Reducing the Current Suicidal Rate of Global Warming and Planning for Adapting to Changing Climates Demands Review of Goals, Principles and Actions by World’s Past Leaders and the Movements and Demonstrations by the People Who Expressed their Demands for Change
Today’s Populations, Businesses and Governments Responsible for Ensuring and Prolonging Earth’s Beauty, Economic Potential, Safety, and Humane Conditions for All It’s People and Animals Ought Not Ignore Leadership, Inspirations, Dreams and Concerted Actions of Millions of People and Leaders Who Lived Before Us, or Are Still Amoung Us, for Help in Music Guidance, Leader
To be continued….
“Only Massive CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, in Every City, Town and Village in the United States, Can Bring About the Abrupt But Imperative Changes in the U. S. Government and People’s Lifestyles Today to Make a Difference Fighting Climate Change”
Then, and only then, do we stand any chance of beating global warming. We must stand by each other, whenever there is trouble, as did John and Yoko in “STAND BY ME” (Ben E King). And as geese do, when they migrate. See “Goose Story”
And, more than anything else, they must CARE. Care for their fellow human beings, be they brown, yellow, gray, tiny, white, red, black, have special needs, in prison, whatever their particular differences might be; and all the world’s animal species, future generations of every living thing, and for themselves, the oceans and the billions of species dependent on it, and the Creator. Earth Day 51 must work to these ends, and succeed. Anything else is selfish and unacceptable.
A new scientific study, released to the media Tuesday by the European Geoscience Union’s Journal of Atmospheric and Physics, has major media sources reporting “alarming” study predictions of sea level rise and extreme weather from global warming, “much faster” than the rate of rise predicted in the most recent report by IPCC scientists. The world’s governments are being urged to “speed up the transition to carbon-free energy.” (Slate, 3/22/16)
Last year was the hottest on record. This January was the hottest on record. This February was the hottest on record — when the northern hemisphere breached 2 degrees of average warming for the first time in human history. “Our planet’s temperature just reached a terrifying milestone.” (Slate, 3/12/16)
The study uses climate simulations, paleoclimate data and modern observations to infer that continued high fossil fuel emissions will cause a slowdown and eventually shutdown the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and the Southern Meridional Oceanic Circulation, resulting in an increase in powerful storms and nonlinear sea level rise, rising up to several meters in 50–150 years.
The meridional overturning circulation is a system of surface and deep currents encompassing all ocean basins. It transports large amounts of water, heat, salt, carbon, nutrients and other substances around the globe, and connects the surface ocean and atmosphere with the huge reservoir of the deep sea. The circulation of ocean water has been found to play a central role in climate and climate variability. Historically, the focus of research has been on the North Atlantic Basin, a primary site where water sinks from the surface to depth, triggered by loss of heat, and therefore buoyancy, to the atmosphere. A key part of the overturning puzzle, however, is the return path from the interior ocean to the surface through upwelling in the Southern Ocean. This return path is largely driven by winds. It has become clear over the past few years that the importance of Southern Ocean upwelling for our understanding of climate rivals that of North Atlantic downwelling, because it controls the rate at which ocean reservoirs of heat and carbon communicate with the surface.
The authors of the new study claim that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “missed” reporting on these important changes in their latest IPCC report, which the 18 authors of the new study underestimates ice sheet melt and the IPCC’s models are too insensitive to accurately account for ocean waters mixing.
In a video abstract: “Ice melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms”, lead author and climate scientist Dr. James Hansen states that evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations show that the maximum level of global warming that was set at the Paris Climate Summit meetings in early December 2015 of 2°C global warming to be “highly dangerous” and that “We have a climate emergency and must slash CO2 emissions ASAP or irreparable harm to the climate will be done for succeeding generations”.
On December 8, 1941, the United States Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan in response to its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in the U.S. Territory (soon to become state) of Hawaii the morning of December 7, 1941.
The Declaration of War was formulated an hour after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Infamy Speech at 12:30 pm on December 8, 1941. The declaration quickly passed the Senate and then the House at 1:10 p.m the same day. Roosevelt signed the declaration at 4:10 p.m., December 8, 1941. The power to declare war is assigned exclusively to Congress in the United States Constitution; however, the president’s signature was symbolically powerful and resolved any doubts.
In the Joint Resolutions declaring war against the Imperial Government of Japan, Germany and Italy, the Congress pledged “all the resources of the country of the United States” … “and the president is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the government to carry on war … to bring the conflict to a successful termination.”
The magnitude of the threat of accelerating global warming and a rapidly changing climate that would undeniably accompany the continued and increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a direct consequence of human actions, mainly from too much fossil fuel burning and continuing and increased deforestation, especially in the tropics, upon the United States of America and the rest of the world, both now and into the future, easily dwarfs the loss of life, injury and misery to humans and animals wrought by all known wars, and therefore justifies a declaration of war by all countries of the world to slow and ultimately halt global warming and climate change, worldwide. Such declarations should be made now, without delay, to ensure an hospitable and safe world for all Earth’s current and future generations.
It is morally essential that Government, businesses, individuals and families begin to meet this challenge of increasing global warming and climate change that has already begun to cause loss of human lives, other species living in the world, and brought pain and misery to so many. To ignore and campaign against actions that reduce this growing threat, which will unquestionably hurt the people of the world’s poorer countries and Earth’s millions and millions of species, is utterly and morally reprehensible and is a practice that ought stop immediately because it needlessly delays progress in attacking this major problem of untold negative consequences for centuries to come.
[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.
“The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophe”.
Pope Francis, June 18, 2015
In his long-awaited encyclical on the environment and climate change publicly released last week, Pope Francis called for swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” He called for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a “throwaway” consumer culture, and an end to “obstructionist attitudes” that sometimes put profit before the common good. Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical “imperative” for believers and nonbelievers alike that should supersede political and economic interests.
A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet,” he said.
“Our house is going to ruin, and that harms everyone, especially the poorest. Mine is therefore an appeal for responsibility, based on the task that God has given to man in creation: “till and keep the garden” in which he was placed. I invite everyone to accept with open hearts this document, which follows the church’s social doctrine”, the pope said.
In a transcript of the pope’s encyclical on the DemocracyNow.org website, Pope Francis said protecting the planet is a moral and ethical imperative, for believers and nonbelievers alike, that should supersede political and economic interests. He also dismissed those who argue that technology will solve all environmental problems and that global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.
A major theme of the encyclical is the disparity between rich and poor. “We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, we destroy the planet.”
Climate change is already happening, and its effects have already been disastrous on the poorest countries and the poorest people, who don’t have the means to defend themselves from it. They are also part of the human population who have the least responsibility for what is happening, being that they consume less fossil fuels.
Author Naomi Klein said on Democracy Now Thursday that “this encyclical, we can’t overstate the importance of it, the impact that it will have. It’s hard to respond to a document that runs close to 200 pages, when it was just released in non-draft form a few hours ago. We’re all still digesting it, Amy. But it is very clear that a door has just been opened, and a gust of wind is blowing through, where it is now possible to say some very powerful truths about the real implications of climate change, really the root causes.”
“And I think a lot of the discussion about the encyclical in the U.S. media cycle has focused and will continue to focus on the impact on Republicans and on climate deniers, many of whom are Catholic. And it is certainly a challenge to that demographic in the United States, because the pope is coming out so clearly on the side of climate science in saying this is real and this is happening. But I think that it’s too easy to say that this is just a challenge to Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush. Frankly, it is also a challenge to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and to large parts of the green movement, because it is a rebuke of slow action. It very specifically says that climate denial is not just about denying the science, it’s also about denying the urgency of the science. The document is very strong in condemning delays, half-measures, so-called market solutions. It very specifically criticizes carbon markets, the carbon offsetting, as an inadequate measure that will encourage speculation and rampant consumption.
“And I think probably the most significant part of it, the big picture, is the foregrounding of the culture of frenetic consumption in the wealthy world and among the wealthy. And this is really significant, because I think large parts of the climate change discussion tries to have it all ways and say, “No, we’ll just have green growth. We’ll just have—we’ll consume green products.” And, you know, this goes a lot deeper than that and says, no, we need to get at the underlying values that are feeding this culture of frenetic consumption that is entirely unsustainable.”
In the encyclical, the pope states that: “In a corrupt culture, we can’t believe that laws will be enough to change behaviors that affect the environment.” Naomi Kline responds: Well, I think, when he’s referring to corruption, I believe he’s referring to the influence of polluting companies, of multinational corporations, which he also goes after in the encyclical. And I think this is one of the most significant things about the document. One might expect of a religious document about climate change to erase difference, right? to say, “Well, we’re all in this together,” and certainly it talks about the Earth as our common home. But it also recognizes explicitly the power dynamics in capitalism, which is to say that there are forces within the system that are actively working against change. And that is probably what he’s referring to when he’s talking about how there may be laws, but the laws aren’t enforced. And, you know, indeed the laws are also inadequate, which is also addressed in the document, and it has some very specific calls for another level of environmental law, which is a part of the document that I haven’t been able to look at, you know, closely enough.
And another thing I have to say is, you know, I am—I have accepted this invitation to speak at a conference which is about digging more deeply into the document, because there’s an understanding that it does take time to digest a document of this length, this multilayered, and it requires that kind of deeper analysis. And I think that this intervention, five months ahead of U.N. climate conference in Paris, is tremendously significant. It’s going to push political leaders to go further. It’s going to be a tool for social movements.
A lot of the language of the climate justice movement has just been adopted by the pope—I mean, even of phrases like “ecological debt.” The pope is talking about the debt that the wealthy world owes to the poor. I mean, this is a framing that comes originally from Ecuador, from the movement against drilling in the Amazon. And, you know, this is a phrase that was never heard in mainstream circles until just now, actually. I mean, I’ve never seen such a mainstream use of that term.
So, it is very important in that way. But, I mean, I have to say, on a personal level, that as thrilled as I am that the Vatican is leading in this way and that this pope is leading in this way and bringing together the fight against poverty with the fight to act on climate change, that doesn’t mean that there’s a complete merger between the climate justice movement and the Vatican here. I mean, obviously there are huge differences that remain over issues like marriage equality, reproductive rights and freedom, to name just a few.”
Nathan Schneider, columnist with the Catholic weekly, America, who has been covering Catholic engagement with climate change, talks about what the encyclical means for the Catholic community and the number of languages it’s been released in and how large the document is: “Well, this is really the first Third World encyclical. You know, this is coming from a pope who was shaped in really significant ways by economic crises during the Cold War in Argentina and being in the middle of a battleground between the First and Second World powers. It was drafted by a cardinal from Ghana. So this is coming from the side of the world that we don’t normally hear from. And it’s very much in line with things that popes have been saying for decades, you know, going back to Paul VI, then John Paul II, Benedict XVI. So, a lot of the content is actually not so new for Catholics, but the emphasis and that—the language of climate debt, the language—the recognition that there is a divide here between the rich countries and the poor. And this is a cry from the developing world, from what has been labeled the Third World, for change.”
“The pope is calling here for us to change how we live, how we—what we do with our resources. You know, this is not just moving from one kind of consumerism to another. This is a kind of spiritual renewal and also a material renewal, that—in which we turn ourselves toward an economy that’s sustainable, that’s life-giving, both for humanity and the rest of the world.”
President Obama’s Executive Order Committing Federal Government to Cutting Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Thursday committing the federal government to cutting its own emissions 40 percent by 2025 and pledging to increase the amount of renewable energy used by federal agencies to 30 percent.
[This is a good addition but still not nearly enough. States and everyday Americans all have to greatly reduce the things they do that contribute to their daily and annual greenhouse gas emissions, as does the rest of the world. The U.S. still has the highest per capita GHG emissions. Forty percent of world travel by air (a large emitter of GHGs) is by American recreation and business travel pursuits. This has to change! Click on: “About this Blog” to read about how our government really could help make this happen – Power to the People]
The executive order builds on a previous administration directive to cut emissions from federal agencies 28 percent by 2020, compared with 2008 levels. “We are well on our way to meet that goal,” Brian Deese, senior adviser to the president, said in a call with reporters Thursday. “That’s what’s motivating us today to chart out a new and even more aggressive goal going forward.”
The administration is also setting a goal of cutting the per-mile emissions from the agencies’ vehicle fleet 30 percent, it said. It estimates the total commitment across the federal agencies will save taxpayers $18 billion — funds that won’t be spent on energy.
Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the Council on Environmental Quality, said that by the end of 2014, the federal government had cut emissions 17 percent since 2008, putting it well on the way to meeting Obama’s earlier goal. Much of that has come through energy efficiency improvements in federal buildings and with the installation of renewables.
As of the end of 2014, renewable energy accounted for 9 percent of the federal government’s energy use, and Thursday’s directive wants to increase that to 30 percent by 2025. The Department of Defense has set its own goal of deploying 3 gigawatts of solar energy on its installations around the world by 2025.
The federal government is the single largest energy user in the United States, Goldfuss said, with 360,000 buildings and 650,000 vehicles. “Not only is our footprint expansive, our impact is as well,” she said.
The administration also argued that the push to reduce emissions in the federal government has effects across the private sector as well. To that end, the administration also released a scorecard to track emissions from major federal contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics, which the administration is also calling on to make reductions.
The White House estimates that with reductions from the agency and those of private suppliers, the administration can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million metric tons in the next 10 years.
“These goals will make sure the federal government is leading by example and pushing the envelope on cutting emissions,” said Deese, adding that it will “demonstrate that we are going to stay on offense in pushing our clean energy and climate change objectives.”
Sea levels across the Northeast coast of the United States rose nearly 3.9 inches between 2009 and 2010, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Arizona and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The waters near Portland, Maine, saw an even greater rise — 5 inches — over the two-year period.
While scientists have been observing higher sea levels across the globe in recent decades, the study found a much more extreme rise than previous averages. Such an event is “unprecedented” in the history of the tide gauge record, according to the researchers, and represents a 1-in-850 year event.
“Unlike storm surge, this event caused persistent and widespread coastal flooding even without apparent weather processes,” the study’s authors wrote. “In terms of beach erosion, the impact of the 2009-2010 [sea level rise] event is almost as significant as some hurricane events.”
The analysis relied on data from dozens of tide gauges along the eastern seaboard. The nearly 4-inch rise for the Northeast represents the average of 14 tide gauges located between New York and Canada. Tide gauges farther south in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast indicated a sea level rise far less extreme in 2009 and closer to average in some areas. The jump occurred most quickly between April 2009 and March 2010.
The study found that the increase in the Northeast was caused by a 30 percent slowdown in a major ocean current system known as the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and a fluctuation in atmospheric pressure at sea level. The Gulf Steam is one component of the AMOC, which moves warm water northward in the upper levels of the Atlantic.
A 2014 study of the AMOC over that period found the slowdown also contributed to severe winter conditions in northwestern Europe and the intensity of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, which was the third-most active on record.
The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate wrote in its latest report that AMOC currents are “very likely” to weaken in the 21st century. Models project that unusual rises in sea level, like that observed in the study, will be bigger and more frequent along the Northeastern seaboard this century, study coauthor Jianjun Yin told The Huffington Post.
And events like the one observed in the study, combined with ongoing global sea level rise, “will pose an even higher coastal flooding risk,” Yin told Mashable.
A 2012 study determined that sea levels between North Carolina and Boston are rising at a rate three to four times faster than the global average. Yet this only represents a rise of 2 to 3.7 millimeters per year since 1980, far less than the 100 millimeters observed in the Northeast between 2009 and 2010.
This week’s study, published in Nature Communications, follows a new report from the New York City Panel on Climate Change that warns of significant sea level rise and coastal flooding threats for the city in coming decades. Sea levels in New York City have already risen more than a foot since 1900, and the trend is very likely to accelerate: If greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are not curtailed, the panel projects seas to rise by an additional 11 to 21 inches by the middle of the century, by 18 to 39 inches by the 2080s, and by as much as 6 feet by the end of the century.