Category Archives: Sea Level Rise

Human Activities Produce More Carbon Dioxide Emissions Than Do Volcanoes

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The volcanic eruption cloud of Grímsvötn volcano,South-East Iceland, apparent on the very edge of NASA’s GOES-13 imagery. Photo source: NASA/CIMSS

By David Hollingsworth and Justin Pressfield, USGS

On average, human activities put out in just three to five days, the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that volcanoes produce globally each year. This is one of the messages detailed in a new article “Volcanic Versus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide” by Terrance Gerlach of the U.S. Geological Survey appearing in this week’s issue of Eos, from the American Geophysical Union.

“The most frequent question that I have gotten (and still get), in my 30 some years as a volcanic gas geochemist from the general public and from geoscientists working in fields outside of volcanology, is ‘Do volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities?’ Research findings indicate unequivocally that the answer to this question is “No”—anthropogenic CO2 emissions dwarf global volcanic CO2 emissions,” said Gerlach.

Gerlach looked at five published studies of present-day global volcanic CO2 emissions that give a range of results from a minimum of about one tenth of a billion, to a maximum of about half a billion metric tons of CO2 per year. Gerlach used the figure of about one-quarter of a billion metric tons of volcanic CO2 per year to make his comparisons. The published projected anthropogenic CO2 emission rate for 2010 is about 35 billion metric tons per year.

Gerlach’s calculations suggest present-day annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions may exceed the CO2 output of one or more supereruptions per year. Supereruptions are extremely rare with recurrence intervals of 100,000-200,000 years; none have occurred historically, the most recent examples being the Toba eruption 74,000 years ago in Indonesia and the Yellowstone caldera eruption in the United States 2 million years ago.

As in all fields of scientific research, there continues to be efforts to improve estimates and reduce uncertainties about how much CO2 is released from the mid-ocean ridges, from volcanic arcs, or from hot spot volcanoes, but agreement exists among volcanic gas scientists about the significantly smaller amount of volcanic CO2 compared to anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

Original Article; USGS (06-14-2011)

Climate change: How do we know?

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Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

By NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history.

Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era , and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. Studying these climate data collected over many years reveal the signals of a changing climate.

Certain facts about Earth’s climate are not in dispute:

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many JPL-designed instruments, such as AIRS. Increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in solar output, in the Earth’s orbit, and in greenhouse gas levels. They also show that in the past, large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands.3

The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling:

1. Sea level rise

Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.

2. Global temperature rise

All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. 5 Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. 6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.

3. Warming oceans

The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.

4. Shrinking ice sheets

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.

5. Declining Arctic sea ice

Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.

6. Glacial retreat

Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.

7. Extreme events

The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.

8.Ocean acidification

The carbon dioxide content of the Earth’s oceans has been increasing since 1750, and is currently increasing about 2 billion tons per year. This has increased ocean acidity by about 30 percent.

Original Article

At UN talks, Kyoto Protocol hangs in the balance; Read AFP Article
The fate of the only international agreement that sets binding targets for curbing greenhouse gases is hanging by a thread. Failure to prolong the Kyoto Protocol’s roster of pledges beyond 2012 would mark a perilous new low for climate negotiations and their UN architecture…

Ocean Acidification, Planet Green Article

Arctic Melt Raises Sea Levels and Reinforces Global Warming

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Photo source: ©© Howard Ignatius

By Holli Riebeek, Earth Observatory, NASA

If you want to see global warming’s signature, look to the Arctic. Up north, the air is warming and the ice is melting. As all of that reflective ice goes away, the Arctic Ocean is soaking up more sunlight, further enhancing warming. Melting Arctic ice is also contributing significantly to sea level rise.

For two decades, scientists have predicted these things would happen as the Earth warms, and now we see that the Arctic is changing much as expected.

A new assessment report released by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program lays out the facts about many of the changes. AMAP is a working group of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental organization consisting of eight Arctic nations.

The report provides 15 key findings, and many of them are based on NASA satellite observations or science we’ve talked about on the Earth Observatory. Here’s a summary of the key findings:

1. The past six years (2005 – 2010) make up the warmest period ever recorded in the region, and these warm temperatures are causing changes.

2. Changes in snow cover and sea ice are interacting with the climate to increase warming.

3. Snow and sea ice cover a smaller area and are present for a less of the year, while permafrost is warming.

4. The largest and most permanent bodies of ice in the Arctic, including multi-year sea ice, mountain glaciers, and the Greenland ice sheet, have melted faster since 2000 than in the previous decade.

5. Model results reported in the last IPCC report underestimated how quickly sea ice is changing.

6. By 2050, snow will be deeper in places, but last for a shorter period of time.

7. The Arctic Ocean will be nearly ice-free during the summer within this century, probably within the next 30-40 years. (That’s not a hard prediction to believe considering the change seen over the last decade.)

8. Changes in the Arctic snow and ice fundamentally change ecosystems, destroying some habitats, which will impact Arctic peoples.

9. Observed and predicted changes in the Arctic will pose both challenges and opportunities to Arctic societies.

10. Transport in the Arctic will change, with impacts on day-to-day life and commercial activities.

11. Arctic infrastructure will probably be damaged as permafrost and near-shore sea ice melt.

12. Loss of snow and ice and the release of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost will enhance global warming.

13. Melting glaciers and ice sheets contributed more than 40 percent of the global sea level rise (about 3 mm per year) between 2003 and 2008. Further melting will contribute substantially to the 0.9 to 1.6 meter sea-level rise expected by 2100.

14. Everyone in the Arctic will have to adapt to climate change.

15. More research and monitoring are needed to answer questions about how fast the Arctic will change in the future.

This sort of assessment report is interesting not because it presents new science, but because it provides a rare full-picture view of what is going on. To me, the take-home message is that climate change in the Arctic is a reality and that changes are beginning to affect the rest of the planet by amplifying warming and pushing sea levels up.

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (they call themselves AMAP) also released a series of photographs and videos (3 minute and 15 minute versions) that show change.

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1. The left image shows how much energy the Northern Hemisphere’s snow and ice—called the cryosphere—reflected on average between 1979 and 2008. Dark blue indicates more reflected energy, in Watts per square meter, and thus more cooling. The Greenland ice sheet reflects more energy than any other single location in the Northern Hemisphere. The second-largest contributor to cooling is the cap of sea ice over the Arctic Ocean.

2. The right image shows how the energy being reflected from the cryosphere has changed between 1979 and 2008. When snow and ice disappear, they are replaced by dark land or ocean, both of which absorb energy. The image shows that the Northern Hemisphere is absorbing more energy, particularly along the outer edges of the Arctic Ocean, where sea ice has disappeared, and in the mountains of Central Asia.

Original Article

Salt Mapper For Climate Forecasts, NASA

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Map of global differences, on average, between evaporation and precipitation, the main elements of the global water cycle. Eighty-six percent of global evaporation is from the ocean surface, and 78 percent of global precipitation falls back over the ocean. Changes in these patterns affect the salinity of the ocean surface. Scientists plan to use Aquarius salinity data to incorporate these processes into computer models used to improve predictions of future climate. Image credit: Committee on Earth Observation Satellites

By Alan Buis, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

Salt is essential to human life. Most people may not know, however, that salt, in a form nearly the same as the simple table variety, is just as essential to Earth’s ocean, serving as a critical driver of key ocean processes. While ancient Greek soothsayers believed they could foretell the future by reading the patterns in sprinkled salt, today’s scientists have learned that they can indeed harness this invaluable mineral to foresee the future, of Earth’s climate.

The oracles of modern climate science are the computer models used to forecast climate change. These models, which rely on a myriad of data from many sources, are effective in predicting many climate variables, such as global temperatures. Yet data for some pieces of the climate puzzle have been scarce, including the concentration of dissolved sea salt at the surface of the world’s ocean, commonly called ocean surface salinity, subjecting the models to varying margins of error. This salinity is a key indicator of how Earth’s freshwater moves between the ocean, land and atmosphere.

Enter Aquarius, a new NASA salinity-measurement instrument slated for launch in June 2011 aboard the Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas (SAC)-D spacecraft built by Argentina’s Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE). Aquarius’ high-tech, salt-seeking sensors will make comprehensive measurements of ocean surface salinity with the precision needed to help researchers better determine how Earth’s ocean interacts with the atmosphere to influence climate.

Improving Climate Forecasts

“We ultimately want to predict climate change and have greater confidence in our predictions. Climate models are the only effective means we have to do so,” said Aquarius Principal Investigator Gary Lagerloef, a scientist at the Seattle-based independent laboratory Earth & Space Research. “But, a climate model’s forecast skill is only as good as its ability to accurately represent modern-day observations.”

Density-driven ocean circulation, according to Lagerloef, is controlled as much by salinity as by ocean temperature. Sea salt makes up only 3.5 percent of the world’s ocean, but its relatively small presence reaps huge consequences.

Salinity influences the very motion of the ocean and the temperature of seawater, because the concentration of sea salt in the ocean’s surface mixed layer, the portion of the ocean that is actively exchanging water and heat with Earth’s atmosphere, is a critical driver of these ocean processes. It’s the missing variable in understanding the link between the water cycle and ocean circulation. Specifically, it’s an essential metric to modeling precipitation and evaporation.

Accurate ocean surface salinity data are a necessary component to understanding what will happen in the future, but can also open a window to Earth’s climate past. When researchers want to create a climate record that spans previous decades, which helps them identify trends, it’s necessary to collect and integrate data from the last two to three decades to develop a consistent analysis.

“Aquarius, and successor missions based on it, will give us, over time, critical data that will be used by models that study how Earth’s ocean and atmosphere interact, to see trends in climate,” said Lagerloef. “The advances this mission will enable make this an exciting time in climate research.”

Anyone who’s splashed at the beach knows that ocean water is salty. Yet measuring this simple compound in seawater has been a scientific challenge for well over a century.

Until now, researchers had taken ocean salinity measurements from aboard ships, buoys and aircraft, but they’d done so using a wide range of methods across assorted sampling areas and over inconsistent times from one season to another. Because of the sparse and intermittent nature of these salinity observations, researchers have not been able to fine-tune models to obtain a true global picture of how ocean surface salinity is influencing the ocean. Aquarius promises to resolve these deficiencies, seeing changes in ocean surface salinity consistently across space and time and mapping the entire ice-free ocean every seven days for at least three years.

The Age of Aquarius

Research modelers like William Large, an oceanographer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., will use Aquarius’ ocean surface salinity data, along with precipitation and temperature observations, to round out the data needed to refine the numerical climate models he and his colleagues have developed.

“This mission is sure to mark a new era for end users like us,” explained Large. “Aquarius puts us on the road to implementing a long-term, three-step plan that could improve our climate models. The first step will be to use Aquarius data to identify if there is a problem with our models, what deficiencies exist, for example, in parts of the world where observations are sparse.

“Second, the data will help us determine the source of these problems,” Large added. “Salinity helps us understand density, and density, after all, makes ocean waters sink and float, and circulate around Earth.

“Third, Aquarius will help us solve the puzzle of what’s going on in the ocean itself, the ocean processes,” he added. “We’ll pair an ocean observation experiment with the satellite mission to explore the mixing and convection, how things like salinity are stirred in the ocean, to better determine what processes might be actually changing climate. Measuring salinity at the ocean surface will deliver a pioneering baseline of observations for changes seen by the next generation of missions in the coming decades.”

“We’ve done all of the advance work leading up to the launch of Aquarius, so the proof will be in the actual data,” said Lagerloef. “Our intent is to put the data out immediately as soon as the satellite begins transmitting. Before the end of the first year, we’ll be interpreting exactly what the data are telling us and how they will benefit climate modeling.”

Read Original Article

Rising sea levels endangering Australia’s World Heritage-listed Kakadu wetlands

kakadu
Kakadu is one of the very few places listed as a World Heritage Area for both its cultural and natural values. It is a place of exceptional beauty and is considered one of the most biologically diverse places on the Australian continent. The Timor and Arafura Seas are bordering Kakadu Park’s northern shores. Photo source: ©© Matt Francey

Australia’s Kakadu wetlands ‘under climate threat’

Excerpts

“Rising sea levels linked to global warming will endanger Australia’s World Heritage-listed Kakadu wetlands, according to a government report released Thursday as part of the campaign for a carbon tax.
The study found Kakadu was “one of Australia’s natural ecosystems most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change”, with higher oceans a “serious risk” to its ecosystem.

Monsoon rainforests, mangroves and woodlands would suffer and unique turtle, fish, crab, crocodile and bird species would decline, said the report…”

Read AFP Article

kakadu-uranium-mining
Ranger 3 open pit, Northern Territory, Australia. Uranium mine: Photo source: Geomartin /Wikimedia

By Claire Le Guern,

As changes in climate -accelerated by increased carbon emissions and greenhouses gas- are greatly endangering coastal ecosystems mainly due to sea level rise and its direct impacts, the Kakadu national park’s area has been afflicted and environmentally altered by yet, an other man-induced environmental devastation: uranium mining.

Of the world’s proven estimated uranium reserves (5,469,000 tonnes), 23% (valued at more than $300 billion), are held in Australia, which is the third greatest uranium exporter behind Canada and Kazakhstan.(Wikipedia)

Besides the very activity itself, reported safety breaches, unplanned natural occurences, unconformity of mineral deposits, and radiologically contaminated process water, have been tainting the story of the “protected” area. Indeed, Kakadu National Park, located in the Northern Territory of Australia, possesses within its boundaries a number of large uranium deposits. The uranium is legally owned by the Australian Government, and is sold internationally.

“Australia’s Greens Party wants the Ranger uranium mine located in the country’s Kakadu National Park closed permanently, saying the mine poses a significant threat to the world heritage listed site.” ( ABC News, Australia)

Technically the site of the Ranger mine and the adjacent Jabiluka area are not per se part of Kakadu National Park, but are completely surrounded by it, as they were specifically excluded when the park was established from 1981. Wikipedia

However, polluted water is leaking into Kakadu from uranium mine. The World heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is leaking 100,000 litres of contaminated water into the ground beneath the park every day, a Government appointed scientist has revealed. This is equivalent to three petrol tankers, of contaminant leaking from the mine’s tailings dam into rock fissures beneath Kakadu.The Age News, Australia

Consequently, the uranium mine, operated by Energy Resources of Australia Ltd, has been closed since January as heavy rains threatened a spillage of toxins from a water storage facility.

That closure had been extended until late July. However, continuing exploitation is undeniably on the agenda.

Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ASX: ERA) is a public company based in Australia. It is a subsidiary of the, British mining giant Rio Tinto Group, which owns 68.4% of the company. ERA is the world’s third-largest uranium producer, through the Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory.

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Kakadu National Park. Aboriginal Painting, Ubirr Rock. Photo Travelnt / Wikimedia

Kakadu National Park is located within the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory of Australia. It covers an area of 19,804 km2 (7,646 sq mi), extending nearly 200 kilometres from north to south and over 100 kilometres from east to west.

Besides encompassing breathtaking natural wonders, exceptional natural beauty and unique biodiversity, Kakadu is one of very few places World Heritage listed for both its cultural and its natural values. The area has been inhabited by indigenous Aboriginal tribes. Yet, once again, the mining industry has demonstrated its environmental destructive effects and consequent undeniable process off desacration of natural and cultural sites.

Ubirr is located in the East Alligator region of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia, 40 km from Jabiru, and is famous for its rock art. It consists of a group of rock outcrops on the edge of the Nadab floodplain where there are several natural shelters that have a collection of Aboriginal rock paintings, some of which are many thousands of years old.

The rock faces at Ubirr have been continuously painted and repainted since 40,000 BCE. Wikipedia

Climate Change Strategy, Official Report, Kakadu National Park

Read More about The Uranium mining controversy

Papua New Guinea Mine Waste Dumping: The Ramu Case, in Coastal Care

Climate Change Impacts in China

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Shanghai. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

The received wisdom used to be that climate change would have relatively little impact on China. But that views seems outdated.

Like the United States, China is large and geographically diverse; as such, the impacts of climate change vary across the country…

Read Original Article, By Dan Farber, Professor Of Law, University Of California-Berkeley

Rising sea levels trigger disasters in China: report
Gradually rising sea levels caused by global warming over the past 30 years have contributed to a growing number of disasters along China’s coast.

Seismic Shift? As Bahamas islands Sink, One Island Mysteriously Rises

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Eleuthera Island, in the Bahamas, is seen in an astronaut photograph taken from the International Space Station. Photo and caption: NASA

Excerpts;

All the islands in the Bahamas were thought to be slowly sinking, but now scientists find one quirky isle going against the crowd.

This anomaly suggests the area may be less seismically stable than previously thought…

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Mayaguana island, southeast Bahamas. Photo source: NASA

Read Original Article, OurAmazingPlanet

Seaports Need a Plan for Weathering Climate Change, Researchers Say

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New York City. Photo source: ©© Zoriah

Excerpts;

The majority of seaports around the world are unprepared for the potentially damaging impacts of climate change in the coming century, according to a new Stanford University study.

In a survey posed to port authorities around the world, the Stanford team found that most officials are unsure how best to protect their facilities from rising sea levels and more frequent Katrina-magnitude storms, which scientists say could be a consequence of global warming. Results from the survey are published in the journal Climatic Change…

Read Full Article, By Donna Hersterman, Standford University