Satellite measurements show flooding from storms like Sandy will put low-lying population centres at risk sooner than projected
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 27 November 2012
Sea-level rise is occurring much faster than scientists expected – exposing millions more Americans to the destructive floods produced by future Sandy-like storms, new research suggests.
Satellite measurements over the last two decades found global sea levels rising 60% faster than the computer projections issued only a few years ago by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The faster sea-level rise means the authorities will have to take even more ambitious measures to protect low-lying population centres – such as New York City, Los Angeles or Jacksonville, Florida – or risk exposing millions more people to a destructive combination of storm surges on top of sea-level rise, scientists said.
The latest research, published on Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters, found global sea-levels rising at a rate of 3.2mm a year, compared to the best estimates by the IPCC of 2mm a year, or 60% faster.
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It singled out the California cities of Los Angeles and San Diego on the Pacific coast and Jacksonville, Florida, and Savannah, Georgia, on the Atlantic, as the most vulnerable to historic flooding due to sea-level rise.
Sandy, which produced a 9ft storm surge at Battery Park in New York City, produced one example of the dangerous combination of storm surges and rising sea level. In New York, each additional foot of water puts up to 100,000 additional people at risk, according to a map published with the study.
But tens of millions of people are potentially at risk across the country. The same report noted that more than half of the population, in some 285 US cities and towns, lived less than 1m above the high tide mark.
“In some places it takes only a few inches of sea-level rise to convert a once in a century storm to a once in a decade storm,” said Ben Strauss, who directs the sea-level rise programme at Climate Central.
ROBERT STEELE: 01 This is a hundred year problem, not a one year problem. The IPCC continues to exaggerate and by the by, Climate Change is 10% of Environmental Degradation and ED (in my world erectile dysfunction is not an issue) is high-level threat #3 after Poverty and Infectious Disease.
02 The rising sea level is certainly real, and should be addressed at the same time that we address severe droughts in rivers such as the Mississippi stopping tens of billions in commerce movement, and the vulnerability of levees all over the place (in the USA, frighteningly pervasive.
03 Then there is the matter od design and resilience, a 100 year big picture item that urgently needs to be addressed in 10 year increments, kicking in new mid-size cities with micro-grids and other resilience elements, connected by high speed rail, etcetera.
04 National level governments have become morally sterile and intellectually retarded, a few unheard strategists notwithstanding. Localities need to fend for themselves, and states or provinces as well. With the discovery of solar making rapid and substantive conversion of sea water into desalinated water and energy, the way is open for a brilliant water region plan that uses solar to lower the sea while raising the river, at the same time that local agriculture comes back to the fore, along with local manufacturing.
Intelligence with integrity is lacking across the board. The good news is that transparency, truth, and trust are coming back into style, and we will eventually revert to bottom up collective wisdom instead of the delegated idiocy we now suffer.