Jul 16, 2009

Science Scene - Sea Level Rise

An interesting snippet from the Nature Conservancy at Nature.org, "Sea level rise: It's worse than we thought"

Climate scientists are looking for other ways to predict sea level rise. A simplified method, which seems as accurate as any, is treating the Earth as one big black box. The starting point is the simple idea that the rate of sea level rise is proportional to the increase in temperature: the warmer Earth gets, the faster ice melts and the oceans expand. This held true for the last 120 years at least.

Extrapolating this to the future, based on emissions scenarios, suggests sea level will rise by between 0.5 and 1.4 metres per century - and the higher estimate is more likely because emissions have been rising faster than the worst-case scenario.

A 1-metre rise in sea level will affect 13 million people in five European countries and destroy property worth $600 billion, with the Netherlands the worst affected. In the UK, existing defences are insufficient to protect parts of the east and south coast, including the cities of Hull and Portsmouth.

Besides inundation, higher seas raise the risk of severe storm surges and dangerous flooding. The entire Atlantic seaboard of North America, including New York, Boston and Washington DC, and the Gulf coast will become more vulnerable to hurricanes. Today's 100-year storm floods might occur as often as every four years - in which case it will make more sense to abandon devastated regions and towns than to keep rebuilding them.

If you are interested in the science and various scenarios, go to the New Scientist article.

I have to wonder, we talk about potential fresh water shortages, is there a chance we could offset the sea level rise by building lots of desalination plants and help mitigate both issues?


  1. That is an idea. Kill two birds with one stone, but the trouble with the whole 'living greener' movement for me, is the cost.

    I think that being green and greener will create the futuristic gentrification that Philip K. Dick and other paint. Small but well defended areas of the elite to live off the 'fat of the land' so to speak, the working proles who scavenge at life and the opportunity that seems as remote as a lightning strike ...

    ... jus' saying. Still an idea that seems feasible.

  2. Hmm, that would seem to make sense, wouldn't it? I don't see why you couldn't bring the water inland...but would it just run off back to the ocean? This bears further investigation....

  3. If I were to live long enough I may just end up with ocean front property. (I know I shouldn't make a joke about such a serious issue.) Your idea makes sense to me.

    On a side note, I read the comment Mark left about going green. We priced getting our horse barn solar....$225,000, yes, you read that correctly. Our house would be about $65K based on their crude calculations while they were looking at the barn. In order to bring down emissions and each homes carbon footprint the cost of alternative energy must be brought within reach. As much as I would love to flip off the electric switch at that price it is out of the question, it just isn't cost effective.


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