Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Sea Level Rise May Be The Greatest Threat To Civilization - 2

Fig. 1 Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
I. Let's Get Started

Regular readers know that I have been focusing on sea level rise (SLR) recently.

The gravity of the danger has been overlooked by our corporate "news" media.

So, I want to continue to hone in on SLR so as to sharpen the focus of all but the deniers.

For those who are just now checking in, and who want to get up to speed on the recent posts concerning SLR, click on the tab "Series Posts" at the top of the page, then move down to the heading "Sea Level Rise".

There you will find a list of posts concerning this matter, from the Dredd Blog System, that have been written and posted over the past few years.

II. The Status Quo

Over the years I have pointed out that the East Coast of the United States, from Cape Cod down to Cape Hatteras, has already experienced a foot or more of SLR:
“We’ve got the highest rate of sea level rise on the East Coast,” said Skip Stiles, executive director, Wetlands Watch, who will be making a presentation on the historic, current and future sea level changes and potential impact on the Eastern Shore.

Stiles said some of the evidence of sea level rise visible to people who spend time around the water include seeing wetlands disappear, ditches going tidal, backyard vegetation changes, and “ghost forests” — full grown trees that are dead along the shore because the water is “moving in underneath them.”
Stiles said all of the Virginia tide gage measurements are showing about the same rise of a foot and a half over the last 100 years.
There is virtually universal agreement among scientists that the sea will probably rise a good meter or more before the end of the century, wreaking havoc in low-lying coastal counties. So the members of the developers’ lobbying group NC-20 say the sea will rise only 8 inches, because … because … well, SHUT UP, that’s because why.

That is, the meter or so of sea level rise predicted for the NC Coastal Resources Commission by a state-appointed board of scientists is extremely inconvenient for counties along the coast. So the NC-20 types have decided that we can escape sea level rise – in North Carolina, anyhow – by making it against the law. Or making MEASURING it against the law, anyhow.
(Will This Float Your Boat - 3,  2013). That is half-way to the 1m / 3ft. catastrophe level mentioned by the climate scientist, Dr. Rignot, who specializes in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica (see section III and videos below).

We are half-way to the 1m / 3ft. catastrophe level already, is that all?

Not quite:
For society, it is the regional changes along any particular coastal zone that are most important. Our analysis of multi-decadal tide gauge records along the North American east coast identified an extreme sea-level rise event during 2009–2010. Within this relatively brief two-year period, coastal sea level north of New York City jumped by up to 128 mm. [5.04 inches]
(Will This Float Your Boat - 5, emphasis added). That abrupt event is due to surges caused by the oscillation of, among other things, the Greenland Ice Sheet melt which is not a linear dynamic (see Fig. 1).

This particular notion of catastrophe is not a notion of orderly progression, so stable and linear that even bureaucrats can plan for it in a business as usual manner.

III. Let's Get Real

Fig. 2 USGS (click to enlarge)
To spark your interest, and bind you to a sober view of this phenomenon which is called "The Biggest Story in the World" (according to a worldwide circulation news source), first consider the following quote from the video below:
2:43 - "One meter [of SLR] would be a global catastrophic event, 3 meters would remap the world as we know it?"

2:50 - "Yes, absolutely."
(emphasis added). This allows us to focus our attention on 1m / 3ft. of SLR, because it would be "a global catastrophic event."

The delicacy of the issue can be seen by realizing that only 1.14% of the ice volume needs to melt to get us there (3 ft ÷ 263.5 ft. = 0.011385 = 1.14%).

Since some East Coast areas are half way there already, the percentage of global ice that needs to melt to get us to "a global catastrophic event" is now 0.57% (one half).

Or, if a certain percentage of one glacier (the Totten Glacier) in East Antarctica melts, or otherwise slides into the sea, the same will happen:
How little it will take can also easily be seen by a statement from a scientist who is studying those locations closely and regularly:
"One of them, Totten glacier, holds the equivalent of seven metres of global sea level."
(Dr. Rignot East Antarctica glaciers, cf. Totten Glacier Melting). The percentage of that one glacier which needs to melt to cause 3 ft. / 1 m. of SLR is: 1÷7 = 0.142857143 = 14.3%.
(Why Sea Level Rise May Be The Greatest Threat To Civilization). Since we are already half-way there, the remaining percentage is (14.3% ÷ 2 ) 7.15%.

Since we were looking at those events individually, as separate, singular occurrences, consider that if both take place at the same time, we would divide the 7.15% and 0.57% in half to derive even smaller percentages.

So, if  3.575% of the Totten glacier makes it to the sea at the same time as 0.285% of the rest of the worlds ice does, we reach about 1m / 3ft of SLR in those places that already have 1.5 ft or more of SLR (e.g. U.S. East Coast).

I won't belabor the point further, today, since only deniers will not detect how close we are to the edge of "a global catastrophic event".

IV. Today's Candidate

Previous posts have dealt with the New York harbor and the Chesapeake Bay areas, while skipping the Delaware Bay area.

So, today's focus will be on the Delaware Bay area.

Which means that we will be taking a look at one of the oldest, busiest ports:
Philadelphia's importance and central location in the colonies made it a natural center for America's revolutionaries. By the 1750s, Philadelphia had surpassed Boston to become the largest city and busiest port in British America, and second in the British Empire, behind London.
(Wikipedia, Philadelphia, emphasis added). Many probably do not think of Philadelphia, PA as a port city.

SLR is probably not associated with "Philly" either, so let's expand the focus on Philly as a port city:
The port itself claims the ranking of the #1 perishables port in the United States. The combined ports along the Delaware River, which include Philadelphia and Wilmington together, rank #3 in the U.S. for steel imports, and are among the United States' key entry points for forest products and for cocoa.
(Wikipedia, Port of Philadelphia, emphasis added). Expanding our focus out to the Delaware Bay we find:
The bay is one of the most important navigational channels in the United States, its second busiest waterway after the Mississippi River. Its lower course forms part of the Intracoastal Waterway. The need for direct navigation around the two capes into the ocean is circumvented by the Cape May Canal and the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal at the north and south capes respectively. The upper bay is connected directly to the north end of Chesapeake Bay by the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

The bay offers several challenges to mariners: a significant current of up to three knots, which quickly builds a nasty chop when the wind is in opposition; mainly shallow water, with its channel often occupied with ocean-going vessels; and relatively few places to take shelter.
(Wikipedia, Delaware Bay, emphasis added). It is an estuary too, like New York and Chesapeake are:
The Delaware Estuary is the tidal portion, or the lower half, of the Delaware River Basin. It includes all of the watersheds draining into this portion of the Delaware River and Delaware Bay. The area surrounding the estuary stretches as far west as the Schuylkill River’s headwaters near Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and as far east as the Rancocas Creek’s headwaters near Fort Dix, New Jersey. The vastness of this watershed makes the Delaware Estuary one of the largest estuaries in the country, or approximately 6,800 square miles (18,000 km2) in size. Within these boundaries are over 200 species of fish, the continent’s second-highest concentration of shorebirds, and over 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) of wetlands.
(Wikipedia, Delaware Estuary, emphasis added). Thus, yet another large population and international commerce and intercourse location is at risk to SLR.

V. Going Nuclear

Furthermore, like other estuaries, nuclear power plants have been built on the shores of the Delaware Bay estuary:
Nuclear reactors are often located near the ocean because they need plenty of water to cool their reactors. The fact that many are built at low elevations further exposes them to hazards of rising sea levels due to global warming and climate change.

The nine major US nuclear plants are within two miles of the coast.

In response to the threat, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ordered nuclear facilities in the US to review assessments of their vulnerability to flooding and earthquakes and plans to address the risks.
(SLR Threatens Nuke Plants, cf. Salem, & Hopium Creek). Ok, so let's put some sandbags around everything and go back to the bingo games?

No, because the fact is that SLR is like the movie "Groundhog Day."

That is, you wake up every morning and the sea level is still rising (Will This Float Your Boat - 9).

Nuclear power plants, like fossil fuel shipping ports, will be shut down one way or the other eventually.

VI. Catastrophe Is Coming Even If Inhofe Is A Prophet of God

The High Priest of Denial, Senator Inhofe, disagreeing with the Pope, says that God is doing this SLR thingy, so not to worry.

It is a godly catastrophe to get rid of the wicked, he evidently surmises.

It seems, then, that we can all agree on one thing: a serious catastrophe is coming.

VII. Conclusion

As I wrote in a recent post, the 1% who benefit most by international commerce and intercourse have the most to lose:
Highly organized groups are still hunting down and prosecuting the NAZI architects in a society that killed some six million people in death camps.

By all indications, they will continue to hunt down those NAZI criminals as long as the hunters still have breath.

How do you in the 1% think you will fare should they determine that you did far worse than those NAZI mass murderers?

See you in the camps.
(The 1% May Face The Wrath of Sea Level Rise First). Take note 1% folk: the sea is an equal opportunity sub-merger that can't be bought off like politicians.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

HBO Vice: "Our Rising Oceans", with Dr. Eric Rignot:

2:43 - "One meter [of SLR] would be a global catastrophic event, 3 meters would remap the world as we know it?"

2:50 - "Yes, absolutely."

[the propagandists made the video private - here is why]


  1. GREAT essay Dredd - really spells it out for the thick-headed among us (including me) to put it into the proper perspective. Totten glacier must be enormous. So i went to look it up. YGBFKM! There's so much ice down there to melt that i think only the highest mountains would still reveal above the waterline, were it all to melt.
    from wiki:

    There are many glaciers in the Antarctic. This set of lists does not include ice sheets, ice caps or ice fields, such as the Antarctic ice sheet, but includes glacial features that are defined by their flow, rather than general bodies of ice. The lists include outlet glaciers, valley glaciers, cirque glaciers, tidewater glaciers and ice streams. Ice streams are a type of glacier[1] and many of them have "glacier" in their name, e.g. Pine Island Glacier. Ice shelves are listed separately in the List of Antarctic ice shelves.

    Holy slap-a-cow-a! Drowning is going to become very popular!


  2. The ice shelf population is going extinct too:
    Because ice shelves already float in the ocean, they do not contribute directly to sea level rise when they break up. However, ice shelf collapse could contribute to sea level rise indirectly. Ice streams and glaciers constantly push on ice shelves, but the shelves eventually come up against coastal features such as islands and peninsulas, building pressure that slows their movement into the ocean. If an ice shelf collapses, the backpressure disappears. The glaciers that fed into the ice shelf speed up, flowing more quickly out to sea. Glaciers and ice sheets rest on land, so once they flow into the ocean, they contribute to sea level rise.

    Larson B ice shelf going down within 5 years (link)

  3. The Larson B Ice Shelf collapse will allow more SLR because it has been an impediment to land ice in that area flowing into the sea:

    "We know that this ice shelf existed for at least 11 to 12 thousand years. In 2002, two-thirds of it collapsed in less than six weeks. In the intervening period between 2002 and now, the remaining part of Larsen B has also been weakening very, very quickly. We expect it will not last for more than a few years to come. This would undoubtedly affect sea-level rise by putting more ice into the ocean. Now we have this rare opportunity of this ice shelf destabilizing and eventually collapsing in front of our eyes. And that will give us incredibly valuable lessons that we could use to understand what might be happening elsewhere in the future. It is certainly a warning. The conclusion is inescapable. "

    (JPL NASA: The Final Act)

    This is only one of many ice shelves holding back land ice that is set to flow into the sea if any shelf fails (List of Antarctic ice shelves).

  4. Note:

    The Antarctic Peninsula only has 1.5 ft. of potential SLR (see Fig. 1 here).

    So, even if the Larson B collapses and lets all the glaciers, that it is holding back now, flow to the sea, it will only bring SLR up to 3ft in areas where there is already 1.5 ft. of SLR.

    The source of urgency, then, is the fact that other ice sheets and ice shelves are melting at the same time.

  5. Hey, look:

    Sudden and Rapid Ice Loss Discovered in Antarctica

    The pace of climate change in Antarctica can now be measured in dog years.
    Related Stories

    Antarctic ice shelf in last throes of collapse
    Breakup fears for massive Antarctic ice shelf: study AFP
    NASA says a giant ice shelf in Antarctica will be gone within the decade The Verge
    NASA Study Shows Antarctica's Larsen B Ice Shelf Nearing Its Final Act PR Newswire

    Several massive glaciers in the southern Antarctic Peninsula suddenly started to crumble in 2009, a new study reports today (May 21) in the journal Science.

    "Out of the blue, it's become the second most important contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica," said lead study author Bert Wouters, a remote sensing expert and Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

    The discovery means Antarctica's entire western coast is now losing ice. "This is an important signal that we've got really rapid change going on in Antarctica," said Neil Glasser, a glaciologist at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the study. more]