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Stunning Drone Video of Sea Ice Reveals Unexpected Climate Change Effects

Climate

When climate hobbyist Andre Beyzaei flies his drone over the North Atlantic coast, he doesn't normally capture much ice on camera.

"Usually you see a bit of sea-ice along the coasts and if you happen to fly the drone far enough, you may capture some icebergs much further away," Beyzaei told Global News.


So Beyzaei was in for an early April Fool's shock on March 27, when he flew his drone off the Newfoundland coast and recorded astonishing footage of sea ice stretching over Brighton, Newfoundland, Global News reported Sunday.

The footage might come as a surprise to anyone who has been closely following the state of the Arctic this year.

As EcoWatch reported in March, the Arctic has just experienced its warmest winter on record. Arctic sea ice also reached its second-lowest extent on record this year, just barely inching out 2017's ice coverage to avoid being the lowest year for Arctic sea ice ever.

But according to research published in Geophysical Research Letters on March 15 and cited by Global News, footage like Beyzaei's is exactly what you can expect from the impacts of climate change on the Arctic.

As the study's abstract and introduction explain, the spring of 2017 also saw increased ice off the Newfoundland Coast, sinking two fishing boats and causing trouble for other ships that had not expected to encounter obstacles at that time of year. The research vessel and icebreaker, the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen, was redirected by the coast guard to rescue these ships, and used the opportunity to study the unusual build-up of ice.

The scientists found multiyear sea ice from the high Arctic among the ice cover. This is unusual, as ice off the Newfoundland coast is usually mostly first-year ice and only lasts from January to May, whereas last year's build-up persisted into June.

The researchers concluded that Arctic sea ice has become more mobile as it has decreased in thickness and extent. It has therefore pushed through channels in the Arctic Ocean such as the Bering and Nares Straits and ended up accumulating more in southern waters than before.

Beyzaei's footage further confirms their conclusions and suggests another difficult spring for ship traffic in the area.

"This is something we need to better prepare for in the future, because we expect this phenomenon to go on for at least a couple more decades as we transition to an ice-free Arctic in the summer," David Barber, the study's lead author and University of Manitoba climate change scientist, told Global News.

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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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