Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sea Level Rise: Impact on Energy Infrastructure

Fort Calhoun's Flood Threat
Storms, river flooding, and dam collapse are types of climate driven events which present an intermittent present danger to "Energy Infrastructure."

By Energy Infrastructure I mean, at least, nuclear power facilities, hydropower dams, coal, oil, and gas burning power plants, wind farms, and solar power plants.

But, that term also applies to the other additional parts of infrastructure (e.g. roads, ports, power lines, pipelines, etc.) necessary for their operation and distribution of electricity to customers.

Those intermittent threats are not as much of a danger as sea level rise (SLR) is, because SLR presents a relentless, ongoing, consistent, and increasing threat to Energy Infrastructure in coastal, tidal areas:
Based on peer-­‐reviewed research, Climate Central’s March 2012 report, Surging Seas (, made local sea level rise and coastal flood risk projections at 55 water-­‐level stations distributed around the lower 48 states. At the majority of these sites and across the U.S., according to the projections, climate change more than doubles the odds of near-­‐term extreme flooding, compared to a hypothetical world without warming. Across sites, median odds for floods reaching at least 4 feet above local high-­‐tide lines are 55 percent by 2030. Median odds for floods exceeding 5 feet are 41 percent by 2050. Odds vary regionally, but generally rank highest along the Gulf of Mexico. However, warming multiplies odds the most along the Pacific and then Atlantic
Energy Infrastructure Example
coasts. Numbers are detailed in Table 2 of Surging Seas.

A great number of coastal energy facilities lay below these elevations, exposed to increasing risk of floods. This analysis identifies 287 facilities less than 4 feet above the high-­‐tide line, spread throughout the 22 coastal states of the lower 48. More than half of these are in Louisiana, mainly natural gas facilities. Florida, California, New York, Texas, and New Jersey each have 10-­‐to-­‐30 exposed sites, mainly for electricity in the first three states, and for oil and gas in the last two. All told, this brief catalogs 130 natural gas, 96 electric, and 56 oil and gas facilities built on land below the 4-­‐foot line. Below the 5-­‐foot line, the total jumps to 328 facilities with similar geographic and type distribution.
(Climate Central, emphasis added; PDF). The use of the word "floods" means ocean water flooding coastal facilities as SLR takes place.

Which also means that flooding will impact customers far inland who are attached to the power grid, but who do not live on the coast.

For obvious reasons, such as the Fukushima example, coastal nuclear power plants
Fig. 1 (click to enlarge)
present a greater danger than the other types of power plants (East Coast Nuclear Plants, PDF, Coastal Nuclear Power Plants, Rising Seas Could Sink Nuclear Plants, Nuclear Plants Threatened).

The large unknown is not that SLR is coming, or that it is a grave danger (SLR has already risen a foot near New York City), no, the large unknown is a matter of exactly when it is coming in amounts that are catastrophic to energy infrastructure.

The graph at Fig. 1 shows the principle of Dr. Hansen's Doubling (The Evolution of Models - 7) taken down to a three year doubling:
Year, Non-Polar, Antarctica, Greenland, Combined
2029, 0.139301, 0.711537, 1.19659, 2.04742
2030, 0.157139, 0.775676, 1.25892, 2.19174
2031, 0.177784, 0.855849, 1.3425, 2.37613
2032, 0.192817, 0.919988, 1.40484, 2.51764
2033, 0.210655, 0.984126, 1.46717, 2.66195
2034, 0.2313, 1.0643, 1.55075, 2.84635
2035, 0.255552, 1.13806, 1.61589, 3.0095
2036, 0.279805, 1.21182, 1.68103, 3.17265
2037, 0.304057, 1.28558, 1.74617, 3.33581
2038, 0.329111, 1.36335, 1.82254, 3.51499
2039, 0.353363, 1.4371, 1.88768, 3.67815
2040, 0.383549, 1.51888, 1.94167, 3.8441
2041, 0.414856, 1.60707, 2.00417, 4.0261
(Fig. 2: Dredd Blog SLR software print out in feet, emphasis added). This projection assumes continued acceleration of the rate of SLR, which already doubled in the real world in five years between 2009 and 2014 (Will This Float Your Boat - 5).

In the case of New York City, which has a foot of SLR already, the projected 2029 additional 2 ft. (see Fig. 2) indicates catastrophic problems for NYC from that time forward (if not sooner).

Fourteen years is not a long time, at least when it comes to large port and energy infrastructure projects (The Agnotology of Sea Level Rise Via Ice Melt, What Do You Mean - World Civilization? - 2).

Time to finish this post.

As it is written on the quote page: "One thing is for sure on the subject of global warming induced climate change: if there was ever a time to err on the safe side, it was long ago" (Quotes).

You are here. Anybody here?


  1. Hey Dredd, thanks for the update on your SLR modeling.

    Here's an off-topic article that may pique your interest (you can delete this comment if you want).

    Beyond genes: Are centrioles carriers of biological information? [link to article]


    1. That reminds me of "Origins of Species", a paper, written by Dr. Lynn Margulis that was ignored by scientists for decades.

      Her husband, Carl Sagan, even divorced her over it.

      They finally woke up and realised that she was correct and that they had been wrong to harass her (Mirrobes - Origin of PTSD?).

      She had hypothesized that entities within cells had once been singular microbes before "teaming up" with cells to work together.

      This may be a scenario where pre-ribosomes and/or pre-ribozymes did the same.

      The article you linked to also mentions microbial communications ("signal") which is not well studied either (On the Origin of the Genes of Viruses - 11).

    2. Tom,

      Models are not at issue when historical SLR is the issue.

      They are only implicated in future SLR projections.

      "Scientists have discovered that 'the present' has always existed, but some of them are not sure about 'the past' and 'the future'." -Dredd