Thursday, May 14, 2015

Florida and Sea Level Rise

Florida Governor Rick Scott has prohibited government employees from discussing climate change, global warming, and sea level rise. Too bad for Florida nature didn't bother listening. Many places along the Florida coast are facing problems due to that same sea level rise the government isn't allowed to discuss. Meanwhile, the state can only watch because Scott doesn't believe in sea level rise and has put off efforts to form a plan to deal with the problem.

Many coastal communities suffer from chronic flooding - streets are now routinely flooding during high tides. Sea water is intruding into ground water - Hallandale Beach, north of Miami, has been forced to abandon six of eight wells due to salt water intrusion. Flood control systems are being overburdened - higher sea levels translate into higher storm surges. Municipalities can't deal with the problem without state help, but the help isn't coming. In fact, Scott has downsized the state environmental agencies, making it even more difficult for the state to respond.

Insurance giant Swiss Re has estimated South Florida could suffer $33 billion in damages due to sea level rise and climate change by the year 2030. That would be a lot of lost taxes for the state, but they don't seem to care. Scott's office denies employees are being censored, despite the evidence of internal emails. At the same time, local leaders complained about the "poisonous political atmosphere."

Well, bad news is on the way. The rate of sea level rise is increasing. Researchers have combined tidal gauge data with GPS data for the land to find out sea level rise is due to two factors - the rise in the height of the oceans and the simultaneous movement of the land masses. What they found is the earlier calculations of sea level rise were too large. That means the more recent sea level rise has been even more than previously thought and is increasing at a rate of about 12% per year. They estimate this will increase sea level disasters from about $25 billion per year currently to as much as $100,000 billion ($100 trillion!) by 2100.

But, it keeps getting better.

The Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula is being melted by warm waters from beneath and warm air from above. Researchers have calculated the ice shelf could collapse within the century, possibly earlier. Larsen C is the largest ice shelf on the peninsula and fourth largest in the world (about twice the size of Belgium). Two smaller companions have collapsed in recent decades. Larsen A collapsed in 1995 and Larsen B collapsed in 2002. Larsen C has lost 4 meters of ice, resulting in the ice sheet being a full meter lower. (NOTE: Here is a timely NASA update, including a nice video, of the breakup of Larsen B.)

Melting of the ice would not in itself lead to higher sea levels because the ice is already in the water. Melting it would keep the sea level the same. But, the ice shelf acts as a stopper for the land ice behind it. Remove the ice shelf and that land ice would be free to move into the ocean at an accelerated rate - and that will lead to rising sea levels by adding more ice to the oceans even without melting it. The accelerated movement of the land ice was witnessed after the collapse of Larsen A and B.

The loss of land ice on Antarctica has increased from approximately 30 billion tons per year in 2001 to 147 billion tons per year a decade later. Add to that rate of increase the amount of ice being held back by Larsen C and the situation in Florida (and other coastal communities worldwide) is looking worse by the day.

But, of course, if we don't talk about it, it won't happen. Just ask Rick Scott.


  1. Its absolutely appalling to think that in 2015 in a world that has sent men to the moon, and transmits bits of information all over the world in a matter of seconds can remain so backwards as to elect members of Congress which are dedicated to preventing the honest scientific inquiry we need. And, it's even more astonishing that anti-AGW proponents have so managed to advance their own anti-science agenda, that many people currently believe that dedicated research scientists are reaching the conclusions they are based on a desire for money and/or in response to government manipulation. So where are the sportscars in the driveways of these scientists, how many homes do they have in Maui or Italy, how many servants do they employ? Why did global warming researchers keep delivering the same message no matter which party has been in power, and how many foreign countries are hopelessly under the thumb of that fiend Obama? Yet the fact that Oil and Coal industry moguls are earning money had over fist, while accusing ordinary scientists of unhealthy money gaining motives shows the deadly power of fear and ignorance.

    Obviously it make much more sense to realize that OIl companies and their CEOs and executives, etc. are the ones most dedicated to thwarting and retarding our knowledge of Carbon based fuels role in climate change and how we can lose our dependency on them! So lets not allow them to intimidate anyone who honestly portrays the truth---Good God, how messed up is the propaganda that well funded and well organized GW denial efforts are trying to advance---REALLY? This is one for Ripley's Believe it or Not!

  2. Another problem that will effect Florida more than other places is ocean acidification from increased CO2 in sea water. If the coral reefs die off and fishing declines, it is not going to help the Florida economy and tourist trade.

    Nova had an excellent program on Wednesday night on the problem and the situation doesn't look good. They don't mince any word about the cause of the problem, which will probably upset the Koch brothers since they are sponsors of Nova and David Koch sits on the board of WGBH:

  3. That was an excellent episode. Nova does such a good job in their productions. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  4. Keep in mind Tom Harris said it is a false argument when I asked him about his funding. So, it's evil climate scientists because they receive funding from the government, but it's irrelevant when it's the denier's funding that is in question.

  5. We all know that the government is not always right, nor always interested in real people, but deniers have conveniently used it as a punching bag in order to capitalize on the distrust for government most Americans feel. But government funded research is not being required to deliver only the conclusions the government wants, as is evidenced by the fact that all over the world, in all kinds of governments which are absolutely not control by liberal groups or by Obama, leaders are also beginning to recognize the threat to the environment that human-caused Greenhouse gasses. are influencing

    When deniers begin to claims that the US itself, as well as all numerous and well respected worldwide scientific organizations are all joining in on some kind of tree-hugger's plot to control our economy, they have traveled well into the twilight zone. And aren't the lobbyists used by special interests and deniers also trying to gain control of government by manipulating members of Congress? How is that not a politically motivated ploy? The cherry picking, taken out of contexts statements, and the misrepresentations and misinterpretations of the science are, as my mother in law liked to say, "So stupid they stink!" So the answer has got to be education, and in teaching us all how to think critically. I am by no means an expert on climate science but I am aware that even a fundamental grasp of the scientific principles involved is all that needs to be known, in order to understand the logic and validity of the conclusions climate scientists are reaching.

    If we want to study intelligent design or read about biblical creation we are free to learn about those things in our Churches and in philosophy courses. And those kinds inquiries are just not acceptable in science classes or as the drivers of government policies---they quite simply threaten, and can eventually destroy, our much needed separation between church and state. Are we living in the 21st century, or the Middle ages?