Quantcast

Extreme Arctic Melt Could Increase Sea Level Rise Twice as Fast as Previously Estimated

Extreme Arctic melt could increase global sea level rise twice as fast as previously estimated and cost the world economy between $7 trillion and $90 trillion by 2100, a new analysis shows.

The assessment from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program projects that increased ice melt in the Arctic could contribute to an overall 20 to 29 inches of global sea level rise over the next century—nearly double the minimum estimates provided by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Arctic warmed faster than any other region on earth between 2011-2015 and the assessment speculates that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in the summer by 2040.

"The Arctic is continuing to melt, and it's going faster than expected in 2011," Lars-Otto Reiersen, head of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) which prepared the report, told Reuters.

"Multi-year ice used to be a big consolidated pack. It's almost like a big thick ice cube versus a bunch of crushed ice. When you warm the water, the crushed ice melts a lot quicker."

For a deeper dive:

InsideClimate News, Reuters, Miami Herald

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

Keep reading... Show less
NASA

Governor Declares State of Emergency to Save Louisiana Coast

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Wednesday for coastal Louisiana to highlight the state's need for more federal funding to address extreme weather events.

"We are in a race against time to save our coast, and it is time we make bold decisions," Edwards said. "The Louisiana coast is in a state of crisis that demands immediate and urgent action to avert further damage to one of our most vital resources."

More than half of Louisiana's 4.65 million residents live on the coast. "Parts of our state remain unprotected from or vulnerable to future hurricane and flood events," Edwards emphasized, and estimated that 2,250 square miles of coastal Louisiana will be lost in the next 50 years unless immediate action is taken.

Edwards attributed the problem to factors including climate change, sea level rise, subsidence, hurricanes, storm surges, flooding, disconnecting the Mississippi River from coastal marshes and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Louisiana is still reeling from last August's historic flooding, which killed 13 people and caused more than $8 billion in damage. The Shreveport Times reported in January that Edwards was vigorously seeking more federal flood recovery funding beyond the $1.6 billion, which was finally made available last week.

According to The Advocate, Edwards "is seeking $2.2 billion in additional federal flood aid, nearly half of which would go toward homeowner assistance programs."

Also on Wednesday, Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority approved the 2017 Coastal Master Plan and the 2018 Annual Plan, in which spending priorities for restoration and protection were identified.

America's Wetland Foundation praised Edwards' announcement and said it could expedite federal help needed to enact coastal restoration projects.

"This declaration of emergency could greatly speed up the process and eliminate delays in permitting for some of these crucial projects," said King Milling, the foundation's chairman. "We urge President Trump to act on this declaration now."

According to the state of emergency announcement:

"Louisiana and its citizens have suffered tremendously as a result of the catastrophic coastal land and wetlands loss, and the threat of continued land loss to Louisiana's working coast threatens the viability of residential, agricultural, energy, and industrial development, and directly affects valuable fish and wildlife production that is vital to the nation;

Louisiana continues to experience one of the fastest rates of coastal erosion in the world, and this complex and fragile ecosystem is disappearing at an alarming rate—more than 1,800 square miles of land between 1932 and 2010, including 300 square miles of marshland between 2004 and 2008 alone."

New Orleans Public Radio WWNO reported that Edwards has written letters to Trump and to Congress, and if Louisiana is to get more federal aid, it could take months.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Earth's Melting Glaciers Captured in Stunning Before-and-After Images

If you don't agree with 97 percent of climate scientists that climate change is real, you should at least believe your own eyes.

The Earth's rapidly rising temperatures has dramatically transformed our landscapes, as you can see quite clearly in these vivid photos of the world's melting glaciers.

Retreat of the Columbia Glacier, Alaska, USA, by ~6.5 km between 2009 and 2015. Credit: James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey

The photos appeared in the new paper "Savor the Cryosphere," published in the peer-reviewed GSA Today, a publication of the Geological Society of America. The cryosphere is the Earth's frozen waters.

"We have unretouched photographic evidence of glaciers melting all around the globe," co-author Gregory Baker, adjunct professor of geology at the University of Kansas, said.

"That includes the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica—they're reduced in size. These aren't fancy computer models or satellite images where you'd have to make all kinds of corrections for the atmosphere. These are simply photos, some taken up to 100 years ago, and my co-authors went back and reacquired photos at many of these locations. So it's just straightforward proof of large-scale ice loss around the globe."

Baker's research career centers on geophysical imaging of Earth's subsurface and geoscience education.

Stein Glacier, Switzerland, retreat of ~550 m from 2006 to 2015. Credit: James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey

Photographer James Balog, who was featured in the Emmy Award winning climate change documentary, Chasing Ice, contributed photographs from the Extreme-Ice Survey.

Other co-authors of the paper include Richard Alley, an American geologist who was invited to testify about climate change by Vice President Al Gore; Patrick Burkhart of Slippery Rock University; Lonnie Thompson of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University; and Paul Baldauf of Nova Southeastern University also contributed to the paper.

The team hopes the paper will raise awareness about the world's melting glaciers.

"We have all heard of the impact of melting ice on sea level rise, but the public also need to be aware that places around the world depend on glaciers for their water and are going to come under increasing stress, and we already see how water shortages lead to all kinds of conflict," Baker said.

"The other critical point often overlooked is that when glaciers melt we're losing these scientific archive records of past climate change at specific locations around the Earth, as if someone came in and threw away all your family photos."

Solheimajokull, Iceland, retreat of ~625 m from 2007 to 2015. Credit: James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey

"Glacier ice contains fingerprint evidence of past climate and past biology, trapped within the ice," Baker continued.

“Analyzing ice cores is one of the best ways to analyze carbon dioxide in the past, and they contain pollen we can look at to see what kind of plant systems may have been around. All of this information has been captured in glaciers over hundreds of thousands of years, and sometimes longer—Greenland and Antarctica cover perhaps up to a million years. The more that glacial ice melts, the more we're erasing these historical archives that we may not have measured yet in some remote glaciers, or deep in ice caps, that can tell us the history of the Earth that will be gone forever."

Keep reading... Show less

Trump's 100 Days of Harm: Enough Is Enough

Like any arbitrary benchmark, the 100-day point of a new president's term normally tells us only so much about what's to come. In the case of President Trump's all-out assault on our environment and health, however, we've already seen more than enough.

In his first three months on the job, Trump has acted again and again to undo half a century of bipartisan progress in protecting our rights to clean water, air and lands. He's moved to part ways with longstanding American values of conservation in the public interest. And he's betrayed the covenant we've forged with our children to leave them a livable world.

That's not a plan to put America first. It's about putting industrial polluter profits first―and putting the rest of us at risk.

Presidents don't get to roll back generations of hard-won gains with the stroke of a pen. Working with his fellow Republicans in Congress, Trump has already killed rules to protect coal communities from mountaintop demolition that destroys forests and streams. And he may expose more public lands to the ravages of coal mining.

Much of what he's ordered, though, can be halted, slowed or turned back around―in the court of public opinion or in a court of law. To do that, we'll have to stand together and give real voice to truth against a president intent on using the full powers of his high office to try to eliminate the tools we need to protect our families and communities from ongoing harm.

From his first week in office, Trump and congressional Republicans have attacked the commonsense safeguards we all depend on to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, the lands that grow our food and the wild places we share. He's put the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the thumb of Scott Pruitt, an avowed foe of the agency's mission, while proposing to gut the EPA budget and staff.

He's taken on the very notion of responsible public oversight with an unlawful and baseless order to scrap two existing regulations for every new one put in place―as though we can cope with emerging threats only if we pretend the old ones no longer exist.

And he's sounded an ignominious retreat from the essential progress we're making in the fight against global climate change.

Any one of these tacks would be cause for national alarm and public rebuke. Taken as a whole, the Trump broadside attack on the nation's environment and health demands the united and concerted opposition of every American, from red state and blue, who cares about our common future.

Whatever our political leanings, we all should be shocked at this radical campaign to roll back environmental safeguards, abandon important national goals and hobble our environmental steward, the EPA. Trump's reckless attempts to do just that run wildly at odds with the will of the people, as a raft of recent polling proves.

A solid 61 percent of the country disapproves of Trump's big polluter agenda, an April poll by Quinnipiac University found. Just 19 percent want the EPA weakened or eliminated, according to a January Reuters poll, with 61 percent saying the agency should be strengthened, expanded or kept at its current strength. Trump, though, has proposed slashing the agency's budget by 31 percent, taking it back to 1990 funding levels and cutting staff by 20 percent.

In one policy area after another, in fact, the disparity between Trump's actions and public opinion is striking:

Protecting Our Waterways

  • Drinking Water: Nationally, fears over water pollution hit a 16-year high in March, with 63 percent of Americans telling the Gallup polling organization they worry "a great deal" about drinking water pollution. Who could blame them? Trump has directed Pruitt to dismantle the Clean Water Rule, put in place to protect wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for one in every three Americans.
  • Great Lakes: Trump's cuts would end federal funding to reduce industrial and municipal waste, toxic contaminants and other pollution in the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. Who's with Trump on that one? Not the people who understand it the most. In Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and nearby states, 86 percent of the public supports the federal effort to clean up the Great Lakes.
  • Chesapeake Bay: Trump has proposed killing, also, a multi-state plan to clean up the nation's largest natural estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, which is being strangled by the toxic runoff from a 64,000-square-mile watershed that reaches nearly to Canada. That flies directly against the interests of those who live at the mouth of the bay: 94 percent of Virginians support the federal bay cleanup program, according to an April poll by Christopher Newport University.

Energy Development

  • Dirty Energy: Fully 59 percent of survey respondents say environmental protection should come ahead of fossil fuel development, with just 23 percent preferring dirty energy to clean water and air. The 26-point gap between the two, by the way, is the largest margin since Gallup began asking the question 15 years ago.

Fuel Economy

Trump has directed the EPA to weaken or eliminate standards to clean up the cars and dirty power plants that together account for 60 percent of the U.S. carbon pollution that's driving global climate change. That's a stone-cold loser in the public mind. Drivers like saving billions of dollars a year at the pump, and an April poll by Quinnipiac found that 76 percent of the public is "somewhat concerned" or "very concerned" about climate change, with 62 percent saying Trump should not backtrack on standards and rules put in place to fight it.

Climate

  • Climate Action: Far from supporting Trump's retreat from the climate fight, 59 percent of poll respondents say the country needs to be doing even more to fight the carbon pollution that's causing seas to rise, turning croplands to deserts, and contributing to raging wildfires, flooding, droughts and storms.
  • Jobs: Fully 68 percent of Americans understand that we can fight climate change and support economic growth, like the gains that have put three million Americans to work helping us to become more efficient, building all-electric and hybrid cars and getting more clean power from the wind and sun.
  • Research: The Quinnipiac poll found that 72 percent of Americans say it's a "bad idea" for Trump to slash funding for the scientific research we need to better understand climate change and other threats to our environment.

A hundred days into Trump's presidency, we've already seen more than enough. It's time to gather as one and speak out against his senseless campaign to turn back the clock on 50 years of environmental gains and stanch the promise of more progress to come.

On Saturday, April 29, I'll travel, along with thousands of others, to Washington, DC, to march with the People's Climate Movement. I hope you'll join us, in the nation's capital or in any of dozens of sister marches across the country, to show Trump just how far out of step his policies are with the will of the people he serves.

Let's put Donald Trump on notice. Let's show him what we believe. We won't back down from this challenge. We won't back down from this fight. We'll defend our health and environment. We'll hold fast to the values we share. We'll stand up for our children's future and their right to a livable world.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
A coastal glacier in southern Greenland mirrored in the sea. Photo credit: Claire Rowland via Flickr

Greenland's Coastal Glaciers in Terminal Decline

By Tim Radford

By the century's end, some of Greenland's ice will have vanished forever.

New research shows that the coastal glaciers and ice caps are melting faster than ever before and may have already reached the point of no return two decades ago. That is because they have passed the stage at which they can refreeze their own meltwater.

These peripheral glaciers and icecaps cover an estimated 100,000 square kilometers of the island. And when they have gone, the world's oceans will have risen by four centimeters.

Body of Greenland ice

But scientists reporting in Nature Communications journal said most of the Greenland ice—the biggest body of ice in the northern hemisphere—is still safe. Were all of its ice to melt, sea levels would rise by at least seven meters.

"Higher altitudes are colder, so the highest ice caps are still relatively healthy at the moment," said study leader Brice Noël, a PhD student of polar glaciology and Arctic climate modeling at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

"However, we see melting occur higher and higher. That's a big problem, because that 'melting line' is moving towards the altitude where most of the ice mass is.

"The main ice sheet in the interior of Greenland is much more elevated and isn't doing too bad yet. But we can already see an increase in the altitude of the 'melting line' there as well."

The coastal research concentrated on the mechanics of ice loss. Normally, glaciers and ice caps grow because summer meltwater drains through into the deeper frozen snow and freezes again. The icecap retains its mass and even increases.

But 20 years ago, the firn, or older snow, became saturated, freezing right through, and more summer meltwater now runs to the sea. The rate of increase varies from 17 to 74 percent and the icecaps each year are losing three times the mass loss measured in 1997.

Concern about Greenland ice and glaciers being in retreat is not new. In fact, glaciers in both hemispheres are observed to be in retreat, and the Geological Society of America has just published telltale imagery and an analysis based on observations of more than 5,200 glaciers in 19 regions around the world, showing that the loss of ice mass this century is without precedent.

So Greenland's glaciers are just part of a bigger picture. But since Greenland is home to the second largest volume of ice on the planet, what happens there concerns the entire world.

Testimony to climate change

Researchers observed years ago that the rivers of Greenland ice are in spate and rates of melting are thought likely to accelerate. The latest report is another piece of testimony to climate change in the far north.

"These peripheral glaciers and ice caps can be thought of as colonies of ice that are in rapid decline, many of which will likely disappear in the near future," said Ian Howat, a glaciologist at Ohio State University in the U.S. and a co-author of the report.

"In that sense, you could say that they're 'doomed.' However, the ice sheet itself is still not 'doomed' in the same way. The vast interior ice sheet is more climatologically isolated than the surrounding glaciers and ice caps.

"Also, since this 'tipping point' was reached in the late 1990s before warming really took off, it indicates that these peripheral glaciers are very sensitive and, potentially, ephemeral relative to the timescales of response of the ice sheet."

Keep reading... Show less
Photo credit: Stein Glacier on Aug. 20, 2015. (C: James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey/GSA Today/The Geological Society of America)

Going, Going, Gone

By Andy Rowell

President Trump opens his eyes, but he does not see. Trump listens, but he does not hear. He speaks, but he makes no sense. How can the most powerful man be so completely ignorant about climate change? How can it be that as the evidence about climate change gets stronger, politicians like Trump seem to get more ignorant?

That is a question that is perplexing climate scientists and others fighting climate change.

Every day comes news that we are in deep, deep trouble. The Guardian reported this morning that "Climate change is rapidly becoming a crisis that defies hyperbole," with impacts "occurring faster in many parts of the world than even the most gloomy scientists predicted."

The newspaper reported on three recent studies which reveal there has been a "massive under-reporting" of the impacts of climate change:

  • The first paper, published in Science found that current warming (just one degree Celsius) has "already left a discernible mark on 77 of 94 different ecological processes, including species' genetics, seasonal responses, overall distribution and even morphology—i.e. physical traits including body size and shape."
  • A second paper, published in Nature Climate Change this February concluded that 47 percent of land mammals and 23 percent of birds have already suffered negative impacts form climate change. In total, nearly 700 species in these two groups are struggling over climate change. Entire ecosystems—some the size of states within the U.S.—are changing. Some are not surviving.
  • A third study in PLOS Biology found that more than 450 plants and animals have undergone local extinctions due to climate change. As some struggle to adapt they may go extinct altogether.

Trump might not read the left-leaning Guardian or the scientific press, but he should be reading the Washington Post. Earlier this week the Washington Post reported on a recent paper by the Geological Society of America which "presents dramatic before-and-after photographs of glaciers around the world over the last decade."

The majority of the photos were taken by renowned photographer James Balog as part of the Extreme Ice Survey, which was featured in the 2012 documentary Chasing Ice. The videos and still photos show glaciers in fast retreat. For example, the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska retreated 550 meters between 2007 and 2015.

Balog told the paper, "I do think that our most dominant sensory apparatus is our vision. So when you can deliver an understanding of the reality of what's going on through vision, rather than numbers or maps, that also has the unique ability to touch and influence people."

The paper's authors argue that photographic records "provide an outstanding avenue for education, because they display a record of ice that may never be seen again."

But Trump is ignoring the photographic evidence. If he will not listen to the scientists, maybe Trump will listen to the security experts.

Sherri Goodman, a former U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense and founder of the CNA Military Advisory Board, is speaking this week in Sydney at the Breakthrough Institute at screenings of The Age of Consequences documentary, a film about the security threat posed by climate change. It is said to be a must-watch film. As the Toronto Star noted about the film, "the election of a climate denier Donald Trump underscores the urgency of this documentary."

As the ice retreats, whole ecosystem change and species die out, sea levels rise and storms increase and droughts get worse, we will all be living with the consequences of a climate denier in the White House, a man who looks, but does not see. Even as the glaciers disappear before his eyes.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Massive Iceberg Hangs by 12-Mile 'Thread'

The growing rift in the Antarctic Peninsula has now lengthened to 110 miles, meaning that the Larsen C ice shelf is now connected to the main ice shelf by only a 12-mile "thread," USA TODAY reports.

The British Antarctic Survey determined that the crack has expanded by 50 miles since 2011.

"It is particularly hard to predict when it will occur," Adrian Luckman of Project MIDAS told USA TODAY about the eventual calving, which would create a Delaware-sized iceberg. "I am quite surprised as to how long it is holding on!"

"The rift (or crack) has continued to open, and the berg continues to drift outward at a very consistent rate," Luckman added.

However, he noted that the crack has not grown longer in recent weeks.

As EcoWatch mentioned previously, the loss of this portion of the ice shelf will not raise sea levels as it is already floating on the water. However, as these ice shelves disintegrate, the land-locked glaciers they hold back may begin sliding into the sea. If all of the ice the Larsen C ice shelf holds back slides into the ocean, it will raise sea levels globally by four inches.

According to Project MIDAS, "there is not enough information to know whether the expected calving event on Larsen C is an effect of climate change or not, although there is good scientific evidence that climate change has caused thinning of the ice shelf."

Temperatures at the Antarctic Peninsula, where the Larsen ice shelf is found, have risen by 2.5 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years.

Antarctica's ice shelves are indeed melting rapidly as ocean waters warm. Climate Nexus reported in October that three glaciers in West Antarctica have undergone "intense unbalanced melting," risking their stability and further acceleration of sea level rise.

Research published in Nature Communications found that the Smith, Pope and Kohler glaciers in the Amundsen Sea embayment collectively lost about 1,000 feet of ice from 2002 to 2009.

Keep reading... Show less
A team from Rutgers University and the University of Georgia, led by Asa Rennermalm of Rutgers, measures meltwater runoff from the ice sheet margin in Greenland during summer 2013. Photo credit: Asa Rennermalm/Rutgers University

Greenland's Coastal Glaciers Rapidly Withering Away

Greenland's icy coastlines are withering away at a rapid pace. With ever rising temperatures in the region, scientists fear the glaciers may never grow back.

A team from Ohio State University discovered that about 20 years ago, melting on the island reached a tipping point. In this event, a layer of old snow called the firn, was frozen over and the ice sheet growth was stunted. This caused the new growth on the coastlines to halt. Combined with rising temperatures of the sea, the ice has been melting away in large sectors. At the rate it's going, the team said there will be a 1.5 inch increase in global sea level rise by 2100.

According to the study:

The find is important because it reveals exactly why the most vulnerable parts of Greenland ice are melting so quickly: the deep snow layer that normally captures coastal meltwater was filled to capacity in 1997. That layer of snow and meltwater has since frozen solid, so that all new meltwater flows over it and out to sea.

Though these findings are bad news, the researchers said there is no "immediate cause for panic." The Greenland Ice Sheet—the second largest ice cache in the world—is relatively intact. Associate professor at Ohio State, and co-author of the study Ian Howat, said the outer layers of ice contribute a small portion to the greater sheet, and that their melting may even be ephemeral, or seasonal to some degree.

"Since this 'tipping point' was reached in the late 90's before warming really took off, it indicates that these peripheral glaciers are very sensitive and, potentially, ephemeral relative to the timescales of response of the ice sheet," said Howat.

The areas in red are most at risk of being lost.

Though the entire coastline is not at risk, if it were to melt away, we'd see an uptake of a few inches in sea level. To put that in terms of the greater ice sheet, if the entire entity melted, we'd see a rise of 24 feet in total.

"These peripheral glaciers and ice caps can be thought of as colonies of ice that are in rapid decline, many of which will likely disappear in the near future," said Howat. "In that sense, you could say that they're 'doomed.' However, the ice sheet itself is still not 'doomed' in the same way. The vast interior ice sheet is more climatologically isolated than the surrounding glaciers and ice caps."

Keep reading... Show less

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox