The restriction will come into effect at the beginning of August, the Italian government has confirmed. Campaigners say the liners cause damage to Venice's ecosystem.
Large cruise ships will be banned from entering the Venice lagoon as of August 1, the Italian government announced Tuesday.
It follows years of warnings they risk causing irreparable damage to Venice's ecosystem.
"The decree adopted today represents an important step for the protection of the Venetian lagoon system," Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in a statement.
The move affects vessels longer than 180 meters (530 feet) or higher than 35 meters.
Venice and UNESCO Concerns
The decision comes just days before UNESCO convenes over proposals to add Venice to its list of endangered heritage sites.
Venice was put on the prestigious list in 1987 after describing the city as an "extraordinary architectural masterpiece."
But the UN body said last month the city needed a "more sustainable tourism management."
Venice's Fragile Ecosystem
Capital of northern Italy's Veneto region, Venice is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea.
Environmental activists say giant ships generate large waves that wreck Venice's foundations and cause severe damage to the lagoon's ecosystem.
The city is without roads and its canals are lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces.
Reposted with permission from Deutsch Welle.
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A 20-Foot Sea Wall Won’t Save Miami – How Living Structures Can Help Protect the Coast and Keep the Paradise Vibe
By Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos and Brian Haus
Miami is all about the water and living life outdoors. Walking paths and parks line large stretches of downtown waterfront with a stunning bay view.
This downtown core is where the Army Corps of Engineers plans to build a US$6 billion sea wall, 20 feet high in places, through downtown neighborhoods and right between the Brickell district's high-rises and the bay.
There's no question that the city is at increasing risk of flooding as sea level rises and storms intensify with climate change. A hurricane as powerful as 1992's Andrew or 2017's Irma making a direct hit on Miami would devastate the city.
But the sea wall the Army Corps is proposing – protecting only 6 miles of downtown and the financial district from a storm surge – can't save Miami and Dade County. Most of the city will be outside the wall, unprotected; the wall will still trap water inside; and the Corps hasn't closely studied what the construction of a high sea wall would do to water quality. At the same time, it would block the water views that the city's economy thrives on.
Much of Miami is built right up to the water's edge. On average, it's 6 feet above sea level. Ryan Parker / Unsplash
To protect more of the region without losing Miami's vibrant character, there are ways to pair the strength of less obtrusive hardened infrastructure with nature-based "green" solutions. With our colleagues at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the College of Engineering, we have been designing and testing innovative hybrid solutions.
Natural Storm Management
Living with water today doesn't look the same as it did 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago. Parts of Miami now regularly see "sunny day" flooding during high tides. Salt water infiltrates basements and high-rise parking garages, and tidal flooding is forecast to occur more frequently as sea level rises. When storms come through, the storm surge adds to that already high water.
Hurricanes are less common than tidal flooding, but their destructive potential is greater, and that is what the Army Corps is focused on with its sea wall plan.
If Miami Beach were an undeveloped barrier island, and if thick mangrove forests were still common along the South Florida shoreline, the Miami area would have more natural protection against storm surge and wave action. But most of those living buffers are long gone.
There are still ways nature can help preserve the beauty of Miami's marine playground, though.
For example, healthy coral reefs break waves, dissipating their energy before the waves reach shore. Dense mangrove forests also dissipate wave energy with their complex root systems that rise above the water line, dramatically reducing the waves' impact. In areas where coastal flooding is an increasing problem, low-lying communities can be relocated to higher ground and the vacant land turned into wetlands, canals or parks that are designed to manage storm surge flooding.
Coral reefs like these in Biscayne National Park have struggled with warming waters. National Park Service
Each area of coastline is unique and requires different protective measures based on the dynamics of how the water flows in and out. Given Miami's limited space, living shorelines alone won't be enough against a major hurricane, but there are powerful ways to pair them with solid "gray" infrastructure that are more successful than either alone.
Hybrid Solutions Mix Green and Gray
Nobody wants to look at a cement breakwater offshore. But if you're looking at a breakwater covered with corals and hospitable to marine life, and you can go out and swim on it, that's different.
Corals help the structure dissipate wave energy better, and at the same time they improve water quality, habitat, recreation, tourism and quality of life. For a lot of people, those are some of Miami's main selling points.
By pairing corals and mangroves with a more sustainable and eco-friendly hard infrastructure, hybrid solutions can be far less obtrusive than a tall sea wall.
For example, a cement-based breakwater structure submerged offshore with coral transplants could provide habitat for entire ecosystems while providing protection. We're working with the city of Miami Beach through the University of Miami Laboratory for Integrative Knowledge to implement three hybrid coral reefs just offshore that we will monitor for their engineering and ecological performance.
Closer to shore, we're experimenting with a novel modular marine and estuarine system we call "SEAHIVE." Below the water line, water flows through hollow hexagonal channels of concrete, losing energy. The top can be filled with soil to grow coastal vegetation such as mangroves, providing even more protection as well as an ecosystem that benefits the bay.
We're currently working on testing SEAHIVE as a green engineering alternative for North Bay Village, an inhabited island in the bay, and as the infrastructure of a newly developed marine park where these "green-gray" reef and mangrove designs will be showcased.
What About the Rest of Miami?
The Army Corps of Engineers' draft plan – a final version is expected in the fall – would give nature-based solutions little role beyond a fairly small mangrove and sea grass restoration project to the south. The Corps determined that natural solutions alone would require too much space and wouldn't be as effective as hard infrastructure in a worst-case scenario.
Instead, the Army Corps' plan focuses on the 6-mile sea wall, flood gates and elevating or strengthening buildings. It basically protects the downtown infrastructure but leaves everyone else on their own.
Sea walls and flood gates can also affect water flow and harm water quality. The Corps' own documents warn that the sea walls and gates will affect wildlife and ecosystems, including permanent loss of protective corals, mangroves and sea grass beds.
Mangrove roots rising above the water help break up the energy of waves at the shoreline. Florida Guidebook / Unsplash
We would like to see a plan for all of Miami-Dade County that considers the value that green and hybrid solutions bring for marine life, tourism, fishing and general quality of life, in addition to their protective services for the shoreline.
Both types – green and gray – would take time to build out, particularly if the sea wall plan were challenged in court. And both run a risk of failure. Corals can die in a heat wave, and a storm can damage mangroves; but storms can also undermine engineered solutions, like the New Orleans levee system during Hurricane Katrina. To help build resilience, our colleagues at the University of Miami have been breeding corals to be more resistant to climate change, investigating novel cementitious materials and noncorrosive reinforcements and developing new designs for coastal structures.
Miami in the Future
Miami will be different in the coming decades, and the changes are already starting.
High ground is at a premium, and that's showing up in real estate decisions that are pushing lower-income residents out and into less safe areas. Anybody looking back at Miami will probably think the region should have done a better job of managing growth and maybe even managing some form of retreat from threatened areas.
We don't want to see Miami become Venice or a city walled off from the water. We think Miami can thrive by making use of the local ecosystem with novel green engineering solutions and an architecture that adapts.
Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos is an Assistant Professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Miami.
Brian Haus is a Professor of Ocean Sciences at the University of Miami.
Disclosure statement: Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos receives funding from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) for the research and development of the SEAHIVE - Sustainable Estuarine and Marine Revetment.
Brian Haus receives funding from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) for the research and development of the SEAHIVE - Sustainable Estuarine and Marine Revetment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Solar energy is most frequently associated with states smack in the middle of the Sun Belt. And yet, there are some notable outliers, with New York being foremost among them. According to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, New York installed the eighth-most solar of any state in 2020. And in the first quarter of 2021, New York was ranked No. 10 in the nation for solar installations.
There are a number of reasons New York tends to be a top state for solar, not least of which is its excellent solar incentives. However, some cities in New York are more commendable in their solar investment than others. In this article, we'll rank the top 10 top cities for solar in New York.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in New York
EcoWatch narrowed down these cities based on solar power generation data compiled by the Energy Information Administration, annual solar irradiance and Solar For All maps from National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the most recent Shining Cities report from Environment America.
Based on this research, here are the top 10 cities for solar energy in New York:
- New York City
- Oyster Bay
1. New York City
It's no surprise that magnificent New York City leads solar panel installation in the Empire State. According to Environment America, New York City is ranked No. 6 in the entire country for total installed solar PV capacity, coming in just behind Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Phoenix and San Antonio.
The Shining Cities report lists Buffalo as another of the nation's solar leaders, as it has over 30 watts installed solar PV per person. Overall, it ranks 40th in the U.S. for total installed solar wattage.
A coastal suburb of New York City, Brookhaven gets a decent amount of exposure to the sun all year long, making it ideally positioned for solar investment. It is also home to the Long Island Solar Farm, one of the largest photovoltaic arrays on the East Coast.
Huntington, on Long Island, gets plenty of natural light year-round, meaning it's a good place to commit to solar power. According to NREL maps, Huntington is located within the portion of the state that has the highest potential for solar power generation in the state of New York.
Southwest of Huntington, Hempstead is another high-sunlight city, and both residents and the local government have taken advantage of this with investments in clean, renewable energy. The city installed a number of solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations, as well as a solar- and wind-powered shellfish nursery to improve the area's clam beds.
One of the most populous cities in the state, Amherst is full of solar adopters who have committed heavily to solar energy. The town is located in western New York and has made leaps toward embracing solar on public buildings. It currently has solar arrays that power a community center and a water pollution control facility, and it is now looking to install panels at other government buildings, police stations, libraries and more.
Located on Lake Ontario, this old industrial town has one of the state's highest potentials for solar generation, according to NREL maps. It also has an above-average number of single-family homes that are already well-suited for solar PV installations.
Syracuse is one of the cloudiest cities in the U.S., but luckily, solar panels still work on cloudy days. The Upstate New York city is quickly becoming a hotspot for solar energy, with multiple companies proposing solar farms in Syracuse suburbs.
The city recently launched a partnership with nonprofits Sustainable Westchester and Groundwork Hudson Valley to launch five community solar projects throughout the city. This will give residents up to 10% off their electricity bills while also making strides toward a greener local energy supply.
10. Oyster Bay
Situated on the north shore of Long Island, Oyster Bay gets enough sun exposure to make it a great place for solar power. It's located next to Huntington, and NREL maps show it shares the city's high potential for solar power generation.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
What makes a community especially well-suited for solar power?
There are a couple of important factors to consider. One, of course, is exposure to sunlight throughout the course of the year. New York isn't quite as sun-soaked as, say, Arizona, Texas or Florida. With that said, there are a number of communities in New York that get decent solar exposure — enough to make solar energy viable.
Also, it doesn't have to be hot outside for solar panels to produce energy. In fact, solar panels, like most appliances, work most efficiently in cooler temperatures.
Another consideration is local electricity costs. In places where utilities are expensive, homeowners can realize big savings when they switch to solar. But when electricity is already pretty inexpensive, solar savings tend to be more modest.
Average New York Electricity Costs
So, how much does electrical power cost in the state of New York?
According to data from the EIA, New York's annual monthly consumption of electricity is 577 kWh, which is actually quite a bit less than in neighboring states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The average monthly cost of electricity is $103.60; again, this is less than in neighboring states, but only slightly.
New York Solar Tax Incentives
One of the reasons why New York is such a great state for solar is that there are so many financial incentives available. In fact, it's one of the top states for solar tax incentives in the U.S.
Start with the net metering program. The statewide net metering program allows homeowners to feed any surplus power their panels generate back into the electrical grid. This results in financial credits that can be used when they need to pull energy from the grid, such as to power their homes at night.
Additional tax incentives available to New York homeowners include:
- NY-Sun Megawatt Block incentive: This New York State incentive allows homeowners to claim a dollars-per-watt ($/W) cash rebate for their systems.
- Solar Energy System Equipment Credit: Residents can deduct up to $5,000 or 25% of total solar energy expenses (whichever is lower) from their taxes. This is available for homeowners who are leasing solar panels as well.
- State sales tax exemption: Homeowners do not pay the state's 4% sales tax when they purchase solar equipment.
Federal Solar Tax Incentives
It's also important to note that all Americans can claim the federal solar tax credit, which is worth 26% of their total investment. This credit exists to make the cost of solar panels even more accessible to homeowners.
New York Solar Regulations
New York State has a number of laws on the books that pertain to solar energy, and for the most part, they all represent a significant commitment to clean, renewable power sources. One good example is the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth Act, which calls for large-scale solar projects throughout the state. Another is the praiseworthy NY-Sun program, which offers incentives to communities that wish to develop shared solar resources and community solar programs.
And last but certainly not least, there's the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July 2019 and requires New York to obtain 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in New York
The Empire State's commitment to renewable energy shines through its gracious financial incentives and many cities pivoting toward solar power.
If your city didn't earn a spot on our list of the top cities for solar in New York, there are a few things you can do to increase your area's solar profile. For example, you can urge your elected officials to adopt renewable energy goals, educate your neighbors on the benefits of solar and, of course, install a solar PV system on your own rooftop.
By doing these things, you can impact the future of clean energy in New York.
By Emily Ury
Trekking out to my research sites near North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, I slog through knee-deep water on a section of trail that is completely submerged. Permanent flooding has become commonplace on this low-lying peninsula, nestled behind North Carolina's Outer Banks. The trees growing in the water are small and stunted. Many are dead.
Throughout coastal North Carolina, evidence of forest die-off is everywhere. Nearly every roadside ditch I pass while driving around the region is lined with dead or dying trees.
As an ecologist studying wetland response to sea level rise, I know this flooding is evidence that climate change is altering landscapes along the Atlantic coast. It's emblematic of environmental changes that also threaten wildlife, ecosystems, and local farms and forestry businesses.
Like all living organisms, trees die. But what is happening here is not normal. Large patches of trees are dying simultaneously, and saplings aren't growing to take their place. And it's not just a local issue: Seawater is raising salt levels in coastal woodlands along the entire Atlantic Coastal Plain, from Maine to Florida. Huge swaths of contiguous forest are dying. They're now known in the scientific community as "ghost forests."
Deer photographed by a remote camera in a climate change-altered forest in North Carolina. Emily Ury / CC BY-ND
The Insidious Role of Salt
Sea level rise driven by climate change is making wetlands wetter in many parts of the world. It's also making them saltier.
In 2016 I began working in a forested North Carolina wetland to study the effect of salt on its plants and soils. Every couple of months, I suit up in heavy rubber waders and a mesh shirt for protection from biting insects, and haul over 100 pounds of salt and other equipment out along the flooded trail to my research site. We are salting an area about the size of a tennis court, seeking to mimic the effects of sea level rise.
After two years of effort, the salt didn't seem to be affecting the plants or soil processes that we were monitoring. I realized that instead of waiting around for our experimental salt to slowly kill these trees, the question I needed to answer was how many trees had already died, and how much more wetland area was vulnerable. To find answers, I had to go to sites where the trees were already dead.
Rising seas are inundating North Carolina's coast, and saltwater is seeping into wetland soils. Salts move through groundwater during phases when freshwater is depleted, such as during droughts. Saltwater also moves through canals and ditches, penetrating inland with help from wind and high tides. Dead trees with pale trunks, devoid of leaves and limbs, are a telltale sign of high salt levels in the soil. A 2019 report called them "wooden tombstones."
As the trees die, more salt-tolerant shrubs and grasses move in to take their place. In a newly published study that I coauthored with Emily Bernhardt and Justin Wright at Duke University and Xi Yang at the University of Virginia, we show that in North Carolina this shift has been dramatic.
The state's coastal region has suffered a rapid and widespread loss of forest, with cascading impacts on wildlife, including the endangered red wolf and red-cockaded woodpecker. Wetland forests sequester and store large quantities of carbon, so forest die-offs also contribute to further climate change.
Researcher Emily Ury measuring soil salinity in a ghost forest. Emily Bernhardt / CC BY-ND
Assessing Ghost Forests From Space
To understand where and how quickly these forests are changing, I needed a bird's-eye perspective. This perspective comes from satellites like NASA's Earth Observing System, which are important sources of scientific and environmental data.
Since 1972, Landsat satellites, jointly operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, have captured continuous images of Earth's land surface that reveal both natural and human-induced change. We used Landsat images to quantify changes in coastal vegetation since 1984 and referenced high-resolution Google Earth images to spot ghost forests. Computer analysis helped identify similar patches of dead trees across the entire landscape.
A 2016 Landsat8 image of the Albemarle Pamlico Peninsula in coastal North Carolina. USGS
Google Earth image of a healthy forest on the right and a ghost forest with many dead trees on the left. Emily Ury
The results were shocking. We found that more than 10% of forested wetland within the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was lost over the past 35 years. This is federally protected land, with no other human activity that could be killing off the forest.
Rapid sea level rise seems to be outpacing the ability of these forests to adapt to wetter, saltier conditions. Extreme weather events, fueled by climate change, are causing further damage from heavy storms, more frequent hurricanes and drought.
We found that the largest annual loss of forest cover within our study area occurred in 2012, following a period of extreme drought, forest fires and storm surges from Hurricane Irene in August 2011. This triple whammy seemed to have been a tipping point that caused mass tree die-offs across the region.
Should Scientists Fight the Transition or Assist It?
As global sea levels continue to rise, coastal woodlands from the Gulf of Mexico to the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere around the world could also suffer major losses from saltwater intrusion. Many people in the conservation community are rethinking land management approaches and exploring more adaptive strategies, such as facilitating forests' inevitable transition into salt marshes or other coastal landscapes.
For example, in North Carolina the Nature Conservancy is carrying out some adaptive management approaches, such as creating "living shorelines" made from plants, sand and rock to provide natural buffering from storm surges.
A more radical approach would be to introduce marsh plants that are salt-tolerant in threatened zones. This strategy is controversial because it goes against the desire to try to preserve ecosystems exactly as they are.
But if forests are dying anyway, having a salt marsh is a far better outcome than allowing a wetland to be reduced to open water. While open water isn't inherently bad, it does not provide the many ecological benefits that a salt marsh affords. Proactive management may prolong the lifespan of coastal wetlands, enabling them to continue storing carbon, providing habitat, enhancing water quality and protecting productive farm and forest land in coastal regions.
Emily Ury is a Ph.D. candidate in Duke University's Program in Ecology.
Disclosure statement: Emily Ury received funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the North Carolina Sea Grant. Additional support for this project came from the National Science Foundation.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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The new report, released Monday, found that the climate is already changing in ways that are unprecedented in thousands to hundreds of thousands of years and that some effects, such as a certain amount of sea level rise, are already irreversible. It also warned that temperatures will likely spike beyond 1.5 to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are widely and rapidly reduced.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report a "code red for humanity," in a UN press release.
"The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk," Guterres said.
The report is officially titled IPCC Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis. It is the first part of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report, which is due in full in 2022. This initial publication comes less than three months before the next UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, as NBC News pointed out. The report will likely inform debate as world leaders are expected to arrive with ambitious pledges to reduce emissions by 2030.
The IPCC was first formed in the late 1980s and gathers thousands of scientists from 195 countries who review the latest scientific findings on climate change. Their reports are generally considered a scientific consensus on the issue. This latest report is the work of 230 authors and confirms that the climate crisis is largely human caused, is getting worse and will only be stopped with dramatic action.
The report concluded that the burning of fossil fuels was responsible for 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming since 1850-1900. Further, since 1970, global temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the last 2,000 years, according to BBC News.
"It is a statement of fact, we cannot be any more certain; it is unequivocal and indisputable that humans are warming the planet," report author professor Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading, told BBC News.
This warming is already causing impacts such as more frequent and intense heat waves and more rainfall and flooding across the world, as evidenced by extreme weather events this summer such as heat-fueled wildfires in the U.S. West and deadly floods in Belgium and Germany.
"Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming," IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai said in the press release.
All of this is set to accelerate in the future. The report authors found that the world would hit 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040 in all emissions scenarios run by the authors, and this could happen even earlier if emissions are not reduced, according to BBC News.
However, the report authors said that they thought the temperature rise could be paused and reversed if emissions are halved by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. They also said that it was still possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but this is likely the last report that will be released while this is still the case."This report shows the closer we can keep to 1.5C, the more desirable the climate we will be living in, and it shows we can stay within 1.5C but only just – only if we cut emissions in the next decade," director of research at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London and IPCC lead author Joeri Rogelj told The Guardian. "If we don't, by the time of the next IPCC report at the end of this decade, 1.5C will be out the window."
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Yet another study has confirmed the unprecedented impacts of the climate crisis: Sea levels along the eastern U.S. are rising at their fastest rate in 2,000 years.
Researchers led by a team at the University of Rutgers studied sea level rise at six sites along the Atlantic coast. They found that the rate of change between 1900 and 2000 was more than double the average for the period between year 0 and 1800, Rutgers Today reported.
"The increasing influence of the global component is the most significant change in the sea-level budgets at all six sites," the study authors wrote.
The research, published in Nature Communications on Tuesday, focused on sea level sites in Connecticut, New York City, North Jersey, South Jersey (Leeds Point and Cape May Courthouse) and North Carolina. The scientists examined sea-level budgets, which are the totality of regional, local and global factors that influence sea level change. Examples of regional factors include land subsidence, or sinking, while local factors include groundwater withdrawal, Rutgers Today explained. The study is the first to examine these factors across a large time frame at the Atlantic sites. Most sea level budget studies have only focused on the 20th and 21st centuries, and only on the global level.
The research found that the dominant force driving sea level change had shifted. During the totality of the 2,000 year period, land subsidence caused by the retreating Laurentide ice sheet drove the change.
However, in the last century, global forces took over.
"Where it used to be this regional land sinking being the dominant force, now it's this global component, which is driven by the ice melt and warming of the oceans," Jennifer S. Walker, lead author and Rutgers University-New Brunswick postdoctoral associate, told CNN.
Since 1950, the global climate crisis has driven 36 to 50 percent of sea level rise at all six sites, the authors determined.
The findings aren't only important for understanding the scale of the current crisis, but also for helping policymakers deal with its consequences. Rising sea levels can increase sunny-day floods and make storms such as 2012's Hurricane Sandy more extreme.
"The impacts from a big storm like that are just going to be exacerbated on top of (the rising seas)," Walker told CNN.
That is why the study chose to study individual locations across a wide period.
"Having a thorough understanding of sea-level change at sites over the long-term is imperative for regional and local planning and responding to future sea-level rise," Walker told Rutgers Today. "By learning how different processes vary over time and contribute to sea-level change, we can more accurately estimate future contributions at specific sites."
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This Supermoon Has a Twist – Expect Flooding, but a Lunar Cycle Is Masking Effects of Sea Level Rise
By Brian McNoldy
A "super full moon" is coming on April 27, 2021, and coastal cities like Miami know that means one thing: a heightened risk of tidal flooding.
Exceptionally high tides are common when the moon is closest to Earth, known as perigee, and when it's either full or new. In the case of what's informally known as a super full moon, it's both full and at perigee.
But something else is going on with the way the moon orbits Earth that people should be aware of. It's called the lunar nodal cycle, and it's presently hiding a looming risk that can't be ignored.
Right now, we're in the phase of an 18.6-year lunar cycle that lessens the moon's influence on the oceans. The result can make it seem like the coastal flooding risk has leveled off, and that can make sea level rise less obvious.
This simplified chart illustrates how the lunar nodal cycle suppresses and enhances the effects of sea level rise in Miami. The basic model assumes a constant linear increase of sea level, so it doesn't capture the expected acceleration of sea level rise. Brian McNoldy / CC BY-ND
But communities shouldn't get complacent. Global sea level is still rising with the warming planet, and that 18.6-year cycle will soon be working against us.
I am an atmospheric scientist at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science who keeps a close eye on sea level rise in Miami. Here's what you need to know.
What the Moon Has to Do With Coastal Flooding
The moon's gravitational pull is the dominant reason we have tides on Earth. More specifically, Earth rotating beneath the moon once per day and the moon orbiting around Earth once per month are the big reasons that the ocean is constantly sloshing around.
In the simplest terms, the moon's gravitational pull creates a bulge in the ocean water that is closest to it. There's a similar bulge on the opposite side of the planet due to inertia of the water. As Earth rotates through these bulges, high tides appear in each coastal area every 12 hours and 25 minutes. Some tides are higher than others, depending on geography.
The sun plays a role too: Earth's rotation, as well as its elliptic orbit around the sun, generates tides that vary throughout the day and the year. But that impact is less than half of what the moon contributes.
How tides work! Earth merely rotates through the tides: in 24hr 50min there are 2 high & 2 low tides, with the extr… https://t.co/6cMHB4R5oc— Dr. James O'Donoghue (@Dr. James O'Donoghue)1589627917.0
This gravitational tug-of-war on our water was discovered nearly 450 years ago, though it's been happening for nearly four billion years. In short, the moon has very strong control over how we experience sea level. It doesn't affect sea level rise, but it can hide or exaggerate it.
So, What Is the Lunar Nodal Cycle?
To begin, we need to think about orbits.
Earth orbits the sun in a certain plane – it's called the ecliptic plane. Let's imagine that plane being level for simplicity. Now picture the moon orbiting Earth. That orbit also lies on a plane, but it's slightly tilted, about 5 degrees relative to the ecliptic plane.
That means that the moon's orbital plane intersects Earth's orbital plane at two points, called nodes.
The lunar nodes are the points where the moon's path crosses the ecliptic, the plane of Earth's orbit shown as the view of the sun from Earth over the span of a year. Wikimedia
The Moon's orbital plane precesses, or wobbles, to a maximum and minimum of +/- 5 degrees over a period of about 18.6 years. This natural cycle of orbits is called the Lunar Nodal Cycle. When the lunar plane is more closely aligned with the plane of Earth's equator, tides on Earth are exaggerated. Conversely, when the lunar plane tilts further away from the equatorial plane, tides on Earth are muted, relatively.
The lunar nodal cycle was first formally documented in 1728 but has been known to keen astronomical observers for thousands of years.
Earth's ecliptic and equatorial planes. NASA
What Effect Does That Have on Sea Level?
The effect of the nodal cycle is gradual – it's not anything that people would notice unless they pay ridiculously close attention to the precise movement of the moon and the tides for decades.
But when it comes to predictions of tides, dozens of astronomical factors are accounted for, including the lunar nodal cycle.
It's worth being aware of this influence, and even taking advantage of it. During the most rapid downward phase of the lunar nodal cycle – like we're in right now – we have a bit of a reprieve in the observed rate of sea level rise, all other things being equal.
These are the years to implement infrastructure plans to protect coastal areas against sea level rise.
Once we reach the bottom of the cycle around 2025 and start the upward phase, the lunar nodal cycle begins to contribute more and more to the perceived rate of sea level rise. During those years, the rate of sea level rise is effectively doubled in places like Miami. The impact varies from place to place since the rate of sea level rise and the details of the lunar nodal cycle's contribution vary.
Another "super full moon" will be coming up on May 26, so like the one in April, it's a perigean full moon. Even with the lunar nodal cycle in its current phase, cities like Miami should expect some coastal flooding.
Brian McNoldy is a senior research associate at the University of Miami.
Disclosure statement: Brian McNoldy serves as a volunteer science advisor for Coastal Risk Consulting.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By Stuart Braun
The melting of the polar ice caps has often been portrayed as a tsunami-inducing Armageddon in popular culture. In the 2004 disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, the warming Gulf Stream and North Atlantic currents cause rapid polar melting. The result is a massive wall of ocean water that swamps New York City and beyond, killing millions in the process. And like the recent polar vortex in the Northern Hemisphere, freezing air then rushes in from the poles to spark another ice age.
The premise is obviously ridiculous. Or is it? Rapid glacial retreat in Alaska in 2015 did in fact trigger a huge landslide and a mega tsunami that was nearly 650 feet high when it hit shore. Few knew or cared because it luckily happened at the end of the Earth where no one was living.
Many of us might believe we won't be directly impacted by the breakup of trillions of tons of ice due to global heating. We figure that unless we live on a small island in the Pacific, or have a house on the beach, it's not our problem.
Or Is It?
While it's true that the glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets covering 10% of the Earth's land mass are mostly in the middle of nowhere, their rapid breakup has a cascading effect.
Consider how all the extra fresh water in the ocean is diluting salt levels. And how that messes with the balance of the Gulf Stream, one of the world's most important ocean currents. The result is climate extremes, especially tropical storms and hurricanes in places like the Gulf of Mexico, but also more frequent floods and droughts on both sides of the Atlantic. It's gonna suck for a lot of people.
To put this meltdown in context, the rate of ice sheet retreat has increased nearly 60% since the 1990s. That's a 28 trillion ton net loss of ice between 1994 and 2017. Antarctica's epic ice sheet, the world's largest, and the world's mountain glaciers have suffered half of this loss.
OK, That Sounds Like a Lot — But So What?
Again, it's the domino effect that's worrying. With temperatures rising twice as fast in the Arctic — the world's air conditioner — than anywhere else on the planet, the heat is not just melting ice. It's also weakening atmospheric air currents known as the jet stream. In other words, more bad news for the weather.
The polar vortexes that have been freezing Europe and North America in recent years are related to a weakened polar jet stream — a scenario that triggered the sudden ice age in The Day After Tomorrow.
The cold might be welcome as the planet heats up, but here's the thing: Arctic regions are heating up, too. Which means the ice that's supposed to be reflecting the sun's energy away from Earth isn't as much anymore, leaving the sea to absorb this heat.
No surprise then that in 2018 the winter ice sheet in the Bering Sea bordering Alaska was at its lowest levels in over 5,000 years.
Fish, sea bird, seal and polar bear habitats are also disappearing with the ice. Indigenous communities in the Arctic who once hunted in a thriving frozen ecosystem are being upended — their houses are also falling in the sea as the lack of ice causes the coast to erode.
Sure, it's an underpopulated part of the world. But consider also the rapid thaw of permafrost on the Siberian tundra. One of the world's biggest carbon sinks, the tundra is now releasing greenhouse gases like methane that were long trapped below the frost.
Some scientists have predicted that by century's end, 40% of permafrost regions will have disappeared, meaning they will no longer retain, but will also release carbon dioxide — and we're talking more than is already in the atmosphere right now. As global heating is turbocharged, bye bye to more ice.
Which leads us to the elephant in the room: rising sea levels.
How Bad Could Rising Sea Levels Get?
So let's start with the worst-case scenario — and remember the culprit here would be ice sheets and glaciers on land.
If the fast-retreating Antarctic ice sheet, the world's largest, completely melted, the world's oceans would rise by about 60 meters (about 200 feet). That would be Armageddon and London, Venice, Mumbai and New York would become aquariums.
Don't panic, though, this won't happen any time soon. But if emissions aren't sufficiently scaled back to mitigate climate change, some researchers reckon oceans will definitely rise by at least 2 meters by the end of the century. That's still enough to swamp the several hundred million people living below 5 meters above sea level. Another 350 million or so living higher up would have to relocate to escape regular coastal flooding.
Can't People Just Move?
Maybe, but that wouldn't be the end of it. The world's mountain glaciers, which number roughly 200,000, are melting much faster than they can accumulate these days. Problem is, though they only cover less than 0.5% of the Earth's landmass, these "water towers" provide fresh water to about a quarter of the world's population.
Glaciers also feed the rivers that irrigate the crops which hundreds of millions of people across Asia, South America and Europe depend on for their survival. So without them, many people will suffer from both thirst and hunger. Scientists say water tower retreat has put almost 2 billion people at risk of water scarcity.
Right now, cities like Santiago in Chile are watching a big part of their drinking water supply literally dry up as glaciers in the nearby Andes retreat. Meanwhile, the European Alps that supply so much fresh water across the region have shrunk by about half since 1900 and will be almost ice free by century's end if nothing more is done to curb warming.
OK, Is There Anything That We Can Do?
Like global heating in general, the best way to mitigate the meltdown is to stop polluting the atmosphere with global warming-inducing carbon.
Of course, the process can't be reversed overnight. Even if people across the world stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, one-third of the world's remaining glaciers would still disappear.
So to save some amount of precious polar and glacial ice, we need to avoid the temperature rise of over 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) that the UN says is inevitable if governments don't step up climate targets. If the world can decarbonize by 2050, it might be possible to preserve around one-third of the current glacial mass by century's end. That would take both government action and a radical commitment to reduce our individual carbon footprint.
The future remains uncertain. But it's likely that if melting isn't slowed real soon, disaster movie scenarios might not look so ridiculous to future generations.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Jessica Corbett
A new study from Australian and Chinese researchers adds weight to scientists' warnings from recent United Nations reports about how sea levels are expected to rise dangerously in the coming decades because of human activity that's driving global heating.
The research, published Friday in the journal Nature Communications, found that sea level rise projections for this century "are on the money when tested against satellite and tide-gauge observations," as a statement from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) summarized.
The researchers looked at projections from the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as the body's Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), which include multiple representative concentration pathway (RCP) scenarios for how much humanity reins in greenhouse gas emissions.
Based on global and coastal sea level data from satellites and 177 tide-gauges, the researchers found that those two reports' projections under three different RCP scenarios "agree well with satellite and tide-gauge observations over the common period 2007–2018, within the 90% confidence level."
In other words, "our analysis implies that the models are close to observations and builds confidence in the current projections for the next several decades," said John Church, who is part of UNSW's Climate Change Research Center. The professor noted projections were accurate not only globally but also at the regional and local level.
However, because of the limited 11-year comparison period, Church added, "there remains a potential for larger sea level rises, particularly beyond 2100 for high emission scenarios. Therefore, it is urgent that we still try to meet the commitments of the Paris agreement by significantly reducing emissions."
The Paris climate agreement aims to limit global temperature rise this century to "well below" 2°C—preferably to 1.5°C—compared to pre-industrial levels. Study after study has shown that current emissions pledges aren't adequate to even meet the higher target. The U.N. reports' three studied pathways are RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5, with the first being the closest to the less ambitious Paris goal and the last being the most dire.
"The analysis of the recent sea level data indicate the world is tracking between RCP4.5 and the worst case scenario of RCP8.5," Church warned. "If we continue with large ongoing emissions as we are at present, we will commit the world to meters of sea level rise over coming centuries."
"The analysis of the recent sea level data indicate the world is tracking between RCP4.5 and the worst case scenari… https://t.co/GV72drxa1S— John Morales (@John Morales)1613498000.0
The release of the SROCC in September 2019—with its warnings about the dramatic impact that global heating will soon have on humanity, marine ecosystems, and the global environment—sparked a flood of demands for bolder climate policy.
As Food & Water Action executive director Wenonah Hauter said at the time, "This report tells us that due to decades of foolish reliance on fossil fuels and resulting climate warming, our oceans are on life support, which means we are all now on life support."
"We must treat this alarming science as a final warning: In order to avoid a fate of extreme global climate chaos and mass death at the hands of our poisoned oceans, we must act swiftly and aggressively to turn the tide now," Hauter added. "We have been given a final warning. There can be no more excuses."
The IPCC's SROCC found that global sea level could rise by 30-60 centimeters, or about 1-2 feet, by 2100—and a rise of 110 centimeters, over 3.5 feet, was possible but unlikely. However, researchers from the University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute recently found that under the worst case scenario, the world could see a rise of 135 centimeters, or about 4.4 feet, by the century's end.
"The models we are basing our predictions of sea level rise on presently are not sensitive enough," said Aslak Grinsted, associate professor at the institute. "To put it plainly, they don't hit the mark when we compare them to the rate of sea level rise we see when comparing future scenarios with observations going back in time."
The institute's research, published earlier this month in the journal Ocean Science, introduces a new method of quantifying how the sea reacts to warming, which involves analysis of historical data.
"You could say," Grinsted added, "that this article has two main messages: The scenarios we see before us now regarding sea level rise are too conservative—the sea looks, using our method, to rise more than what is believed using the present method. The other message is that research in this area can benefit from using our method to constrain sea level models in the scenarios in the future."
In a Twitter thread on Sunday, Grinsted detailed how the new study in Nature Communications "zooms in at 2007-2018 and finds no significant disagreement" with the research his team released, which found "a substantial discrepancy between the sensitivity of sea level models and observations."
"Both studies would have been able to make more solid conclusions if the IPCC had published hindcasts," Grinsted said at the end of the thread. "I hope that upcoming IPCC will take this to heart and publish hindcasts (e.g. 1850-now)."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Nuclear power is a source of low-carbon electricity, but producing it creates dangerous radioactive waste that needs to be stored safely and permanently.
Recent research suggests that as seas rise, some nuclear waste storage facilities are at risk of flooding or storm damage.
"We really focused in to say, 'OK, well, how many plants might actually be subject to these risks?'" says Sarah Jordaan of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Her team looked at 13 facilities along the U.S. coast.
They found that if seas rise about six feet – which is possible by the end of the century – more than half of the waste storage sites would be directly along the water's edge or even surrounded by water.
So she says it's critical to anticipate these long-term vulnerabilities and take action.
"There are certainly ways that those risks can be managed now," Jordaan says.
For example, after five years, spent fuel can be moved to dry casks. This is a safer long-term storage method than the cooling pools where a lot of spent fuel is currently stored.
So Jordaan says it's critical for policymakers to understand the risks at nuclear facilities and create regulations and policies to ensure greater safety.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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By Jessica Corbett
A new study is shedding light on just how much ice could be lost around Antarctica if the international community fails to urgently rein in planet-heating emissions, bolstering arguments for bolder climate policies.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that over a third of the area of all Antarctic ice shelves — including 67% of area on the Antarctic Peninsula — could be at risk of collapsing if global temperatures soar to 4°C above pre-industrial levels.
An ice shelf, as NASA explains, "is a thick, floating slab of ice that forms where a glacier or ice flows down a coastline." They are found only in Antarctica, Greenland, Canada, and the Russian Arctic—and play a key role in limiting sea level rise.
"Ice shelves are important buffers preventing glaciers on land from flowing freely into the ocean and contributing to sea level rise," explained Ella Gilbert, the study's lead author, in a statement. "When they collapse, it's like a giant cork being removed from a bottle, allowing unimaginable amounts of water from glaciers to pour into the sea."
"We know that when melted ice accumulates on the surface of ice shelves, it can make them fracture and collapse spectacularly," added Gilbert, a research scientist at the University of Reading. "Previous research has given us the bigger picture in terms of predicting Antarctic ice shelf decline, but our new study uses the latest modelling techniques to fill in the finer detail and provide more precise projections."
Check out my piece for @ConversationUK on how & why #Antarctica's #IceShelves are at risk as global #temperatures r… https://t.co/YCMzgfliiR— Dr Ella Gilbert (@Dr Ella Gilbert)1617975049.0
Gilbert and co-author Christoph Kittel of Belgium's University of Liège conclude that limiting global temperature rise to 2°C rather than 4°C would cut the area at risk in half.
"At 1.5°C, just 14% of Antarctica's ice shelf area would be at risk," Gilbert noted in The Conversation.
While the 2015 Paris climate agreement aims to keep temperature rise "well below" 2°C, with a more ambitious 1.5°C target, current emissions reduction plans are dramatically out of line with both goals, according to a United Nations analysis.
Gilbert said Thursday that the findings of their new study "highlight the importance of limiting global temperature increases as set out in the Paris agreement if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, including sea level rise."
"If temperatures continue to rise at current rates," she said, "we may lose more Antarctic ice shelves in the coming decades."
The researchers warn that Larsen C—the largest remaining ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula—as well as the Shackleton, Pine Island, and Wilkins ice shelves are most at risk under 4°C of warming because of their geography and runoff predictions.
"Limiting warming will not just be good for Antarctica—preserving ice shelves means less global sea level rise, and that's good for us all," Gilbert added.
All the more reason we need to push our leaders towards a quick end to the use of all fossil fuels! https://t.co/yrNUgjbkYG— Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)1617915642.0
Low-lying coastal areas such as small island nations of Vanuatu and Tuvalu in the South Pacific Ocean face the greatest risk from sea level rise, Gilbert told CNN.
"However, coastal areas all over the world would be vulnerable," she warned, "and countries with fewer resources available to mitigate and adapt to sea level rise will see worse consequences."
Research published in February examining projections from the Fifth Assessment Report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as the body's Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate found that sea level rise forecasts for this century "are on the money when tested against satellite and tide-gauge observations."
A co-author of that study, John Church of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales, said at the time that "if we continue with large ongoing emissions as we are at present, we will commit the world to meters of sea level rise over coming centuries."
Parties to the Paris agreement are in the process of updating their emissions reduction commitments—called nationally determined contributions—ahead of November's United Nations climate summit, known as COP26.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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The research, published in Science Advances Friday, found that the vulnerable glacier had sped up by 12 percent over the last three years as the ice shelf holding it in place breaks up. This finding could accelerate the timeline for when the entire glacier collapses into the sea, and underscores the urgency of acting to combat the climate crisis.
"These science results continue to highlight the vulnerability of Antarctica, a major reservoir for potential sea level rise," Twila Moon, a National Snow and Ice Data scientist who wasn't part of the research, told The AP. "Again and again, other research has confirmed how Antarctica evolves in the future will depend on human greenhouse gas emissions."
The Pine Island Glacier is one of two Antarctic glaciers that most concerns scientists. It and the Thwaites Glacier sit side-by-side in western Antarctica, and keep the rest of the region's ice in check.
If they both collapsed, global sea levels would rise by several feet within a few centuries, a University of Washington (UW) press release explained. The Pine Island Glacier on its own contains enough ice to bump sea levels up by 1.6 feet if it melted. And it is already having an impact. It raises sea levels by a sixth of a millimeter each year and, according to The AP, accounts for about 25 percent of Antarctica's total ice loss.
But the glacier is kept from retreating further by its ice shelf, which acts like a flying buttress on a cathedral, containing its mass, the press release explained. That is why Friday's study is concerning. It analyzed satellite images to show that the ice shelf lost a fifth of its area between 2017 and 2020, and retreated by 19 kilometers (approximately 12 miles) during that time, the study authors wrote.
The images, recorded by the European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, were taken every 12 days between 2015 and 2017, and every six days between 2017 and the present. They revealed that the ice shelf lost most of its mass in three big breakages, calving icebergs more than five miles long by 22 miles wide, according to The AP.
The study also looked at the relationship between the breakup of the ice shelf and the retreat of the glacier, and found that the glacier's movements were directly related to the ice shelf's deterioration.
"The recent changes in speed are not due to melt-driven thinning; instead they're due to the loss of the outer part of the ice shelf," study lead author and UW glaciologist Ian Joughin said in the press release.
All of this means that the shelf and the glacier could both collapse much sooner than previously anticipated.
"It's not at all inconceivable to say the rest of the ice shelf could be gone in a decade," Joughin told The Washington Post. "It's a long shot. But it's not that big a long shot."
Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., created a "Ghost Forest" art exhibit to bring awareness to the dangers of climate change and its impact on trees.
The exhibit, located in downtown Manhattan, features 49 lifeless Atlantic Cedar trees that have been replanted into the ground. The trees were sourced from the Pinelands in New Jersey. "Ghost Forest" premiered on May 10 and will be open until Nov. 14.
"I knew I wanted to create something that would be intimately related to the park itself, the trees, and the state of the earth," Lin said in an interview with Architectural Digest. "I have been drawn to the natural world to reveal things that help make you aware of your own surroundings."
Lin's art exhibit has the ability to reach the 60,000 people who walk through Madison Square Park each day.
More than half of the Atlantic Cedars found in swamps on the East Coast have died, according to the Washington Post. The trees, according to forestry professionals, have dried out due to the rising sea levels.
Forests are dying off because of weather events that bring saltwater, rising temperatures and forest fires, according to Architectural Digest. These East Coast native trees are not only home to frogs, birds and snakes, but the trees help to manage floodwaters and erosion, as well as absorb pollution.
The trees are rot-resistant and were commonly used in colonial times for building. Lin decided to use the trees because she knew they wouldn't be a safety hazard, according to Artnet News.
In addition to her art exhibit, Lin is planting more than 1,000 shrubs and trees throughout New York in tandem with the Natural Areas Conservancy.
"We are faced with an enormous ecological crisis," she said to Architectural Digest. "Climate change is at a critical juncture, and I don't believe I can just focus on what we are losing without also showing you what we can each do to help."
Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She's a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.
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