Friday, May 30, 2014

NASA facilities threatened by sea level rise - Guess who pays?

A recent article reported on how NASA launch pads at Cape Canaveral and Mission Control in Houston are being threatened by rising sea levels. I have lived in the vicinity of both facilities and can personally attest that they are only a few feet above sea level.  In fact, NASA stated that rising sea levels are the single biggest threat to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Other NASA facilities being threatened by rising sea levels include Wallops Flight Facility and Langley Research Center, both in Virginia, and Ames Research Center in San Francisco.

The problem with the rising sea level is not that the facilities are threatened with inundation in the near-term, but with all of the other kinds of damage that come with rising sea level. Things like beach erosion and storm surges are greatly affected by how high sea level is. Increase the sea level and you increase the damage that results from those actions.

The forecast for Hampton, VA is for a five foot rise in sea level by the year 2100, or 60 inches in the next 86 years. If we were to assume a constant rate of rise (a bad assumption, but it gives us something to work with), that comes out to .7 inches (1.8 centimeters) per year. That means something that is currently 7 inches above the storm surge will be in the storm surge 10 years from now. These are very low-lying areas, 7 inches will make a big difference. And, that is only in 10 years. Twenty years from now the sea level will be more than 14 inches higher, on average.

Let me put those time frames into perspective. Ten years ago was 2004. George W. Bush was President of the U.S. and defeated John Kerry in his bid to win reelection. The Summer Olympics were in Athens, the U.S. was bogged down in an insurgency in Iraq, and a 9.3 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Indonesia, sending a devastating tsunami across the Indian Ocean.

Twenty years ago was 1994. Bill Clinton was President, 100,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda, former President Richard Nixon died, Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, O.J. Simpson was arrested for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and the Chunnel opened for business, connecting France and Great Britain with an underground rail line.

Consider those events and think back to where you were in those years. If you are more than 20 years old, you will probably realize that these time-spans are not great. The time it takes to prevent damage to the NASA facilities is not at some point in the future. In fact, it isn't even now. It was at some point in the past. Fortunately, they have already been engaged with making preparations and adjustments. That is the only way they can keep ahead of the threat.

I have mentioned these NASA facilities, but this same threat extends to anything close to the coast, including all of the private homes built with a view of the sea. They are now more at risk and that risk will increase at an alarming rate in the next few years.

And, by the way, let's be clear about this, we are the ones that will have to pay for it. One more example of how you need to take your checkbook out and send money to the deniers every time you reject the reality of global warming.

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