Today we are going to Muse about the Rising Tide. If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
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The Rising Tide
Friday I attended the Sea Level Rise Symposium co-sponsored by the Arthur R Marshall Foundation for The Everglades, the Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches and the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County. I was mesmerized. Having listened to the speakers and the panelists I came away thinking that this topic is one of the most important issues facing the world as we know it. And, except for some abstract and tepid discussion about “climate change” almost no attention is focused on it in the media or legistature.
The sea level is rising. Rapidly. It is projected to be 2 to 6 feet higher (possibly more) in the next ninety years and will continue to rise for perhaps the next 1000 years. And according to the scientists the process is underway and cannot be reversed. The ship has sailed. There are things that can be done to slow the rate of change but it will not reverse the final course.
Humanity is ill prepared for this. Geologists know that the sea level has risen and fallen repeatedly over the millions of years. It has been as much as 260 feet higher than it is today. However, for the last 6000 years it has been stable . . until now. 6000 years is the entire period of recorded history.
Now, because the planet is warming, the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are melting at an alarming rate and this is causing the sea to rise. Demonstrating this heating effect is the rapid melting of the north pole ice field. It is expected that there will be no ice cap for part of the year by year 2015. That is not the distant future. It will refreeze but each successive year it will melt away and stay ice-free for a longer period of time. The ice reflects 97% of the heat it receives from the sun. Having melted and become dark water, it reflects only 6% of the heat, thus absorbing most of the heat and further warming the ocean. The cycle goes on at an increasing speed.
As the water warms it expands causing more rise in sea level.
As the planet and the water warms, methane gas is released into the atmosphere. Great amounts of it are held in the permafrost of the arctic. Methane gas traps heat, the greenhouse effect. It is 100 times more effective at trapping heat than CO2. The trapped heat causes the ice to melt at a more rapid rate, raising the sea level. And the cycle goes on . . at a faster and greater rate.
John Englander, CEO of the Cousteau Society, and author of High Tide on Main Street was the keynote speaker at the symposium. He spoke extensively about the effects on the planet including the societal cost of the shifting shoreline. Most of our population lives along the coasts. That infrastructure is at risk. He made the point that property values may begin to decline as early as within this decade. You may wish to read his book.
Some people think we may be able to protect areas with sea walls and dikes. It may work some places, but not in Florida. Our substrata is porous limestone. Water will just flow through it like through a sponge. Complicating the issue is the threat to fresh water. As the sea level rises the weight of the water pushes the saltwater further into the fresh water aquifer. The fresh water is less dense than the sea water and will float on the surface thus raising the water level. Eventually saltwater will rise to the surface. In the meantime with a higher water table the area will be more prone to flooding since the runoff will not be absorbed.
If you want to see the impact on other areas of the country here is a website that can help you. Just click on this address. http://www.csc.noaa.gov/slr/viewer/#
My understanding is the change is underway and cannot be prevented. Not enough attention is being paid to the problem. There are steps we can take to help mitigate the problem. On the local level the four counties of Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach are working together on regional plans but nothing is coming out of Tallahassee. And on a national level there is silence. The longer we wait the more difficult the issue will become. Talk to someone.
more to come
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- Arctic ice melt: the most profound example of climate change (vancouverobserver.com)
- Antarctic Ice Melt from Icebergs May Cause Massive Sea Level Rise (scienceworldreport.com)
- Sea level rise will turn Miami into American Atlantis (treehugger.com)
- WPB Sea Level Rise Symposium Keynoter: “There Will Be Catastrophe” (blogs.browardpalmbeach.com)
- Each degree of global warming might ultimately raise global sea levels by more than 2 meters (skepticalscience.com)