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?”→
‘Our study is for sea level what the now well-confirmed famous ‘hockey stick’ diagram was for global temperature’
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.
“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.”
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”→
June storms highlight impacts of rising seas, shifting storm patterns
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.
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, andrecent 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.
ESA satellites offer clues about climate change consequences
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 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.