 40 cities.
Why will climate change cause so many casualties? Illnesses that are caused or made worse by extreme heat — including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease — currently lead to hundreds of deaths each year.
As carbon pollution continues to rise, the number of dangerously hot days each summer will increase even further, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of lives lost.
While everyone in these urban areas is at risk, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable.
Scientists expect that average temperatures in North America will rise by another 4°F -11°F this century. The risks to public health are greatest when high temperatures mix with other weather conditions to cause what’s known as an “Excessive Heat Event,” or EHE. EHE days occur when a location’s temperature, dew point temperature, cloud cover, wind speed and surface atmospheric pressure throughout the day combine to cause or contribute to heat-related deaths in that location. [NRDC]
Health impacts spike during excessive heat events. For example, when California was hit by deadly heat waves in 2006, the heat caused during a two-week period 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 additional emergency room visits, resulting in nearly $5.4 billion in costs. During a 1995 record-setting heat wave in Chicago, over 700 people died due to the excessive heat.
EHE days vary by region and location. Factors such as geography, green space, local warning and preventive measures affect how much impact the weather will actually have on health.
Climate change is one of the most fiercely debated scientific issues of the past 20 years. Although a steady contingent of global warming deniers have remained insistent that climate change does not pose a threat, there is an overwhelming consensus among the worldwide scientific community that our planet is undergoing significant, highly problematic shifts. Experts point to rising sea levels, record-breaking temperatures across the globe, declining air quality and erratic weather patterns as different manifestations of climate change. Today, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are drawing attention to the negative effects on human health caused by an increasingly warm, more heavily polluted environment.
According to a 2009 article in Scientific American, a team of climate change researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that “global warming is [responsible] for some 150,000 deaths each year around the world”; they feared this number would double by the year 2030.
Egypt is the latest country outside the U.S. reporting a deadly heat wave occurring this year. At least 93 people have died during a heat wave in Egypt this week that sent air temperatures soaring to as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit in southern parts of the country, the nation’s official Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported Friday. With high temperatures in the forecast for this weekend, authorities fear the death toll from the high heat may continue to mount.
Earlier this summer, record heat wave death tolls were reported to have occurred in India and Pakistan. France reported hundreds of death from a severe heat wave that occurred in July from 11th to 28th. About 2,065 excess deaths occurred in France during that spell that were attributable to the extreme weather.
To limit the health impacts of climate change, we need to reduce carbon pollution from top sources like power plants and refineries. The EPA has taken its first big step toward setting limits for industrial carbon sources by proposing limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. EPA should take the next step by setting limits on carbon from other sources as well, a government at the federal, state and local level should adopt laws and programs that offer all members of the public positive financial incentives ($) for for burning fewer and fewer amounts of fossil fuels over the year. This would reduce further additions being added to the accumulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the environment, which is increasing the potential for more severe and deadly heat waves around the planet.