Tag: sea level rise

Can coastal wetlands survive sea level rise?

New USGS study IDs path for wetlands migration

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Coastal mangrove forests are important ecosystems, but face the threat of sea level rise. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Ecologically critical tidal wetlands along the U.S. Gulf Coast are being swallowed up by rising sea level and coastal development, but they expand inland if planners consider climate change in their equations.

“Tidal saline wetlands along the northern Gulf of Mexico are abundant, diverse, and vulnerable to sea-level rise,” said Nicholas Enwright, USGS researcher and lead author of the study. “Our findings provide a foundation for land managers to better ensure there is space for future wetland migration in response to sea-level rise.”

Tidal saline wetlands include mangrove forests, salt marshes, and salt flats, which all provide important wildlife habitat and help buffer the impacts of extreme weather. Without areas for these wetlands to move to, people and wildlife will lose the beneficial functions they provide. Continue reading “Can coastal wetlands survive sea level rise?”

Study says current rate of sea level rise is unprecedented in recent history

‘Our study is for sea level what the now well-confirmed famous ‘hockey stick’ diagram was for global temperature’

As global warming drives rising sea levels and more intense storms, some communities are looking to augment their beaches with "imported" sand. like here on Manasota Key in Englewood, Florida.
As global warming drives rising sea levels and more intense storms, some communities are looking to augment their beaches with “imported” sand, like here on Manasota Key in Englewood, Florida. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The global rise of sea level may not be as dramatic or as easily visible as some other signs of global warming like melting glaciers, but it will be one of the most destructive and expensive long-term impacts. With a huge percentage of the world’s population living in coastal regions, society will need to take costly measures to protect people. In some cases, there will no option but to move entire communities away from the rising waters.

While there is still some uncertainty among climate scientists as to the extent of future sea level rise, there is little doubt that the current increase is unprecedented in recent times, according to a recent study by scientists with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

“Our study  is for sea level what the now well-confirmed famous ‘hockey stick’ diagram was for global temperature,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, co-author of the paper on past sea-level rise and Co-Chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis. “We can confirm what earlier, more local sea-level data already suggested: during the past millennia sea-level has never risen nearly as fast as during the last century.”

The researchers said greenhouse gas emissions have caused at least half of the observed sea level rise in the 20th century, and possibly even all of it.

While the study didn’t break new ground in terms of projections, it’s important to be able to show with great certainty how much sea level will rise, Rahmstorf said.

“The new sea-level data confirm once again just how unusual the age of modern global warming due to our greenhouse gas emissions is – and they demonstrate that one of the most dangerous impacts of global warming, rising seas, is well underway.”

Barring any catastrophic climate feedback loops that could accelerate the meltdown of Arctic and Antarctic ice, the researchers said sea-levels worldwide will rise by 50 to 130 centimeters by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced rapidly.

“With all the greenhouse-gases we already emitted, we cannot stop the seas from rising altogether, but we can substantially limit the rate of the rise by ending the use of fossil fuels,” said PIK’s Anders Levermann, who specializes in climate adaptation.

“We try to give coastal planners what they need for adaptation planning, be it building dikes, designing insurance schemes for floodings, or mapping long-term settlement retreat.”

Even if the world’s countries live up to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, sea level will rise 20 to 60 centimeters by 2100.

“This is quite a challenge, but less expensive than adaptation to unabated sea-level rise which in some regions is impossible”, Levermann adds. “If the world wants to avoid the greatest losses and damages, it now has to rapidly follow the path laid out by the UN climate summit in Paris.”

The likely future sea-level rise cannot be brought down to just one number, but is represented as a range, which at first sight might seem large.

“The range allows for a risk assessment,” said Ben Marzeion from the University of Bremen, Germany. “Coastal Planners need to know how a reasonable worst-case scenario as well as a well-founded best-case scenario look like to weigh chances and costs. The best available science is now converging towards a common uncertainty range of future sea-level rise. Curbing greenhouse gas emissions now gives us the chance to prevent sea level rise to accelerate further.”

El Niño & rising seas bring record nuisance flooding

Southeast, Gulf Coast hit especially hard

Nuisance flooding set new records during the past year, according to a new NOAA report. @bberwyn photo.
Nuisance flooding set new records during the past year, according to a new NOAA report. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

There’s no question that nuisance flooding is increasing along U.S. coasts due to sea level rise, and some coastal residents got their feet frequently during the past year, according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In some cities, the days of nuisance flooding during the past meteorological year (May 2015 to April 2016) flooding exceeded trends and broke records, especially in the southeastern U.S and Gulf Coast. For those areas, the strong El Niño may have exacerbated the effects of rising sea level.

Wilmington, North Carolina, saw an all-time high of 90 days of nuisance flooding, nearly one quarter of the year. Other cities with record numbers of flooding days are Charleston, South Carolina; Port Isabel, Texas; Mayport, Virginia Key, Key West, and Fernandina Beach, Florida, the report said. Continue reading “El Niño & rising seas bring record nuisance flooding”

Australian researchers call for more coastal monitoring in the face of expected climate change impacts

Damaged homes along the foreshore of Sydney's Collaroy Beach, hit by powerful storms in early June. Mitchell Harley/UNSW
Damaged homes along the foreshore of Sydney’s Collaroy Beach, hit by powerful storms in early June. Mitchell Harley/UNSW.

June storms highlight impacts of rising seas, shifting storm patterns

Staff Report

Just after the Australian government announced massive cuts to the country’s science agency, researchers are warning that there’s more of a need then ever to track climate change impacts.

A series of recent storms that lashed Australia’s east coast are reminder that rising sea level presents a growing threat to coastal communities, according scientists with the University of New South Wales.

“The damage we’ve seen is a harbinger of what’s to come,” said Ian Turner, director of the Water Research Laboratory at the University of New South Wales. “Climate change is not only raising the oceans and threatening foreshores, but making our coastlines much more vulnerable to storm damage. What are king high tides today will be the norm within decades.” Continue reading “Australian researchers call for more coastal monitoring in the face of expected climate change impacts”

Climate: Increased Antarctica snowfall no buffer to sea level rise

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What happens in Antarctica the next few decades will affect the whole world. @bberwyn photo.

New research suggests that Antarctica’s contribution to sea level rise over the next few decades has been underestimated

By Bob Berwyn

When it comes to the question of how much sea levels will rise in the global warming era, Antarctica is the big, frozen, enchilada.

Just a partial meltdown of the ice shelves along the western fringe of the continent could raise sea level two to three feet in a few hundred years, and more extensive melting of inland ice sheets would send seas surging upward higher and faster than most coastal communities could adapt for.

Until recently, Antarctica’s inland ice fields were deemed as relatively stable, and recent NASA research even suggested that global warming will increase snowfall over Antarctica and build more ice mass—a process that could slow melting and offset sea level rise.

But after taking a close look at new ice core samples that indicate temperatures and snowfall rates going back several thousand years, researchers with the University of Washington said they’re not sure of the linkage between a warming climate and precipitation. Continue reading “Climate: Increased Antarctica snowfall no buffer to sea level rise”

Climate: Antarctic ice shelf retreat may be irreversible

Yes, there is still lots of ice in Antarctica, but it's melting faster than ever. bberwyn photo.
Yes, there is still lots of ice in Antarctica, but it’s melting faster than ever. @bberwyn photo.

ESA satellites offer clues about climate change consequences

Staff Report

An analysis of data from European Space Agency satellites shows that Antarctic ice shelves may be losing their buttressing role as they get thinner and retreat inland.

The findings, announced in February, used ice velocity data to show that there is a critical tipping point at which the shelves act like a restraining band, holding back the the ice that flows toward the sea. In a dramatic press release, the ESA said that, if the ice is lost, it could be “point of no return” for Antarctica’s ice.

The ice shelves are huge and losing them would have serious implications for global climate, speeding the rise of sea level. The Ross Ice Shelf, for example, is the size of Spain and towers hundreds of meters above sea level. Continue reading “Climate: Antarctic ice shelf retreat may be irreversible”

Crumbling Antarctic ice sheets could speed sea level rise

Fifty feet in 500 years?

Mountains of the Antarctic Sound.
New climate modeling suggests more significant melting of the Antarctic ice sheets and ice shelves driven by atmospheric warming. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The edges of Antarctic ice sheets may crumble and collapse much faster than most existing climate models suggest, potentially raising global sea level by as much as 50 feet in the next 500 years, according to researchers from Penn State and University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The scientists added new, previously underestimated processes to their projection after studying the role of Antarctic ice melting during the warm Pliocene era, about 3 million years ago when sea level rose by as much as 30 to 60 feet. Continue reading “Crumbling Antarctic ice sheets could speed sea level rise”