Category Archives: Sea Level Rise

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.”

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

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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

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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

Renewables key for climate, world energy supply: IPCC

wind-energy
Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

Renewable energy could meet nearly 80 percent of the world’s energy needs by mid-century and play a crucial role in fighting global warming, the UN’s climate scientists said Monday in a major report.

The 194-nation Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) said that renewable sources had grown rapidly, were widely competitive with fossil energies and, technically, had almost limitless potential…

Read Full Article, AFP

Vatican Science Panel Calls Attention to the Threat of Glacial Melt

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Photo source: ©© Peter Nijenhuis

Excerpts;

A panel of some of the world’s leading climate and glacier scientists co-chaired by a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego researcher issued a report commissioned by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences citing the moral imperative before society to properly address climate change…

Read Full Article, University of California, San Diego

“Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene”, Pdf File

After a Three-decade Hiatus, Sea-level Rise May Return to the West Coast

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Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

The West Coast of North America has caught a break that has left sea level in the eastern North Pacific Ocean steady during the last few decades, but there is evidence that a change in wind patterns may be occurring that could cause coastal sea-level rise to accelerate beginning this decade…

Original Article,Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California, San Diego

Bay Water Levels Are Expected to Rise, New York Times
The sea level along San Francisco Bay has fallen since 1980, but oceanographers say it will be rising soon.