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South Miami’s Solar Mandate Sets Example for Other Coastal Cities Facing Existential Threat From Sea Level Rise

Back in July, South Miami decided to require that all new homes built within city limits place solar panels on their roofs. The decision was made in an attempt to help slake the warming related impacts of sea level rise on the city by working to reduce carbon emissions.

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard recently noted:

“We’re down in South Florida where climate change and sea level rise are existential threats, so we’re looking for every opportunity to promote renewable energy. It’s carbon reduction, plain and simple. We have a pledge for carbon neutrality. We support the Paris Climate Agreement.”

South Miami joins six California cities now also providing rooftop solar mandates. These include San Francisco, Culver City, Santa Monica, San Mateo, Lancaster, and Sebastapol.

(How quickly greenhouse gas emissions are reduced has a considerable impact on the level of harm caused by future sea level rise. South Miami gets it. But what about the rest of the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts?)

With threats from rising oceans to coastal cities worsening, Miami’s decision is one that resonates with the interests of thousands of communities around the world. Nuisance flooding and increased instances of tidal flooding are on the rise pretty much everywhere. Meanwhile, some cities and island nations are in the process of being wiped off the map entirely as the pace of sea level rise quickens globally.

Coastal cities now have a vested interest in reducing carbon emissions as swiftly as possible. And Miami, like a number of cities in California, recognize that smart policy moves by municipalities can help to speed an energy transition away from the fossil fuels that now account for the vast majority of global carbon emissions.

Links:

South Miami Just Made a Huge Solar Rooftop Decision

South Miami is Going Solar

The Present Threat to Coastal Cities From Antarctic and Greenland Melt

Alaska Towns at Risk From Rising Seas Sound Alarm as Trump Pulls Federal Help

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Climate Change — Seas Are Now So High it Only Takes a King Tide to Flood the US East Coast

“It gets higher every year. I imagine it will be worse next year.” Guido Pena, Miami marina employee commenting on water levels during king tides.

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King tide. It’s a new term for an old phenomena. One that few people noticed before human-forced climate change began to push the world’s oceans higher and higher.

During spring and fall, the sun lines up with the moon and other astronomical bodies to produce a stronger gravitational pull on the Earth. This pull, in its turn, affects the tides — generating higher and lower tides over certain regions of the world.

(Rising ocean levels due to human-forced climate change is resulting in worsening instances of tidal flooding at times of high tide. In this video, a simple seasonal high tide is enough to flood major roads in Fort Lauderdale on October 17.)

King Tides — Turned into Flooding Events by Climate Change

During past years, these events were called astronomical high and low tides. They weren’t typically a news item because such tides often did not produce flooding. Past construction had placed buildings and key infrastructure above the typical annual range of even the astronomical high tides.

However, during the past century and, ever more-so during recent years, seas have been rising more and more rapidly due to human-caused climate change. A warming of the Earth due to fossil fuel burning that has melted glacial ice — flooding the oceans and causing its waters to thermally expand. As a result, parts of the U.S. East Coast now see ocean levels that are 1.5 feet or more higher than they were at the start of the 20th Century.

This rise, though modest compared to what will happen if global temperatures and greenhouse gas levels remain at currently elevated levels or continue to ramp higher, is now enough to turn astronomical high tides into a notable flooding event. An event that we have begun to call a king tide.

miami-sea-level-trend

(In places like Miami along the US East Coast, sea levels are rising at a swifter and swifter rate due to human-caused climate change. Note the acceleration in the rate of water rise since 2008 indicated in the above graph. Image source: FSU.)

A Climate Change Enabled Tidal Flooding Event Impacting Most of the U.S. East Coast

And over the past few days, from Florida to Boston, the US East Coast has been feeling the effects of just such a climate change caused sea level rise. In Florida, a debate between climate change denier republican Marco Rubio and his democratic opponent Patrick Murphy was held at a site where the local street was flooding due to salt water incursion. Murphy, responding to his opponent’s doubts that seas were actually rising stated:

“Look out your window, right? There’s two or three inches of saltwater on the roads right now. They were not built underwater. Go down to the Florida Keys. The reefs are dying from acidification and bleaching.”

All across Florida, residents were posting pictures on twitter of the rising ocean waters and commenting on the intensification of coastal flooding due to sea level rise during recent years. “It gets higher every year,” said Guido Peña, a Miami Marina employee where the water was shin deep Monday morning, in a statement to the Miami Herald. “I imagine it will be worse next year.”

All up and down the coastline, communities reeling after a raking blow from Hurricane Matthew were again seeing waters rushing up and past the dune line or invading low-lying streets and neighborhoods. But this flooding was due to no hurricane, just the added rise of waters caused by a fossil-fueled warming of the Earth, a melting of her glaciers, and the thermal expansion of her seas.

(King tide flooding enhanced by climate change is now able to completely submerge Long Wharf in Boston.)

In Boston, residents took pictures of a completely submerged Long Wharf yesterday. Mentions of climate change came along with the observations of flooding waters. These included some ominous notes for a future in which scientists are projecting at least another 2 feet of sea level rise for the US East Coast by mid-century (and possibly quite a bit more).

High Vulnerability for U.S. East Coast

Overall, the US East Coast is particularly vulnerable to climate change induced sea level rise. Much of the southeast is subsiding due to crustal rebound following the last ice age which compounds any overall ocean rise. In addition, changes in North Atlantic Ocean currents and wind patterns due to climate change will tend to cause water previously pulled north by the Gulf Stream to rebound against the coastline. An effect that could also add another 1-3 feet of water rise to any baseline total provided by glacial melt and thermal expansion.

Larger news sources like The Weather Channel have provided little context with regards to the impact of climate change on current king tides — simply stating that climate change may affect king tides in the future. However, we should be very clear that without climate change we would not see the flooding from these tides that is now apparent today.

Links:

When the Ocean Rolls onto the Roads, King Tide Sends a Message

What’s a King Tide and Why is it Flooding Boston’s Waterfront?

Marco Rubio Denies Climate Change as King Tides Flood Miami Streets

FSU

Hat tip to Jack Ridley

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Jean Nagy

Hat tip to Ben Kennedy

The Pace of Ocean Rise Yet Quickens — AVISO Shows Record Spike in Sea Level

According to a new paper out by James Hansen, human warming could force glaciers to melt so fast that seas rise by as much as ten feet in as few as fifty years. Ten feet in fifty years of business as usual fossil fuel burning. It’s enough to change the face of human civilization. To render many of our vast cities waterlogged wastelands as a tide of migrants flood inland to flee the all-too-real rise of the waters.

It’s a situation we really need to get a handle on. One we should be monitoring with increasing concern. One we should absolutely be trying to prevent by ramping down fossil fuel burning as swiftly as possible.

Over the past Century, global sea level rise has been following a steadily sloping curve. At the beginning of the 20th Century, rates of global sea level rise were a mere 0.8 millimeters each year. By mid Century, the rate had increased to around 1.9 millimeters. And by the first decade of the 21st Century, the rate had again jumped — hitting 3.3 millimeters. As of 2014, satellites above the Earth had sniffed out another jump in the rate of sea level increase. A surge in the pace of rising water spiking well above the 3.3 millimeter per year trend line. A potential warning sign that basal melt of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland was starting to have an ever-greater impact.

Sea leve rise AVISO July

(Largest spike in sea level rise since 1993 is now being observed in the AVISO satellite monitor. Image source: AVISO.)

For as of this past month sea levels had spiked to nearly one centimeter above the annual trend line. A record spike that, as yet, shows little sign of abating.

Other than glacial melt and thermal expansion of the oceans due to a continued accumulation of heat, there are a few other ocean and atmospheric features with the potential to wag the overall trend line. One of these is El Nino. And this year is likely to feature one of the strongest El Ninos on record. But the current spike is also the highest upward variance we’ve seen in the entire satellite record dating back to 1993. It’s a severe wag to the upside that’s worth at least a couple of raised eyebrows.

To hit Hansen’s 10 foot in fifty year mark, what we’d end up seeing is a doubling in the rate of glacial melt from Greenland and West Antarctica every 5-10 years. It’s an extraordinary pace of melting. A signal that should show up in the GRACE satellite sensors measuring gravity loss from the great ice sheets. This signal, however, would also start to show up in the global sea level rise monitors as a continued ramping up of the pace at which oceans are surging. And we can’t entirely rule out that we’re observing some of that quickening in the spike we see now.

Links:

AVISO

Warning From Scientists: Stop Fossil Fuel Burning or Age of Storms, Rapid Sea Level Rise is Coming Soon

Historic Rate of Sea Level Rise

Possible Strongest El Nino on Record

 

Climate Change, Not China Poses Biggest Security Threat for US Pacific Fleet

USNavy Asia

The US Pacific fleet has a huge and growing problem. And it’s not China. Two words: climate change.

According to statements by US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the biggest security threat to US naval forces in the Pacific is not an emerging Chinese superpower. Instead, the ongoing damage and future uncertainty resulting from human caused climate change is the biggest concern.

Admiral Locklear anticipates rising sea levels that will displace entire nations and an ever increasing number of super-typhoons — a rising crisis few had foreseen. Shocks due to spiking global temperatures are “probably the most likely thing that is going to happen… that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about,” said Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III to the Boston Globe.

Locklear is currently charged with monitoring tensions between North and South Korea as well as keeping tabs on growing resource conflicts between China and Japan. But in his tour as Commander, Locklear has been met with rising dangers from increasingly destructive weather events. This year alone has seen numerous severe weather events all throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level,” Locklear said in his Boston Globe interview. “Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.” Locklear then points out that nations are currently contemplating moving their entire populations to other countries due to sea level rise. Such nations, inhabiting small islands like Tarawa and Kiribati, already face a severe threat from the increased storms and encroaching seas.

Damage due to climate change has also increased hostilities between neighboring countries. Hotter waters, over-fishing and coral reef collapse have damaged a number of key fisheries. The result is that nations are scouring the region to provide seafood to growing populations. In some cases, this search has displayed signs of desperation and conflict between competing parties has resulted. In February China was accused of threatening a Japanese warship by targeting it with its radars in a dispute over fishing rights in the vicinity of islands that both nations now claim.

“We have an ongoing number of disputes,” Locklear said. “It is not just about China and everybody else, because there are disputes between other partners down there, too.”

Locklear is the Navy Commander charged with keeping tabs on North Korea. And this nation is certainly a major concern. North Korea recently threatened to launch a nuclear weapon at the United States. But North Korea’s own aggressiveness must also be viewed in light of major food and resources crises plaguing that nation. These must also be viewed in the context of ongoing climate change as North Korea faces an ever increasing number of crop failures.

It is for these reasons that Locklear identifies climate change as the most destabilizing force in the region, one with the highest potential to produce increasingly serious and severe future impacts.

“The ice is melting and sea is getting higher,” Locklear said.

“We have interjected into our multilateral dialogue – even with China and India – the imperative to kind of get military capabilities aligned [for] when the effects of climate change start to impact these massive populations,” he added. “If it goes bad, you could have hundreds of thousands or millions of people displaced and then security will start to crumble pretty quickly.’’

Links:

http://rt.com/usa/climate-change-threat-locklear-225/

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