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Sea Level Rise

Page history last edited by Joe Galliani 14 years, 8 months ago


AUGUST 4, 2009:  Here's a brand new Sea Level Rise map specifically for the West Coast just released by the Pacific Institute


The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on

the California Coast

Sea-level rise california coastIn an analysis prepared for three California state agencies, the Pacific Institute estimates that 480,000 people; a wide range of critical infrastructure; vast areas of wetlands and other natural ecosystems; and nearly $100 billion in property along the California coast are at increased risk from flooding from a 1.4-meter sea-level rise – if no adaptation actions are taken.











Here's what our local South Bay beaches look like with this 1.4 meter sea level rise.  Scientists have warned that sea level rise might be much higher thasn 1.4 meters...  Click on the map to see the interactive web page:



The Pacific Institute report, The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast, concludes that sea-level rise will inevitably change the character of the California coast, and that adaptation strategies must be evaluated, tested, and implemented if the risks identified in the report are to be reduced or avoided. Populations and critical infrastructure at risk are shown in detailed maps prepared by the Pacific Institute available online here.


Here's a world wide Sea Level Rise map using NASA data that you can navigate and interact with to show different levels of Sea Level Rise right here in the South Bay or anywhere else in the world:




Greenpeace: Sea level rise


"The Maldives is one of the small states. We are not in a position to change the course of events in the world. But what you do or do not do here will greatly influence the fate of my people. It can also change the course of world history." --

Statement by H.E. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (Maldives) Kyoto, Japan, 3rd Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC


It is not only small island states that need to worry about sea level rise. More than 70 percent of the world's population lives on coastal plains, and 11 of the world's 15 largest cities are on the coast or estuaries. Over the 20th century sea levels rose between 10 and 20 centimetres (4-8 inches). The IPCC puts predictions of 21st century sea level rise at 9 to 88 cm. There

are many variables – including how much the expected increase in precipitation will add to snow packs and, most importantly, our greenhouse gas emissions over the next decades. What we do know is that even a small amount of sea level rise will have profound negative effects.


> What we can expect

> The disappearing Greenland ice sheet

> The West Antarctic ice sheet

> Consequences


What we can expect

A global average sea level rise of 9-88 cm (3.5–34.6 inches) is expected over the next hundred years, thanks to the greenhouse gasses we have emitted to date and likely future emissions. This will come in roughly equal measure from melting ice and from thermal expansion of the oceans (water expands as it heats up).


Even this comparatively modest projected sea level rise will wreak havoc. Coastal flooding and storm damage, eroding shorelines, salt water contamination of fresh water supplies, flooding of coastal wetlands and barrier islands, and an increase in the salinity of estuaries are all realities of even a small amount of sea level rise. Some low lying costal cities and villages

will also be affected. Resources critical to island and coastal populations such as beaches, freshwater, fisheries, coral reefs and atolls, and wildlife habitat is also at risk.


It's worth keeping in mind that changes in sea level do not occur uniformly around the globe. There is actually a fair amount of difference in sea level rise in different parts of the world due to ocean circulation and wind pressure patterns. The effects of storm surges and spring tides need to also be kept in mind when evaluating sea level rise impacts.


The disappearing Greenland ice sheet

Over the last hundred years, sea levels rose ten times faster then their 2000-year average, but in the next hundred years the rate of sea level rise could increase dramatically. One frighteningly real possibility is the melting of Greenland's ice sheet.


According to the IPCC:

"Climate models indicate that the local warming over Greenland is likely to be one to three times the global average.  Ice sheet models project that a local warming of larger than 3°C [5.4°F], if sustained for millennia, would lead to virtually a complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet with a resulting sea-level rise of about 7 m [23 ft]."

-- IPCC 3rd Assessment, Synthesis Report, Summary for Policy Makers


The amount of global warming predicted by the IPCC over the next hundred years is 1.4-5.8° Celsius (2.5-10.4°F), and warming around Greenland is likely to be one to three times the global average. The Greenland ice sheet is already shrinking and melting.


The West Antarctic ice sheet

Only four years ago, it was commonly accepted that the West Antarctic ice sheet was stable, but unexpected melting in the region is causing scientists to re-think this assumption.


In 2002, the 500 billion tonne Larsen B ice shelf, which covered an area twice the size of greater London, disintegrated in less than a month. This did not directly add to sea level rise since the ice shelf was already floating, but it was a dramatic reminder of the effects of warming in the area. It's also thought that the ice shelf helped to hold some of the area's

land-locked ice in place, and now that it's gone more land ice will fall into the sea over time. The Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995 and was two-thirds as big as Larsen B.


Then in 2005, the British Antarctic Survey released findings that 87 percent of the glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated over the past 50 years. In the past five years, the retreating glaciers have lost an average of 50 metres (164 feet) per year.


Potentially, the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) could contribute an additional six metres (20 feet) to sea level rise. Although the chances of this are considered "low" in the IPCC’s Third Assessment report, recent research indicates new evidence of massive ice discharge from the WAIS.


The entire Antarctic ice sheet holds enough water to raise global sea levels by 62 metres (203 feet).



Between the Greenland ice sheet and the Western Antarctic ice sheet the world could well be facing a 13 metre (43 foot) rise in sea level if we do not drastically curb our greenhouse gas emissions. Even a small fraction of this much sea level rise would be an economic and humanitarian disaster. A few possible consequences of rising sea levels:


Billions spent on adaptation – if you can afford it. The US has roughly 20,000 km (12,400 miles) of coastline and more than 32,000 km (19,900 miles) of coastal wetlands. A recent study estimated the costs of adapting to even a one metre sea level rise in the US would amount to US$156 billion (3 percent of GNP). Most countries don't have this kind of money to spend.


With only a one metre sea level rise some island nations, such as the Maldives, would be submerged. Already, two of the islands that make up Kiribati (a Pacific island nation) have gone under the waves, and in early 2005 others were inundated by a high spring tide that washed away farmland, contaminated wells with saltwater, and flooded homes and a hospital.


If current warming trends continue, cities like London, Bangkok and New York will end up below sea level – displacing millions and causing massive economic damage. Alexandria, Egypt, is one of the many cities that could be inundated by a one meter sea level rise. At some point, building higher and higher sea walls becomes impractical, and even the wealthiest nations will see cities flood.


Rising oceans will contaminate both surface and underground fresh water supplies. - worsening the world's existing fresh water shortage. Underground water sources in Thailand, Israel, China, Vietnam and some island states are already experiencing salt water contamination.


Rural populations and farmland (especially rice) on some coasts will be wiped out. For example, according to the UK Royal Society a one metre sea level rise could flood 17 percent of Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries, displacing tens of millions of people and reducing its rice-farming land by 50 percent.


There is some good news, though. If we act rapidly to reduce emissions we can still prevent the worst effects of climate change. Switching to renewable energy sources, if we do it fast enough, is our only hope to avoid disastrous sea level rise.



Sea level rise: It's worse than we thought


Greenland is already losing enough ice to raise sea level by 0.8 millimetres per year (Image: Nick Cobbing)

July 1, 2009

Greenland is already losing enough ice to raise sea level by 0.8 millimetres per year

(Image: Nick Cobbing)

Enlarge image

3 more images

See our related editorial


FOR a few minutes David Holland forgets about his work and screams like a kid on a roller coaster. The small helicopter he's riding in is slaloming between towering cliffs of ice - the sheer sides of gigantic icebergs that had calved off Greenland's Jakobshavn glacier. "It was like in a James Bond movie," Holland says afterwards. "It's the most exciting thing I have ever done."


Jakobshavn has doubled its speed in the past 15 years, draining increasing amounts of ice from the Greenland ice sheet into the ocean, and Holland, an oceanographer at New York University, has been trying to find out why. Scientists like him are more than a little astonished at the rate at which our planet's frozen frontiers seem to be responding to global warming. The crucial question, though, is what will happen over the next few decades and centuries.


That's because the fate of the planet's ice, from relatively small ice caps in places like the Canadian Arctic, the Andes and the Himalayas, to the immense ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, will largely determine the speed and extent of sea level rise. At stake are the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, not to mention millions of square kilometres of cities and coastal land, and trillions of dollars in economic terms.


In its 2007 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecast a sea level rise of between 19 and 59 centimetres by 2100, but this excluded "future rapid dynamical changes in ice flow". Crudely speaking, these estimates assume ice sheets are a bit like vast ice cubes sitting on a flat surface, which will stay in place as they slowly melt. But what if some ice sheets are more like ice cubes sitting on an upside-down bowl, which could suddenly slide off into the sea as conditions get slippery? "Larger rises cannot be excluded but understanding of these effects is too limited to assess their likelihood," the IPCC report stated.


Please click nn the article headline above to read the rest of the article in New Scientist Magazine

Potential for Sea Level Rise

Sea Level Rise Explorer

Sources of potential sea level rise
Thermal expansion of the oceans 0.2-0.4 m per degree C[1]
Mountain glaciers and ice caps 0.15-0.37 m[2]
Greenland Ice Sheet 7.3 m[3]
West Antarctica Ice Sheet 5 m[4]
East Antarctic Ice Sheet 52 m[4]

As global warming progresses, sea level is expected to rise primarily due to the melting of continental ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. However, the ultimate amount of flooding is highly uncertain. A full deglaciation of both poles would raise sea level as much as ~65 meters (210 feet), though it is very likely that the ultimate sea level rise will be only a fraction of this possible total.


During the twentieth century, sea level rose 20 cm. It is predicted that sea level rise will accelerate during the twenty-first century, but many model predictions still foresee a sea level rise of less than 1 additional meter by 2100. The greatest uncertainty in these predictions is the role of ice streams and iceberg calving from the major ice sheets. Current models are unable to predict the degree by which ice streams may accelerate in response to warming.[2] By one estimate, the glacial outflow from Greenland increased 200% from 1996 to 2005.[5] This increase in Greenland's outflow, if sustained, would add only ~3.5 cm to sea level by 2100. However, since this large increase was apparently triggered by relatively mild warming, the IPCC is unable to rule out dramatic further increases in outflow.[2] A further ten-fold increase in glacial outflow and corresponding increases in the glacial outflow of Antarctica could effectively double the total mass loss through 2100. Even so, the likely scenarios for twenty-first century sea level rise due to unrestrained global warming remain less than 2 m.


Sea Level Rise Risk for Sea Level Rise[6]
By the year 2100 By the year 3000 Beyond the year 3000
0-1 m High Virtually Certain Virtually Certain
1-2 m Low to Moderate Virtually Certain Virtually Certain
2-6 m Very Low High High
6-12 m None Low to Moderate Moderate
12-20 m None Low Low to Moderate
20-65 m None Very Low Low

However, even if global temperatures stabilize in 2100, the full magnitude of sea level rise is expected to take far longer to develop. By one estimate, carbon dioxide stabilization at 1100 ppmv (four times pre-industrial levels) would still only result in a 60% mass loss in Greenland after 1000 years of melting, and an additional 2000 years to melt the remainder.[7] (This estimate does not include the potential impact of ice stream acceleration.) The sheer size of the ice sheets involved essentially guarantee that the melting component of sea level rise will progress slowly.


Regardless of the time scale involved, an analogy to the previous interglacial suggests that a few degrees Celsius of sustained warming can cause enough melting to raise sea level 4-6 m before the ice sheets reach equilibrium.[8] This level of warming is likely to be achieved or even exceeded by 2100 in the absence of intervention to combat climate change, though as above, it would take far longer to realize the full sea level change.

JUNE 19, 2009




Oceans Rising Faster Than UN Forecast, Scientists Say (Update2)


By Alex Morales


June 18 (Bloomberg) -- Polar ice caps are melting faster and oceans are rising more than the United Nations projected just two years ago, 10 universities said in a report suggesting that climate change has been underestimated.


Global sea levels will climb a meter (39 inches) by 2100, 69 percent more than the most dire forecast made in 2007 by the UN’s climate panel, according to the study released today in Brussels. The forecast was based on new findings, including that Greenland’s ice sheet is losing 179 billion tons of ice a year.


“We have to act immediately and we have to act strongly,”

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told reporters in the Belgian capital. “Time is clearly running out.”


In six months, negotiators from 192 nations will meet in Copenhagen to broker a new treaty to fight global warming by limiting the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and clearing forests.


“A lukewarm agreement” in the Danish capital “is not only inexcusable, it would be reckless,” Schellnhuber said.


Fossil-fuel combustion in the world’s power plants, vehicles and heaters alone released 31.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, 1.8 percent more than in 2007, according to calculations from BP Plc data.


‘Rapid and Drastic


The scientists today portrayed a more ominous scenario than outlined in 2007 by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which likewise blamed humans for global warming. “Rapid and drastic” cuts in the output of heat-trapping gases are needed to avert “serious climate impacts,” the report said.


The report called for coordinated, “rapid and sustained” global efforts to contain rising temperatures. Danish Prime Minister

Lars Loekke Rasmussen, also in Brussels, told reporters that nations have to reverse the rising trend in emissions of heat-trapping gases.


“We need targets,” Rasmussen said. “All of us are moving toward the same ambitious goals.”


Scientists from institutions including Yale University, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge compiled the 39-page report from research carried out since 2005, the cutoff date for consideration by the IPCC for its forecasts published in November 2007.

Sea Levels


Ocean levels have been rising by 3.1 millimeters a year since 2000, a rate that’s predicted to grow, according to the study. The projections of sea levels rising by a meter this century compare with the 18 to 59 centimeters (7 to 23 inches) forecast by the IPCC.


“There are indications that rates of sea-level rise are higher than projected, and impacts like Arctic melting are more rapid,”

Martin Parry, who supervised part of the UN panel’s 2007 study, said in a telephone interview. He wasn’t involved in writing the new report.

Oceans are warming 50 percent faster than the IPCC predicted and Arctic sea ice is disappearing more rapidly in summer -- exposing darker ocean that absorbs more heat, the study said.


The academics produced the study, “Climate Change --Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions,” by compiling research submitted to a conference in Copenhagen in March. They also drew from an October 2006 report into the economics of climate change by

Nicholas Stern, then the U.K. government’s chief economist.


Doing-Nothing Cost


Stern’s study, which wasn’t included in the IPCC report, said that the cost of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change can be limited to 1 percent of economic output while doing nothing could lead to damage costing as much as 20 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.


“Greater near-term emissions lock us into greater climate change requiring greater costs from climate impacts and more investment in adaptation,” Stern wrote in today’s study. “Furthermore, they lead to a faster rate of climate change with greater challenges for adaptation.”


By 2050, when the global population will be an estimated 9 billion people, per-capita gas emissions will need to have fallen to about 2 tons a year, compared with levels as high as 20 tons a person currently in the U.S., the report proposed.


The University of Copenhagen coordinated the effort by the 10-school

International Alliance of Research Universities. Other members include the University of California at Berkeley, Peking University, the Australian National University, ETH Zurich, the National University of Singapore and the University of Tokyo.


To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at


JULY 6, 2009

'Climate change is already here'

Top EPA official: Islands may be model for energy conservation

JUNE 24, 2009

Tiny island nations in the Pacific are now feeling the impact of rising sea levels linked to climate change-from disappearing coastal villages to washed-out shores, flooded streets and taro patches, landslides and contamination of drinking water-even as the rest of the world are still thinking that climate change is far off into the future.


“It's happening. Climate change is no longer a future thing. It's already here, it's already on our shores,” said Joe Konno of the Federated States of Micronesia's National Office of Environment and Emergency Management during yesterday's opening of the 26th Pacific Islands Environment Conference at the Saipan World Resort.


Konno showed conference participants pictures of disappearing coastlines and a washed out graveyard on one of the atolls in the FSM to dramatize his point.


“There seems to be reluctance to accepting climate change. I believe it's about time not to wait. We have to start. We need political will,” he said.


Dr. Cheryl Anderson of the University of Hawaii's Social Science Research Institute and Konno also said that climate change data are outdated, given the time that had elapsed between peer review and publication. They stressed that more needs to be done to help tiny island communities adapt to rising sea level.


Anderson cited some of the people and livelihood impacts from climate change, including diminished water supply, lack of food security, increase in waterborne diseases; increased hardships to people, and erosion of cultural and sacred lands.


Emission cuts

FSM's Konno said the Association of Small Island States is pushing for a 45-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, which is much higher than the 20 percent many other countries are advocating in international forums.


In his presentation, Konno said the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio has “no teeth,” and the targets set by the Kyoto Protocol are “too low.”


“The 45 percent [reduction] is what we're fighting for,” said Konno.


Model communities

U.S. EPA Region 9 acting administrator Laura Yoshii, the highest federal official at the conference, said island communities can be a model for energy conservation.


“Island people, with some education and outreach, can understand the finite resources,” she said in an interview during a break at the conference.


Yoshii said island communities can also take the lead in energy independence.


“Instead of paying so much for imported oil-the prices are not going to be stable, or increasing-think of ways to conserve energy and use renewable energy,” she said.


Experts at the conference have said that the Pacific areas can easily tap into renewable energy sources such as wind and sun.


Behavioral change

During an open discussion on the climate change panel, a member of the audience voiced out concern that environmental conferences almost always forget behavioral change to help alter the course of climate change.

Another member of the audience, a resident of American Samoa, called for a “back to basics” approach in dealing with climate change like doing away with vehicles.


But Konno said while this is a good suggestion, curtailing the use of vehicles, especially F150 trucks in island communities, will not make an impact because greenhouse gas emissions from these areas, excluding the CNMI and Guam, is less than 1 percent of the world rate. Instead, he recommends going after the big emitters such as the United States.


A future without oil

Gil Masters, author and emeritus professor of environmental engineering and science at Stanford University and keynote speaker at the conference, focused on “planning for a future without oil.”


“How do we plan the future without much cheap oil? Yes, there are lots of oil out there but can the rate by which we exploit these resources.keep up with the demand?” asked Masters.


In presenting his calculation, Masters said if crude oil reaches $200 a barrel, then one can expect to pay $7 a gallon for diesel or 40 cents per kilowatt hours of energy.


Masters said the first step in planning for the future without much cheap oil is setting a goal.


“Minimum dependence on imported fuel in the CNMI and other Pacific island nations by 2030 based on efficient use of energy and renewable energy systems, and create some sort of a plan with a short-term, medium-term and long-term implication,” he said.


He also recommended a focus on demand for fuel rather than the supply of fuel.


“Another key thing is to shift our attention from a supply-side solution to a demand-side solution,” he said.


To further illustrate his point of energy sufficiency, Masters used as an example the Saipan World Resort where the conference is being held. He said the hotel has the wrong orientation for energy efficiency but has the right orientation for tourism because the windows face the ocean. Almost all CNMI hotels windows face the oceans which is one of the islands' tourism resources.


CNMI, Guam strides

Yoshii said the CNMI has come a long way in improving access to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure since the last time she visited the islands 12 years ago, although there are still a lot to be done to have a 24-hour drinking water.


She also pointed out the presence of environmental professionals. “They now have a whole Division of Environmental Quality when before, it was just a handful of people. Now they really have people with expertise to deal with some of those [environmental] issues,” she said.


Guam Gov. Felix P. Camacho, in a separate interview, said Guam has been cited by the EPA for over 23 years for its solid waste problems but under his administration, the island closed the Ordot Dump and secured funding to build a new landfill.


“We've been successful in that endeavor, and we have had to borrow up to $202 million combined for this endeavor. It's very costly. Because it was never addressed in years past, the cost, of course, has risen over time,” he said.


The Guam governor also takes pride in the marine preserves that have led to increased fish stock in the island's reefs.

“It's helping to improve our reef and ecosystem, but the work is never ending. It must continue for generations. If we can preserve what we still have and hopefully restore what's been lost,” he added.


Pay attention

Lt. Gov. Eloy Inos said it is encouraging to see that climate change is being addressed at local, regional and international levels.


“The long term effects of global climate change can directly affect us in the future. We can be adversely affected by rising water levels. Our coastal areas, including this hotel, could become flooded or submerged years later. We must pay attention,” Inos said.




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