By Water & Fire


In February the gringa posted “Rub A Dub, Dub, Nelson Needs A Tub” about how climate change is raising sea levels. I mentioned how great works of art along coastlines will disappear. A couple of weeks prior to that I posted “The U.S., Migrants & Climate Change” focusing again on the effects of climate change on sea levels. I reported that experts predicted Earthlings had at least two or three decades before we actually saw any islands swallowed up by the sea. Well, guess what? It is already happening.

The Washington Post recently reported that five, count that: ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE islands of the Solomon Islands have disappeared underneath the waters of rising sea levels thanks to climate change. The remaining six are still high and dry but a bit shrunken and reduced in size. With a population of 500,000, many families have witnessed their homes washed away into the sea as the unforgiving ocean claims more and more territory.

To see for yourself what is happening on these beautiful islands and the people who live there, you can view the video posted by the Washington Post.

The effects of climate change seem to be steamrolling their way across the globe at record pace. Scientists can talk about the proverbial tipping point all they want. The gringa believes that boat sailed long ago, that horse has long since left the gate. The snowball is roaring down the mountain, growing more monstrous and picking up speed.

Take a look at the wildfire at Canada’s Ft. McMurray. This disaster is of epic proportions. The gringa believes there is probably already bigwigs in Hollywood mulling over who they will hire to write the scripts and cast for characters. This horrific disaster most certainly came about because of climate change conditions affecting wilderness areas. 602 square miles are burning. 80,000 people have lost it all and are in limbo like refugees, and over 1,600 structures are heaps of ashes.

And the gringa has absolutely no suggestions. I can’t change the world. I can only clang my gong and sound the alarm.

Sources:  www.washingtonpost.com and www.cnn.com

Image credit: http://www.edugeography.com

 

How Climate Change Affects Vacation Priorities


So, when the climate change poop hits the fan, who is going to be in for the worst ride? What parts of the world should I vacation at now because they will be uninhabitable in the future? Exactly where will be the safest place for the gringa and the caveman to diddle away their golden years?

Well, we better get busy and visit all the beach hotspots that are alive and kicking right now. With sea levels rising, the coastal cabanas of today will be reef material tomorrow. And, considering that climate change creates erratic and extreme weather patterns such as: heavy rain here, drought there, devastating tornadoes everywhere; well, there is no uniform model of what’s going to change where or when. The only concrete expectation right now is what models predict about low elevation islands and coastal beachlands. They are pretty much going to be history, some maybe within my lifetime.

Other areas scientists expect to change dramatically are regions that have a delicate ecosystem balance and are already experiencing hyper-sensitivity to environmental stressors. These areas include:

  • Arctic, specifically the tundra region
  • Boreal forest belt – This is the conifer forest that stretches across North America, particularly dense in the Pacific Northwest
  • Tropical Rainforest
  • Alpine regions
  • Steppes of Asia and the Americas
  • Prairies of Asia and the Americas
  • Deciduous forests of South America and Australia

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. The permafrost layer is melting. Glaciers are getting smaller and sea ice is disintegrating. The wildlife of the Arctic will probably be a loss to the world. They depend on a habitat that is going to grow too warm to support their needs. The indigenous people of this region will experience a loss of their culture that is strongly dependent on the wildlife and natural geography. The humans will have the adaptation advantage that the wildlife and fauna do not have. But the loss of their culture is still something to mourn over.

The boreal forests of North America are important carbon sponges for the earth. What will a degree or two warmer mean? As temperatures warm the center of the United States, the boreal forest will shift northward. Predictive models sees the United States losing its boreal forest as it relocates to Canada and Alaska. So, we won’t lose them, they will relocate. That’s good news in the aspect that at least the Earth will retain a critical carbon filter.

Researchers in tropical rainforests mark trees and track them for years, measuring them to see how they are responding to climate change. A group in the Bolivian Andes are studying a swath of diverse trees and plants that thrive in a limited temperature range. As temperatures rise, so do the trees. New, baby trees are growing uphill. Just as the North American model predicted a forest migration, the same is expected of the tropical rainforests. They will abandon the lowland jungle regions and migrate up the mountainsides, seeking cooler temperatures.

Alpine regions are going to experience the same forest creeping phenomena. As glaciers continue to recede, alpine plants will continue to move upwards looking for cooler temperatures and water. However, eventually, when all the glacier water has melted and run off or evaporated, this critical component of the annual water budget will be gone forever. Plants and trees dependent upon it will eventually be extinct. So Alpine ecosystems will not only migrate, they will migrate to a slow death.

The upside of forest migration is that the Earth is trying to compensate and save herself. The downside is that the migration process is slower than the warming process. This means there will still be catastrophic loss of tropical rainforest and alpine habitat. This will affect the wildlife dependent on these ecosystems as well as their indigenous people.

Experts predict the possibility of losing over half of the steppe habitats due to the effects of climate change. They are not modeling a migration of fauna, but a loss. Steppes are critical grazing areas. As the steppes experience habitat loss, growing smaller, overgrazing occurs on the remaining areas. The effects then are coupled: climate change related drought and overgrazing. Things look dire for the future of the steppes and the animals and shepherds and ranchers who depend on them. The steppes could become the Earth’s future Sahara’s.

Unlike a conifer boreal forest or tropical rainforest that are green year round, a deciduous forest becomes barren in the winter season as the trees lose their leaves. Deciduous forests exist in tropical and temperate climates. Climate change models predict warmer winters affecting deciduous forests. This could lead to tree loss from pests and disease. In regions where devastating drought occurs, there will be higher tree loss. When a tree dies in the forest it also becomes fuel. In regions experiencing drought related tree loss, the dry conditions and increased fuel of more dead trees makes conditions ripe for voracious wildfires. So, if the drought or the bugs don’t wipe out the deciduous forests, the wildfires probably will.

The gringa thinks the list of vacation priorities should go something like this:

  • Arctic expedition
  • Steppe pack-mule trip
  • Deciduous and Alpine forest camp outs
  • Beach parties around the world
  • Tropical rainforest excursion
  • Bigfoot safari in the boreal forests of the Pacific Northwest

I don’t think climate change is going to sound the death knell for planet Earth and mankind. The gringa does believe it will be the end of many species of animals and plants that are with us today. It is also highly likely that entire cultures will be wiped out when they lose the habitats they rely upon. And usually species loss does not mean a gaping hole is left behind. Usually, another species fills the gap or a species evolves and adapts. So, the key word to focus on is “change”. It’s climate “change” not climate “loss”. But the change is as significant as the past disappearances of entire civilizations such as the Maya or entire animal classes like the dinosaurs.

At this point, I believe the consensus among scientists is that we have passed the tipping point. There is no going back and “fixing” things. We simply have to ride the lightning and deal with it. So, if a person is able and so inclined, they need to enjoy the world as we know it today and document it for the children of the future.

 

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit: http://www.notenoughgood.com

 

Rub A Dub, Dub, Nelson Needs A Tub


It’s pretty common for researchers and common man to first think about the coastal dwellers who will be displaced by rising ocean levels due to climate change. Thoughts also quickly turn to coastal species of plants and animals that may fare even worse, having nowhere to turn, and thus possibly becoming extinct.

One thing that is rarely considered are national treasures that sit seaside or within a harbor. What will happen to the likes of the Statue of Liberty or Nelson’s Column? What of the Doe and Stag columns that welcome sailors into safe harbor at the island of Rhodes? How many wonderful works of art will possibly be swallowed up by the seas and lost to landlubbers because of climate change?

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Statue of Liberty, USA, image source:  www.pamojasisi.blogspot.com

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The Doe and Stag, Rhodes, image source: http://www.superstock.co.uk

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Unconditional Surrender, San Diego, CA, USA, image source:  www.yelp.com

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Annie Moore (first registered Ellis Island immigrant), Cobh, County Cork, Ireland, image source:  www.friendlysonsofpatrick.org

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The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen, Denmark, image source: http://www.thousandwonders.net

And these are only a few that the gringa was able to search for and find. There are very few land-locked nations. Every country with a coastline has something to lose. We all have some artistic skin in the game. Beautiful, historic works of art are destined for watery graves, sooner or later, because of climate change. There may be a few heads bobbing above the waves but most of them will be forgotten by future generations except for adventurous scuba divers on photo safari.

Experts indicate that fossil fuel pollution accelerated climate change will continue to affect our planet even if we switched tomorrow to alternatives. We have passed the tipping point. It’s possible we have caused enough damage to affect significant change for the next 100,000 years. Over that period of time, as global temperatures continue to rise, sea levels will, too. Possibly as much as fifty meters (150 feet).

That means that timeless works of art that look out upon the seas and oceans of this world will definitely be inundated to oblivion. But to understand the true scope of the course our lifestyles have plotted for our planet, consider Nelson’s Column which is located well inland, at Trafalgar Square in London. Models of climate change predict that by the time this cycle has run its course, only half of the column will be visible above the water line.

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Nelson’s Column, Trafalgar Square, London, UK, image source: http://www.scottish-country-dancing-dictionary.com

Before these dramatic events reach their fulfillment, mankind will have undergone dramatic migrational upheavals. As much as one fifth of the world’s population is expected to be affected. Rough estimates put current world population at about seven billion. That means that about one billion and four hundred million (1,400,000,000) people are going to have to move.

Dear readers, consider the strain Europe is undergoing right now with a Syrian refugee migration.  The United Nations reports that over nine million Syrians have fled their homes since the civil war began years ago. Estimates put the numbers spilling into Europe at about one million, but those numbers are questionable. Imagine if the refugee numbers Europe had absorbed had been one thousand fold. That’s the kind of numbers scientists are talking about where climate change migration is concerned.

There is no technology available to build any seawall adequate to protect the populations of coastal cities. They will have to relocate. Eventually. Period. There is no going back. The best we can hope for is that if we start tomorrow with zero carbon emissions we might be able to spare future generations from a worst case scenario (as if).

And, since that’s not going to happen, the gringa says invest in some scuba gear, sturdy suitcases, and quality maps of inland locales if you are a coastal dweller. If you live on secure high ground, perhaps you should build a guest house or two, or three, or maybe even forty. It may be the humble beginnings of a future hotel and housing empire for your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren.

 

Source:  www.uk.news.yahoo.com

 

Image Source: www.news.yahoo.com

Jason & the Argonauts… and NASA, Too


Who remembers the story of Jason and the Argonauts? You know, that ancient Greek myth of seafaring Jason and his crew, the Argonauts, who embarked upon the high seas in search of the Golden Fleece. Well, Jason is back! And this time he is orbiting Earth’s high seas and measuring their levels.

SpaceX may have had a bitter disappointment a couple of days ago, but the gringa prefers to focus on their accomplishment that went unnoticed. Sunday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched Jason into outerspace, well, the Jason-3 spacecraft, that is. Jason-3 is the product of NASA collaboration with France’s CNES and Europe’s Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. Jason-3 is on a mission to track the rise of sea levels all around the world.

The goal of this intelligence gathering is to improve forecasting of Earth’s weather, climate and oceans. The data will also help scientists expand their knowledge on the ocean’s role in the world’s climate. Jason-3 will be working in tandem with Jason-2 that is already in a locked in orbit. Jason-2 has been in operation since 2008. Jason-3 will officially clock in and report for duty after a six-month phase of calibration and system checks. Once on duty, every ten days Jason-3 will report precise measurements of the height of 95% of Earth’s ice free oceans, this is called ocean-surface topography.

The Jason duo measurements will provide information about coastal tides, shallow seas, open ocean tides, currents and eddies. This type of topography also tells scientists how much energy from the sun is stored within the ocean which is the key to understanding how sea level rise affects climate change.

Jason’s official mission began in 1992 along with Topex/Poseidon. Since then scientists have discovered that the world’s seas are rising, on average, about 3 millimeters every year. As humans continue to make industry and lifestyle decisions that cause global warming, mankind is actually reshaping the surface of our home planet.

The gringa wants to know exactly what kind of shape we are getting ourselves into. What the heck is going to happen if sea levels keep rising?  But first, the gringa needs to know how this happens. What I’ve found out is:

  • Climate Change Causes Thermal Expansion: Water heats up, it expands, therefore it occupies more space
  • Glacial & Polar Ice Cap Melts: These natural ice formations experience a natural summer cycle of ice melt that is usually replaced in winter by evaporated seawater that creates snow. Climate change creates consistently warmer temperatures. This creates warmer Summers where more ice than usual melts. Summer usually lasts longer, Spring arrives earlier, thus winter is shorter and unable to keep up with replacing all the extra ice that is lost. Thus, all of this extra melt runoff causes sea levels to rise.
  • Greenland & West Antarctica: Climate change creates warmer temperatures that is causing the accelerated melt of massive ice sheets in these critical regions. Meltwater & seawater may also be seeping beneath these ice sheets which is causing them to slip out to sea quicker. Warmer sea temperatures are compromising the stability of underwater ice shelves causing them to weaken and break. All this contributes to rising sea levels.

Here are some of the things that happen as sea levels rise and the geography and coastlines of Earth transform:

  • Coastal habitat erosion
  • Coastal wetlands flooding
  • Contamination of coastal aquifers and agricultural land
  • Habitat loss for coastal fish, birds and plants
  • Larger, more powerful storms
  • Vulnerability to flooding for coastal dwelling people
  • Eventual mass migration of island and coastal dwelling people

The gringa wants to know, “What can we do?” Scientists seem to think that it’s a done deal with a relatively slow timeline (depending on how you look at it). So, mankind has until about the year 2100 to relocate folks from the future swamplands of the world’s coastlines. That’s the year they predict the world’s oceans could be about six feet higher than they are now, or possibly even 20 feet higher if the Greenland ice sheet bites the dust.

The gringa, however, has a plan. I’m near enough the Texas Gulf Coast that, by the time I’m in my golden years, my low rent apartment could be prime ocean front property. Sweet. My one hour drive to the beach could become a ten minute stroll when I’m too darn old to drive. So, over the next couple of decades I’ll be stocking up on fishing supplies and sunblock. I tell ya, timing is everything!

If you want to know more about Jason’s mission and follow along with the tracking of the seas, visit www.nesdis.noaa.gov/jason-3.

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov