Climate: Florida plants threatened by sea level rise get Endangered Species Act protection

Listing decision part of far-reaching settlement for imperiled species

Three Florida coastal plants threatened by sea level rise get Endangered Species Act protection. bberwyn photo.

Three Florida coastal plants threatened by sea level rise get Endangered Species Act protection. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Chugging ahead on its commitment to make endangered species listing decisions for more than 750 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week announced that three native Florida plants — all threatened by sea level rise — deserved protected status.

Most populations of the plants — aboriginal prickly apple, Florida semaphore cactus and Cape Sable thoroughwort are at, or just above, mean sea level.

“These native plants are being squeezed out of existence — pressed between coastal development and rising sea levels,” said Florida-based Center for Biological Diversity attorney Jaclyn Lopez. “Protection under the Endangered Species Act will give them a role in South Florida’s planning for rising seas.” Continue reading

New IPCC report highlights increasing certainty on global warming causes and consequences

Future looks grim without drastic greenhouse gas cuts

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Warmer and wetter times ahead.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The news is out and it’s not good. In fact, the latest update of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is full of dire warning signs that the continued buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, if left unchecked, will lead to a climate catastrophe with dire consequences for humanity and the rest of the planet’s species.

The full assessment is being released piecemeal, with this week’s Summary for Policy Makers drawing global attention, as every word and phrase is scrutinized and parsed for meaning. And it’s actually not that hard to figure out what it all means — you don’t even have to be a scientist. Continue reading

Climate: How fast are West Antarctic glaciers melting?

New study once again tabs oceans as main cause for acceleration of Pine Island, Thwaite glaciers meltdown

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What happens in Antarctica doesn’t stay in Antarctica. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a long and complex research mission, scientists say they have more evidence that the rapid melting of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier is primarily fueled by relatively warm ocean water flowing beneath the floating 37-mile tongue of the glacier all the way to the grounding line. In some places, the ice is melting at the rate of more than 2 inches per year, a jackrabbit pace by geological standards.

Previous research has shown that the current rate of melting is nearly unprecedented, at least in the past 10,000 years. The speed with which the West Antarctic Ice Sheet dwindles has significant implications for global sea level rise.

The international team, led by NASA’s emeritus glaciologist Robert Bindschadler, spent five years just trying to figure out how to adequately explore the glacier, including aborted attempts in 2007 and 2011. In December 2012 the researchers were finally able to place their instruments. The project was funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation and the findings were published Sept. 13 in the journal Science. Continue reading

Sea level rise driving Hawaii coastal erosion

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The Hawaiian Islands, courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

New data to help long-term coastal planning

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A team of scientists have taken a close look at coastal erosion trends in Hawaii and determined that sea-level rise is the main driver, outweighing other factors like waves, sediment supply and coastal development.

The researchers from the University of Hawaii – Manoa, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and the State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources said that knowing that sea-level rise is a primary cause of shoreline will help resource managers and planners going forward. Continue reading

Greenland ice shelt melting from beneath due to heat from Earth’s mantle

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The surface of Greenland’s ice sheet is growing darker, leading to more melting, but the ice is also melting from beneath because of heat rising from the Earth’s mantle. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Study says basal melting should be factored into climate modelsBy Summit VoiceFRISCO — While all eyes have been on the surface of he Greenland ice sheet and its outlet glaciers in recent years, it turns out the ice is also melting at the bottom, heated by a high heat
flow from the mantle into the lithosphere (essentially the crust and the upper mantle). An international research team led by the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences concluded that the thinness of the Earth’s crust beneath Greenland enables an increase flow of heat from the mantle, but the effects on the Greenland ice sheet are highly variable. Continue reading

Surface melt on Greenland ice cap speeds glaciers

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Meltwater pools on the surface of the Sermeq Avannarleq Glacier, in a region about 10 miles from the ice sheet margin in Southwest Greenland. Photo courtesy William Colgan/CIRES.

Findings suggest sea level calculations may need to be adjusted

By Summit Voice

*Adapted from a NASA press release

FRISCO — Scientists are keeping close watch on the behavior of the Greenland ice sheet as they try and calculate how fast the ice will melt as the planet continues to warm. The stakes are high — acceleration of the meltdown will start to raise sea levels around the world at an increasing pace, so the speed-up of glaciers flowing into the sea have garnered plenty of attention.

And new satellite measurements suggest that some of Greenland’s giant glaciers are also moving up to 1.5 faster then they were just 10 years ago, possibly lubricated by surface meltwater draining through cracks and warming the ice from the inside.

“Through satellite observations, we determined that an inland region of the Sermeq Avannarleq Glacier, 40 to 60 miles from the coast, is flowing about 1.5 times faster than it was about a decade ago,” said Thomas Phillips, lead author of the new paper and a research associate at the time of the study with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Continue reading

Study: Long-term sea level rise is inevitable

‘Continuous sea-level rise is something we cannot avoid …’

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Long-term sea level rise is inevitable

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Sea level rise is here to stay, according to researchers with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who recently published a study combining evidence from early Earth’s climate history with comprehensive computer simulations using physical models of all four major contributors to long-term global sea-level rise.

The results show a slow but inexorable rise — less than six feet by the end of this century — but the rate will increase as melting Antarctic and Greenland ice become bigger factors. Based on the Earth’s climate history, the long-term outlook is pretty clear. When CO2 levels were comparable to current values, the Earth was much warmer and sea levels were much higher. Continue reading

Study foresees big changes in Greenland ice melt

Iceberg calving to be less of a factor as glaciers retreat

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Melt ponds of the surface of the Greenland ice cap. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory. Visit this NASA page for more information on Greenland surface melting.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Greenland’s melting ice cap will continue to contribute to sea level rise, but iceberg calving will become less of a factor as glaciers retreat inland. Instead, surface melting and runoff will account for more than 80 percent of ice cap’s contribution to sea level rise, according to new research from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Changes in its total mass are governed by two main processes — fluctuations in melting and snowfall on its surface, and changes to the number of icebergs released from a large number of outlet glaciers into the ocean. The ice loss from the ice sheet has been increasing during the last decade, with half of it attributed to changes in surface conditions with the remainder due to increased iceberg calving. Continue reading

Climate: How fast are the ice caps really melting?

Long-term trends still unclear

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Ice floes melting on a warm spring day in the Antarctic Sound. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Ice mass loss from both the Greenland Ice Sheet and Antarctica have doubled since accurate satellite-based gravity measurements started nine years ago, but it’s still not clear whether the melting will continue to accelerate at the same rate.

For now, the period of record is still too short to say, according to a new report published online this week in Nature Geosciences.

The research team was led by Bert Wouters, with the University of Bristol and included scientists with the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences.

The study concludes that predictions of the contribution of both ice shields to sea level rise through 2100 may be off by as much as 35 centimeters (about 13.8 inches) in either direction. Continue reading

Global Warming: Science panel says Maryland’s coastal areas should prepare for 2 feet of sea level rise by 2050

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Chesapeake Bay and surrounding areas could see two feet of sea level rise by 2050.

Governor leads push for science-based planning

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Maryland needs to start preparing for a rise in sea level of as much as two feet by mid-century to protect vulnerable communities, infrastructure and other resources along the coast.

A report released this week by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science cites recent research showing that sea levels are likely to rise by about 1.4 feet — and at least by 0.9 feet by 2050.

The report was prepared by a panel of scientific experts in response to Governor Martin O’Malley’s Executive Order on Climate Change and “Coast Smart” Construction. The projections are based on an assessment of the latest climate change science and federal guidelines. Continue reading

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